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Monogamous… or not

When I was much younger, I used to think that there should only be one person in your life, and you stayed faithful to that person forever. As the mark on the kitchen wall got higher, and fairy-tale illusions peeled away, I slowly came to realise this was quite an impossibility. Relationships hardly ever lasted forever. It was quite likely I would date many people before finding The One. If The One exists, and I manage to find him or her.

I came out to myself at around 17, still a virgin – I had not even dated guys yet. At that time, I told myself I would only have sex with a girl I loved. Over the past three years, my views about love and relationships have changed so much, I don’t even recognise the young naive girl I used to be. I don’t think sex before marriage is wrong at all, certainly not with girls. With guys, I was a little more reserved, due to my upbringing that preached values about chastity and purity, but now I am theoretically open to it. [Theoretically being the key word.] I don’t even think love is a prerequisite to sex – just be safe. I used to think the only way to date was to remain faithful to one person – even if you weren’t “attached” yet. So much as flirting with someone else was wrong. In coming out, I used to hear stereotypes about how gay and lesbian people were promiscuous, so I tried extra hard to hold on to the values of monogamy.

Being in Sayoni, however, has the effect of opening you up. Through the discussions, it became rather apparent that I was holding on to such ideas purely because of social conditioning. That’s when I became open to polyamorous arrangements, realising there wasn’t much value to “committing” from the outset. I even support polygamy, because I believe that the human heart has the capacity to love more than one person. Anj will argue that it is impossible to love all the people involved to the same extent, but to me, that is irrelevant. So what, if you don’t, as long as you do indeed love them? It is not a competition. What is to say that, even in a monogamous relationship, your girlfriend loves you more than anyone else, or to her maximum capacity? What is more important than the quantity of love is quality, and the way the relationship plays out. She also argued [on the sayoni forums] that it is not possible to maintain intense deep relationships with more than one person, but that is a personal limitation. Maybe some people really can – who are we to tell them that it is not possible?

Having resolved this from an academic perspective, I am able to apply it to my personal life – hardly any of my past and present dates can ever complain that I’ve ever gotten jealous of other people. I just simply don’t factor in other people when I consider myself and someone else – what has always been more important to me, is how our relationship plays out, how he or she treats me, how much he or she likes me. I’ve stopped relating love and monogamy to each other. Just because my partner checks out other people doesn’t mean she doesn’t like me anymore – like I said, I think it is entirely possible to be attracted to more than one person. It is whether you act on it, that is an indicator of your values or committment[given there is an agreement to stay faithful]

Which begs the question… why are people so into the idea of monogamy, given it is not necessarily an indicator of love and committment? The idea of one-man-for-one-woman is rather Judeo-Christian. Some other cultures such as Chinese, Islamic and even some Indian ethnic groups extend the privilege of polygamy to the man. [For lore about female-oriented polygamy in Indian culture, check out Mahabharatha] The origin of monogamy is easy enough to understand – it helps keep the paternal line in order, especially in cultures were lineage and male-biased inheritance are important. Otherwise, how were men supposed to know and trust the kid was theirs?

It keeps society simple – one to one. One might even wonder if there is some deeper significance to the number two – we have two hands, two legs, two ears, two eyes, two lungs… [I might also point out that our computers are based on a binary code]. While this goes into the realm of Michael Critchon-like speculation about society and human development and may make me sound like I overdosed on Lost, my thought is just that human society is just accustomed to the idea of pairs as a universal concept. We are essentially a binary civilisation.

To come back to the main point… monogamy is an articial construct, in my opinion. It is a construct powerful enough to seem real, however. And it keeps society functioning, running on its well-oiled tracks, so I will not begrudge or shun it. But suffice to say that I give polygamy and monogamy equal respect, acknowledge both as valid ways of life.

Of course, academic speculation is one thing, and practice entirely another. Not everyone is capable of maintaining a polyamourous or polygamous lifestyle. Jealousy is a huge green monster capable of devouring entire relationships – and she is always hungry.

P.S. Why the long entry about this topic? Because I’ve just transitioned from a polyamorous to a monogamous situation, and that kind of thing can make a person think a lot about what it means to be in either situation.

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October 9, 2007 - Posted by | Relationships | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I don’t think monogamy is an artificial construct. It exists in the animal world just as polyamory and one-night stands do. 🙂 Some might argue that it has evolutionary origins.

    I’m fine with polyamory and would not prescribe monogamy to anyone. I do notice however, that many societys’ expectations and structure are geared toward monogamy; that adds to the practical constraints. In which case, monogamy might not be an intrinsically preferable choice, but one that is simply easier to live.

    I started being monogamous out of consideration for my date’s feelings at first. As our relationship developed, it simply suited my resource constraints better – I find that it constantly takes a lot of time and effort to make a relationship good or just to get used to someone.

    Now that we know each other to the level of idiosyncrasy, I don’t feel any incentive to date others. We’re still getting to know each other, as some conflict reminds us every now and then. I expect that acquaintance will be a lifelong process.

    Comment by Kelly | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. I think monogamy is a holdover from the Roman Empire. Modern civilized society is essentially the remains of that empire, in a fragmented form. The Jews practiced polygamy before the Romans, but the Romans were monogamous and they sort of caused everyone else under their rule to adopt their monogamous beliefs. It more or less hasn’t changed since. Outside of the reach of that Roman Empire, though, other civilizations practiced, and still do practice, polygamy. So, I think polygamy is totally natural and I feel that humanity has the capacity to love more than one person. I also think you may be right that monogamy is an artificial construct.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist | October 16, 2007 | Reply


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