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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monogamy Isn't Realistic

Posted by on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 8:44 AM

But I support couples who choose to be monogamous. It's an unnatural lifestyle, and it's definitely choice I wouldn't make, but I don't believe that couples who make the choice to be monogamous should be discriminated against in any way. They should be allowed to have children and adopt, for instance. I'd even go so far as to say that monogamous couples should be allowed to marry—legally marry—even though adultery rates and divorce statistics demonstrate that making sexual exclusivity a defining characteristic of marriage is destabilizing and often leads to divorce. And divorce is bad for children born to monogamous couples, married or not.

These thoughts—concessions, really, to an increasingly visible and politically assertive monogamous community—were prompted by an atypically fair and balanced article on the subject of monogamy that appeared on CNN's website earlier this week. "Is Monogamy Realistic?" The answer, according to the experts quoted, was "NO."

"It's realistic that some people can mate for life in the same sense that some people can play the Beethoven violin concerto or other people can ice-skate beautifully or learn a new language," said psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton.

Added evolutionary biologist David Barash, "It's within the realm of human potential, but it's not easy."

Lipton and Barash, who have been married 32 years and are the co-authors of "Strange Bedfellows" and "The Myth of Monogamy," said serial monogamy may be more realistic—a model in which people move from one committed long-term relationship to another and choose partners for different reasons at different stages of their life.

I would argue that serial monogamy also has its limitations: a strictly monogamous couple that might be great together and doing a great job raising kids may be prompted by sexual boredom or alienation—a circumstance that could be temporary—to part ways in pursuit of sexual satisfaction. A little leeway, a discreet sumpun on the side now and then, could help countless otherwise solid marriages survive a sexually fallow period.

Those quibbles aside, A. Pawlowki's article was remarkable for its willingness to tell CNN readers—many of whom have succumbed to the PC monogamy police—the truth about monogamy: human beings aren't naturally monogamous and monogamy is a struggle and many marriages crack under the strain of a monogamous commitment. It was a levelheaded, bracing piece of reporting—it was almost brave. I say "almost brave" because Pawlowski chickened out at the last minute and gave the final few graphs of his piece over to the rantings of one of those monoganazis who wants to shove her unnatural lifestyle down all of our throats:

Whatever the temptation, most people still prefer to be in a monogamous relationship, said Nadine Kaslow, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in couples and families and who also is chief psychologist at Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia. "People feel safer and they feel more trusting. They feel like they can depend on their partner," Kaslow said.

It's sad that monogamists can only defend their unnatural lifestyle choices by tearing down those of us who are in healthy, natural non-monogamous relationships. Monogamy is great, Ms. Kaslow asserts, because people in monogamous relationships feel safe and can trust and depend on their spouses. The implication, of course, is that people in healthy, natural non-monogamous relationships don't feel safe and can't trust or depend on our spouses. Well, Ms. Kaslow, I feel safer in my honestly non-monogamous relationship than Jenny Sanford had a right to feel in her dishonestly "monogamous" relationship; my honest non-monogamous husband is more trustworthy than Elizabeth Edwards' "monogamous" husband; and my non-monogamous husband has certainly proven himself to be more dependable than Suzanne Craig's "monogamous" husband.

Again, I'm all for equal marriage rights for people who make monogamous commitments, despite their terrible track record. But the monogamous have to find a way to discuss their unnatural lifestyle choices that doesn't amount to an attack on those who made a more natural choice.

 

Comments (113) RSS

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Baconcat 1
Monogamy wasn't a "rule" until very recently. Hell, up until the mid- to late-1900s, it was expected of men to take on other women (or men!) for trysts. And in the colonial era? Oh man, don't get me started.
Posted by Baconcat on October 29, 2009 at 8:53 AM · Report this
2
@2: Well, don't forget the women were still expected to be monogamous.
Posted by Gloria on October 29, 2009 at 8:58 AM · Report this
3
GREAT post, Dan. I agree 100%. I only wish you had a column in the NYT, or another widely read paper, because you' are one of the only rational, intelligent voices out there and more people than just Slog readers need to hear it!
Posted by mitten on October 29, 2009 at 8:58 AM · Report this
4
Evolutionary biology correlates that are NOT associated with monogamy:

In humans (of course, these rules apply to other species),
-Body size differences between males/females = polygynous mating system
-Relative to the rest our our closest primate relatives = huge sperm count and huge penis size (sperm competition theory)
-Hidden menstruation by females keeps males guessing about paternity (ensures care by multiple males and limits infanticide)
-Our closest relative, Bonobos, use sex to maintain social structure and resolve disputes.
Posted by evilutionary biologist on October 29, 2009 at 9:03 AM · Report this
5
so what's the prevalence of non-honest non-monogamous relationships? Are there any numbers out there to support a contention that non-monogamous relationships are more honest? That's not snark, it's a real question since I think the long term success issue is really about honesty, not monogamy per se... because long term honesty is likely at least as tough as long term monogamy.
Posted by myr on October 29, 2009 at 9:05 AM · Report this
kim in portland 6
Thank you for the concessions and respect, Dan. I'm touched. ;)

You won't hear me arguing for or against monogamy. Both sets of my grandparents are about to celebrate 70 (seventy) years of marriage. One couple monogamous, the other was not. Both marriages successfully built a life together, survived WW II, raised families, and most importantly they consider themselves blessed to be with each other. Exclusiveness need not be some pillar or inflated into the defining status, mutual respect and agreement seems to be the key to determining if a marriage succeeds or not.
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on October 29, 2009 at 9:05 AM · Report this
7
@6, rock on, kim. Thanks for cooling it out as usual.
Posted by gloomy gus on October 29, 2009 at 9:07 AM · Report this
8
To highlight one of Dan's Points... the last line of article: "there are lots of reasons that two people who cooperate are better off than one person alone or one person who is a cheat" Is offered in support of monogamy, but is not inherently about monogamy, but rather "two people who cooperate". Two people that may or may not be monogamous.
Posted by false dichomotomy on October 29, 2009 at 9:10 AM · Report this
givesgoodemail 9
If monogamy were a natural aspect of humanity, sexual jealousy would not exist.
I view monogamy in the same way that I view religion--it works for some people (not all), and it provides a stability needed by some (not all). It's something you choose to do, and it is often difficult to healthily maintain.
But it is not natural in that it is not instinctual. If it were, mated humans would not sexually consider partners outside their relationships.
Posted by givesgoodemail http://www.givesgoodemail.com on October 29, 2009 at 9:13 AM · Report this
raindrop 10
Monogamy should of course be practiced, even if it is faked, by the parents of young kids. Think of it. You're a little kid and love that your Parent x and your Parent y are loving and devoted to you - and to each other (even if Parent x is getting something on the side and is thankfully keeping it a secret). Let the kid have the serenity of two devoted parents who are also devoted to each other (whether true or not).
What value to the kid would it be to know about the infidelity? A worry about someone new coming into the picture or, worse, a misplaced guilt that the child caused a breakup.

Yes, you can argue that children are quite adapting -- and they are. but it’s it the job of parents to withhold as much pain and strife as possible?
Posted by raindrop on October 29, 2009 at 9:16 AM · Report this
hartiepie 11
Have you ever gotten therapy after your parents' divorce?

You always sound so bitter and childish about monogamy.

It's just another form of relationship.

I'm with you though on the whole notion about how stupid it is to build it up as somehow superior.....
Posted by hartiepie on October 29, 2009 at 9:18 AM · Report this
12
Sure, monogamy isn't for everyone but to call it unnatural is incendiary. It's such a loaded and not-understood word anyway. I mean technically I'd be happy in what I would call a modified-monogamy relationship, because I'd want my partner present for extracurricular activities. Compared to most partnered gay guys I know in Seattle that *is* practically monogamous because so many partnerships are WIDE open. In most WIDE open relationships I have seen, one partner is begrudgingly indulging the partner with broader sexual needs to the detriment of their own happiness. I guess any happy non-monagamous couples and threesomes I have seen that are pretty happy are somewhere on the spectrum between monogamous and no-rules/wide-open and not at either extreme. I think when people read the word "non-monogamous" it is associated with the opposite extreme. Honestly Dan, my understanding from reading your column and books, the non-monogamy that you enjoy is also practically monogamous compared to most of the commitment-impaired guys I have dated here. I haven't been able to enjoy a dating situation where my partner will agree to any boundaries whatsoever, which I think are important in the beginning of the relationship when you are developing trust and the core of the partnership. Anyway, just my early-morning thoughts...
Posted by thunderchaps on October 29, 2009 at 9:18 AM · Report this
13
Are you talking strictly about sexual monogamy or just two people committed to each other? I think that some people can't sexually commit and boy does it cause problems (see Bill Clinton).

I've been married 26 years. (Yes, to one person, go figure.) It is a journey, kids, an ebb and a flow. Some of the journey you have no control over - life likes to shake you up that way. Some of it you do (like deciding whether to cheat on your partner). Even though I named Bill Clinton above, he and Hillary are still married. Is it a marriage I would want? Nope. I would have clocked him and walked. But no one really knows what anyone else's marriage/partnership/relationship is except the two people in it. You don't even - gasp - really know for sure what has gone on between your parents or grandparents.

Monogamy has many satisfactions. As Dan points out, there can be downsides. Have the relationship(s) that you want but if trust isn't part of the package, you will never be truly satisfied.
Posted by westello on October 29, 2009 at 9:20 AM · Report this
14
MONAGONAZI - DO DO, DO DO DO
MONAGONAZI - DO DO DO DO
MONAGONAZI - DO D0, DO DO DO, DO DO DO, DO DO DO, DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO
Posted by j.lee on October 29, 2009 at 9:23 AM · Report this
15
Dan, why are you no longer calling Terry your 'wife'?
Have you been demoted to bottom?
Posted by Upitty Wimmin on October 29, 2009 at 9:24 AM · Report this
16
Excellent! I agree 100%. Dan, you're a genius. That whole "monogamous people should be able to marry" thing -- so clever! I haven't seen writing like that since the Cooper Point Journal when I was going to Evergreen 20 years ago. I know that kind of smarmy role reversal trick has been totally rhetorically ineffective for over 100 years, but you just keep on belting out those trite literary tropes. With a genius like you behind the keyboard, I'm sure all those idiots who don't agree with you will come around tout de suite.
Posted by Judah http://www.suoxi.net on October 29, 2009 at 9:25 AM · Report this
17
What ever happened to each unto their own and mind your own fucking business? That goes for everyone.
Posted by hhhhhhhhh on October 29, 2009 at 9:25 AM · Report this
18
Of course people in non-monogamous relationships can trust and depend on their spouses- they can depend on them to cheat.
Posted by Isn't That Special... on October 29, 2009 at 9:26 AM · Report this
19
The notion that one would "love" someone but stray because of sexual boredom is sad. Sex is not that hard and two people who really love each other should have no problem making it work. It speaks poorly of cheaters' maturity and life skills.
Posted by GrandMaw on October 29, 2009 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Loveschild 20
You can't really comment on something you know nothing about. It's like asking for rain in the Sahara. Savage really has no knowledge about real stable heterosexual relationships, he only can describe what he knows about and that is open relationships. While at the start sexuality is of great importance in order to get into the evolutionary function of reproduction as time goes by the needs also evolve into a more platonic realm. I've witnessed many older couples in monogamous relationships, to the point that it was quite common to see that as soon as one passed away it was only withing a matter of days that the other went to join them also. I guess if society is gullible enough to believe what gay men or any other who have given up on monogamy say (in order to push their own agenda to dismantle marriage) then you could see a decline in monogamous relationships in the future but for many past generations that has not been the case.

Only a fool goes seeking fruit and shade in an uprooted tree.
Posted by Loveschild http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/responding_to_haiti_earthquake/ on October 29, 2009 at 9:32 AM · Report this
21
I appreciate that long-term, committed, non-monogamous relationships are possible and that they exist, but I wonder how many people are able to compartmentalize sex and keep it separate from its various attachments.

I consider my monogamous relationship healthy enough to survive non-monogamy, so that isn't a problem. But I can't imagine having satisfying sex without some measure of passion, something that resembles "love." I could do that a lot when I was much younger, but in middle age such pursuits seem barely differentiated from masturbation, something to satisfy a biological nagging.

The threat non-monogamy presents to committed relationships can be an issue of trust, as in the case of "infidelity," or stepping outside an agreement without prior permission, or it can be an issue of divided loyalties if seeking sex outside the primary relationship requires a measure of love (or maybe even just passion?) for other partners.

Maybe I'm a lesbian in a gay man's body. Anonymous hook-ups lost their appeal somewhere in my 20s or 30s. It's not that I object to non-monogamy, it's just that it seems like a hassle. It has a certain appeal, but I'm not sure how to make it work without fucking up the thing I want to keep forever.
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
Baconcat 22
@20: Dig in your wallet, Loveschild.

Every man you see there had a mistress. A couple of them had children with their mistresses. Lincoln had a male "cohort".
Posted by Baconcat on October 29, 2009 at 9:42 AM · Report this
23
It isnt that I dont agree with you Dan on almost everything you have ever said, and I respect you not only as a writer but as a good person. And I understand there are plenty of people out there who will fight for the cause of monogamy and its good to have the alternate opinion heard as well. I just feel like there are monogamous couples out there who make it work wonderfully and there isnt anything wrong with wanting to look up to them, and hope to achieve that kind of relationship, even if you are still realistic about the possibilities that things may change down the road and concessions may have to be made. And I hope that those thoughts don't make me a backwards thinker or not open minded.
Posted by hellomemphis on October 29, 2009 at 9:42 AM · Report this
24
This is assuming that everybody maintains their status as a "sexual being". As people get older they may not be interested in sex and move on to other outlets such as volunteering at church, driving the kids to soccer, wearing those stretchy tight fitting mom-pants over their growing midframe, watching soaps on Tivo, etc.
I do not want to even think about people over a certain age having sex. Old sex is far more icky than gay sex. Obvious some still have a sex drive after 40 but please keep it in the closet.
Posted by Grandma does a threeway on October 29, 2009 at 9:42 AM · Report this
25
Is wearing clothes "natural"?
Is writing "natural"?
Is indoor plumbing "natural"?
Democratic government?
Space travel?
Poetry?

We are different from animals because we can rise above (or descend beneath) our animal instincts.

We are capable of reasoning and can make choices.
We may give in to base desires, and in so doing limit our pleasures and achievements to the level of animals.
But to the extent we exercise self-control and discipline we can experience a higher level of achievement and joy.

The comparison to playing the violin or ice-skating is apt- anyone could learn to do those things on some level, and by practice and discipline become good at them, but if one gave in to natural desires not to practice and sacrifice and relied on innate instinct their level of success would be small.

People who follow 'natural law' in their personal relationships will endure minimum success, by any definition of success, to the extent that we discipline our behavior and tame the animal we will know more successful and joyous relationships.

It applies to all relationships- not just marriage.
Posted by Life Skills 101 on October 29, 2009 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 26
For what it's worth, I've never had any difficulty being monogamous, but if there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that we're not all wired the same.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty http://www.nra.org on October 29, 2009 at 9:43 AM · Report this
27
To call monogamy an unnatural human trait sounds a bit like a scapegoat. There are countless "unnatural" trends that humans are famous for - working in tiny cubes, limiting our intake of food, working 40 hours a week, paying taxes, caring for our ailing parents, staying home on weekend nights to raise our children - trends that fuel a majority of human lifestyles that require a bit of additional motivation to accomplish. Many human choices are not "natural" and quite often are decisions we would not make without cultural and social pressure.

It is interesting that the article peers so closely at this particular trend and deems it unnatural while ignoring the multitude of other unnatural decisions that humans make on a daily basis. The word unnatural has a negative connotation and that's my beef. It's just one way of doing things, and yes, it requires a bit of motivation and focus, and if it's against the grain of human psychology, fine. But get off your high horse and recognize the countless other restrictive habits and hard decisions that you make on a daily basis and then explain why this habit is excusable.
Posted by noodlepie on October 29, 2009 at 9:44 AM · Report this
seandr 28
Dan, for straight couples, deceptive non-monogamy is the natural order of things.

Heterosexuals are indeed meant to sleep around, but we're also meant to hide that fact from our spouses. The only problem with the Sanford marriage is that Sanford failed to effectively deceive his wife.

Honest non-monogamous straight couples certain do exist, and god bless them all, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Posted by seandr on October 29, 2009 at 9:48 AM · Report this
29
We only have so much "special" to spread around in life.

If we share most or all of our "special" with a lifelong partner then that relationship will be very rewarding, rich and Special. (duh)

If we hand out bits and pieces of our "special" willy nilly it will lose a lot of it's punch and we will soon find not much in our lives is very special at all...
Posted by GrandPaw on October 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM · Report this
30
David Barash is a UW professor who, just a few years back, wound up on some conservative scare-list of "America's most dangerous educators." Or some such shit. Nice to see that he's still being consulted and published by credible news sources who actually find merit in his very good research.
Posted by -ink on October 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM · Report this
31
@21: Who said anything about anonymous hookups?

Non-monogamy does not necessarily mean rampant promiscuity or anonymous hookups. Anyone who reads "Savage Love" knows that I typically don't smile on those sorts of assignations.
Posted by Dan Savage on October 29, 2009 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Theo Magyar 32
LC: You said: "You can't really comment on something you know nothing about."
And I laughed so hard I snorted my coffee up my nose! Too funny!!!!!!
Posted by Theo Magyar http://connexionsandcontradictions.blogspot.com/ on October 29, 2009 at 9:52 AM · Report this
33
STFU already, Dan. Your projection of your own lifestyle onto everyone else gets fucking tiresome. It's almost as if you're trying to prove something to yourself with all your polyamorous preaching.

@26

You said it best. We're all different. Simple as that. And I'm not about to try and convince you, Fifty-Two-Eighty, that you must secretly be lying to yourself because you're comfortably monogamous. Dan might though.
Posted by Confluence on October 29, 2009 at 9:53 AM · Report this
34
Isn't it a little bigoted to claim that monogamy is unnatural? You're free to think that if you really want, but that doesn't make it true.

First you say "I don't believe that couples who make the choice to be monogamous should be discriminated against in any way"
and then you have "But the monogamous have to find a way to discuss their unnatural lifestyle choices that doesn't amount to an attack on those who made a more natural choice."

Calling our lifestyle choices unnatural DOES seem a little discriminatory.

You can take all the evolutionary biology you want to back it up, and claim we're 'supposed' to have multiple partners but evolution is all about change, just because we may have evolved as non-monogamist, doesn't mean we're supposed to be that way forever.

Furthermore, doesn't the argument of "it's unnatural" stand up against a lot of things you practice? What happened to your open-mindedness for people to do what they enjoy without being put-down because of it? I am so surprised this post came from you. =\

I'm sorry for the monogamous people who attack non-monogamy, I really am. I wish non-monogamous lifestyles were more accepted and embraced in our culture. But calling our lifestyle unnatural and touting yours as superior is an attack, plain and simple. You can fight fire with fire, but if you do, you'll have to accept you've become just the same as the people who try to discredit your lifestyle.
Posted by Dee on October 29, 2009 at 9:55 AM · Report this
35
@31, I'm not disparaging non-monogamy or anonymous hook-ups. I'm just struggling to understand how people have made extramarital arrangements work. I know that they have, but I haven't personally experienced a workable arrangement. I don't know what it looks like.
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Baconcat 36
@33: So you accuse Dan of projecting, but you turn around and do exactly that.

I love this blog so much.
Posted by Baconcat on October 29, 2009 at 9:58 AM · Report this
37
"Monogamy Isn't Realistic"

Is maintaining a healthy weight "Realistic"?
More people fail at that than at making monogamy work for them.

Do we throw up our hands and say:
"Go ahead!
"Eat like a Pig.
"Sit on your Ass all day.
"Weighing 400 pounds is a more realistic expectation than eating a healthy diet and getting a little exercise..."
Posted by Life is a Challenge. Dan is a Wimp. on October 29, 2009 at 9:59 AM · Report this
38
This screed sounds like a case of one of these:

Nice person being nice: You're looking great today!
Bitchy person being bitchy: Oh, so I looked bad yesterday?

Kaslow's comments about people feeling safer, more trusting and feeling "like they can depend on their partner" does not need to be interpreted as a slight on the non-monogamous. In fact, it doesn't need to be interpreted at all. It's a factual claim that can be either demonstrated or refuted by evidence.

A good followup question for Kaslow would be: what is the basis for these claims? Are there studies that show that people in monogamous relationships report these feelings?

Notice also that she didn't claim that they actually were safer, that more trust was justified, or that monogamous partners can always be trusted, so Dan's examples of failures in monogamy are not relevant.

An issue like this, without scientific evidence to back one's claims, immediately devolves into everyone projecting their own feelings onto others, and to what end? If you are the type of person who remains committed to your significant other, at least until the two of you break up (serial monogamy), then that's the type of person you are, and you should probably try to find a mate who is the same. If you are 'polyamorous' then you better find someone(s) else who is/are too. Why the need for sweeping statements about what is "natural" and what is "realistic"?

Dan will gladly dispense advice about being accepting of all manner of freaky kinks, but when it comes to expecting exclusivity from your main squeeze, that's not realistic? C'mon Dan... don't piss in my face and tell me it's a shower.

P.S. Why should I support gay marriage rights (marriage being the state's recognition of a committed, monogamous relationship) if you're going to declare to the world that you and your husband (in Canadian terms) openly flout the assumptions and expectations of marriage? Don't worry- I do support gay marriage rights, and I wouldn't stop because of one prominent anti-monogamy gay couple, but you might want to hold back your rhetoric a little until *after* Ref 71 passes.
More...
Posted by madcap on October 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM · Report this
39
This screed sounds like a case of one of these:

Nice person being nice: You're looking great today!
Bitchy person being bitchy: Oh, so I looked bad yesterday?

Kaslow's comments about people feeling safer, more trusting and feeling "like they can depend on their partner" does not need to be interpreted as a slight on the non-monogamous. In fact, it doesn't need to be interpreted at all. It's a factual claim that can be either demonstrated or refuted by evidence.

A good followup question for Kaslow would be: what is the basis for these claims? Are there studies that show that people in monogamous relationships report these feelings?

Notice also that she didn't claim that they actually were safer, that more trust was justified, or that monogamous partners can always be trusted, so Dan's examples of failures in monogamy are not relevant.

An issue like this, without scientific evidence to back one's claims, immediately devolves into everyone projecting their own feelings onto others, and to what end? If you are the type of person who remains committed to your significant other, at least until the two of you break up (serial monogamy), then that's the type of person you are, and you should probably try to find a mate who is the same. If you are 'polyamorous' then you better find someone(s) else who is/are too. Why the need for sweeping statements about what is "natural" and what is "realistic"?

Dan will gladly dispense advice about being accepting of all manner of freaky kinks, but when it comes to expecting exclusivity from your main squeeze, that's not realistic? C'mon Dan... don't piss in my face and tell me it's a shower.

P.S. Why should I support gay marriage rights (marriage being the state's recognition of a committed, monogamous relationship) if you're going to declare to the world that you and your husband (in Canadian terms) openly flout the assumptions and expectations of marriage? Don't worry- I do support gay marriage rights, and I wouldn't stop because of one prominent anti-monogamy gay couple, but you might want to hold back your rhetoric a little until *after* Ref 71 passes.
More...
Posted by madcap on October 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM · Report this
40
(sorry for the multiple posts... got a database error, and didn't know it had actually gone through)
Posted by madcap on October 29, 2009 at 10:01 AM · Report this
41
Dan, the only person I see "tearing down" any lifestyle is you, at the end of the post. I support both the article, and your comments, right up until the end. The professor who said that most people prefer a monogamous relationship, for the reasons they listed, was merely reporting findings.

Would you argue that it is untrue, that the majority of people seem to prefer monogamy? And that those are their reasons, even if you think those reasons are false? It sounds like you're just angry that the article reported something you didn't want to hear. Normally you make a point about how journalists never cover both sides of the story, but in this case, you're just pissy that they did just that.

Admitting that the other side of an argument exists doesn't amount to an attack on non-monogamy, or poor journalism.
Posted by SuperKai on October 29, 2009 at 10:06 AM · Report this
42
I agree with #11... monogamy may not be for everyone but it IS a healthy type of relationship for a rather large chunk of the population. That having been said, what children need growing up is stability. That stability can come in many forms and it is wrong for society to insist that the only stable relationship form be strictly monogamy and nothing else.
Posted by heartfelt on October 29, 2009 at 10:14 AM · Report this
43
@36

Yup, I'm projecting my own personal view that everyone's different. How closeminded, narrow and opinionated of me. I'm just doing it so that I can convince myself, naturally. ...Er, wait, no, that's what Dan does.
Posted by Confluence on October 29, 2009 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Rotten666 44
meh, to each their own. I would say that monogamy is more of the cultural norm, as it is practiced more around the world.

People keep on pointing out that men traditionally have fucked around on thier partners throughout history; true, but I think that has more to do with gender inequality and misogyny than any thing else.
Posted by Rotten666 on October 29, 2009 at 10:19 AM · Report this
45
Vegetarian diets are not part of our human evolutionary history, but I am a vegetarian because of the negative impacts to our environment from meat-raising. Monogamy may not have been part of our human evolutionary history, but I am monogamous because I love my husband and the family we have created. Sex is a VERY important part of MALE human evolutionary history, not so important a part of FEMALE human evolutionary history, but both genders enjoy it.

Many species of birds are monogamous.
Posted by KPod on October 29, 2009 at 10:32 AM · Report this
Trinabeana 46
Dan, I personally want to thank you for harping on monogamy so much lately. I'm enjoying reading everyone's reactions to it, and it's helping me sort out my own feelings about it. I've never believed in monogamy (and spent a long time miserably trying to practice it and always failing), and I'm realizing now it's because it doesn't work for me. Because it feels unnatural to me I figured that means it's just unnatural period. But now I'm coming around (thanks to all the people speaking up to defend it) to the idea that monogamy really does work for some people. I wouldn't have had my mind opened up if it weren't for you starting all these discussions about it.
Posted by Trinabeana on October 29, 2009 at 10:35 AM · Report this
47
David Barash and Judith Eve Lipton are awesome. I hope my partner and I end up half as cool as them at their age. Barash if a prof at UW--if you're a student there, you should definitely find a way to take one of this classes.
Posted by brinsonian on October 29, 2009 at 10:52 AM · Report this
48
Speaking of commitment Amazon has 45 used copies of Dan's book "The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family (Hardcover)" starting at 61¢.
Posted by plus tax on October 29, 2009 at 10:54 AM · Report this
49
"Skipping Towards Gomorrah" will set you back 33¢...
Posted by Hurry! they have 84 copies on October 29, 2009 at 10:56 AM · Report this
50
@48/49

Ouch.
Posted by Confluence on October 29, 2009 at 11:03 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 51
It's sad that monogamists can only defend their unnatural lifestyle choices by tearing down those of us who are in healthy, natural non-monogamous relationships.


Jesus Christ, you're such an oversensitive prat. Pointing out that most people prefer monogamy doesn't equal tearing down open relationships, except in your anorexia addled brain.

And open relationships aren't any easier than monogamy. It's difficult enough to consider the needs and desires of just one person.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 29, 2009 at 11:19 AM · Report this
crazycatguy 52
Having experienced both types of relationships, I much prefer a monogamous one. I find the trust, respect and love created in a monogamous relationship is much more satisfying than any "natural" desire I might have to fool around. The best part is, contrary to what you might expect, is that it gets easier as time goes by. Eventually, I am sure, Dan will grow tired of the energy it takes to stay in the chase and will come to realize that, in this case, there is no strength in numbers. I look forward to reading his column when he comes to that conclusion.
Posted by crazycatguy on October 29, 2009 at 11:26 AM · Report this
very bad homo 53
@20: You say "You can't really comment on something you know nothing about."

And yet you are here, every single day, spouting off nonsense about gay men, gay relationships, gay this and gay that.

Is there something you'd like to tell us, dear?
Posted by very bad homo on October 29, 2009 at 11:36 AM · Report this
54
@51

He's attacking because he's trying to convince himself that his way is better. It's childish and sad, but whateva. His issue & he seems pretty insecure about it. Tune the guy out when he turns irrational, tune him in when he becomes rational again. Most of the time, he's damn good at helping others navigate their relationships... so long as their issues don't coincide with his own.
Posted by Confluence on October 29, 2009 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 55
Stop imposing your gay anti-monogamy values on the rest of us.

We're perfectly happy with serial monogamy.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 29, 2009 at 12:01 PM · Report this
balderdash 56
Just do what you want.

I mean... goddamn.

You can have the best of both worlds, though. Humans naturally long-term pair bond, but sexual exclusivity isn't historically part of that bargain and it doesn't have to be part of it now. You don't have to decide between exclusive marriage or a wild, swinging poly tribe or perpetual singledom. You can have a committed relationship that admits some outside contact. That's possible, I swear.

False dichotomies make me tired. All of you stop your stupid fucking black-or-white quibbling or I'm going to need to get some more coffee. Yes. That means you, Loveschild.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 12:03 PM · Report this
57
I was just swimming in my tank, minding my own business, and then this guy just goes soaring over my head on a motorcycle.

Was that Dan Savage? What the fuck was HE trying to accomplish?
Posted by Anonymous shark on October 29, 2009 at 12:11 PM · Report this
58
@45

yes, most birds are SOCIALLY monogamous, but they are NOT genetically monogamous (check out Tim Birkhead's work from 20 years ago). Male and females sexual strategies are often in conflict with one another.

Most mammals are polygynous. Monogamy occurs in only 6% of Mammalian genera (Devra Kleimann's work). It primarily occurs within some groups: rodents, primates, and carnivores.

Posted by evolution is the shit on October 29, 2009 at 12:20 PM · Report this
59
@56 -- Yeah, I know it's possible, and I've heard or read about or read testimony from polyamorists or committed non-monogamists who claim it can work. I believe that. But I still don't have any idea *how* it works because I've never personally seen it work. And I'm interested to know how it works and what it looks like.

I know what "cheating" looks like, and it's ugly. I know about mismatched libidos, where the frustrated partner seeks extramarital sex with or without the other partner's permission. That's usually satisfying for one out of two people in the committed relationship, which often suffers or ends as a consequence. I know about partners who have a steady side interest with someone else, but remain committed to a primary partner who may or may not have any knowledge of the side interest. In the one case I know about, it "worked" okay only because the partners were willing to practice avoidance, both of the affair itself as well as the other partner's seething resentment. I know about "open" relationships where both partners are free to have sex outside the primary relationship, but I've never personally known about one where either partner's definition of "long-term" matches mine.

In short, I have a lot of personal knowledge about non-monogamous relationships that range from the merely disrespectful to the outright disastrous. And I've read about or heard about happy arrangements. I'm curious to know more about the happy arrangements. Something more substantial than "they exist." I'm sure they do.
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 12:30 PM · Report this
julie russell 60
Monogamy ISN'T natural. @58..Is that the study where birds that are supposed to Pair-Bond for life are observed "cheating"...BC there is a study somewhere that goes into this.

I have ALWAYS been in monogamous relationships, until recently. My recent SLUTTING OUT with a FWB may be helping my marriage. I am nicer to my hubby after a tryst with fwb...relaxed, satisfied and, etc.

Monogamy is unnatural. People have a hard time separating Love and Sex, but once you do...it's a lotta fun
Posted by julie russell http:// on October 29, 2009 at 12:31 PM · Report this
61
58
Incest is a natural mammal behavior.
Rape.
Eating your own young.
Eating your own poop.
Is it "Realistic" to expect humans to avoid these Natural lifestyle choices?
Posted by Humans ARE Evolved. Don't look back. on October 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM · Report this
B Strand 62
@10
Won't someone think of the children! Did you even think that the parents of young children might consider which adults they bring into their children's lives regardless of their relationship style? Being non-monogamous doesn't mean you bring everyone home. Just like a divorced parent won't introduce their child to every boy/girlfriend a non-monogamous parent has no incentive to introduce new partners to the kid. "Infidelity" isn't the right metaphor, done right non-monogamy is quit fidelous, it just might also be polyphonic. If one has long-term secondary partners it may make sense to introduce them to the kid carefully and appropriately. All the while stressing the familial support for the little one.
Posted by B Strand http://www.twitter.com/strand206 on October 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM · Report this
balderdash 63
@59

Getting over jealousy is hard work, especially if you've had bad experiences with it in the past, but... well, frankly, open non-monogamy frequently works just like cheating except that no one is being lied to and you can have a productive discussion about whether you're both getting what you need.

You read Dan's column or listen to the podcast? I'm surprised you don't have a pretty good picture of how at least some not-strictly-monogamous relationships function.

I guess the key as far as I understand it is a certain minimum amount of self-knowledge. You have to be realistic about what you want, need, and are okay with, and you have to know it well enough to talk to your partner about it... and, inevitably, you need the right partner, too. You can't have a functional open pair relationship unless both of you want it. Trying to create one with a partner who just isn't into it - not ready, not inclined, whatever - is like trying to hammer in screws just because you happen to have a hammer. You need to get a screwdriver or you're just going to make a mess and smash your thumb.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 64
Brilliant.

As I've said multiple times lately, I think monogamy and polyamory are both kinda awful, for different reasons. I have trouble seeing a middle ground that respects the type of connections that I care about. I agree with @56 about the black-and-white thing, but I'm pretty confused by the shades of gray.

Still. . . great post.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder http://www.imeem.com/jukeboxmusic51/music/y1malqpG/prince-the-new-power-generation-featuring-eric-leeds-on-f/ on October 29, 2009 at 12:57 PM · Report this
65
@63 >> "You can't have a functional open pair relationship unless both of you want it."

That's probably the ingredient I'm missing. I haven't known of any open relationships where both partners were equally accepting of the terms. One always wants it more than the other, and that seems to be as natural an arrangement as any I've seen.
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM · Report this
balderdash 66
@61

Your point is taken; there is such a thing as the "naturalistic" fallacy, a variant of the "is/ought," and it is, in fact, wrong to suggest that something is right or acceptable based solely on the fact that it occurs in some form in nature.

We have collectively, consciously decided to eliminate the behaviors you mention from our societies. It is that very consideration, that deliberation, which makes us human. It would therefore be a betrayal of our highest principles, of the things which make us potentially more than the sum of our evolutionary parts, to lump together the harmful and the harmless, the destructive and the victimless, the obsolete and the potentially positive, with no further consideration than that some things are "bad."

We have contraception. We have stable societies. We have genetic testing. Strict monogamy is no longer justifiable even to ensure paternity (whether it ever was so justifiable is a different question), and so it behooves us to ask whether it is necessary for any reason at all. Many of us who ask this find that we can only answer "No."

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 1:02 PM · Report this
balderdash 67
I forgot to add:

OH SNAP.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 1:05 PM · Report this
68
My wife and I were monogamous for 14 wonderful years. Then we decided to stop being monogamous. It has been another 1.5 wonderful years since then! We have done it both ways, and I can say that both can really work. But of the two, the non-monogamy way is more fun. I went 14 years without so much as kissing another woman, but frankly, I'm not sure I could have made it another 50. This way, I have my cake (a lovely, loving wife) and get to eat it too, all in the context of a loving, trusting relationship with my wife, and with total honesty.
Posted by ohthetrees on October 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM · Report this
69
@68 >> "...with total honesty."

I'm curious, ohthetrees, if you've ever developed affections for extramarital sexual partners, and if that topic is open for total honesty between the two of you. Like, do you develop a regular routine with one or two extramarital sex partners, or are the extramarital partners always short term only? Are there rules that you and your wife have agreed to?

If the question was put to you: "so, do you love her?" And if the answer was, "yes," would that be a totally honest conversation you could have with your wife?

Also, do both of you seek/find extramarital pleasures with about the same frequency of occurrence as the other? Do you talk about these encounters with each other?
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 1:15 PM · Report this
70
68
that is such a lovely story.
(she started stepping out on you, eh?)
Posted by Lemonade on October 29, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
71
Of course I've developed affections for partners. I only sleep with people I like and think are attractive, so it is only natural. I wouldn't want to sleep with someone I wouldn't/couldn't feel affection for.

My wife and I usually have sexual encounters with other people together, as threesomes or foursomes. However, I do very occasionally see a woman on my own. My wife hasn't exercised the option to see someone independent of me, but she can if she wants to.

The above paragraph makes it sound like we are sleeping with a million people, but what it boils down to is together we see 3-4 couples regularly, and I see one or two women on top of that. Over time, we have become very good friends with several of them, and see them more often for friendship and activities than for sex.

I haven't "fallen in love" with anyone else yet, but if it happened, I would have no problem telling my wife, and I think she would be fine with it. The reverse would be more difficult for me (if she fell in love with someone) but I would do my best to embrace it if it happened. I think it is easier to avoid falling "in love" with someone if you allow yourself to feel lust and affection for someone, but don't mistake that for love. Love is a big jump beyond affection, and so far, I've only experienced it with my wife.

Frequency of extra-marital encounters is about 2X/month (well it was before my wife got preggers anyway). Honestly I'd probably do it more often than we do right now, but I want to make sure that the focus stays on our relationship, and that my wife doesn't feel like this new lifestyle is taking over our lives.
Posted by ohthetrees on October 29, 2009 at 1:46 PM · Report this
julie russell 72
@69..In my marriage, we are able to have sex with others, but because jealousy is a natural human emotion, we try not to "throw it in each others faces".

He is fine with me sleeping with other men in theory, but knowing details would make him jealous/angry....I tell him some things, but not details out of respect for him.If he asks, I'll tell.
The emotional part is tough...sure you get "attached" to a regular sex partner, but not in the same way you do with your spouse.

Not saying it would work for everyone, but it works for us.
Posted by julie russell http:// on October 29, 2009 at 2:31 PM · Report this
balderdash 73
@Meat Weapon,

Some people try to set rules on open relationships about no attachment or no falling in love, that kind of thing, but it's really pretty damned artificial and as far as I've ever seen it doesn't work and it takes the fun out of things.

Chances are, you're going to get infatuated with someone if you want to have sex with them or if you do, in fact, have sex with them. Once you have experienced that a time or two, though, either your own crushes or your partner's, you start to figure out that a crush and a partnership - love, if you will - are different things entirely. A little crush never did hurt nobody, you know? Unless you freak out about it. Then, it hurts everybody.

@70

You're a snarky shit, and you're wrong in detail, probably, but you might have more of a point than you even realize.

Some open relationships do start that way, generally when one partner doesn't even realize an open relationship is something they can ask for. It's tragic and stupid and pointless that this usually results in the detonation and failure of the relationship just because no one knew other, better options were available.

But yeah, some people don't even start thinking about non-monogamy until an incident of cheating makes them realize that love is not going to end forever, society isn't going to cast them out, and the universe is not going to implode if their partner has sex with someone else.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 2:40 PM · Report this
balderdash 74
@72

I've found that throwing a few threesomes or foursomes into the mix helps a lot with that lingering jealousy. Plus, they're really, really fun.

I guess that's less optimal if your husband is totally straight, though. Man, inflexible heterosexuality is so boring.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 29, 2009 at 2:43 PM · Report this
75
I read an article a while ago about a species of vole that actually is monogamous.

The first time they mate, certain chemicals in their brains form an incredibly strong memory and they never mate with anyone else until they die.

That doesn't happen with people, obviously, but I thought it was interesting.
Posted by science nerd on October 29, 2009 at 2:56 PM · Report this
76
Thanks, guys. I think I have a clearer picture now.
Posted by Meat Weapon on October 29, 2009 at 3:05 PM · Report this
77
So are open relationships automatically defined as unnatural and unrealistic because they have an even worse track record of success than monogamy?
Posted by Karey on October 29, 2009 at 3:27 PM · Report this
julie russell 78
@74..I'd LOVE it if my hubby had bi-tendancies...I could even deal if he was a closet-gay (That would be kind of awesome)but he's not. Threesomes, I could get into w/ FWB, but not hubby.
Posted by julie russell http:// on October 29, 2009 at 3:57 PM · Report this
79
71
so whose kid is your wife carrying?
Posted by are you sure? on October 29, 2009 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 80
I'd point out that non-monogamous people are not necessarily honest with each other either. That should be obvious, but a lot of poly people talk about it as though no lying ever occurs. It's still possible to cheat, by breaking whatever rules you've laid out for your relationship. The poly relationships I've been witness to (quite a few, including several of my own) haven't been any more honest than the non-poly ones, on balance.

I think monogamy is ridiculous, I really do. But being non-monogamous doesn't solve that many problems, and for every problem that it solves, it creates a new one. Just sayin'.

@65

That has been true in most of the poly relationships I've known as well. One person is really into it, one person is being dragged along for the ride. Lying to themselves and each other about it. Ugh.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder http://www.imeem.com/jukeboxmusic51/music/y1malqpG/prince-the-new-power-generation-featuring-eric-leeds-on-f/ on October 29, 2009 at 4:54 PM · Report this
81
Thanks for speaking to this Dan! If people could get away from the tradition and customize their marriage, monogamy would certainly have a better chance. Check this out: www.marriageprepadventure.com
Posted by CoryB on October 29, 2009 at 7:00 PM · Report this
B Strand 82
@80

I think I may be the only person who is indifferent to monogamy/non-monogamy. Ok, to be fair, I'd have a slight preference to non-monogamy, but I don't see myself as either the sort of person whose really into it or the person being dragged along for the ride.
Posted by B Strand http://www.twitter.com/strand206 on October 29, 2009 at 7:08 PM · Report this
83
I am so tickled because both my husband and I are violinists, so yes, we both *can* play the Beethoven violin concerto. Though I wouldn't do it in concert.

We feel no pressing need to be monogamous, however. We're newly married and only sleeping with each other right now, but I don't feel fear and trepidation at the thought that, in the future, we'll want to have sex with other people.

Great concerto, by the way.
Posted by MichelleZB on October 29, 2009 at 7:36 PM · Report this
84
I disagree that one lifestyle choice is more "natural" than the other. Clearly, one feels more natural to you, Dan.

I've had an open relationship, earlier in my life, and I've been in a monogamous marriage for 20 years.

My experience has been that both have varying "track records". A bunch of open relationships implode disastrously, as do monogamous ones. I don't think the track record is as much about what type of relationship you have, as it is the quality of that relationship and the nature of the people in the relationship. Why does it need to be set up as either/or, anyway?

You seem to be setting up the very dynamic that you claim to hate (one group judging the other). I suppose that's your point. Feels like there's a more evolved way to make it.
Posted by both ways on October 29, 2009 at 10:59 PM · Report this
85
@80 good point, but it does mitigate a major category of dishonesty that commonly crops up in monogamous relationships.
Posted by ohthetrees on October 29, 2009 at 11:19 PM · Report this
86
Dan, I don't agree with your point of view on monogamy at all. What is the point of dating or falling in love with another person if you can't end up someday with them in a loving/long term relationship? Here is a quote for you to ponder.

"Life is simple if you keep it simple, it's not overwhelming. I think that life is about finding one good friend, and if possible, finding one good friend who's also your lover and your partner for life."
Posted by Djsnuggle206 on October 30, 2009 at 12:33 AM · Report this
87
"Marriage is a young man's disaster and an old man's comfort." - "Marriage is a psychological condition, not a civil contract and a license. Once a marriage is dead, it is dead, and it begins to stink even faster than a dead fish." - Robert Heinlein from Starship Troopers and To Sail Beyond The Sunset
Posted by stormblade on October 30, 2009 at 12:47 AM · Report this
balderdash 88
@86, I really don't think you understand the discussion here.

Monogamy and long-term, loving, stable, etc. partnerships aren't the same thing. In fact, it's kind of pointless to talk about non-monogamous relationships if you're going to consider that an oxymoron, isn't it? The point is that a degree of sexual openness in those relationships is not only practical, but can in fact help improve and preserve them.

"lurk moar," as the kids say.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 30, 2009 at 1:57 AM · Report this
89
There's a big difference between open relationships, swinging, illicit affairs and serial monogamy.

The Great Divide is really between couples that tie up economically and emotionally, and grow into old age together with shared assets (regardless of the exclusivity of their sexual relationship) and people that never "settle down" with anyone.

The problem for those in the latter category is that it is very expensive - and difficult - to buy a house, raise a family, survive unemployment and sickness etc, by yourself. A temporary partner is only a partial, limited fix. Anyone who has had parents or grandparents married for several happy decades knows that monogamy is not some kind of unnatural prison.

Yes - with exclusive relationships where partners can't handle affairs there may be some sacrifice of sexual adventure, but presumably the benefits make it worthwhile for those couples.

When you divorce, you halve your wealth. If the two of you had a shared mortgage that you could just about reasonably afford together, there's no way you're going to split up and get a house each. You'll get a flat, or a tiny house in a cheaper area. People need to realise the economic and practical realities of single life. It's not to say that people should stay in unhappy relationships for the sake of money, but it needs to be recognised that a permanent relationship (marriage or co-habiting) isn't just some archaic, unnatural, undesirable state. It's usually hugely advantageous and desirable to the people involved.
Posted by anon_person on October 30, 2009 at 4:45 AM · Report this
90
89
Statistically staying married is the greatest factor in determining if someone will stay out of poverty.
It correlates more than even educational attainment.
Infidelity is a (if not the) chief contributing factor to divorce.
Monogamy often confers a huge financial advantage.
Posted by $how me the money on October 30, 2009 at 5:42 AM · Report this
91
@raindrop; Kids adapt much better than you think. It's the parents who freak out. And the teenagers, but they freak out all the time anyway. Lies are a terrible poison. Of course, that doesn't mean you bring your kid along on dates all the time or whatever, just that they can easily deal with their parents having an understanding non-monogamous relationship. They'll have a much harder time with their parents having big weird secrets.

@48/49: Dumbest troll ever. You do realize that you can get most mass-market books for similar prices because the dealers make all their money on shipping? Dan's books cost the same as Ann Coulter's or Shakespeare's or the Bible.
Posted by dwight moody on October 30, 2009 at 11:33 AM · Report this
92
@89, @90, I guess those of us who don't pair off are screwed then. That would be me. I never paired off w/anyone. Now, there are some things I don't like about relationships, namely having to answer to someone all the time. In that sense, being in a relationship was like moving back in with your parents. I do miss the sex, but I've learned to live without it. In a relationship, in my experience you stop having sex after about a year anyway. So I live w/o sex, a house, a car, health insurance. Nor am I living a "wild" single life, I haven't dated for about a decade. I just gave up. And I sure didn't see my parents or grandparents married "for several happy decades." My mother's parents were dead before she graduated from high school. My father's father was one miserable person and I assure you his marriage w/my father's mother was indeed a prison for her. My own parents marriage didn't last. Without a partner, I do wonder if, when I'm old and infirm, I might end up taking my own life, esp if the option is a nursing home. But of course, one could be in a relationship and face that same decision, couldn't they?
Posted by Binky on October 30, 2009 at 12:58 PM · Report this
balderdash 93
@90

Please see my comment @88. Your troll has been preempted. Sorry. Try again.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on October 30, 2009 at 1:32 PM · Report this
94
Doesn't the concept of an open relationship/open marriage/polyamory open one up to an increased risk on contracting an STD? I understand the importance of safe sex, but condoms DO sometimes break......
Posted by JoeSmith on October 30, 2009 at 4:52 PM · Report this
95
In my experience, people seem to be geared one way or the other, and fighting what feels right for YOU, causes problems. I've yet to meet a couple in an open or poly relationship that didn't have all the same issues as a monogamous one. The fact is, relationships are work, you have to put in time and effort, and it is always difficult to meet the needs of all.
I'm geared to monogamy, having sex with someone other than my partner or with more than one person would just be stressful and not fun, it is completely unappealing. Thankfully I have a partner who feels the same, and we make sure that our sex life is fun, exciting and fulfilling. It has only gotten better over time, I would never feel comfortable doing the things I do with my husband with another person. Our committed monogamous relationship allowed that to be.
I also have friends who are constantly bemoaning not having a relationship but whenever they are in one, cheat on the person. I say just be honest with yourself, you are not geared for monogamy, and that's okay. Now stop lying to all the people you sleep with and stop pretending you want a committed relationship when you don't!
Posted by r-u-crazy on October 30, 2009 at 4:59 PM · Report this
96
Those of us who ARE in monogamous marriages don't assume monogamy will be easy, or that it will always be fun. But we do think it's realistic. Hell, celibacy is realistic, in that it can realistically be achieved, but not that's it's easy or fun. Now, some people may not think that happy monogamy is realistic, or satisfying monogamy. But monogamy without the adjectives is very realistic, for people willing to try. It's the difference between avoiding and resisting temptation, and just saying "What the Hell, I'm part of a horny species." After all, pacifism requires self-control too. And healthy eating, and exercise, and charity. The difference is that it's okay to mock the gluttonous and overweight, or the lazy, or the selfish. But somehow the non-monogamous are just evolved enough to know their own limitations while the monogamous are just sheeple following an outdated code. WHat happened to "to each their own"? You can have an open a relationship as you want; I don't care. But don't say that mine isn't realistic. Easy, no. realistic, yes.
Posted by charlie on October 30, 2009 at 9:07 PM · Report this
97
Nature rewards monogamy with health.

Postpone sexual activity until you pair with a lifelong partner (who shares and practices the same values) and remain monogamous and you get a free pass from STDs.

Practice non-monagamy (and/or pair with a partner who is nonmonogamous) and expect STDs.

In fact, expect a direct correlation-
the more promiscuous you and/or your partner are the greater the chance and more virulent the exposure to STDs.

Perhaps Nature is not as clever about what is "Realistic" as Dan but it is sending an unmistakable loud clear message...
Posted by Dan is a Slow Learner. You don't have to be... on October 31, 2009 at 5:23 AM · Report this
98
Me? I don't care what other pople do with their private bits. Just keep them away from me unless they are invited over to play.

I do notice an amusing dodge at work in this debate, though. A desire or need to sleep with others besides a primary partner, in the pro-poly world is taken to be a hard-wired thing, it seems. But when they address guilt or shame people feel at cheating or otherwise engaging in a lifestyle viewed by others as unhealthy, erroneous, etc, well, that seems to be just cultural oppression by the narrow-minded, etc.

Sooo...the sex drive is wired. But feeling lousy about your sexual behavior is not wired? Thus, in their worldview, with just a little more openness and open-mindedness, and then no more lousy feelings, but still plenty of sex.

Maybe that shame is wired in too? Is our sex drive counterbalanced by that? Just a thought.
Posted by Snowguy on October 31, 2009 at 6:17 AM · Report this
99
Snowguy, I think that shame and guilt are hardwired emotions; however, I don't necessarily think that guilt about something can be called hardwiring. Everyone (who is stable) experiences guilt; not everyone experiences guilt about open relationships.

Cheating? Of course, in most cases, that will make a person feel guilty if he or she cares about the person they're cheating on. But that's only because they're risking hurting their partners. Cheating and non-monogamy are two different things. It's the risk of the hurt that causes the guilt.

Society teaches/brain washes us on which sexual behaviors are good and which are bad. That's not hardwiring, but rather socialization.

But caring, compassion, guilt, love? Those are all emotions that are probably hardwired in humans, and even many other animals.
Posted by jade on October 31, 2009 at 8:43 AM · Report this
100
I think you only need to look at history and divorce statistics to realize that monogamy isn't actually 'natural' for most people. The sad thing is that they feel that it IS, so they end up in a position where they're forced to lie and cheat to get something that they want, and they end up hurting a lot of people in the process. A married man that cheats on his wife hurts his wife, any children, and feels an enormous amount of guilt. Great. It's possible that his 'mistress' feels bad to be treated like a second-class relationship, so now you've got at least 3 people that feel bad about this whole thing. AWESOME.

I've been partnered for 13.5 years, more than half of them non-monogamous. We're on the same page and agree that this is what we want; neither one of us spent any time having to convince the other. If I find a girl that I like, I get ENCOURAGEMENT from my partner. Instead of 3 people being hurt, we have three people that are HAPPY. If it goes bad -- because any relationship can go bad -- it's no worse than the monogamous setup, but the potential for it to work out is 100% better.

Some people can do monogamy, and that's impressive. Like the article said, it's like being accomplished at any other difficult thing. So here's what to take away:

1) Monogamy is HARD, and nobody ever said it wouldn't be.
2) Not everyone has to do the hard thing.
Posted by RealMonster on October 31, 2009 at 11:23 AM · Report this
101
Dan,

You misunderstood the quote, "People feel safer and they feel more trusting. They feel like they can depend on their partner..." The key word is "feel."

Is jealousy a bigger problem in polyamorous relation than in monogamous relation? Thinking it's not is just ignorant... or arrogant.

The claim that monogamy is not natural is also absurdly unfounded. People are hardwired for jealousy just as much as they are hardwired to be turned on by strange.

I am all for poly for people who can truly pull it off, but I also think there are about 5X as many people who mistakenly think they can than those who actually can.

You have to ask yourself why you feel such a strong need to fuck more than 1 person in spite of the relational and physical risks. "Because it is fun" is not a legitimate answer. Why is it fun? The answer usually has a lot to do with a combination of low self-esteem and self-centeredness.
Posted by Get Real on October 31, 2009 at 1:47 PM · Report this
102
Dan,
Let me personally thank you for once again reiterating your very sensible views. It warms my heart to know I'm not the only one who thinks these things.
Posted by lizza on October 31, 2009 at 6:24 PM · Report this
MikeC in YF 103
I personally have no qualms doing things, or thinking things, or cooking food in things, or wearing things that are "un-natural". Anyone who does (Dan) is a prude.
Posted by MikeC in YF on October 31, 2009 at 9:40 PM · Report this
104
Thankfully, I only read a few words of this nonsense. Young people who may have stumbled onto this rubbish, take heart! There are monogamous people out there! Only the cheaters want you to believe everyone cheats. That is what makes them feel better about their wrong choices. We took a vow and we're gonna keep it. Is it hard? Frankly, no! Our lives are very full, and we have many responsibilities. We're not about to complicate our lives seeking greener pastures and pipe dreams that only end is a pile of heartache for many people. That is another mainstream lie--"It doesn't hurt anyone." Those who engage in this kind of behavior only care about their own satisfaction first. I've heard that kind of reasoning from pedophiles--I'm just doing this for my own sexual gratification! I'm going to leave that kind of impulsive, mindless behavior to them and my dog. In the meantime, I love and am very thankful for an extremely satisfying, peaceful monogamous marriage. By the way, I married someone that I knew would be faithful to me and he did the same. You'll say, "You can't know." I disagree. (34 years and counting)
Posted by happy on October 31, 2009 at 11:38 PM · Report this
105
World Peace isn't Realistic.

Despite our best
efforts
and hopes
and aspirations
Wars happen.

Obviously
it is a waste of
energy
and effort
and hope
to strive for World Peace.

We should just invade
every country in the world
and get it over with.

Let's start with Iraq.
Posted by Isn't that Right, Dan? on November 1, 2009 at 3:37 AM · Report this
GymGoth 106
Dan- Here is where I have a problem with your position: here you are celebrating the fact that you would never choose monogamy for yourself because it is not natural. Yet in other posts you like to insert little musings about your husband and your kids and your cute little family life---all as a means of harping on the need for same-sex marriage!

This is the attitude that lets bigots tarnish the movement. What do the kiddies think when Daddy1 or Daddy2 goes out for his separate trick? Or if suddenly there's a strange naked guy sleeping in Daddys' bed? How do you keep that area hidden from your children?

I just don't buy the "sexual need" thing when it comes to not being monogamous. Your husband not in the mood to put out? Go maturbate with a porno or something. It seems to me that people who can't restrain themselves sexually in a relationship either (1) have not married the right person; they "settled" instead of waiting for the right one; or (2) have simply not grown up.

Want to have free and open sex? Fine do it while being single, or if you do find a partner who likes the same thing, live and let live but don't call it marriage and certainly don't bring kids into it and call it a family.
Posted by GymGoth on November 1, 2009 at 9:19 AM · Report this
107
Dan, I really respected you until I read this article.

I am not sure if you were meaning to attack monogamous people, but that is how I interpreted it.

I have no problem with any kind of relationship between two or more consenting adults. I have no problem with asexuality, either. I think that polyamory and open relationships are great choices for some people.

But I am monogamous. I believe this is primarily because I am a very jealous person, and because open/poly relationships just don't appeal to me, at least not at this point in my life.

I feel quite attacked by this article. I have NOTHING against polyamory, but when someone in a poly/open relationship (I believe you're in an open relationship yourself, Dan), attacks you for choosing to do something other than what they have chosen for themselves, it becomes a pretty fucking big problem.

I do not care if my relationships are 'unnatural'. That word means nothing to me. As a lot of the other posters have stated, rape is common in the animal kingdom. Therefore it is natural. Does this mean we should accept it? The 'natural vs unnatural' argument is a red herring.

I don't know what the fuck your problem is, Dan. It's none of your fucking business what other people want to do in THEIR consensual relationships. Had someone called in with a dilemma involving a partner cheating, you could have gone off about the benefits of open relationships. And I'm sure you have in the past- I listen to the podcast quite frequently. But this is a seemingly unprovoked (by most of your audience, I like to think) attack on people whose relationships are NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

It's sort of like the fundamentalist Christians who randomly attack gays. Guess what? You're no better than them.
More...
Posted by Cynder on November 1, 2009 at 12:55 PM · Report this
attitude devant 108
OH FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR MINDS!!!!!?????

For all of you who are insulted or attacked that Dan is preaching nonmonogamy as the only natural lifestyle, please look at comment #16 very carefully.

Dan is using a rhetorical device. He is comparing the assertion that gays can't marry because it's an "unnatural lifestyle" to the "unnaturalness" of monogamy. For the purposes of his argument, he says, "Hey! Monogamy is unnatural, but I'm open-minded. Let them have equal rights, no matter how unnatural their sexual life is." Read Dan's post again.

Get it now? This is called a reductio ad absurdum. Google it. It is an ancient form of logical discourse. You are allowed to attack his argument based on whether you think he does it well or poorly, as 16 does (and I disagree with 16, I think it's VERY well done), but if you insist on being literal, you are merely exposing yourself as.......obtuse.

Excuse me, I gotta go bang my head on the wall.

Sheesh!

Posted by attitude devant on November 1, 2009 at 1:46 PM · Report this
109
#108, welcome to every goddamn comment thread on every site on the Internet.

On average, half of the posts in every single thread will not be worth reading, either because of their horrid grammar and syntax, or because the commenter betrays the reading comprehension of a third grader.

All of which will cause you to wonder if you're actually getting dumber while scanning the thread, hoping to stumble upon Uriel, Matt from Denver, Catalina, Sargon, or Urgutha Forka.

At least here on Slog we have filters.
Posted by jade on November 1, 2009 at 4:54 PM · Report this
attitude devant 110
Thanks Jade, I feel better now. Damn! What a time for Uriel to be writing a novel!
Posted by attitude devant on November 1, 2009 at 8:04 PM · Report this
111
Let's get down to brass tacks: monogamy exists for the benefit of women. Men don't need or expect someone to take care of them. Men don't feel a psychotic compulsion to breed. Men can entertain themselves.

Frankly, I don't know why you people care about relationships or dating to begin with. I'm as horny as the next guy, but women are so fucking impossibly boring that I'd rather just jack off or pay a hooker; especially considering that most women are pretty boring sexually.
Posted by RJMII on April 14, 2013 at 9:37 PM · Report this
112
Excellent article. To each their own I say. Such conflicting interests however. The natural way seems to be discreet extramarital relationships for a lot of folks, since this practice is so frowned upon if it were not kept discreet. Alas it seems most people can't allow their partners to experience other people. It seems there will always be conflicts and wide gaps in these arenas.

Speaking from a shunned female perspective (I'm monogamous but experienced 1 or 2 gray area encounters with separated or had a girlfriend when I was single 18 yrs ago), I have witnessed firsthand how harsh women are to other women when it comes to affairs. It's the masses of women who gossip and don't even know you that are harsh. They have singlehandedly destroyed my mind and life (I'm very prone to obsessive complexes). But this is a tangent issue and one I'm trying to overcome. But it does make me even more compassionate toward those who find monogamy not suited to their liking.

Live and let live I say. You wont see me hunting for a poor, lost woman to hate nor will you see me denigrating men and women who haven't been able to remain monogamous. Those are private matters and shouldn't be made public. No one should ever lose their job or credibility over them. These are my thoughts and I have and will always be true to them.
Posted by Yellow73 on September 27, 2013 at 9:13 PM · Report this
113
Excellent article. To each their own I say. Such conflicting interests however. The natural way seems to be discreet extramarital relationships for a lot of folks, since this practice is so frowned upon if it were not kept discreet. Alas it seems most people can't allow their partners to experience other people. It seems there will always be conflicts and wide gaps in these arenas.

Speaking from a shunned female perspective (I'm monogamous but experienced 1 or 2 gray area encounters with separated or had a girlfriend when I was single 18 yrs ago), I have witnessed firsthand how harsh women are to other women when it comes to affairs. It's the masses of women who gossip and don't even know you that are harsh. They have singlehandedly destroyed my mind and life (I'm very prone to obsessive complexes). But this is a tangent issue and one I'm trying to overcome. But it does make me even more compassionate toward those who find monogamy not suited to their liking.

Live and let live I say. You wont see me hunting for a poor, lost woman to hate nor will you see me denigrating men and women who haven't been able to remain monogamous. Those are private matters and shouldn't be made public. No one should ever lose their job or credibility over them. These are my thoughts and I have and will always be true to them.
Posted by Yellow73 on September 27, 2013 at 9:14 PM · Report this

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