For centuries humankind has been told monogamy is the norm. It's supposedly what stable and long-lasting relationships are built on, despite the fact that ethnographic evidence suggests humans were traditionally polygamous; from the Stone Age through until Christianity's widespread socio-economic influence in the West.
The argument that monogamy is a puritanical construction for modern times isn't a new one. Nor is the suggestion that open relationships are a more reasonable approach.
What I want to talk about here is how stability, not monogamy, is what's core to a good relationship.
Sex advice columnist Dan Savage coined the term "monogamish" a few years ago, which I've come to appreciate. It is defined as a mostly monogamous relationship that understands that an occasional infidelity, if it ever happens, will not break a couple apart.
It's lying – not infidelity – that rocks a relationship's foundation to the core. By removing the fear of telling one's partner about a physical or emotional connection with someone else, couples can become powerhouses; able to withstand that which so many other relationships cannot.
Monogamy, Savage argues, comes with undoubted advantages of "sexual safety, [avoided] infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances". Yet he would like monogamous people to meet him "a quarter of the way" by acknowledging the monogamy's pitfalls: "boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted".
The monogamish concept suggests a more realistic approach, built on honesty that removes the shame from thinking about, connecting with, or occasionally being with someone else.
I like this monogamish mantra because I appreciate that emotional and physical connections with other people are more than within the realm of possibility in a relationship's lifetime. My husband and I talk about this frequently: it's unreasonable to think that we will never again be attracted to others. This is an absurd societal ideal that assumes we humans have full agency over our emotions.
At the end of the day, I get that "stuff happens". That is, people do things they later realise as inappropriate. People get caught up in the moment. People make mistakes. I don't see any kind of infidelity – wherever it is on the scale – as a sign of disrespect or non-commitment to one's partner. I see it as part of the human condition, something we've actually been geared towards since the dawn of time.
This shouldn't be confused with endorsing the maintenance of secret affairs, though. One of these is based on lies, and dishonesty is one of the things that can destroy a relationship's stability.
Thus brings us to the importance of understanding that both partners are on the same page with their "monogamishness". If one person's view of their relationship permits nothing but flirting, but the other's seemingly allows for carte blanche infidelity, there's a clear disjoint. Both parties must understand the boundaries and respect them – that's what steadiness and trust is all about. This can include everything from how you interact with other couples to what's okay when one person is out of town... terms should always be negotiated based on personal comfort, and they should also forever remain renegotiable.
It's also key to know when and how you'll tell each other (if indeed you will) of any emotional or physical feelings or relations with others.
For example, I've met some who allow their partners to look over their phone communication to "check" whether or not they're comfortable with their significant other's behaviour, but this seems contradictory to the "trust and stability" module monogamishness is built upon.
It's almost 2018, and it's time to rethink monogamy. Not necessarily as a society – I don't expect that to change much – but as individuals. I see no point in being bound by norms and conventions when there are unique alternatives for couples who are willing to think outside the box to uphold certainty in their relationship.
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