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