Are We Naturally Monogamous?

monogamy

I have just been reading a couple of books on infidelity including "Mating In Captivity" by Esther Perel and "How Can I Ever Trust You Again?" by Andrew G Marshall. Perel takes the view that monogamy is an outdated concept and that while affairs are often the end of some relationships they may actually be beneficial to others.

A question that comes up alot is: Are humans naturally monogamous?
Many people seem to think this crucial. But it’s completely the wrong question. The human species, as I’m often pointing out, is the only species that can be unnatural. Being unnatural is what separates us from all other animals.

It may for example be natural to eat meat, but we can decide not to. It is unnatural to fly but millions do. Asking what’s natural is totally irrelevant. The right question is: Which is more conducive to happiness in a relationship, monogamy or unfaithfulness?

The answer won’t be the same for everyone but I think that for the majority of people the answer is pretty clear.

An often quoted statistic cited to prove that humans are not monogamous in practice is this: Over the lifetime of a relationship between 30 and 40 per cent of people will be unfaithful at some point. But that certainly doesn’t prove it to me. Let’s take a married couple together for forty years who had sex an average of twice a week. That’s 4,160 bonks. Now let’s suppose the man had a one year affair also averaging sex twice a week. That’s 104 bonks. That means 98 per cent of the man’s bonk were with his wife while, for her, all of her sex was with her husband. That doesn’t sound to me like the death of monogamy.

When I was newly divorced I was also meeting a lot of recently divorced women and something struck me very forcibly. It was taking two years for some of those women to get over the whole thing just on a superficial level. How much pain was due to the husband’s unfaithfulness and how much to the divorce I can’t say, nor can I say how those women would have felt if their marriage had survived. But what I saw made me introduce my own rule: Never mess around in someone else’s life. In other words, if you’ve promised to be faithful to another person you’d better think very carefully before breaking that promise. And there’s also the ‘other woman’ and the ‘other man’ to consider – if that other person is looking for a serious relationship and you’re not then you have no right to wreck that other person’s happiness by pretending.

Marriage counsellor Andrew Marshall disagrees with Perel on many points but accepts that affairs can have a happy outcome. "The most miserable couples I ever see are those trying to recover from an affair" he says. "But equally, the happiest couples I end up with are the couples who have recovered from an affair." Affairs can make you consider every facet of your relationship, more so than any other issue. And so if you do survive an affair, you will be stronger and happier as a result than you ever were before.

The fact is that the time, energy and money that’s expended on an affair is time, energy and money that’s not going into your regular relationship. I’d suggest seeing what happens when you focus on your long-term relationship. The result might be incredible.