The age-old debate of whether or not monogamy is natural finally made its way to a conversation I had with a couple of friends. It was an informative debate as it gave me insight into both sides of the spectrum. Friends who were in a relationship at the time argued that monogamy is natural and is an integral element in long-term relationships. Most of my single friends, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge this, claiming that monogamy is a joke.
The strong proponents of monogamy claimed that being with one person is natural but so is non-monogamy. The take-out from their argument is that there is no one way of being in a relationship. Some people are naturally inclined to be monogamous and some are not. Both options are natural.
Those on the opposite end maintained that the viability of anything different from monogamy disproved the claim that monogamy is natural. To them, people simply choose to be monogamous and others choose not to be monogamous. Monogamy in this instance is not natural – it’s a choice.
I’ll admit that I don’t have the expert capacity to dispel the claim about the biological essence of monogamy but I share similar sentiments with those who insist that monogamy is a choice. Being in any type of relationship whether it be monogamous, open or polyamorous should also be a choice afforded to all the parties involved in the relationship.
Forming a relationship goes beyond your beliefs about romantic connections. It is unbecoming to expect someone to be monogamous or polyamorous without discussing and agreeing to the terms of your relationship beforehand.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing relationships with different partners and there’s nothing wrong with seeking monogamy. As much as it is unfair to force someone into monogamy, it is also devious to pretend to be monogamous when you know you’re incapable of being with one person at a time. Doing the latter is taking agency from the other person, you’re withholding information that when revealed could make your partner choose not to be with you. There’s everything wrong with manipulating someone into being with you for your selfish desires.
A recurring sub-topic that made its way into the conversation was whether or not women are expected to be monogamous more than men and the answer to that is- hell yes! That doesn’t make it right though.
Monogamy is enigmatic, yes, but I believe that it’s something that’s puzzling to the human race, it’s not a gendered conundrum. Women are treated with less empathy when they cheat in comparison to men who perform the same act. I’m not proposing that people in relationships of any kind go out and cheat but I’m highlighting the gender dynamics that exist within certain heterosexual relationships.
An example is when I asked women who were participants in the debate whether or not they ’d forgive a cheating partner, most answers ranged from uncertainty to yes. When I asked my male friends if they’d forgive their female partners if they cheated, the question was met with an unyielding “never”.
I’m not insinuating that this is the general consensus on the issue of cheating across gendered lines but as Gunderson and Ferrari note, cheating is a complex issue influenced by a list of factors. The manner in which the infidelity came to the other partner’s attention, the emotional and sexual attachment the cheating partner has with the person he/she cheated with; past relationship experiences all influence someone’s tolerance for infidelity. [This will be unpacked further in a follow-up article].
This was a lot to take in but the gist of it all is monogamy is a choice. However, it is disingenuous to fake monogamy for one’ selfish needs and as much as gender dynamics play a huge role in relationships, monogamy is a human, not a gendered conundrum.