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Polygamy or monogamy in real life?

Updated on March 14, 2016

Is it the monogamy, or the matter of polygamy that is more present in our society, referring to a global level? The question does not apply to legal issues and what is legally permitted, but the habits of many couples. How many of them are faithful to monogamy, and how many of them really wants polygamy?

There have been many studies that have attempted to explain human behavior and our need for something that goes beyond the legal framework, and the general needs of people for different behavior, for whatever it is that makes us happy.

How present polygamy is in real life? Monogamy is sworn and promised by all those who have on one of the most important days of their lives uttered vows to remain true to that one particular person for life. Were the partners, a future husband a wife, at that time truly sincere, or they somehow doubted, had questions on whether they could actually pull it out?

What exactly is monogamy?

Monogamy refers to a situation where a person has only one partner, and as such applies to married as well as unmarried couples. The concept of monogamy comes from the Greek word ‘monos’, which means ‘one’ or ‘single’. If we wanted to literally translate the word, monogamy would mean being married to only one particular person.

What about polygamy?

The term polygamy describes a concept when a man or a woman is allowed to marry several partners. Although polygamy is forbidden in many countries, there are countries where it is practiced and considered as an accepted social behavior.

Unfortunately, nowadays lifestyle results in and shows as an increasing number of divorces and dissatisfaction, mostly regarding cheating involving partners engaged in a relationship. Modern values ​​continue to promote, lacking a better term, traditional way of life, but despite this, more and more couples are moving away from monogamy.

Many of such couples are simply not ready to live together with that one partner to whom has been pledged allegiance to the very end of their lives. So why are many of them remaining married, when at the same time being unfaithful? Because they are afraid of being alone, and marriage provides a certain security. Some anthropologists believe that the practice of divorce in society today actually means serial polygamy, while others argue, calling such practice a serial monogamy.

Monogamy was created when society on a general scale had been promoted and when we ceased to be nomads. At the present time, there is polygamy as well as monogamy, somewhere more and somewhere less to be found.

Recent research, published Feb. 3, 2015, in Biology Letter, shows that people are naturally divided into two groups: those seeking long-term relationships, and the other group casual affairs.

This division applies to both men and women, with a slightly higher number of men belonging to the second group.

"This study may explain numerous variations of sexual behavior that we find in the different cultures," says Rafael Wlodarski, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University, who has along with his colleagues conducted a study of sexual behavior in a sample of 600 British and American men and women.

People have somewhat more complex strategies of finding partners than animals: some are finding a partner for a lifetime, while others prefer successive changes of partners. People are on average less promiscuous than other mammals: only 30 % of primates and 3 % of mammals are monogamous.

Both strategies keep on surviving because each has its advantages, which greatly depends on given time and place. Regarding human race, monogamy is relatively new, and its popularity is due to its integration into a culture we've created ourselves. This study includes only two quite similar Western societies, and it would be interesting to see if these two strategies occur in other cultures.

Human cultural diversity is vast; the range of cultural practices, beliefs, and languages that we speak is vast.

— Mark Pagel

More than just Monogamy: An Exploration of Marriage Forms

Confused yet? How about some more definitions!

Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy in which a man has several lawful wives. Today, the practice takes place mostly in Muslim countries where men are allowed to have up to four wives, if they can support all of them, although a small number of Muslims begins on quitting the practice, because of somewhat of a turning to the Western culture, either for practical reasons or the inability to maintain and support more women .

Polygyny is common in various non- contacted or poorly contacted tribes around the world, as well as in tribal communities in Muslim African countries. Prairie Arapaho tribe has, for example, the rule that a man shall marry all of his wife's sisters, one by one, at the age when she becomes an adult. The same is true with the Canadian Creeja and Adi tribes and Arunachal Pradesh.

Better known world polygynysts are Mormons, who have, on average, from 3 to 15 women, and their founder Joseph Smith Jr. had even 48 of them. Their teaching claims that the only way for a man to be a ‘God’ in heaven is that there are more women whom he is married to, which of course will not be allowed to go to heaven unless the very women were in polygynystic marriage. The main Mormon currents rejected this teaching 1890s, but several Mormon sects seceded and continued to practice polygyny, or ‘plural marriage’ as they call it. Since these are usually very closed society, little is known about them.

Polygyny was normally practiced by the early Jews, Celts, Chinese before the Confucius, and many other cultures .

The Doctrine of Polygyny

Wait! What about polyandry?

See, polyandry is a custom according to which a woman is married to several husbands, and is much less common form of polygamy. The main causes of polyandry are usually a shortage of women in a certain areas or difficult living conditions, which helps in a way that more men are taking care of the survival of the family. Tribe Nymb from Nepal practices a form of polyandry, according to which a woman is married to the whole family, with her ​​husband, she is also married to all of his brothers. All the brothers have equal rights and take equal care of all the children.

Regarding Canadian Eskimo there was a custom of killing female children, which led to a lack of women, which in turn forced them driving into polyandry. The custom of leaving shoes or weapons at the door of the tent or an igloo, indicates that the woman is already taken and you need to wait until she is free. Regarding some Native Americans and Tibetan tribes there is a custom of offering a woman as a sign of hospitality, which stems from polyandry customs. Polyandry as a form of marriage is kept in Ladakh and India (at livestock people Toda and tribe Nishi), some regions of China, particularly in Yunnan at the old Guanche.

Which of the named concepts attracts you most?

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    • Christine Dickens profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristina Penava 

      3 years ago from Croatia

      You have just explained the matter I was going to write about next, the matter of cheating in a relationship! Well thank you very much, Mr. Dashingscorpio! :)

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      3 years ago

      Voted up and interesting!

      It's very doubtful polyandry would catch on in much of the world.

      The reason some form of monogamy will always remain is because when people are "in love" elements of jealousy and ownership come into play. Very few people who are "in love" would even want to imagine their mate having sex prior to getting with them let alone the thought of him/her pleasing someone else sexually while still involved with them.

      Generally it's only after a couple has either "fallen out of love" or has lost romantic interest in one another that one of them suggests having an "open marriage". The reason why couples during the infatuation phase of a new relationship gravitate towards monogamy is because they don't want to share their newfound object of affection with anyone!

      Only after things have become "old hat" does someone suggest alternative marital lifestyles. Having said that rarely does a couple wake up and say together : "Lets have sex with other people!"

      One person usually wants to do it more than the other person.

      If your mate is (fine) with you having oral sex and various forms sexual intercourse with other people there is a very good chance he/she is no longer "in love" with you. Their mindset has shifted from "Us & We" to "You & Me".

      Everyone is out to please themselves!

      One man's opinion!:)


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