“Why would so many risk their reputations, families, careers—even presidential legacies—for something that runs against human nature? Were monogamy an ancient, evolved trait characteristic of our species, as the standard narrative insists, these ubiquitous transgressions would be infrequent and such horrible enforcement unnecessary. No creature needs to be threatened with death to act in accord with its own nature.”
― Christopher Ryan,
This post contains topics related to sex and sexuality.
Before we get to the topic of infidelity (coming in the next few weeks), I feel it is necessary to first discuss monogamy. Let me explain why this is important. Many couples partner without having an explicit conversation related to what monogamy means for their relationship.
In the early weeks and months of a relationship, it is important to establish the expectations related to exclusivity. It is also critical to revisit the expectations as the relationship grows and develops over the years. Sometimes, one partner feels like they are following the rules of the relationship and the other feels that the rules of the relationship have been violated.
Isn’t it obvious what monogamy means?
No, it is not.
There are some aspects of monogamy that are often assumed. For example, many people assume that monogamy means that sexual intimacy is limited to the people in the relationship. The problem is that the definition of sexual intimacy is not clear. Are long physical embraces with some people (or anyone) a violation of the expectations in the relationship? Is kissing breaking the rules? Is desire or attraction a violation?
What about other types of intimacy? Does this mean that other forms of intimacy are acceptable? Is it okay if your partner has a close emotional relationship with past partners or people they may feel some attraction? What about spending more time with close friends than with your partner? Even if there is no sexual component?
Is it a violation of monogamy to view pornography? What constitutes pornography?
Is it acceptable to carry on a in-depth conversation on social media with old or new friends? How about having a back and forth with someone across the world while playing video games? Is it okay to text photos to friends? What kind of photos or snap chats are appropriate for whom?
Some people read the list above and believe that the answers are pretty clear cut. Others believe that it’s all grey and that it depends. The problems arise when there is no conversation related to these topics and lines get crossed. This is a challenge for couples at any point across the life-span. There is a growing number of older couples that find “old friends” on social media and violate terms of monogamy. Basically, you never reach cruise control in your relationship where you don’t have to talk about these things.
I hear all types of definitions of monogamy. Each couple gets to define what that means for them. And, some people have no desire to be in a monogamous relationship. It is best to be honest in your relationship and have these (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations as opposed to assuming you are both on the same page. You might be, but what if you’re not?
“Marriage requires a special talent, like acting. Monogamy requires genius”. -Warren Beatty