I approach this topic with a hint of caution as many people I know and am very close to are married or in committed relationships. That said, all I can and will do throughout this series is offer my honest opinion and hope that people can accept that what I say isn’t a personal slight aimed at anyone.
Disclaimer-cum-trigger warning out of the way, I’ll hit you with the most basic of opinions I hold regarding monogamy: it’s complete bullshit!
Monogamy, in its most basic terms, is the concept of one promising oneself to one other and forsaking everyone else in favour of them. It’s quite that simple really. Written down in such a way, it sounds like something that really isn’t difficult.
The reality is that monogamy is anything other than simple. It is, in fact, notoriously hard. The proof is all around us. How many people do you know who have been through relationship and marriage breakups? How many people do you know who have cheated or been cheated on? Even if neither of these things apply to you, I’ll throw something else your way: how many people other than your significant other are you attracted to, whether mentally, physically, sexually, or all three?
If you answered in refute to all of the above then I’ll kindly request you stop lying to yourself. Nobody, not one person, is attracted solely to their significant other. I’ll bet most of you have had multiple relationships and sexual partners.
That, fundamentally, is my justification for my lack of belief in monogamy. We, as a species of animals, are not naturally designed to be monogamous. Extremely few animals are. Hell, even most flora isn’t monogamous if you consider how many mixed species of plants, trees, etc., there are. Monogamy, if natural, would see each of us find, become attracted solely to, and remain with one person for the rest of our lives without so much as a glance elsewhere in an amorous sense. That doesn’t happen to humans; it never has.
Monogamy is a social construct that we (or rather most of us) have taken to heart and have been raised/conditioned to believe is the right way to be to the point that some people harshly judge those of a polygamous persuasion, as though polygamy is a heinous crime they’re committing. In the minds of those on a ceaseless quest for monogamy, finding ‘the one’, our ‘soulmate’, is the only way to live when it comes to sex, attraction, lust, love; whatever you want to call it.
The plain and simple fact is that we believe we owe our body, mind, and heart to one other person because that’s what we’ve been taught. It’s been taught for thousands of years.
What if I were to throw a spanner in the works? What if I were to say that just because something is old and traditional doesn’t make it right and true? What if I were to say that marriage was created by long-dead ancestors because it benefitted one or both of the partners or their families in a material sense? You don’t have to trawl too far back into history to see that such marriages took place (and still do). Lucrezia Borgia being married off to Giovanni Sforza to strengthen the Vatican’s position, only for the marriage to be annulled four years later because the Sforza’s didn’t hold enough sway. Henry VIII marrying six different women in an attempt to find someone who would sire him a son and heir. Tutankhamun marrying his sister in order to sire a child with ‘pure blood’. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that marriage was invented purely so that those in positions of power could gain further power from it.
There’s the key word in all this: invented. I think a lot of us seem to see monogamy and marriage as this kind of constant and omnipresent thing that has been there 13.8 billion years since the big bang as opposed to this idea humankind created sometime after the species came to be around 10,000 years ago. Of course, we humans are so arrogant that we can hardly conceive of a universe that didn’t include us, but that’s another rant for another time.
We place so much emphasis on things that we created as a species as though they’re the be all and end all despite the fact that, when humankind gets wiped out, all of our stupid, insignificant ideas will get wiped out too. They’re as fallible and transient as we are.
I won’t say that monogamy doesn’t have its benefits. It absolutely does. A stable upbringing for children is the most pertinent. There can’t be too much opposition to the suggestion that a child stands a far better chance in life when he or she grows up in a household with two parents that are strong together. I think there’s a lot to be said for the feeling of being emotionally invested in a person too. I’ve found I’ve felt great inside in the past when there has been one object of my affection, I’ve been the object of hers, and there have been no troubles. Those fleeting times, I admit, have always felt nice. They never last though.
I take issue with the fact that monogamy always ends up requiring effort and compromise. The latter especially grates on me. Compromise: the art of finding a middle ground that neither party wanted in the first place and grudgingly accepts so peace can be kept. This is where the idea of monogamy falls on its face. People aren’t really designed to tread upon the same path as one another. Each person has their own path to walk. It’s often the case in relationships that one or both parties must leave their path in order to walk on another. It seems fine for a while because you have this incredible companion—until the less desirable traits of the companion make themselves known or the companion wants to switch to a different path that doesn’t look so inviting to you and vice versa. Honestly, I’m exhausted just writing all of this!
I won’t discount the notion that monogamy sounds appealing to many because of this fear many have about growing old alone, as though that’s somehow the worst fate that can befall a person.
There’s also the fact that living as a single person seems to be made more difficult by the system, as though the system is actively trying to coerce people into relationships. I can only speak for the UK, but there are marriage allowances (!), council tax will cost more for a single person than it will per person for two people cohabiting, and they’ve introduced bedroom tax to those who live in council houses and have empty bedrooms on the premises. They are just a few of the ways in which it seems the system is penalising single people. I see no common-sense reason why two people who decide to be together should have it easier than those who decide they wish to be single.
Why is monogamy so heavily pushed onto us? What’s the true agenda behind it? Are we easier to keep track of if we’re all coupled off or something? I don’t know. I don’t know what the world seems to have against polygamy. The spread of sexually transmitted diseases is probably the best argument against it and that’s why the message of safe sex should be pushed hard to kids the moment they arrive at secondary school. That alone isn’t a justification though when so many people end up in unhappy relationships and marriages that are notoriously difficult to break free from.
My final word on monogamy is that, right now, it isn’t for me. It’s too possessive and restrictive for me to feel comfortable with. The evidence to back that up is in my own experiences and seeing other people suffer in theirs. Maybe I’ll change my mind one day, it just won’t be any time soon.