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 Is monogamy making us miserable? 
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Post Is monogamy making us miserable?
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Is monogamy making us miserable?
Marriage can be tough. But one expert believes it doesn’t have to be – that our ‘one mate for life’ rule is unrealistic, unnecessary, even unnatural. We dare to ask if, perhaps, he has a point.

By John Preston 7:15PM BST
10 Sep 2011
Earlier this year, an Algerian pork butcher called Lies Hebbadj was revealed to have been dividing his time between his wife and three mistresses. This prompted the French Interior Minister to declare that he should be stripped of his French citizenship. Greatly affronted, the all-too-aptly-named Lies hit back saying that keeping mistresses was a French tradition, and if he was stripped of his citizenship then millions of other Frenchmen should hang up their passports too.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the married New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner, was busy emailing photos of his groin to a bemused stranger in Seattle. In between the politician and the pork-butcher came a lengthy procession of men — it is, I fear, almost always men — who have found the chains of monogamy all too easy to break.

Tiger Woods, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, various actors and footballers hunkered down behind their super injunctions… Each year brings forth its rich harvest of adulterers who have vaulted out of the marriage bed and scooted off – leaving heartbreak and lawyers’ bills in their wake. Across age, race and class, it’s the same story. And each year people scratch their heads in puzzlement and wonder where it all went wrong.

Only this year something different happened. Maybe, suggested America’s leading relationships columnist, Dan Savage, it’s time we looked more closely at monogamy and asked if we’re really cut out for it as a species.

After all, Roget’s Thesaurus defines monogamy as “a kind of marriage”. In other words, there are other kinds, and perhaps one of these might suit us a little better.

Savage’s suggestion was a novel one. Hetero­sexuals, he reckoned, should learn to behave more like homosexuals — and gay males in particular. What this means, in essence, is that they should re-examine their ideas about fidelity. Savage, who’s gay himself, insists he’s faithful to his partner, and vice versa. That said, his definition of fidelity is one that any thesaurus would struggle to accommodate.

“My partner’s fidelity to me is as important as anyone who’s in a monogamous relationship with someone else; we just don’t define sexual exclusivity as the be-all and end-all of commitment. In other words, we’re faithful to each other, but sometimes we have sex with other people.

“However, that in no way violates our commitment to each other.”

Savage insists he wasn’t trying to ignite a huge moral blaze – yet that’s exactly what happened. “I couldn’t believe how worked up people got,” he tells me. “It was like they were this bunch of children and I’d just told them that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

“What made the greatest impression on me was just how vulnerable the idea of monogamy must be. Otherwise, why would anyone who just clears their throat and points out that monogamy might not be for everyone, be accused of ruining it for everyone else?”

If, as Savage suggests, we’re not cut out for monogamy as a species, we’re not alone here. Quite the reverse. Scarcely a month goes by without some creature, once thought to be a heart-warming example of lifelong fidelity, being exposed as a serial philanderer.

We now know that swans do not – as once thought – repine in a pitiful, floppy-necked way after the death of their partner. Rather they swallow their grief, plump out their feathers and find another one. Similarly gibbons, far from being models of constancy, get up to all kinds of untrousered mischief whenever they’re off on business trips, or the like.

And then of course there’s the red-tailed blackbird, long-believed to mate for life. In a recent effort to reduce population numbers, a large number of male blackbirds were sterilised, which, in theory, should have knocked the birth-rate on the head. However, to the surprise of biologists conducting the project, the females continued to lay eggs which hatched. The conclusion was inescapable: when those female blackbirds couldn’t get what they wanted at home, they simply went elsewhere.

But we are not red-tailed blackbirds, you cry indignantly. We are humans and what’s natural for them isn’t necessarily natural for us.

Ah yes, but what exactly is natural? As the humorist Ogden Nash once observed, “Smallpox is natural – vaccine ain’t.” Monogamy may be no more natural for us than it is for anyone – or anything – else.

Recent research at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden suggests that the way in which men bond to their partners may, in part, be dictated by a specific gene variant — immediately christened the “divorce gene”. The more of it you have in your genetic make-up, the more likely you are to stray. If you’re a man, that is.

If biology isn’t on the side of monogamy, then nor is history. The idea that romantic love should play any part in marriage is a comparatively recent one. Before the 18th century, it would have been considered the height of folly — mainly because it gave women the right not to enter a loveless marriage, and paved the way to their getting divorced if they did. Marriage and sex simply didn’t go together – at least not as far as men were concerned. Women, it hardly needs adding, were expected to remain models of constancy and fidelity.

Then along came romanticism, bringing ballads, soppy sentiments and a host of unfulfillable expectations with it. A very bad move, reckons Savage. All at once the “monogamous expectation” was imposed on men. “Prior to that, they were never expected to be monogamous. They had access to concubines, mistresses, prostitutes and all the rest of it.”

Skip forward to the feminist revolution of the Sixties. In theory, this ought to have evened up the balance. It did, Savage reckons, but in completely the wrong way. “Rather than extending to women the same latitude that men always enjoyed, we extended to men the confines women have always endured. And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”

So what should we do? Savage has coined a handy acronym for how he thinks couples should behave — “GGG”, which stands for good, giving and game. If couples can’t fulfil one another’s desires, then maybe the best thing is to venture outside the marriage for a while – if that’s what it takes to make the relationship survive.

“I’m absolutely not saying that people should be free to sleep with whoever they want. I’m just saying that if you’re married to someone for 50 years and you cheat on them once or twice, that doesn’t mean you’re bad at monogamy.

“In fact, I’d say you were pretty good at it. All I’m arguing for is a little latitude, a little forgiveness, a little realism.”

Forgiveness… Here we come to perhaps the trickiest question of all to do with infidelity. If you do happen to stray, however briefly, from the marital path, should you tell your husband or wife what you have done?

Traditional wisdom holds that honesty is always the best policy. But once again, are we not set­ting the bar unfeasibly high? Might it not be more practical to argue for something better suited to our human frailties?

Here I tap the blackboard in an authoritative manner and refer to a flagrantly unscientific survey of some male friends of mine which I conducted for the purposes of this article.

Honesty, say my friends nodding sagely, is for losers. There’s nothing to be gained from telling your partner about a fling. Far from being an act of admirable honesty, it’s actually one of supreme selfishness. This is what we might call the Great Paradox of Extra-Marital Affairs: not telling the truth is both the kinder and more honourable thing to do.
After all, they ask, who benefits from such reckless candour? Not you for sure – not in terms of domestic tranquillity anyway. And certainly not the partner who was happily in the dark before. Far better to keep schtum and carry on. This may be hypocritical, but is that so terrible? Conventional wisdom says it is.

There are, it’s worth noting, plenty of cultures which take a more relaxed attitude to fidelity than we do. Inuit men, for example, have long had “temporary wives” which they take with them on otherwise lonely treks across the tundra, leaving their more permanent wives at home. Closer to home, countries like France and Italy have practically enshrined infidelity in their national identity.

But it may be that we too are becoming more relaxed about infidelity. A recent survey of family lawyers commissioned by financial advisers, Grant Thornton, found that it’s no longer the main reason given by people seeking a divorce in the UK – for the first time in the survey’s history, infidelity has been overtaken by couples saying simply that they have “grown apart”.

So is it time to draw down the curtain on monogamy, to acknowledge that it simply doesn’t work for us? Perhaps – but before we do, let us pause for a moment and refer back to my panel of friends. All have succumbed to temptation. All cling feverishly to the idea that they’ve done nothing that bad; they’ve simply followed their instincts. Yet there’s some­thing else they have in common: all are divorced and all are steeped in record levels of confusion, misery and self-pity.

Surely this alone should give one pause for thought. To be unfaithful can never be a minor infraction. It is a betrayal – there’s no way around this.

Nor is infidelity a shallow pool into which you can dip your toe every so often. Rather it’s a whirlpool that will suck you in and draw you down. Not only that; however careful you are, the overwhelming likelihood is that you will be caught out. When that happens you will be heaping humi­liation upon the person that – in theory at least – you care most about.

And whatever this or that survey may say, once broken, the bond of trust between two people frequently proves impossible to repair. You look at your partner with new eyes and wonder if you ever really knew them in the first place – if whatever you shared wasn’t just a sham.

Andrew Marshall, author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again? From Infidelity to Recovery in Seven Steps, believes there are strong practical and moral arguments in favour of monogamy. For a start, he says, he’s never met a heterosexual couple who have made licensed infidelity work.

“The only couple I’ve counselled who tried to do that fell at the first hurdle. They tried to be honest with one another, but the amount of jealousy and upset was extraordinary.

“And if people aren’t being honest then I suspect it’s even worse. You may think you’re having uncomplicated sex, only there’s no such thing because sex binds people together.

“You’re playing with fire and you’ll almost certainly get burned.” And, of course, it’s not just you and your partner who’ll end up burned – any children you may have are almost certain to suffer too.

Here’s yet another reason why, Dan Savage’s many critics have lost no time in pointing out, it’s absurd to suggest that heterosexual couples should behave more like homosexuals.

In Marshall’s experience, infidelity doesn’t necessarily work for gay couples either. “What tends to happen is that they have a don’t ask/don’t tell policy, but someone invariably ends up getting jealous. Or else they have sex with everyone apart from each other and drift into a sibling relationship.”

Humans, Marshall believes, “are always at our best when we aim to be as good as we possibly can. I think we have to aim high. But I also think we should try to be a little more charitable and try to solve the underlying causes that lie behind infidelity. If people put the same energy they expend on an affair into their marriage or relationship, it’s quite possible they could solve their problems.”

In the late Sixties, at the height of the sexual revolution, the American novelist John Updike wrote a novel called Couples, closely based on his own experience, in which a group of married couples in New England gaily swap beds, heedless of the consequences.

Not long after writing the book, Updike’s first marriage fell apart. Years later, he was asked if he regretted his behaviour. Did he think he should have stuck with his wife, even though it felt more natural to separate?

“Yes,” Updike replied. “I’ve been married twice, and breaking up the first marriage was the worst thing I’ve ever done, in terms of suffering. I wouldn’t,” he added with evident feeling, “want to go through that again.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationship ... rable.html

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September 12th, 2011, 4:34 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
as a faithful married man (9 years this month), it certainly isn't easy. I just don't think men are wired to be with one woman for their lifetime. I also think any dood getting married in his 20's is insane as is anyone who gets married without the intention of starting a family.

I think a 5 year rule is in order. At 5 years, everyone gets one free pass. At 10 years, two free passes and so on. Once established, we can see if we can shorten the duration required for a free pass.

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September 12th, 2011, 5:18 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
if you ask me the reason marraige doesnt work anymore is due to flat out selfishness. Used to be that love could be defined as caring for someone enough to put them first in all things. Their needs before yours, sorta speak. Nowadays love is defined has having those " butterfly feelings" and when those go away so does any real effort in making a relationship work. we no longer care about others feelings first we only care of our own. (generally speaking of course)

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September 12th, 2011, 5:30 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
regularjoe12 wrote:
if you ask me the reason marraige doesnt work anymore is due to flat out selfishness. Used to be that love could be defined as caring for someone enough to put them first in all things. Their needs before yours, sorta speak. Nowadays love is defined has having those " butterfly feelings" and when those go away so does any real effort in making a relationship work. we no longer care about others feelings first we only care of our own. (generally speaking of course)


As a man, I'm going to blame women for most of the divorces today and it is in how a man and a women approach a marriage.

A man goes into a marriage knowing that things will likely change for the worse. The woman will get fatter, bitch more, give it up less, etc. When those things happen there is no surprise.

A woman goes into a marriage thinking she can change a man. She marries him full well knowing his issues/faults and those same problems end up causing the divorce later on.

Just ask divorced couples who wanted the divorce and why. Then ask if any of those issues were present before the marriage.

I also think this is the primary reason why, despite monogamy issues men face, why men are happier in their marriages than women.

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September 12th, 2011, 5:53 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
The concept of marriage has evolved over time.

It used to be a business deal. It was primarily arranged, to setup favorable situations between families and such.

Then, it was no longer a business deal, but became a necessity--men and women needed each other to succeed in life. Women couldn't bring in the money to support themselves, and running the household was literally a full time job due to lack of modern technology.

Now, marriage is no longer needed. It is an old ritual without any real purpose. A woman is fully capable of supporting herself, while a man can work a full day and still manage his household.

I don't think marriage will be around in the general population in another 30-60 years. Some religious sects might keep the ritual alive, but marriage as we know it will go away.


September 12th, 2011, 7:10 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
Look guys, it is all about perspective here. It ain't easy being married and focusing on one women. Why is that?

Some say "we aren't wired to," yet that would mean animals would show us what we are wired to be like and MANY animals mate for a lifetime with no fidelity issues (yes I am throwing out the BS arugment that dedication doesn't mean only one sexual partner). Maybe we specifically aren't wired to do it and others are? Make the argument what you like, but it is certainly seen in the animal kindom monogomous relationships and none.

Some say we evolved to this what we have today over time, yet we see independent isolated locations moreoften than not move towards a monagonaous society rather than a "free flowing one." Spare me the "well here they.." crap... I just said there are plenty of societies that didn't. The point is, they MOSTLY came to the same direction over time hinting at a "wired" theory.

I contend that everhpne points to the data they want to to support their claim. I can summarize the issue here simply... we are selfish. While Pablo is right saying it is hard, to say we are not wired to do that is silly because he ignores the fact that when we even consider the other person could have cheated we are overwhelmed with jealousy... wired to that. So if we are wired to be jealous and desire faithfullness, yet wired to not be faithfull... what the heck does that mean!?

It means we are selfish and that we WANT monogomy from our partners, but not for us. What does that mean to us? To me it clearly points to our fleshly desire to disobey God. You decide, facts are that the idea we are not wired for monogomy or evolved to it as a society don't fit.

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September 12th, 2011, 9:52 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
"to say we are not wired to do that is silly because he ignores the fact that when we even consider the other person could have cheated we are overwhelmed with jealousy... wired to that. So if we are wired to be jealous and desire faithfullness, yet wired to not be faithfull... what the heck does that mean!?"

An emotional response that results from the breaking of a societal norm and or ideal is not relevant to whether mankind is "wired" to be monogamous. This actually would point to the fact that man is not wired to be monogamous but it is instead an outcome that society as a whole deemed beneficial to passing on our genes to future generations.

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September 13th, 2011, 12:47 am
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
But it isn't a "social norm" responce as it spans all societies and cultures who have different ideas of relationships as well. You even find negative emotional repsonce in cultures that practice other forms so there is no sociatal norms to break. I remember watching a show where a tribe in the Amazon would allow the women to go into the forest once a month and any young man turning to an adult could go in and do whatever. Though it was the cultural norm, the husbands reacted very negatively without any prompt from "western values." In fact, they reacted from what they felt from within. It went again socal norms...

It is not sociatal induced, if it was we'd only see it in societies that monogomy was the norm. We don't, we see it across.

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September 13th, 2011, 8:07 am
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
Pablo wrote:
As a man, I'm going to blame women for most of the divorces today and it is in how a man and a women approach a marriage.


I absolutely agree with this, but I also blame our court system as well. A woman typically goes into a marriage in a lesser social bracket, and looks to come out of the marriage in a higher social bracket. Ie. She's lower middle class, going into a upper middle class marriage, but wants to be at lower upper class status or higher once the divorce is final. The courts allow it, and that is crap. Basically, at that point a woman will leave a man for not being successful, and then will stick around if the guy does become successful so that she can cash in later on.

Pablo wrote:
A man goes into a marriage knowing that things will likely change for the worse. The woman will get fatter, bitch more, give it up less, etc. When those things happen there is no surprise.

A woman goes into a marriage thinking she can change a man. She marries him full well knowing his issues/faults and those same problems end up causing the divorce later on.


Again, absolutely true. Women want change....men just want to be left alone.

Pablo wrote:
Just ask divorced couples who wanted the divorce and why. Then ask if any of those issues were present before the marriage.

I also think this is the primary reason why, despite monogamy issues men face, why men are happier in their marriages than women.


As for the monogamy part, that is something that men have to fight to maintain within themselves. When it comes down to it, men are just like any other male of most other animal species. It is their NATURAL instinct to spread their prodigy far and wide. The only thing that prevents that today is the legal system. The cost of providing for a child out of wedlock, or the cost of providing for a child after divorce. If not for those two things, men would be far less monogamous and not inclined to marry someone.

Women, on the other hand, are most comfortable bearing their own children, and thus seek security. They are the ones who want to "feather the nest" when they are pregnant, despite the men being the ones doing all the work. They don't want to raise some other woman's child, but would prefer to bear their own. Hence the "biological clock" that most women hear ticking when they reach their early to mid-20s.

For many, many years in Japan (thousands, actually), the men were not just allowed, but expected, to visit Geisha houses. The women who chose to be housewives only needed the men for two things....financial support and their seed. That's it, that's all. Men worked, came home, impregnated the wife when it was what she wanted, and went out and had fun. The wives, when out in public with their husbands, walked behind them and rarely spoke out.

Perfect example of this was in the movie "Blind Date" with Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger.

All that said, I completely agree with the notion that most marriages fail today because of selfishness, either on the part of the man, the woman, or both. Marriage is not supposed to be about making someone else sacrifice something, it's about making sacrifices for your partner, and them doing the same thing in return. In today's age of unreasonable selfishness and lack of responsibility and accountability, that's gone right down the toilet.

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September 13th, 2011, 1:16 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
I like a good challenge...thus marraige lol.

I agree with what someone said earlier...why marry if you are not going to start a family?

In that vein, there is moutains of evidence that show and even more anectdotal that a good marraige is the best foundation for raising healthy productive kids.

You can make these arguments about men should be able to be free to do as they please but let me point out 1 such "population" that you same people love to rag on...professional atheletes.

Yes, they are the 'freeman' you speak of and their contributions to society are entertaining us for a couple years and being about 10 kids baby daddies. Not only is this dad a waste...but now he has past on his atheletically enhanced, mentally challenged center of the world genetic code to 10 others who will no doubt suffer from not knowing or having a real father in their lives.

And I think some are being ignorant that somehow men are virtuous and have no expectation of the wife and yet likely gripe that she is not as forthcoming with her own body. Greed comes in many forms. Relationships are like anything else based on exchange and unhealthy expectations on either end will damage it.

Marriage is easy...but a good marriage is tough but it requires like anything else in life work and dicsipline. Guys are just as disillusioned as women when it comes to that idea.

as my old lazy eyed Algebra teacher used to say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!" lol

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September 13th, 2011, 3:00 pm
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Post Re: Is monogamy making us miserable?
Why does divorce cost so much?

Because its worth it.

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September 13th, 2011, 3:12 pm
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