Monogamy in contemporary relationships

Monogamy

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.

 

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Love and Vulnerability

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I’m a romantic at heart, I’m the typical romantic comedy watching, happily ever after person. However, I live in my head and I overthink stuff and I think that’s partially why I’ve never really been in love.

Now, of course, I’ve said “I love you” when I was a teenager, but my definition of love then and my definition of love now are two completely different things. If we both loved sport, literature, shared the same taste in food and just returned each other’s texts and phone calls to me that was love but I’ve realized that loving someone romantically is more complicated than I thought.

To love means being your own person but at the same time being vulnerable and trusting that your romantic companion will not see your vulnerability as a sign of weakness. To love means committing to loving that person past their flaws, to love means to be secure, to be trusting and to be trusted. To love means learning your object of affection’s love language, to love means loving yourself first. It’s not limited to the things I’ve just listed, but you get the idea.

Whenever someone says “I love you” to me, I brush it off with wit and humour and I’ve done this successfully, I can’t say “I love you” back when I don’t feel that way about you romantically. The worst was when I dated someone for 6 months and never said “I love you” to them, they became frustrated and things just didn’t work out. It’s honestly not that I don’t want to open up myself to love but I’m afraid of being vulnerable with people in that way. I like being in control of my feelings and vulnerability just gets in the way of that.

When you’re vulnerable, you’re placing your heart and emotions on a platter for another human to affect it and that is scary! I’m a sceptic, trust isn’t something that comes easily to me. I’m fearless in life but I’m not as fearless in love, going all in and promising to love someone forever just isn’t me. Maybe I’m making excuses, maybe I’m afraid of commitment, maybe I’m scared of things I don’t understand – love being one of them but I also don’t want to be scared at the same time. I’m just confused right now.

I concede that my definition of vulnerability and its attachment to fear and rejection is a hindrance to finding love. I’m still a sceptic, but at least I’m aware of that and I’m working on fixing it. Being vulnerable isn’t easy and it comes with a lot of emotional baggage but I wonder if it’s better than living with “what ifs”.

 

 

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Sometimes:

  1. Sometimes we hang on to friendships and romantic relationships to prove our loyalty and dedication but all of that is a futile exercise if the person you’re hanging on to is not emotionally available to acknowledge it. It becomes draining in all forms to constantly prove that you’re a great person, that you’re their joy bringer and I think that stems from the way some of us approach relationships. My mother once told me that you can’t befriend someone with the intent to change or fix them. Sometimes people can’t be changed by other people and it doesn’t matter how much you convince them that their actions are toxic they won’t see your point. People change when they’re ready to change.
  2. Sometimes people hang on to toxic relationships because they fear solitude. Society has enabled us to normalise certain situations and scenarios to the extent that it seems almost unnatural for a person to remain single for a long time. It seems as though there’s something wrong with enjoying your own company and using that time to work on yourself, educating yourself and determining what works and doesn’t work for you.
  3. Sometimes, love just isn’t enough. It’s possible for someone to claim to love you but act as though as they hate you. I think the reason for that is because we have different definitions and ideas of what love is and what it should feel like to be in love. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to convince someone that they’re not loved by the person who claims to love them but of course they couldn’t understand where I was coming from because we have different ideas of what love is.
  4. Sometimes scars are not physical. I’ve had to explain this time and time again to my guy friends. When you hurt a woman you claim to love you’re slapping her, kicking her, punching her, stabbing her, shooting her over and over again but you will not see the scars physically because it’s not the body that you’re hurting but it’s the emotions, it’s the heart and that’s deeper because emotional hurt lasts much longer than physical scars.
  5. Sometimes, sometimes it’s all about respect. A man that continues to hurt you has lost respect for you. You’ve enabled him to disrespect you, you opened the doors for him to disrespect you but the same way that you opened the door, you can also close it!!
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