Who Benefits From Modern-Day Monogamy?

by Hallie Marks


What we seem to know about heterosexual relationships make us believe that women want to settle down, and men want to sleep around, right? We may want to rethink that.

Two recent studies have determined that evolutionarily speaking, men benefit more from monogamy. By studying a variety of animals, the studies’ authors found that while a female is certain that a child she births is her own, a male of the same species does not have that same certainty; from a biological and procreative aspect, it behooves men to be in a monogamous relationship to ensure the continuation of their lineage.

Humans, however, have a different approach to monogamy. Though the common wisdom dictates that humans start a family and have children with a single partner, humans tend not to examine their reproductive options from a conscious, evolutionary perspective. Monogamy, as a social norm, is rigorously policed in most Western cultures, resulting in an ostensive lack of non-monogamous relationships in the public eye, minus a few polygamous couples on TV – these, however, are not presented as a possible norm.

Couples or individuals seeking non-monogamous relationships don’t have a lot of role models to work from.

Aside from the ever-present “hook-up culture” so present among young adults, most people still agree that married, monogamous and procreative relationships are on the top of the relationship dog-pile.

Rubin’s Charmed Circle

But who does monogamy really benefit? Why do men and women seek out these monogamous relationships?

Yesterday, on The TakeAway, blogger Lamar Tyler and BUST’s own Emily Rems (!) discussed the modern benefits of monogamy for both women and men. Tyler began the conversation, saying that as a married man with four children, he feels that he benefits from monogamy both as a man and as a contributing member of society.

Tyler said that “family is the basis of human society,” and that “monogamy allows me to express my love.” It’s true that non-monogamous relationships would certainly complicate the family structure as we know it today, but I know many non-monogamous couples who are able to express their love to each other very well.

Rems raised the issues of location, gender, and age that factor into an individual’s desires to seek out monogamous relationships. She said that for single women in New York City, where women greatly outnumber men, many often feel they benefit from monogamy because of the decrease in competition and added security and companionship that one might lack in a major city. Speaking from personal experience, Rems said she often felt “jealousy” and dealt with “abandonment issues” when she was in non-monogamous relationships and personally feels happier when in monogamous relationship. However, she does point out that many girls grow up with ideas of “fairy tale” relationships and that could certainly factor into the apparent split between why women seek out monogamy versus “hookups”.

There might be more types of relationships than you thought…

How do you navigate the idea that women are supposed to grow up and get married (presumably to a man, in a monogamous relationship?).  Do you know anyone or have personal experience of dealing with open relationships/other non-monogamous relationships? How do you think heterosexuality versus homosexuality impacts (if at all) a couple’s decision to have an open/closed relationship? Do you have any tips for maintaining and navigating an open relationship? 

Thanks to thetakeaway.org, huffingtonpost.com ,flickr.com, multiplematch.com

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