It’s popular nowadays to claim that “monogamy is just too hard.” It’s used as a justification for why people don’t want to get married or engage in non-monogamous relationships. You might even hear that monogamy is unnatural.
After the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, the idea of monogamy and lifelong marriage seems to have gone out the window. Now, almost 60 years later, it’s become popular to promote various non-monogamous lifestyles, like polyamory or open relationships. Beneath most of the rhetoric, most proponents fall back on the same basic argument: Monogamy simply isn’t “natural” for human beings. They’ll argue that monogamy isn’t seen in nature among other animals, and that monogamy is a “recent” invention for humans. If we go back to nature they say, monogamy simply isn’t the way. The fact that monogamy is so difficult for many people to adhere to seems only to back up their stance.
However, should we really give up on monogamy because it’s difficult? I say no, and there are plenty reasons why practicing monogamy is worth it, even if it's more work.
Monogamy Isn’t “Unnatural” - It’s Actually Part of Our Evolution
I won’t bore you with evolutionary details for too long, but contrary to popular belief, monogamy (or at least, long-term pair bonding), is actually a part of our DNA. Human children take a lot longer than other animals to grow up. A lot longer. Our babies are also very vulnerable for a long period of time. A huge benefit of monogamy for ancient humans was having a full-time father who could care for and protect his own young - therefore giving them a huge advantage over children with less protection.
Women’s bodies evolved accordingly. Our brain chemistry isn’t designed for casual sex because we produce higher levels of oxytocin during sex, which is a feel-good, bonding hormone. It's why women are more likely to develop feelings for sexual partners than men.
Elizabeth Pardi of The Federalist argues that humans are meant for monogamy. She writes, “As a species, we’re pretty terrible at throwing our bodies into something without emerging emotionally unaffected. Physiologically, we’re wired for intimacy of both our bodies and minds, and try as we might, we can’t divorce the two. The more partners a person has, the less intimate sex tends to become for them over time.”
We’re wired for intimacy of both our bodies and minds, and try as we might, we can’t divorce the two.
It could be argued that men especially aren't meant to be monogamous, but there are plenty of benefits for men in monogamous relationships. This includes health benefits like living longer, as well as evolutionary benefits.
Monogamy Makes You Healthier and Happier
There are many physical health benefits of long-term monogamous relationships and marriages. Married couples are less likely to have cardiovascular problems, tend to live longer, and are more likely to survive cancer. The mental health benefits can’t be ignored either. Those who are in committed relationships or who have fewer sexual partners are less likely to have mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Monogamous relationships are also better for family dynamics. Studies show that children in two-parent households tend to be more successful than children in single-parent households. Unfortunately, children who are raised by a man other than their biological father are more likely to be abused. This isn’t to say that adoptive fathers or stepfathers are inherently a bad thing — there are plenty of amazing fathers in this category and some children are better off with an adoptive father or stepfather.
Unfortunately, children who are raised by a man other than their biological father are more likely to be abused.
The Best Things in Life Take Work - And Monogamy's No Different
Just because practicing monogamy is difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Most of the things in life that are the most rewarding also require the most work and commitment. No one expects a great athlete to get where she is by sitting at home doing nothing. Relationships are the same way. If we devoted the same time and attention to our relationships that we willingly give to other parts of our life, we'd realize that the hard work does in fact pay off. Choosing a good partner, and then choosing them over all others each day of your life, will elevate everything else in your life as well. So choose wisely.
Monogamy is one of the greatest predictors of long-term happiness for married couples. With non-monogamous relationships on the rise, it’s important to note the benefits that practicing monogamy provides. It may be difficult, but all the good things in life aren’t easy. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be so rewarding.