Why Monogamy Makes Us Feels Safe (Even When It Doesn't Protect Us At All)

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Why Monogamy Makes People Feel Safe From Jealousy And Cheating
Love, Sex

Think about it...

Last night a thought occurred to me — as thoughts often do while I’m trying very hard to sleep because I have to be up frightfully early — that monogamy itself may be an attempt to defend against our nature to compare and rank.

I’m not speaking anthropologically, as I’m not qualified to do that ... nor do I care to bother myself with such things called research ... and any I might do could never live up to the seminal book, Sex at Dawn, anyway.

This was just a concept that hadn’t struck me before and I felt the need to chase it down — since I had to be up in less than five hours.

We've all experienced the problems that come from comparing and contrasting previous and current lovers.

We look at our current lover and our now-ex and compare their strengths and weaknesses.

The dichotomy of the previous relationship vs. the new one is interesting, though, because I think we often judge harshly against them, due to the pain that comes with any breakup. This colors things usually long enough to firmly entrench ourselves in our next relationship which is, of course, so unbelievably better than our previous one …

Of course, sometimes the opposite happens.

Because we were younger then. And more excited perhaps. Or less afraid. And we tint the entire past relationship as rosier than it was in such a way that our current love is always left feeling the strain of jealousy while living in the shadow of the past.

I myself have never had this happen to me, of course ... but I’m told it does. Most of my previous lovers I’m damned lucky to be rid of, with a few I look back on fondly, though not longingly.

So, what happens then when you introduce two lovers at the same time? 

This often happens in the casual dating stage of life for people who are monogamous as well. There may be two or three people on the possibility-towards-marriage-train in your life at any given time. And while they’re not actively competing with each other, you still rank and adjust for the curve.

Until one wins out. The marriage lottery as it were. That one obviously is ... BETTER.

Because New Relationship Energy kicks all emotion up a notch — and in that excitement and energy, the new relationship often stands below a flashing neon light that says “BETTER,” indeed.

This is the same kind of excitement people feel when they later have an extramarital affair. It’s new! It’s exciting! It’s ... DIFFERENT.

And sometimes, especially after a long period in one monogamous relationship, different is all something needs to be in order for you to see it as better.

And so the relationships compete.

So I wonder this, do we align ourselves with monogamy (as a species, not the actual "we" meaning "me" — because I do not) because it takes away the opportunity to rank and contrast?

Because with one, that one can only possibly be THE BEST (though also the worst) without confusing us. Without making us think too terribly hard.

After marriage people do often wonder what else might be out there. They mourn the end of possibility as they enter the bachelor and bachelorette parties.

But we take comfort and safety in the fact that, at least until we have children, we are the best thing in our partner’s life.

Non-monogamy introduces a variable we’re often not prepared to deal with — the possibility that someone else could be more exciting, more attractive, more fun, more engaging, more adventurous, more ... more?

We think that monogamy gives us a bit of a defense against this by making it forbidden to look elsewhere.

That's not generally the way it works, though.

In fact, with staggering estimates of the frequency of infidelity out there, one could suggest that this defense works very little, but rather creates a system and mechanic that simply reinforces “partner=good.”

Listen now: On this episode of "Life On The Swingset: The Podcast," Ginger continues the two-year tradition by sitting down with Cooper for a frank and intimate discussion about his new novel Approaching the Swingularity: Tales of Swinging & Polyamory, toxic masculinity, inclusion and diversity, sexuality, and sexy vacations and resorts.​

Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset since 2010. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is also a graphic and web designer, photographer, and voice over artist who has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast and the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. 

This article was originally published at Life on the Swingset. Reprinted with permission from the author.