Are We Meant To Be Monogamous?

In today’s society, we’re brought up romanticizing the “perfect” adult life: a white picket fence with a faithful partner, our children playing in the yard. We, along with generations of predecessors, chase this predetermined structure of ideal existence. But it doesn’t take much examination to discover the genuine authenticity of this expectation – scandalous news of a celebrity’s extramarital affair smother gossip magazine covers every other week. Just like many other societal expectations put in place by outdated ethical obligations, we must take a step back from what we consider as normal and analyze its modern relevance and rationale.

Ancient societies had a very different interpretation of romantic relationships than we do today — 80% of them believed in having multiple partners at once. In fact, out of the 5,000 existing species of mammals, only a small 3% of them, including humans, wolves, beavers and bats, are known to form lifelong bonds. The practice of polygamy is even positively represented in the Holy Books of almost every major religion.

Biologists believe that monogamy may have been developed as an evolutionary advantage to share the burden of caring for children. This would make sense, since humans are considered to only be socially monogamous, a term referring to creatures that pair up to raise offspring but still seek alternate sexual partners. So although the cheating husband may take his mistress out for a night on the town, rest assured that he’ll be home to tuck the kids in before bedtime.

two toddlers playing with letter blocks Photo by Marisa Howenstine from Unsplash But if monogamy so dramatically contrasts our primitive nature, why do we strive so hard to find the one? After all, studies reveal that 44.6% of marriages end in divorce, averaging a length of only 8.2 years. In fact, 88.8% of couples claim that infidelity is the cause of their separation. If, after making a lifelong commitment to a partner, nearly 9/10 individuals break that commitment because they seek relations with others, how can we genuinely conclude that we, as a species, are successful in our practice of monogamy?

Although the statistics are discouraging, it’s undeniably important to remember that longevity doesn’t determine the value of a relationship — the lessons and experiences underwent during its progression do. We all strive for a love that's immune to the turbulence of everyday life. We desire to find a partner who sees our worth because we long for it to be validated. For someone to look at us and see someone deserving of dedicating a lifetime to. But this yearning is not one that will be quenched until we learn to look in the mirror and see that in ourselves. It's not until we can enjoy the company of our solitude that we can finally free ourselves from the fear of it.

Time and time again, humans have proven to contradict what nature expects of us: men who choose to father children who aren’t biologically theirs, the physiologically impossible yet spiritually remarkable decision to sacrifice yourself to save a loved one. There is so much about our existence that science is only beginning to comprehend – our desire for and commitment to monogamy included.

We are living, breathing enigmas of nature learning how to fit infinite bounds of consciousness into the fleshy vessel we’re confined to. Whether we choose to share it with one or multiple partners, it's ultimately up to us to embrace our remarkably limited time on this earth as thoroughly and wholeheartedly as possible.