- Gender and Relationships
Love, Sex & Relationships - Monogamy is Unnatural & Responsible Non-monogamy Can Save a Relationship
It's difficult for many of us to see how responsible non-monogamy can save a relationship; fears and misconceptions about this emotionally touchy subject can interfere with understanding how it can be beneficial.
Although non-monogamy is not for everyone and is not always appropriate, below is a comparison of monogamy and responsible non-monogamy. Note: cheating, lying, unsafe sex, and promiscuity are not part of responsible non-monogamy. Complete and radical honesty with your partner is, and that seems to be what's most threatening and challenging to many of us.
With the custom of monogamy, you own each other, sort of like how you own property. Your partner is yours and if they even look at someone else the wrong way anger and jealousy are common.
With responsible non-monogamy, a couple accepts that owning the rights to each other isn't love, but possessiveness.
What about the possibility of one of them falling in love with someone else and abandoning the other? This can happen in any relationship because you don't need to sleep with someone to fall in love with them. Furthermore, it seems that when two people are destined to meet and fall in love they will, regardless of whether or not they are single or involved.
With the custom of a traditional commitment and monogamy, falling in love with someone means that fantasies (such as "together forever" and "you are mine for the rest of my life" and "grow old together") become expectations, and when they aren't met it results in disappointment, heartache, anger, and even divorce.
A responsibly non-monogamous couple tends to accept their relationship as it is rather than how they want it to be or how it's "supposed to be." They realize that if their relationship fades or their partner falls in love with someone else, that's the way it was likely destined to be. If your relationship ends, wouldn't you rather accept that there is a more appropriate match out there instead of pretending that your existing connection is "the one" forever?
With the custom of monogamy, when someone cheats it is kept secret. Because monogamy and honesty are often assumed in relationships, both the cheater and the person being cheated on are at risk for contracting STDs. According to statistics, over 50% of men and women in "committed" relationships cheat on their partners. Is assumed monogamy realistic or safe?
With responsible non-monogamy, because there are no sexual secrets, a couple is more likely to discuss and practice safe sex.
With the custom of monogamy, based on the above statistics, the illusion of monogamy is much more important to many people than honesty.
Responsibly non-monogamous couples, on the other hand, place more value on radical honesty because truthfulness brings them closer together. In light of this, responsible non-monogamy could potentially reduce the divorce rate and introduce a deeper level of honesty in relationships.
With the custom of monogamy, it's common to blame an ex-partner and their affair for the reason why the relationship didn't last. It's interesting to note that the policy of strict monogamy is never blamed in these situations, yet many who cheat appear better suited for non-monogamy. Truth be told, some people (both men and women) feel like caged animals in long-term monogamous relationships.
With the custom of monogamy, the topic of exclusive intimacy often is not discussed, but is usually expected. Is this always realistic or even reasonable, especially when you know the person has strayed in previous relationships or sense he or she isn't the kind of person who would be happy being sexually exclusive with one person for the rest of his or her life?
That brings us to related topics: Can we honestly expect sexual passion to last decades in all relationships? Also, what happens if one partner loses interest in sex or if one reveals, years later, that he or she really doesn't like sex and wants to avoid it? Masturbation is not a good long-term substitute for sexual intimacy.
With the custom of monogamy, you are supposed to be attracted to your partner and only your partner. If you have desires for or fantasies about someone else, even if you don't act on them, they are kept secret. This form of dishonesty can drive a wedge between couples.
With responsible non-monogamy, the couple acknowledges that we are all human and an attraction to someone else, especially during a long-term monogamous relationship, is natural.
A responsibly non-monogamous couple puts their commitment to each other and their relationship first so an attraction to someone else is less of a threat. It is natural to feel insecure or jealous if your partner is attracted to someone else, and it's going to happen whether you're monogamous or not, but when a couple is open and honest with each other about the subject it's a lot less likely to cause a problem.
What about children, you ask? Some responsibly non-monogamous and progressive couples create a "commitment contract," where financial arrangements and planning covering possible scenarios (together for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, etc.) are agreed upon prior to marriage and before children are conceived. A new concept? Hardly. Ancient Egyptians had 5 and 10 year marriage contracts. If mutually agreed upon, they would renew. Although it's not easy to address the subject like you would a business matter, it's much tougher to do so later in divorce court. If two people are unwilling to confront or unable to agree on these issues before marriage it's a red flag for their longevity as a couple.
With the custom of monogamy, sex is love, and if your partner has sex with someone else, they've betrayed you emotionally and it must mean they don't love you anymore.
Responsibly non-monogamous couples realize that while love can be expressed through sex, sex in itself with a secondary partner (if okay with all involved--including the primary partner) does not have to diminish the love already established with the primary partner, nor does it put the primary relationship at risk, if the primary connection is solid. Something real cannot be threatened. This idea is similar to having one best friend and many good friends; you don't expect your best friend to fulfill everything for you that many friends do.
With the custom of monogamy, often it's "No cheating or else!"
Responsibly non-monogamous couples realize that giving such an ultimatum is about as effective as telling your teenager never to drink alcohol. It's more effective to discuss the issue and to have a "no punishment policy" for your kids if they call you for a ride to avoid driving drunk or to avoid riding with someone who is drinking and driving. Similarly, such a policy for responsible non-monogamy will encourage honesty and can strengthen the commitment.
Lastly and most importantly, if we cheat, even if no one finds out, negative karma is incurred and we set ourselves up for a similar situation to "happen to" us in the future. Whatever action we take will, in time, come back to us, so even though radical honesty in relationships may be difficult it is often the best policy. The eyes of truth are always watching us.
Copyright © Scott Petullo, Stephen Petullo