Monogamy: for when there’s no alternative


This is the post I referred to in my previous post. If it sounds ramshackle it’s because it’s not properly edited – it’s kind of a bunch of ideas waiting to be ordered – but if I wait until I have time to do that it’ll never see the light of day.

If you don’t want to read all of this, my argument boils down to this: I think monogamy is unreasonable. First, because it requires us to act against our nature; that is, our hard-wiring for connection with others. Second, because it ensures our compliance by manipulating our fear of adandonment, also hard-wired into us (as part of our hard-wiring for connection). So… it stimulates the very thing it requires us to inhibit.

(I don’t mean to imply that I think this last point is what makes monogamy unreasonable. I think it’s a byproduct, that’s all. It’s just one of the myriad psychic shenanigans of Civilization that causes its members suffering.)

I believe we aren’t meant to live such isolated lives. It causes distress. We look for relief for our loneliness in monogamous relationships, but I think we’ve got it wrong. The only difference I can see between being single and paired-up is that instead of one person being isolated by themself, two people are isolated together.

The way I see it is: within the context of a loving society there can be no moral justification for monogamy because it prohibits freedom to love. Ergo, as long as monogamy persists it is evidence that our society is not a loving one.

Monogamy seems like a great idea when the alternative is being alone. Having a companion is a wonderful thing. I’m lucky enough to have one. However, from an intellectual point of view, I have a big problem with monogamy.

Monogamy is a symptom of a pathological attitude to relating. It’s not because people can’t be ‘good’ – it’s because monogamy is flawed as a long-term relationship model. During the limerence phase (here’s the Wikipedia link) you can’t imagine wanting anyone else, but after that it’s only a matter of time and opportunity before ‘disaster’ strikes, and the safe-haven-from-a-hostile-world is revealed as a prison, your rescuer is revealed as your jailer. But it’s a disaster only because of the delusion  (i.e., false belief) that monogamy is a natural state of affairs that we will all naturally fall into, never to deviate, when we find the ‘right’ person. So, when we meet another (which we inevitably will), instead of being jubilant at the connection, there’s shame and guilt.

Having eyes for no other is deemed proof of love. I say it’s an infantile fantasy borne of fear. Where monogamy is a condition of a relationship, that relationship is based not on love but on insecurity and fear. For most, it is not a rational decision, nor discussed and mutually agreed upon. It is accepted without question like so many other beliefs in our culture.

It is a given that our partners will focus 100% of their attention on us, and we on them. Because monogamy has become the norm, no other option is available to the vast majority of us. We have come to believe that such an arrangement is not only normal and natural, but is a right (and therefore an obligation) and we have every right to react with outrage at trangressors.

The monogamous model teaches us: “This relationship will fulfill 100% of my relationship needs. Neither I, nor my partner, need anyone else.” Hmmm… no wonder so many relationships fail. It says: “Neither I, nor my partner, have the need – nay, the right – to enjoy deeply meaningful interaction or emotional intimacy with a human being other than each other.”

By demanding 100% focus of attention of romantic and sexual energy from another person, and sole use of their body, amounts to private ownership of that other’s being: their mind, their heart and their body. It is an arrangement where both parties act as both master and slave in a mutual agreement of oppression (of the other) and repression (of the self). Of course, oppression isn’t necessary when a person represses themself and therefore monogamy doesn’t look like oppression.

It is signing away our right to freedom of self-expression. It is usurping ownership of the other person’s right to freedom of self-expression.

It’s an extortionate price to pay for companionship. Yes, we feel a sense of belonging, but having the oft-quoted attitude that “You are mine” and “I belong to you” is a step far too far. It is a fine example of conditional love. That is, you cannot say you love someone ‘unconditionally’ (so many bandy that phrase about these days!) while simultaneously demanding monogamy.

To what extent do people get together genuinely out of love for each other, or is it about soothing their fears about not being loved? Do we insist on monogamy for fear of being plunged back into our lonely and loveless state before our partner came along? Yes, I think so. Would a person with high levels of self-esteem insist on, or agree to, monogamy? No, I think not.

What sane person consigns away the future of their emotional and sexual life to just one person? What sane person agrees in advance to shun people they haven’t yet met? Only the lonely and the desperate, surely.

Demanding, and agreeing to, exclusivity from a partner is an expression of insecurity. People are fearful, but rather than admit to fearfulness, they buy into the notion that monogamy is the natural state, and they let their fears ‘hide’ in the ‘security’ of a monogamous relationship.

A partner becomes a security blanket – some people can’t go anywhere without theirs! The insecurity comes from a fear of abandonment. It is a child’s attitude towards its parents. Let’s be honest: the vast majority of us feel unloved and unappreciated by our parents. Most parents make it plain that their children are disappointments, unless you turn out to a carbon copy of they want you to be. Few parents want you to be your own person – they want you to fulfil their  dreams of parenthood, not your own dreams of self-expression (that’s why they had you… to make them  happy).

We leave our parental relationship with a burden of feelings of inadequacy. Through our adult relationships we try to redress this imbalance – we look to our partners to satisfy that craving for unfulfilled desire to feel loved, appreciated and valued. Monogamy is the ultimate sibling-rivalry fantasy. It’s about elimination of the competition so we can have mummy and/or daddy all to ourselves.

Fear of abandonment is a reasonable fear for a child. It is not a reasonable fear for an adult. A mature adult – that is, one whose ego is not stuck in infancy and ruled by fear (as 99.9% are) – would not agree to monogamy because it restricts freedom of loving expression. Through our fear of abandonment we enslave others and allow ourselves to be enslaved. Both are reassured by the arrangement, but I don’t see how such a practice can be called ‘love’.And we are afraid our partners will have someone to compare us to. Insecure people don’t want their partner to be able to make comparisons in case they are found wanting and are abandoned.

So, monogamy is a symptom of an infantile mindset that has not outgrown its attachment to parental approval and fear of abandonment. It is an arrangement of co-dependency. Needy people need to be needed. They fear that if they are not needed there is no reason for anyone to stay with them.

Tauriq Moosa describes monogamy as “emotional fiefdom with one loyal servant”. Here’s a link.

Monogamy makes a wrong out of love (when love is directed at someone other than our partner, I mean). If we want to create a loving society we need to allow its people freedom to love without restriction. I don’t see how making a commitment to love someone equates with exclusivity. Why can’t we commit to love more than one person? We have two parents, many have more than one child… it can’t be natural for us to connect to only one other non-kin.

Relationships with rules that restrict our freedom… why do we accept it? Because we’re so spineless that we sell our souls to someone who pays us a bit of attention… in return for the illusion of a safe haven that will eventually reveal itself for what it really is… a prison. What’s the healthy option? Freedom from prescriptive models of love and relationships based on control and punishment and reward. Freedom from control over love. Freedom from control over each other.

Here is another post of mine on monogamy. There are others!


3 thoughts on “Monogamy: for when there’s no alternative

  1. Pingback: The politics of DNA | Salon du Cyber Muse

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  3. Pingback: The Devil’s work | Salon du Cyber Muse

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