Which Is Better For You — Monogamy Or Ethical Non-Monogamy?

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Are You Naturally Monogamous?
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The answer isn't as simple as you might think.

Recent research by Justin Lehmiller found that some people are better equipped for monogamy and others do well in consensual non-monogamy. The researchers based these findings on the personality traits of the subjects in the study.   

So, are humans naturally monogamous?

And which is a better for you choice for YOU —​ monogamy or consensual non-monogamy?

Justin said:

"All too often, people try to argue that one kind of relationship (monogamy vs. consensual non-monogamy) is "better" than another. My research suggests that such arguments are counterproductive and that we shouldn't be in the business of shaming or disparaging relationships that are different from the ones we personally prefer.

The reality is that we’re probably predisposed to find one kind of relationship more satisfying than another because of our personalities and, as a result, we shouldn’t project our preferences onto others."

Personality types determine which is a better fit.

In my own experience counseling individuals and couples, relationship styles cover the spectrum from monogamous to ethically non-monogamous and everything in between. There are qualities and personality traits that make some people more comfortable with monogamy and others seem to be drawn to a more open relationship. 

However, I have also seen that these preferences can change over time, they are developmental in nature and what seems to be an orientation is actually a more fluid definition of monogamy or non-monogamy, based on the continuum of one’s life


RELATED: Why We All Need To Adjust Our Expectations About Monogamy


As we age and have children, families, multiple partners, consecutive partners, and more life experience, we tend to change our preferences.  Just like we can change our tastes for food or our interest in music, our desire for a better fit in a relationship or a specific person can shift as well.

Could an open relationship and ethical non-monogamy be good for you? 

Some people happily engage in a monogamous relationship when their children are young and then move into a more open relationship as the kids move out. Personality types may affect those choices and how well their partners adjust to changes over a life cycle.

But most people make choices about monogamy every few years and revisit their choices, either implicitly or explicitly. Sometimes, these choices align with what their personalities are suited for, and sometimes, their choice may mean more work is required to make a relationship successful. 

Whether we choose to be monogamous, non-monogamous, consensually monogamous, partially open, recovering from non-consensual affairs, or any of the other variety of relationships found in human mating behavior, each option is a choice that has to be made and reinforced every day.

Any relationship can be successful with shared effort.


RELATED: Why Polyamory Actually Is Not The Opposite Of Monogamy


It’s also true that some of the things that help make any relationship successful are things that can be learned, such as better and more effective communication techniques, conflict management skills, frustration tolerance techniques, and gratitude practices.

Let’s stop shaming others for their relationship choices.

While Lehmiller’s work is important, we need more research to open the dialogue on the continuum of monogamy and the behavior of partners in relationships, to normalize all forms of monogamy and non-monogamy and to decrease the shame in any decision, as long as it is loving and not meant to harm.

It is important that when we don’t agree or don’t understand someone else’s relationship decision that we resist the urge to judge or shame them or our partners or even ourselves for our relationship choices.

Consensual non-monogamy is a valid relationship option for some. Marriage and traditional monogamy is also a perfect relationship option for others. You and your partner(s) are the only ones who get to decide what works best for you.


RELATED: 3 Big Reasons Monogamy Is Just Not Natural, According To Science


Dr. Tammy Nelson is a sex and relationship expert, author and international speaker, and a licensed psychotherapist. Check out her book, The New Monogamy, for more information on how to negotiate a monogamy agreement with your partner, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, between monogamy and consensual non-monogamy. Set up an Intensive or an online session today by going to her website for more info.

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