Does Monogamy Make Sense If It Has To Be Enforced?

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What Is Enforced Monogamy? Why Being Monogamous Isn't Always Ideal Or Healthy In Relationships
Love, Sex

As society grapples with theories about the spectrum of monogamy, there is clearly no "correct" answer as to whether any particular individual or couple should choose to remain strictly monogamous or explore rules and ideas for polyamorous, non-monogamous relationships.

By definition, monogamy simply means "the state or practice of having only one sexual partner at a time," while being monogamous is defined as "relating to, characterized by, or practicing monogamy having only one mate, spouse, or sexual partner at one time."

But if you are in a relationship in which the practice of monogamy feels like it has to be enforced, one thing is clear — something’s wrong.

Yes, most people still want their partner or spouse to be faithful, but anytime imbalanced, coercive levels of control are part of a relationship, there’s something deeper going on.

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The term "enforced monogamy" was coined by Jordan Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and YouTube guru to angry white men, after Alek Minassin killed 10 people and injured 16 others in Toronto in the name of the "Incel rebellion" in 2018.

In an interview with The New York Times, Peterson proclaimed, "He was angry at God because women were rejecting him ... The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

"Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this," the article continues, "Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn’t make either gender happy in the end."

The enforcement of monogamy, however, doesn't have to be carried out in such explicit, overt terms in order for it to be a real phenomenon currently shaping many monogamous relationships.

Are you feeling like you need to enforce monogamy on your spouse or do you feel monogamy is being forced upon you? Perhaps there’s an expectation in your social circle, upbringing or cultural background that demands monogamy that you’ve come to accept.

In the not too distant past, marriage was not based on love. It was more of an economic arrangement to raise children together.

It was pretty much enforced by societal and cultural expectations, as well as financial demands sustained by the power differential between men and women.

Today there is more freedom in Western society because women have gained more financial independence and legal rights, despite there still being a long way to go towards this end both locally and globally.

Enforcement around monogamy in any relationship based on romantic feelings creates tension, disconnection and a lot of painful drama.

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The very idea of being in a relationship where monogamy has to be enforced doesn’t make sense. It feels out of alignment with the deepest part of our soul. Why? Because control and love don’t mix well together.

You cannot force anyone to love you by following a rule or condition especially monogamy that is a mutual choice of desiring to share sexual expression with only one partner. Forced fidelity by one partner or because of some condition otherwise feels suffocating to a relationship.

Where there is love, there is no need for rules.

The kind of commitment to the love you share with someone, especially when it gets down to your sexual expression, can only flow and grow when neither individual feels imposed upon.

The bedroom is often the most obvious place where a need to control backfires, unless of course, one partner enjoys the feeling of being controlled and the dynamic involves a consensual exchange of power.

That may be your thing, but is it really the shade of grey you want if it feels as though it's being forced upon you?

And if you're the one doing the enforving, it's important to notice where your need for control comes from, and understand whether it really serves you in all areas of your life.

You may notice that many people who are controlling to some don’t mind being controlled by others, at least on a subconscious level. However, this dynamic involves a push and pull energy rather than the give-and-take healthy relationships need in order to flourish.

Letting go of a need to control is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your partner.

It means not enforcing anything on others, including ourselves.

It’s our need to control that becomes the conditions we create around love. When we need our partner to be certain ways according to our right way, that leads to controlling behavior, so expect some toxic conflict!

It goes against the nature of the essential quality that loves gives: freedom.

If you’re feeling tied down in your commitment to be monogamous, part of you is seeking some kind experience that’s wanting to break free.

When you love someone as the saying goes – set them free. The idea is when someone is free to leave and still they want to come back to you, it’s true love.

But there’s more here — the freedom we all want when we’re unattached is something we still want when we are committed.

Khalil Gibran expressed it best in his poem "On Marriage":

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness..love one another, but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls ...

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.

For the pillars of the temple stand apart, the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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We need the freedom to live our own light in a relationship. This is the same light that keeps us attracted to one another, and wanting to be monogamous.

It’s also the hardest part about love, and what relationship expert Esther Perel describes as opposing forces: our need for security and our need for adventure being able to co-exist within a single relationship.

A feeling of enforced monogamy can stem from a need to re-discover the lost parts of yourself that quietly disappeared when you entered into a committed relationship.

The challenge is to preserve a co-creative space that can be found in a song you may have heard growing up: "Free to Be You and Me".

We want freedom more than anything in our relationships — the freedom to be ourselves with someone else while finding creative ways to get our needs met.

What often happens in our relationships is the opposite. We start moving into conditions of what we need, expect and eventually demand from our partner as we get closer and closer until one day, we’re wondering, "Why don’t I feel the same way I did when we first met?"

That’s when monogamy starts to feel stifling, and the enforcement of it even tougher.

Our sense of adventure to explore our own path, and purpose can get easily lost among our responsibilities of the house, kids and the mortgage, not to mention in-laws, friends and trying to establish a solid career.

Unless we feel like we’re growing together among our shared or divided responsibilities, the spark that keeps us wanting to remain monogamous can fade fast. The individual needs we each have not only become clearer over our time together, but they may change along the way as we grow.

Today, most of us recognize that one person cannot fulfill all our needs. It becomes a question around what are these needs, and what are you willing to sacrifice should you choose to stay together?

Can you get your needs met elsewhere in other ways?

Sometimes it’s not possible because we can feel a sense of tremendous loss to who we are if certain needs are not met, which may or may not include sexual needs.

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However, it is not a surprise that consensual non-monogamy has become an increasingly more common healthy option for some people.

The underlying state of a healthy relationship regardless of whether sexual expression is involved depends upon the ways we allow the freedom to give what makes each other feel most alive as we grow together.

You may still be thinking that enforced monogamy is just part of the way relationships have to be.

That the honeymoon period ends, and you have to just stick it out together through thick and thin ... until death do you part.

We are taught to believe that if you’re loyal and faithful through the good times and bad, that it means you really love someone. That it’s a responsible endeavor to simply stay together.

Sometimes it’s a choice we make and we are willing to make certain sacrifices, but we all must decide personally for ourselves, and find our own alignment giving permission to also honour what isn’t true for us.

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Here’s where some of the other confusion arises. The illusion of jealousy and control disguised as loyalty.

There’s something that feels initially satisfying about a partner who is jealous. It can feel like evidence of someone’s love. Only when you look deeper do you realize it’s the opposite.

If you think it’s natural that your partner feels jealous when an interested party finds you attractive, or if you’re attracted to someone else, there may be insecurities here that spell much bigger issues around trust and self-esteem mixed with a need to control.

If your partner thinks you’re the cat’s meow, wouldn’t it make more sense that other people think the same thing? But now your partner is angry as opposed to feeling honored to be the one chosen to be by your side.

It is reasonable to be angry or upset if your partner is intentionally trying to hurt you by showing their signs of affection for someone else or receiving it elsewhere, but who deliberately wants to hurt someone they love unless there's an insecurity present?

Jealousy at its root is about ownership, manipulation and control.

Jealousy doesn't show up when you trust who you are, and more importantly who you know yourself to be in your partner's eyes.

Contrary to popular belief, jealousy is not a sign of love, it’s a sign of possessiveness.

Be mindful about the feeling of belonging to someone as opposed to being owned by someone. Belonging has a different quality that is calm, feels safe, and desired. Ownership is more about control, being attached, and enforcing rules.

Ownership can be extremely strong in certain hierarchical cultures where it’s become acceptable to control other people even though it feels internally out of alignment.

True loyalty, faithfulness, and trust has to come from within from a sense of giving not forced from without.

Monogamy is a wonderful idea for relationships where both partners value and desire this condition and allows it to be a mutual agreement, but enforced monogamy can only be a disguise for loyalty.

The question is whether love is really the foundation for your relationship or if control is more of what rules.

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Carolyn Hidalgo, CPCC, is a spiritual life coach focused on helping clients navigate the difficult challenges of relationships to be more in alignment with their soul for more joy, love and freedom. For more information or to set up a free 30-minute consultation, visit her website or contact her via email.