We are seeing a rising trend towards the questioning of traditional relationship styles, with many young people becoming more and more sexually adventurous. Rarely do young women save themselves for one lucky person and often, sexual exploration is a normal part of adolescence and development into an adult. Less than 100 years ago, this kind of behaviour may have resulted social rejection – so have we evolved, or are our ideas around relationships simply becoming less “virtuous”? Where do these relationship questions stem from? And how useful are the current arguments both for and against monogamy?
Monogamy is a form of relationship where a person mates with only one spouse or partner in their lifetime. This in itself confounds our definitions; as such a definition does not encompass mating with more than one person in a lifetime, which is becoming more common as our population develops. Interestingly then, true monogamy has already been abandoned for a more “fashionable” relationship style, in order to suit our society’s ever changing needs. This kind of relationship style has been coined as “serial monogamy”. This could be attributed to the increase in lifespan over relatively recent history; and newer generations are currently analysed via an “ever changing” need perspective, which dominates existing theories. Perhaps this is the most natural path for our future? Such ideas become even more obvious when divorce and second and third marriage statistics are investigated, as they too are escalating.
However, some prefer to ditch the idea of monogamy all together – either engaging in polygamy or polyamory. Polygamy means to mate with many others whilst in relationship, while polyamory means to mate and be in relationship with many others. Dan Savage is fast becoming and iconic advocate for the “monogamish” relationship – meaning that it is okay to sleep with others whilst in the boundaries of a committed relationship. Evolutionary theories can support such ideas based on the majority of other species’ mating habits. Even swans aren’t monogamous, they simply pair bond – recent advances in science has created a forum for DNA testing which shows that swans’ offspring may be derived from males other than the life partner. However, the same theories can derail these ideas by stating that humankind was built for monogamy based on paternity certainty and increased survival rates.
So, with a wealth of information and theories abound, which relationship style is “right” or “natural” for humankind? As human beings who strive to survive in society, there is a tendency to conform to social norms, with a minority who reject social norms to convince themselves that they are “free.” The fact is we are all influenced by what society touts as “normal” in one way or another – whether we reject or accept the status quo. Perhaps the most useful act might be to conduct an internal self-enquiry about why or where our notions about relationships stem from. Have we been brought up with serial monogamy as our only option? Have we explored less traditional relationship styles based on previous pain? The only answers to such intricate questions can stem internally. As humans who have developed a frontal lobe, allowing us to think in an abstract manner, perhaps the most useful thing we can do is simply use that and seek the answer which feels right personally?