is-marriage-unnatural

Is marriage unnatural?? – the hypothesis

As a long-term bachelor, I might be a little bit biased about this, but I recently got the idea that marriage is an unnatural and unfulfilling strategy for most people. On further reflection and reading, I thought, why stop at marriage? and included monogamy generally.

I thought about this for a while and came up with a phrasing for my hypothesis:

“Marriage/monogamy goes against our nature, and unless it is enforced externally, will end in failure except in the odd occasional case.”

I’m going to explore this topic and report the findings here, although smaller facts and stuff will go in the Q&A section before being compiled.

Which group are you in? (Credit: GEEKSTATS)

Now first, let me define the terms:

  • Marriage/lifelong monogamy – When I use these terms I’m talking about life long/long term commitment to a single partner. So if one partner cheats, then by my definition, that’s not monogamy (see failure, below). I’m not sure how serial or short-term monogamy fits in, that might be a kind of exception. But certainly, this idea of “The one”, “true love” and all that, is what I’m referring to here, the very kind we’re brainwashed with in movies and songs all year round. And don’t think the old “There are lots of ‘ones‘” argument counts, because even if you accept that there are many compatible people out there, that line still implies lifelong commitment to one of them.
  • Unnatural – Unnatural, against our nature; these are slippery terms, and it’s not necessarily safe to talk about human nature outside of a cultural context. For instance, it’s in our nature to gorge on fat and sugar when it’s available. For a tribal culture in the Savannah, this is excellent; it helps you get those crucial calories. But in a society with easy access to junk food, people get fat. Likewise, what I’m proposing is that it’s in our nature to seek multiple sexual and/or romantic partners, and that this causes problems in a society that puts monogamy and “true love” on a pedestal.
  • Enforced externally – Through law, superstition, social stigma, or other forces.
  • Failure – As you know, mono means one. With poly we have two terms – polygamous (multiple marriages), and polyamory (multiple partners, no marriage). If someone in a marriage cheats, that’s polyamory, and a point in favour of the hypothesis. Divorces generally are a point in favour, but that’s a pretty deep topic for just now. Also, I say marriages may work if enforced, but if an enforced marriage is not a fulfilling one for both parties, I’m also classing that as failure, because if it wasn’t enforced it probably would end (and if enforced marriages are unsatisfying, that’s a point in favour of the unnatural argument above).

Answers to some expected questions you might have:

Mongamy, polygamy, marriage, blah blab blah. Aren’t you just splitting hairs/arguing over semantics?

No. I’ll explain why later.

My parents/grandparents/friends/pet albatrosses have been in a committed relationship for all their lives monogamously and harmoniously. Ha! Take that mister! You’re wrong!

Firstly, if you know of someone who has been in a committed, loving, lifelong, monogamous relationship (that is, no affair by either party), GREAT. I’m NOT saying it never happens, nor am I saying it’s not a beautiful thing when it does happen. I’m just saying, these cases are outliers, and the cases where there wasn’t some external enforcement of the relationship are rarer still.

Secondly, I could be wrong, which is why I’m going to look into it and write about it on the blog as I do.

Finally, I’m NOT saying marriages that aren’t monogamous can’t work, nor that a marriage in which one partner cheats is unsuccessful by definition. Quite the opposite in fact, as you’ll see…

You asshole. You have threatened my belief system and I am deeply offended. What gives you the right to question the status quo like this?

If you’re offended or upset by what you’re read so far, I strongly suggest you don’t read this blog from now on; I might turn out to be right!

I have data/opinions/a story in support of/refuting this hypothesis, would you like me to share it with you?

Yes please, either email me or leave a comment.

53 thoughts on “Is marriage unnatural?? – the hypothesis

  1. I think it all depends on the person. I think some people shouldn’t be married–those are the ones who can’t keep their pants on. But some people seem to do perfectly fine in a committed relationship. It’s like when you’re in a great relationship you’ve always got someone good there with you, but when you’re in a bad relationship you’ve always got someone bad there with you.

    1. Yeah, and I’d say there’s few of us who monogamy is natural for – more on that later, some of these research findings are literally CRAZY!

      By the way Michael, cool and coincidental to see a comment from you, I just found your blog yesterday, bookmarked your carver post and your book is on my to read list!

  2. Lol. Michael, you got it right with the keeping pants on idea. I think many couples get married based on the passion of the moment. However, they never think deeply about the chemistry of the relationship. Can you hold a conversation with your significant other on multiple topics. If you hear crickets in the background often in your relationship, something might not be right. A relationship between a man and a woman can be complex. Men can sit in front of a television and discuss the game all day, but woman want more out of life. So it can be a challenge! Marriages require commitment from both parties!

    1. women want more out of life than a man who will just watch football huh? what exactly do women do, besides sit around not making money? they want more out of life? since when is sitting around for hours talking about feelings more out of life? maybe they should try doing something intelligent like men do e.g. study physics, rather than masquerading around as someone that’s deep and intellectual but can’t solve 3x + 1 = 10.

      1. Rosef,

        I think you’ll agree with me that the idea that men sit around watching the game while women want more out of life is lazy stereotyping, however your comment that women should do something intelligent like men do is in the exact same vein, probably more abrasive in fact. Both comments only contribute to the gender war “boys are better than girls” (or vice versa) bullshit that we should be trying to get past, not perpetuate.

        I appreciate your desire to retort, but fighting fire with fire doesn’t work. I know because I called up my local fire service, and they told me that they don’t in fact fight fire with fire, they fight it with water, and the whole fight fire with fire thing is just a big old myth. Who knew?

    1. Excellent Johnny, thanks for the link! Though it’s a ridiculously over-hyped headline, so I’ll have to look up the original study on that one.

      Is man more of a slave when he follows his animalistic nature, or when he represses it?

      1. Well, the society stuck the man into a dilemma: to be the creature designed by the hundreds of generations and evolutionary psychology (male reproduction strategy: impregante as many women as possible*)) or to be the prosocially nice and well-behaved civilized creature (things like monogamy are a mere regulation mechanisms of the society – to keep order in who is sexing with whom, to regulate the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.)

        But you probably know that 😉

        *) and then there is the creature-ish reproduction strategy of women (and yes, your article may be a little bit biased, looking at things from the male perspective). So as for women, an optimal rep. strategy is to grab a man rich in resources and keep him – to provide for her and her children. I.e. she may not love the man with all her heart, she is fine enought with loving the money he brings home. And god forbids if her man starts seeing other women (which may imply him investing his resources into other women – which the wife won’t like, at all).

        Another question is the feminization of society. The role of a man as a bread-bringer has been seriously disputed; the reproduction strategy of the new generations of women takes another route – to go to college, to establish herself in a career and then to have a baby, no man needed (the state also substitutes the provider role traditionally ocuupied by men, by giving single moms all sorts of monetary supports in all sorts of programs – at least here in Europe).

        Uh-oh, i’m talking too much.

  3. I think it all comes down to the environment you have been exposed to and your personal values. Being married and monogamous isn’t even a choice for me-its just who I am.

    1. Terry,

      How long have you been in a relationship with the person you married, and have you both been faithful for this entire period?

    2. Terry –

      While I respect your post, being married and monogamous is most certainly a choice for everyone despite what someone’s personal beliefs are.

      Unless you were born with it, it was a choice, even if it was subconscious.

  4. I can’t say I look at marriage as unnatural. I am happily married but we both have to work at it all the time. One might think that if you have to “work at it” is it worth it. It is. The bottom line is communication. I think a lot of people get married just to get married and they didn’t belong together in the first place. JB

    1. Jennifer,

      Same question:

      How long have you been in a relationship with the person you married, and have you both been faithful for this entire period?

      1. Married 16 years and I have always been faithful and he has too, according to him. I know that sometimes women have no idea what is going on behind their backs but I honestly would bet any money I have that he has been faithful the entire time I have known him. There is no doubt in my mind. Some years are more difficult than others but again you have to both want to work at it and when both of you don’t then things aren’t as good.

        1. Wow, awesome! That doesn’t help my theory at all – but well done!

          Are you both of the same religion, out of curiosity?

  5. Hi, Warren. This article, by far, was the only one that made me chuckle today. Frankly, my views about marriage are ambivalent. On the one hand, I acknowledge humanity’s bestial roots, that side of our race that says “Men, go hump women and procreate. Women, let the men hump you so our species can thrive.” On the other hand, I also acknowledge humanity’s ability to transcend that bestiality by entering into marriage because of “love.” Or would this latter belief count as superstition?

    1. Thanks Elmer!

      True enough, we have the power to reason ourselves out of our instincts. That’s a different can of worms, because for every “It’s bad to suppress your natural instincts” argument you can make, there’s an opposite one saying you should (such as the instinct to binge on sugary food). But doing it because of love? Hmm, depends what you mean by “love”.

      Because you could argue that love is itself a bestial instinct designed to keep two humans together long enough to raise a child.

      That’s a pretty normal instinct, makes a lot of sense. If you’re feel attached to a person you keep rivals at bay through other instincts like jealousy and possessiveness, and if you’re attached to each other you tend to stay that way. But this normal instinct seems to have been turned into some Hollywood freakshow caricature, that has no basis in its original purpose. Maybe it’s purpose now is to sell things to you, but I don’t think so since love stories, pining and the lot of it existed before mass commercialism. Or maybe it’s just been adapted for commercialism. Either way, I’m not sure it’s worth giving up one’s inner beast for.

      Or would this latter belief count as cynicism? 🙂

      1. Love is such a nasty word. One can easily think of the equation of love = cuddling = dopamine. I think Elmer may have had in mind a little bit different word – wisdom (as in Kohlberg’s stages of moral development and stuff).

        Since our brain is of a poor design (God/evolution, you are a lousy architect) and is rooted in the bestial, instinctive behaviour (sorry, Descartes), there is not much to do about that. Can’t disable the beast within us, so the next best thing is having the wisdom to recognize it, be aware of it, know when to release it, when to suppress it … within us, within the others.

  6. Can of worms it is, I agree. Every intelligent, non-commercialized, non-Hollywood-tainted discussion of “love” seems to begin a wild-goose chase. Your argument about love’s being a “bestial instinct designed to keep two humans together long enough to raise a child” is just one of the many arguments for or against “love.” Yet, while I recognize the existence and influence of that baser instinct, I am not inclined to call it “love.”

    I think “love” belongs to a different plane or dimension that touches the physical/biological, yet extends beyond it. Sages, philosophers, and mystics have observed it. Science is trying to empirically describe it. And, I’m just trying to sound smart by trying to discuss it. Hehe.

    I don’t even think “love” necessitates monogamy, or even marriage.

    I don’t think it’s healthy to completely give up our bestial instincts. Tame the beast, perhaps. That way, we become masters of our beasts, rather than slaves to our beasts—or worse, the beast itself. LOL!

  7. Marriage is clearly unnatural from an evolutionary perspective, since it’s a relatively recent development; however, I do believe that it’s possible to be happily married with our current culture. Honestly, it just depends not he individual.

  8. You know what I think Warren?! It’s very simple and very common – you haven’t found the right woman for you yet!

    Many men are happy with the “bachelor” lifestyle up to a point (some forever, sure), but once you hook up with a girl with whom you really connect, views about monogamy and marriage soon change.

  9. its up to the people…to decide what ever they want…we have our freedoms..your mind says its unnatural to be a married, you are looking from your spectacles, other says its natural…majority decides and gave freedom to all to decide better what they want in their life.

  10. I used to think the same way about marriage being a certificate of having sex for some people, but with the divorce rate way over 50% (many happening because of affairs) I really don’t think that anymore. Sadly, marriage for most doesn’t mean much anymore.

  11. I’m 17, and for the past two years – since I’ve slightly matured and have begun pondering such issues – I’ve come to realise that I do not agree with marriage. In much earlier times, men and women were set up to be married – obviously not as a result of their love for each other. Nowadays, over 50% of all marriages end in divorce, which completely negates the purpose of “VOWS” and what not. And the remaining <50% that stay together are for reasons other than their love, e.g. for their children, which just leads to an unhappy family.
    I have yet to consider polygamy, however even at this age, I am definitely against marriage.

  12. I have to say I’m impressed by your blog and by your thoughts and opinions. You’re a pretty honest and upfront guy. I think many people would agree with you. Some will agree and will admit they agree. Some will agree and will never admit that they do and others will simply not agree due to their own personal (however blind they may be) experiences. My ex husband wanted a divorce (after 7 years of marriage). He had an honest, straight forward talk with me about how he felt (it went pretty much how you describe this)…he did not want to cheat on me eventually because he cared about me enough not to want to harm me in that way. He knew if he stayed married, eventually it would end up pretty badly. At first I was hurt and did not want to understand but as time went on, I came to appreciate his honesty and that even though I was still in love with him (and him with me according to him)…he never “sowed his oats” when he was younger and he needed to do so in order to calm that “itch”. I set him free…now I know that one day I will find someone (eventually) who will want to commit…who will be ready one day to do so. Eventually I think all people want to have someone they grow old with…a companion. Most people don’t want to be alone…it’s part of being human.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Rosie. Yeah its definitely a controversial topic, and I actually hadn’t considered the growing old companion thing.

      Thinking about it, our life-expectancy has increased (presumably quite a bit) since we starting getting into the concept of long-term monogamy. So maybe it’s an outdated model – yes you want someone to grow old with, but since we started marrying young when we weren’t expected to live so long, should we really be expecting that early partner to be the one we grow old with?

      I wonder how people’s views towards marriage will change if Aubrey de Grey is successful in curing ageing??

  13. I want to keep a neutral stand on this topic as much as possible. People who think marriage is unnatural mostly don’t like the idea of getting tied up and take bigger risk and responsibilities, on the other hand, those ones who jumped into the marriage wagon are risk takers. Marriage is a whole new world of full uncertainties. You’ll never know what will happen next.

  14. Marriage itself may be unnatural, and by marriage I mean the ceremony, but I don’t believe that the concept of staying with a partner for the rest of your life is unnatural. If it wasn’t natural, surely it wouldn’t occur in nature?

    1. Of course I mean natural for humans. “Natural” is a vague term but I mean basically it’s not what we’re designed for, drawn to, nor good for us.

      I know I’ve procrastinated on this topic big time, but I’ve had more pressing things to do unfortunately. I will come back to this topic at some point though, so don’t worry!

  15. I think the bigger issue is; who molded the rules of society, and why? (I already know the answer to this, but I challenge anyone to look into it.) If we were still living in tribal societies, we would not need marriage. The term “it takes a village to raise a child” has no significance to us anymore. I imagine that many of the early tribal societies were very poly-amorous although I suspect that individuals likely coupled-off (married, in a sense) but that they were not specifically monogamous in these long-term relationships.I allege that feeling hurt when your partner has had sex outside the relationship is a learned behavior, and completely unnatural; and I think these tribal people easily accepted that there was commonly sexual activity with other people outside the relationship. Is that idea not the very basis of a hedonistic lifestyle? Why do marriage and polyamory have to be mutually exclusive? I think that’s where the breakdown occurs, hence the divorce rate.

    Definition of HEDONISM
    : the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

    Why else were we put here if not to enjoy everything that is good? Were we put here to suffer? To hold ourselves back from happiness? Why has the word “hedonism” come to be seen as bad???

    These are all realizations that have come after much research. I qualify myself as a married woman of 13 years in an unhappy monogamous marriage (failure). I stay for the kids. In my opinion, extramarital sex is not a sin. However, limiting a human’s capacity for happiness and pleasure (or an entire world’s) is the very gravest of sins. When my “sentence” is up (when the kids are grown), I will practice hedonism as my religious ideology. For now, I have cancelled my subscription to mind and behavior control. God gave me free will and man has robbed me of it through a complex and myriad set of plans to “save my soul” – that didn’t need saving.

  16. I think feminism is really fascinating because in a way it’s anti-evolutionary and results in women actng against their own biological instincts (and best interests?). Don’t get me wrong – I support feminism whole-heartedly. Any woman who wants to be educated and pay her own way in life is a star in my book. But why should I, as a man, bother to work when we can manipulate women into working for us? Feminism has liberated me from slave labour!

  17. Its all must be determined by how we truly feel inside. Not by our thoughts that is polluted by the conditioning of the society in which even love is an enforced duty

  18. This is tremendous, I’ve been making this argument for a few months now and so far, nobody I’ve talked to agrees with me that monogamy is unnatural, glad to know I’m not alone!

  19. This is a load of shit. If we start living in a world where men use “its unnatural for me to stay faithful” then guess what? Im going to use MY evolutionary nature to start dating men for money. Oh wait…most men get LIVID when I say this is how women are wired and that we should have our cake and eat it too!

    Cant have it both ways boys…stop using this as a cop out to be selfish.

    1. Hey Kimmy,

      Whatever excuse you use for being unfaithful, you’re still being unfaithful. “Natural” is a slippery concept, hard to pin down, but certainly not synonymous with “right” or “correct” — and I never implied that it was.

      Warren

      PS date men for whatever reason you like!

      1. Oh no- Im not unfaithful thats not what I meant at all. I have never cheated on a boyfriend though I had chances to and I expect the same from someone I date.

        My point is that men that use this excuse are SELFISH. Plain and simple. Because when you bring the other side of the argument in- they tend not to agree with it! So, these men expect me to wake up everyday and suppress my evolutionary urges…yet there is nothing wrong with them taking advantage of theirs? Hogwash. If they truly believe that- then I guess women are more evolved than men.

        1. Kimmy,

          Sorry for the confusion, I meant “you” in the general sense, not you specifically. Yes that would be double standards. Sounds like you’ve just had some bad experiences though! Do you suppress your evolutionary urges, just out of interest?

  20. I guess I do because I have never dated anyone who makes alot of money and with my last bf stayed with him when he got laid off and was unemployed for 6 months. Some women dont though- both sexes have bad apples.
    I can see where women are coming from because no woman wants to have a family that struggles…however most women I know (again, I may be biased) want somebody financially stable not neccessarily rich.

    1. I guess we have all sorts of urges, evolutionary and otherwise pulling us in different directions. Thanks for the comments!

  21. I think it goes beyond that for some of us. I have a great wife at home. She is always looking out for me. She truly loves me and she is my best friend. With all these things taken into consideration it still feels unnatural to me. it goes far beyond sex as i personally love the company of women. I love the chase and the excitement that comes with it. I feel alive when i am hanging out with different girls. it feels natural and a needed part of my chemistry.

    As much as i have a great marriage i feel like its better to let her go knowing i had the best and i did the right thing for her. It just doesn’t seem fair to her to deal with what comes natural to me.

  22. After having 2 of them, I think it’s unnatural. when you live with someone you are always on guard about what you say and what you do. You are living your life for them and not yourself, and that is wrong.How the house is cleaned, what to eat, how to raise the children, we all don’t think the same or agree. I now have my own house and business and I feel free. I will have a relationship again, but I won’t be living with him. Most women will be stuck with no job and no way out, small children to raise and no money, society told them there was a prince for them, but sadly there are none.

  23. All marriage is unnatural.

    Do you see Monkeys getting married?

    It’s a human creation.

    Just like Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Jesus and the rest.

    We made it up.

    1. I meant is it unnatural for humans. On a side note though, some animals do display long-term monogamy.

  24. yes, marriage is a complete joke.

    I saw some women on a dating site recently agreeing with each other that if a man isn’t already married once by 40, that it’s is a major warning flag. And that did two things: 1) made my blood run cold over how anyone could be so stupid and lack any amount of thinking ability and 2) terrorized me into thinking “oh ****, I better get married before 40 or I’ll be some sort of pariah”. It’s all based on fear and pushing. It’s also some sort of goal people set for themselves, as if it’ll solve everything when they have the perfect marriage… when it doesn’t solve anything. It’s an illusion.

    Surely if we look at things biologically, it makes more sense to mess around with lots of people when you’re young, and then when you’re middle-aged to stop? Just like how people stop travelling so much when they get older?

    Monkeys and other apes have little idea who fathered who, they are just friendly to all youngsters in their group. That’s the natural way to be. There is no such thing as a “father figure” primitively, there are just older males that take an interest in and help younger males in their group, often they are having sex with their mother. The males have pretty much no clue who their actual children are and that’s how your brain works… even if you get a DNA test done. Lifelong bonds are great things, however it has nothing to do with them biologically being your father.

  25. And that’s all fact, it’s not just some “idea”, it’s undeniable. I would still highly endorse strong father-child bonds, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s not your biological father (personally I have had one with my biological father).

    I think some things about marriage could help though, because primates generally stick together while humans might get isolated as they get older if they don’t marry. Either way is just as valid/natural a decision, borne out by statistics showing unmarried people are just as happy.

  26. Sex Before Dawn is a great book that totally made me re-think my views of sexuality and marriage. I was thinking of getting a divorce before, and I really want to now, but I hate to hurt his feelings, so I have cheated, instead. I know that is worse, but women have strong sexual needs, too! I love my husband as a friend, but don’t feel attracted to him.

    It would be more natural to live with several other women, helping with each other’s kids, and having several boyfriends who come over a lot. Or having several boyfriends who all live with me. Cause I may be a woman, but I like sex as much as men, and I feel like it is easier to please a man than a woman, so women need more men!

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