Does Monogamy Really Work?


Is society's expectation of monogamy appropriate for modern times?

When we first get married, we have an expectation that we assume our partner will be faithful. Yet some studies say that infidelity rates may be as high as 25%—others say it's more like 60%—if we are really honest with the researchers. And unfortunately, couples still divorce around 50% of the time. So why are we shocked when a relationship that we know has only a 50/50 chance of making it doesn't work? It's because we have a built in expectation about monogamy that is fast becoming outdated and no longer applies. Marriage as we know it is changing. It is the newest and the latest frontier in the rapid growth of this century. What makes us think that marriage should stay the same as it was for our grandparents? It won't and it's not.

Our definition of monogamy has to catch up to what is actually happening in our culture. The ideal of monogamy as sexual fidelity to one person throughout a lifetime is not working. Even in the face of this reality, we are still trying to make it work. We are trying to desire the same person for a lifetime, but we are not working on ways to make that happen. Monogamy For The Long Haul

I see a tectonic shift in our culture around monogamy. I think this will be the greatest shift of our century—the change in marriage and relationships. The new monogamy will be a new definition of partnership, with more transparency, fluidity and flexibility. I think couples will still desire a primary partnership, but there will be some changes in how it looks.

These newer fluid definitions of monogamy already include pornography, open marriage, polyamory and swinging...but they also are defined by new types of communication that make it easier to talk about the monogamy rules. Is it okay to have friends on Facebook? Is it reasonable to watch porn alone or with your partner only? Is masturbation cheating? What about on weekends; can we fool around with another couple, just for fun, but only while we are together? I Have An Open Marriage [VIDEO]

Our parents may never have had these conversations when they got married. Maybe if they did, 50% of them would not have gotten divorced. Divorce is not always the best option. Rewriting your monogamy agreements, sitting down and talking openly about the expectations going forward—both implicit and explicit—can save a marriage and even propel it forward. 3 Rules For Staying Married Happily Ever After

We as a nation of couples are trying to manage our partnerships in ways that work. Will this new monogamy work? It's hard to say. Is honesty, openness and a new view of monogamy the way to long lasting marriage? Only the next generation will know as they look back at how we, their parents, managed monogamy.

Dr Tammy Nelson is a world renowned expert in relationships, a psychotherapist in private practice, and a trainer and seminar leader worldwide. She is the author of several books and speaks internationally on sexuality and human relationships. She can be found at

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Tammy Nelson


Tammy Nelson, PhD, LPC email me at

Location: Ridgefield, CT
Credentials: LPC, PhD
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Sex Therapy
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