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Monogamy and Infidelity May 23, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, Nature, People.
69 comments

I’m not convinced that humans are hard-wired to be monogamous.

We don’t have just one “friend” and maybe we aren’t meant to have just one “lover.”

Rather than being an aberration of nature, sexual infidelity may be “normal” human behavior.

It’s a question of “nature” vs. “nurture” in my mind.

We are socialized to look outside ourselves for someone to “complete us.”  We are conditioned to believe that, once we walk down the aisle with our mate, we will live “happily ever after” in a committed relationship.

But maybe that image is nothing more than a fairy tale of epic proportions.

Statistics about marriage, divorce, and sexual infidelity tend to disprove the notion that marriage is the pathway to happily ever after.

Moreover, a look at marital and sexual relationships through the ages tends to negate the idea that sexual allegiance to a single partner stems from human nature rather than from social conditioning:

* In matriarchal societies, maternity mattered.  Paternity did not.  Women ruled the roost.  Men were “worker bees” and sperm donors.  It didn’t much matter who fathered whom.

* Over time, matriarchal societies gave way to patriarchal societies and spiritual practices and beliefs gave way to organized religions.  The church played a central role in setting and establishing the “norms” for behavior.

* In early Christian times, the church actively discouraged marriages.  Church leaders didn’t want early Christians to have an allegiance to anyone or anything other than the church.  (They also discouraged direct personal relationships with “God” . . . preferring the role of intermediary in our quest for meaning.)

* Years later, church leaders did a flip-flop, encouraging monogamous relationships between “man” and “wife.”  Societal conditioning followed suit.

As the issue of paternity rose in stature, men who strayed were chastised . . . with a wink.  After all, “boys will be boys.”  In contrast, women who strayed were branded . . . with Scarlet Letters.

The double standard was born.

In the past century, as women have risen in stature, from “chattel” owned by their husbands to individuals in their own right (with rights of their own), society began to frown on the double standard.

What was good for the goose was good for the gander.

If women are to be faithful to their husbands (so that paternity is clear), husbands should reciprocate by cleaving only to one woman.

These days, in many modern societies, we applaud fidelity, loyalty, and committment in marriages under the umbrella of “family values.”  We frown upon sexual infidelity and view “cheating” as a supreme betrayal of trust and allegiance.

Maybe we’re being too hard on ourselves.

Monogamy is socialized human behavior . . . but is it human nature to stray?

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  Infidelity (Life’s A Beach Journal) * Monday Morning Musings (View from the Side) * Eat, Pray, Love . . . Tie the Knot? * When God Was A Woman * The Ego of Man (Woman Wielding Words) * Arnold Schwarzenegger Could Face A $200 Million Divorce * Shocking Moral Decay (Greg Camp)