Hi dear friends,
Today I start talking about monogamy. And the first thing I want to say, is that it’s not natural.
Yup, you heard me.
So let’s do it. Let’s touch on one of the things that many of us are not allowed to talk about. How incredibly tough is this thing called monogamy.
Here’s a disturbing thought: monogamy is a legal and moral concept adopted around ten thousand years ago. It stands in stark contradiction to our true nature. So yeah, it has quite a few obvious advantages in today’s society, but it also makes our lives very difficult.
Agreed? Yeah. By those of us who have been in a committed relationship for more than a few years.
In recent years, new voices confirm what we have long suspected: monogamy is unnatural. It’s not natural for fish, reptiles, birds, it’s not natural for mammals, primates and also for humans.
Studies show that in nature, life-long, exclusive partnership rarely exist. Even in animals that were long viewed as sexually monogamous. I hate to break it to you guys, but even swans are not exclusive. They have a steady partner, but they cheat. Often.
Prairie voles are monogamous, but that’s because they lack a certain chemical in their tiny little brains. Their cousins, the woodland voles, mate like crazy with every member of their species.
For anyone who wants to read about it, you should try the excellent book, “Sex at Dawn” (talks about dawn of humanity, not morning erection), by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. This team of husband and wife state that only a tiny number of living creatures are truly monogamous. More interestingly, they contend that until the beginning of modern agriculture, about ten thousand years ago, humans were also not monogamous; they were serial monogamists. Which means that they changed partners every few years.
And that is contrary to most everything we were ever told.
This surprising, blunt and provocative theory says that our true nature stands in striking contrast to our social requirements. That we are not built to stick with one person our entire adult life, and that’s why monogamy is doomed.
Think about it. Now that women can leave a marriage and divorce rates skyrocket, isn’t it a little like serial monogamy?
Ohhhh…. Fine, that might make some sense…
So let’s explore.
According to scientists that support this theory, this is what happened to us:
Up until ten thousand years ago, we were not monogamous because it made no sense from an evolutionary standpoint. For survival, nature prefers a strategy of mixing genes for as large a variety of specimens as possible. Genetic diversity improves survival rates: the more there are different individuals in the population – the higher the chances that some of these individuals will survive when living conditions will change. This is true for flowers, fish and humans. If this person or this flower cannot survive, then another person or another flower will. The wider the gene pool – the better the chances.
You know, evolution.
And for genetic diversity, it’s best to have babies with as many partners as possible.
Consequently, our brains implement this strategy with their chemistry. The desire we feel for our partner wanes after a while, and we might feel desire for a new person. If our desire for our original partner continued at the same level, we wouldn’t want to switch – and that’s bad for human survival. So our brains turn off the desire, and often, reignites it for someone new. Essentially, our brain says to us – a new genetic picture! Yay!
From a survival of the species standpoint, this makes sense.
So when does desire turn itself off? When our offspring is old enough to join the other kids, and doesn’t need us to feed and carry her. At that point, Mom and Dad can go their separate ways, and find the next partner to produce the next child. Perpetuation of genes – completed.
And this takes about four years, that’s what the scientists think.
How many of us lose that special wow for our partner after about four years? A lot of us.
Our brains fit the tribe life, where serial monogamy was practiced, up until ten thousand years ago. In the tribe it worked, because we shared responsibilities for all the children and all the adults and no one had private property.
Unfortunately, our brains haven’t changed much since. In evolutionary terms, ten thousand years is too short a time for a major change.
So we were left with a brain that doesn’t fit our times. This is what it tells us: feel desire → fall in love/lust→ have a child→ raise her until she can survive on her own → lose desire for your partner→ separate→ feel desire for a new partner→ have another child. Repeat. This cycle is serial monogamy.
This theory explains a lot about us. It explains why at some point in our relationship, our partner no longer takes our breath away. No longer fills us with wonder and bliss and colorful butterflies. It explains why we can keep our hands off him and why we might look at another person and fantasize about having sex with him.
So is serial monogamy the preferred strategy for both males and females? Scientist say it is.
You know the ‘men spreading their seed, women nurturing the relationship’ theory? Well, it’s patriarchal bullshit. The leniency towards philandering men because ‘it’s in their nature’ is an invention of men in a men-controlled society. Same with the concept that it’s not in women’s nature to ‘cheat’ therefore it should not be tolerated.
The wonderful anthropologist and human behavior researcher Dr. Helen Fisher, wrote a fascinating book called “Why We Love”, in which she argues that when it comes to cheating, there is no difference between men and women. In the tribe, she says, the best strategy for both sexes was serial monogamy accompanied by ‘affairs’. That is, on top of the serial monogamy, there were parallel sexual relationships with others, for all kinds of benefits like extra food and protection, more boosting of egos, and such.
So for my first post on the problem with monogamy, what I want to tell you is that if you feel attracted to others, if you feel that your desire for your spouse is not what it used to be, if you don’t understand why you feel so different from what society tells you that you should feel – then you should know: you are normal.
I have lots more to say about monogamy, so mosey on over to the next post. And as always, ask questions, write comments, yell at me. Whatever you need.
Have a great one!