As divorce parties are becoming more popular and open marriages no longer shocking, the question arises: Are humans really built for monogamy?
Has monogamy been part of human life since eternity? The answer is definitely No. The earliest traces of monogamy in humans go back to the neolithic and agrarian revolution periods. As man learned to obtain subsistence from farming, the infinite resources forced them to have smaller families that they could sustain. Some people would soon learn the art of wealth accumulation that enabled them to have multiple partners. Later on, the Greeks promoted monogamy as it was synonymous with the law and order that they were trying to achieve.
Like many other cultural practices, the Romans would steal this idea and advance it even further. In any case, wasn’t Rome, the pioneer of modern-day laws? Rome collapsed, so how did monogamy survive? Well, a new religion called Christianity emerged in Eastern Rome just in time to adopt most of its cultures and advance them to other parts of the world, including Europe. When European nations colonized several parts of the globe, colonial societies imitated their imperialists’ way of life; and so monogamy found its way outside Europe.
Many cultural practices came this way and eventually died. What is it that made monogamy stand the test of time? Many experts have attributed its resilience to the industrial revolution. This period spurred fertility transition towards smaller families, further reinforcing the necessity for monogamy.
- Are We Biologically Monogamous? If we are strictly talking about evolutionary biology, then the answer is mixed. Assuming the whole purpose of pairing is to procreate and spread our genes, then the more partners we have, the better. However, we have to balance that with the ability to take care of the offspring – which is generally more comfortable if there are two parents involved. So from an evolutionary standpoint, it is appropriate for men to have many partners to spread their seeds, but for women to have only one partner who helps them feed and ensure the survival of their infants.
- Are Some People More Biologically Prone to Be Monogamous? One study looking at rodents found that levels of the hormone vasopressin, which is linked to trust and empathy, correlated with higher levels of bonding and fidelity. A link between saliva levels of vasopressin and fidelity was also seen in human females. Brain scan images show that cheating of any kind can actually activate reward centers in the brain; this effect can be more pronounced in some people.
- Is it Possible to Tell Who Is Destined to Be Faithful? Different experts have affirmed that a longer length of your ring finger, which is linked to prenatal testosterone exposure, correlates with greater tendency towards casual sex. Out of roughly 5000 species of mammals, only three to five percent are truly monogamous.
Socially, however, we have become monogamous for the most of the last 1000 years or so because it works in our social construct. We, unlike other species, place value on raising our children. In the best-case scenario, this requires two parents.
- We Have a Deeply Ingrained Habit of Thinking That Our Way of Life Is Natural or Normal. The society has socially conditioned us from infancy that monogamy is good, and polygamy is unethical. But what’s the real American story? In The Journal Of Sex by Lucia O’Sullivian and Ashley Thompson, the two record that 30-75 percent of men and 20-68 percent of women have had firsthand experience with infidelity.
The ideal American dream of one man, one wife with 2.05 children no longer holds ground. In fact, modern-day women would rather be the 10th wife of a wealthy man than being the only wife of a poor man.
Although we are not biologically programmed for it, for many of us, it makes sense to be monogamous – or at least monogamish.