More on the benefits of monogamy. And what I think about polyamory (open relationships).

Okay so like I said in this post monogamy is not natural. Or maybe it is but not in a completely sense since it is also natural for us to want to sleep with other people. It seems to be the best trick that mankind has played on nature though because it enabled the formation of family units which benefited children (especially boys).

If I think about the alternatives to monogamy, like open relationships or polygamous relationships they can also provide a great environment for children (in some ways an even better environment than monogamous relationships because they give children access to more than 2 parents), but it seems to me that they are still slightly unnatural. Neither monogamous nor polygamous relationships are entirely natural because the truth is that the concept of male-fame relationships probably came a bit late in our evolution. Not so late that they are entirely unnatural, but so late that fulfilling our natural desires alone would probably still leave us completely uncommitted.

Open relationships solve the biological inconsistency of denying yourself sexual pleasure when it is available but they create a playground for jealousy. Yesterday I went to a baby play group with my toddler. She almost fell and the mother of a 10 month old helped her not to fall. The 10 month old saw that and started screaming and crawled over to his mother to stop the physical contact that was taking place. This type of behavior is common and observable in all babies and even toddler where I live. ALL. They say (and I believe this) that it is a result of insecure attachment or the babies needs not being fully met.

So in countries where mothers typically meet all of the babies needs by co-sleeping and breastfeeding etc. and where there is a larger community of adults available to the child this type of jealously is rarely seen. I use this example of jealously because it came from a 10 month old baby who has had very little socialization. Jealousy as a result of not having all or basic needs met therefore seems to be a natural thing. Open relationships set up a situation where jealousy has to be dealt with at the source (ie our insecurities) rather than at the trigger (ie how monogamy deals with jealousy). Human insecurities are very hard to address in a world as superficial as ours is so until people (mainly women) stop sexually discriminating based on things like money or how much of a jerk a guy is we will always have human insecurities within male female relationships.

If the majority of people were to have open relationships society on a whole would do fine in terms of meeting children’s needs but we would end up with a huge group of people (mostly men I think) who do not get very much sex at all and who would be very unhappily wondering whose children they were taking care of or if they would ever be able to pass on their genes. Unless it was done in such a way in which a husband and wife must prioritize each other’s needs before going outside and then I think we would quickly end up with monogamy.

So relationships being separate from sex can work fine until we encounter jealously. To address this type of jealousy we have to make each member of the relationship secure. Monogamy is the end result of an attempt to do that, the alternative attempt would be to meet each person’s needs and create sexually secure partners. This would mean asking people not to sexually discriminate as opposed to asking people not to sleep around.  Maybe people throughout history just found it easier not to sleep with everyone they felt to sleep with than to sleep with people who they did not feel to sleep with. I am not sure though, what are your thoughts?

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20 thoughts on “More on the benefits of monogamy. And what I think about polyamory (open relationships).

  1. Actually, I and my two wives are – obviously.

    You bring up a lot good points. All I can say is that there are as many sorts of “poly” relationships as there monogamous ones. Each family, polygamous or monogamous, has to figure out what contract they’ll live together under.

    I’ll also say, with some sarcastic laughter, that the different sorts of “poly” families generally either don’t approve of each other much or hold a few sorts as being a goal that is above the others and hard to achieve…and they almost all despise Swingers. 😀

    • I was just thinking more about it and I think that an important aspect of the poly/open relationships is that the male would also have to wonder if the children he was taking care of were his. And for males who do not have a lot of options that would be a huge problem.

      I do not have any experience on this unfortunately for me it is all guess work 😛

      • First the male in question would have to care about that and, much to my shock, my experiences with other polygamous families, including polyandrous ones, don’t support the theory that men just naturally care when it’s not something being snuck in as it were.

  2. Yes it is quite possible that they do not care. But I get the feeling that males like the feeling of imagining that they have children (whether or not they can see them, or take care of them). I used to live in Jamaica and a lot of guys said that to me, and there people do not commit as much as in other western places. Not sure if it is natural or not (no way to tell), but other aspects of Jamaican society seem to be pretty natural so maybe. But yea, it is also possible that open relationships were not as successful as monogamous (or the idea of monogamy since in reality we have always been screwing around) because the majority of males did not want to be unsure about whether or not they had kids. Ah well I guess we will never know!!

  3. But yea naturally men do not seem to be so concerned with children, so it was most likely more jealousy than anything else that caused open relationships not be be mainstream.

  4. I’m actually a little concerned by this part of your post: “Human insecurities are very hard to address in a world as superficial as ours is so until people (mainly women) stop sexually discriminating based on things like money or how much of a jerk a guy is we will always have human insecurities within male female relationships.”
    Not sleeping with a guy because he is a jerk is not discriminatory. It’s pretty logical reason to not have sex with someone. Why would I want to sleep with someone who doesn’t treat me well? I should not have to feel obligated to give a guy who doesn’t respect me a pity lay for the sake of … what? his insecurity?
    Also, as for the paternity issue, it seems to me that with the state of birth control and paternity testing today, that would be a pretty minor issue. My partner and I don’t plan on having kids, though, so I can’t really speak from any personal experience in that regard.

    • Hi Beth, thank you for the comment. I agree you should not sleep with jerks. Even superficial discrimination is okay. Sex is something pretty intimate and you should have full reign to do whatever you think is best for you.

      What I meant was that if everyone had open relationships and simply slept around a lot, I imagine that some men would not get much sex, because they do not have the traits to attract women. Poorer, less confident guys for example who are afraid of approaching women would hardly ever get sex. And seeing their wife get a lot of sex from more confident guys would piss these guys off. I think they would get resentful and jealous, they would want their wives to sleep with them and in a society where open relationships are the complete norm where people have complete choice over who they sleep with their wives should not have to sleep with them just to make them more secure.

      And once you start going down the route of trying to make less secure men more secure by sleeping with them then you will quickly see that the only way to make them really secure is to only sleep with them.

      I will go read your blog now 🙂

      • Haha, yes I see your point now. I think you just explained part of why so many people are monogamous. Not that I have any problem with monogamy in general. I could totally do it myself. I just don’t like the idea of forced or assumed monogamy.

      • Also, I got your comment on my blog and will definitely answer it, I just want to think about your questions first 🙂

  5. And you are right about birth control, that changes everything and solves the ”is that my child?” issue. So actually now that we have gotten rid of that problem open relationships may be the way of the future; we will see!

  6. Hi Beth, This was part one of this post. https://ladybuginschiedam.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/what-atheist-can-learn-from-religion-and-what-liberals-should-learn-from-conservatives/

    You are the second person to read something on my blog and the first was also not in a monogamous relationship. I actually did not realize that it was a common thing and so I did not expect that someone in an open relationship would read these post.

    I am trying to explain where exactly monogamy came from. I think a more natural society would be one where there was essentially no male female commitment and where men lived separately from women. I think that monogamy is unnatural but benefited society. I am still exploring these ideas though and would love to know what you think. I can not wait to hear your answers and anything else you think on the topic.

  7. I’m in a polyamorous relationship with two life-commited male partners. It works perfectly for us and we’re all quite happy with the situation.

    I’m not really interested, personally, in arguing that either monogamy or non-monogamy are more “natural” (though I certainly appreciate challenging notions that monogamy is the *only* natural way to live); I’m more interested in advocating for the right of people to partner in whatever way works for them. But anyone interested in historic origins of monogamy should definitely read Sex at Dawn!

    I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about being in a polyamorous relationship.

    • Hi, I hope that I did not imply that one was more natural than the other. Actually I think they are both equally as unnatural. I just supposed that people in the past may have found one easier than the other and I gave the reasons.

      I am more exploring why we have the social construct that we have today and what are the things about this construct that are good and what is bad. And although I speak a lot in general terms I understand that no concept like monogamy or polygamy can work for all people; we each just need to find what works best for us.

      The questions I had on open relationships were 1) which do you find easier between open and closed relationships? 2) what are the hardest parts and how did you deal with them? 3) what are the benefits or easy parts? 4) why did you decided to have an open relationship as opposed to a closed one?

      Thanks for taking time to read this and I look forward to your reply!

      • I’m always a bit loathe to reduce anything to an essentialist conception of one’s individual nature, but for me being polyamorous really does just feel like an innate part of who I am, so the “why” for me is really just about choosing to live in a way that feels authentic for me (I’ve written here about my thoughts on poly as an orientation vs. a choice, if you’re interested: http://radicalpoly.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/orientation-or-lifestyle-choice/).

        To that end, then, I’d say that for me, living authentically is the greatest benefit of being in a non-monogamous relationship; me trying to be monogamous is about as effective and as pleasant as a gay person trying to be straight. I don’t think either monogamy or non-monogamy is universally easier, I think it really depends a lot on the individual which one is going to work better. Some people can happily choose either, and others feel better at one end of the spectrum or the other.

        Otherwise, as for the best and the most challenging parts, I often say that the best thing about polyamory is that there are no simple scripts to follow, and the most challenging thing is that there are no simple scripts to follow. It’s incredibly liberating to abandon preconceived notions of what it means to be someone’s partner/girlfriend/wife/etc. But because we’re not relying on those predetermined roles, it means that we have to communicate a lot, in a lot of detail, about what specific wants, needs, and expectations are. But I think the key to dealing with almost any difficulty in a poly relationship is just a whole lot of honest and open communication. I think it’s also incredibly important that everyone also feels loved and respected enough to feel secure.

        Thanks for your non-judgmental interest in the subject; it’s rare and much appreciated.

  8. Also just for the record so to speak this was Beth’s answer:

    Welcome, mamaziller Whether open relationships (and I can only speak to that, since I am not polyamorous) are easier or harder than monogamous ones is a hard question to answer. I think what it comes down to is that they each have different challenges and so each person has to decide which set of challenges is harder for them to handle. So in an open relationship you have to worry about things like jealousy, sexual health and complicated scheduling. If I were monogamous I might worry about infidelity, complacency and sexual frustration. And of course, in all sorts of relationships you have to worry about trust and communication and compromise. Right now in my life, the scale tips me towards an open relationship, but that’s not to say I haven’t been fine with monogamy in the past. I know that’s probably not a very satisfying answer, but I hope it helps. Another thing I’ve liked about open relationships is that, since I’ve been in one, I’ve been able to form some very close friendships with both my other partners and with my primary’s other partners. I think having a more fluid definition of acceptable behavior outside of our relationship has fostered a really good social network for us. When I was monogamous, there was a more rigidly defined set of rules and that actually sometimes led to jealousy and resentment and confusion.

  9. Given the worldwide infidelity rates, both today and throughout history, I’d say that polygamy, of one sort or another, is Mankind’s natural, biological state. Everything we’ve wrapped around that seems to be just societal constructs created when we needed to provide for children and gravid and/or nursing women.

    • Hi Jonolan, well all sorts of sexual arrangements are in some way natural and have been tried before. But it seems to me that the most natural arrangement between men and women (or the one that we have been practicing for longest in our evolutionary history) is no relationship but rather just sleeping together. I say this just based on what I have seen in certain communities. I think when people do not have traditional guidelines to follow and if we all just did what felt best we would not form any long term relationships we would simply sleep with people who we found attractive. That is not to say that relationships are not a significant part of our evolutionary history (but I think they are much less significant than the time we spent without relationships).

      This is just based on what I have seen in different places that I have lived though.

      • That depends on how you describe and circumscribe relationships, I guess. Archeological evidence shows tight-nit groups going back 100s of thousands of years, possibly a million or more and across all of the species of Hominid.

        Pair bonding, on the other hand, may well be much newer and, as you’ve said / implied, often weren’t directly related to sexual partnering,

  10. Well yes it depends on how you define relationships; I am defining it here as the idea that two (or more) people commit to each other with the intention of never breaking up, also the idea of sexually related partners living in the same house and building a life together. I think for quite a lot of our past men an women for the most part lived separately. With women taking care of kids and men taking care of themselves and risking their lives to impress women so that they could get sex. Sometimes the men probably hunted, other times they stole from nearby communities or protected their community.

    Well that is how I imagine very early societies being (pretty much relationship-less), with males competing to impress females who cared for kids. But it is true that we do have feeling for people we sleep with so we must have spent a long part of our evolution with relationships as well. But life long male-female relationships connected by sex… whether mono or poly seems very new (and so are still far less natural than no relationships).

    The thing is though relationships and building a life together, with males and females working together for long periods of time (as unnatural as they seem), seemed to have enabled a lot of progress and seemed to have been great for society on the whole.

  11. But poly-relationships could be an interesting future for us because it would be great for children to get regular access to so many adults. The only thing is that in a world with 50% males and 50% females I hope no one gets left out.

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