Hard-wired for monogamy?
Afew days ago I was schooled on love. Through another friend’s intervention I was reminded of what it was, what it wasn’t, and all the things most people only imagine it to be. For once I wasn’t the one in the hot seat, nor was I the one attempting to dish out any kind of love advice, so I just sat back and took it all in.
“There’s a difference between guarding your heart, and putting up a wall that no one can penetrate!” my friend Michaela was saying to our third musketeer, Torrent.
“There’s also a difference between wanting to be open and out there, and not wanting to be involved in anything that could turn out remotely like…”
With that she stopped short. She didn’t have to say another word for us to know where the conversation was headed. We had talked for weeks about the unexpected end to her relationship, the result of a snooping expedition gone horribly wrong. Or remarkably right - she’d turned private investigator overnight, and even SnapChat’s 24-hour expiration date hadn’t been able to keep her from the truth that she sought, as messy as it turned out to be. Her longtime boyfriend had been unfaithful, and my softhearted friend hadn’t been able to handle it.
“I feel like all of these new age communication platforms promote infidelity,” she said finally. “Secret conversations, disappearing photos… I mean, where does the buck stop?”
I understood her perspective, but didn’t agree that people’s behaviour could be blamed fully on technology. With that our conversation nose-dived into the territory of infidelity, double standards, and monogamy in general.
“I don’t think anyone owes anybody anything else but honesty,” Torrent said hotly, then shook her head. “Since we’re on the topic, why do you think people cheat in the first place, whether they’re in a happy relationship or not?”
“Boredom probably,” I offered with a shrug.
I’d had this conversation far too many times before. So much so that I had almost memorized the justifications that always came up: fear of intimacy, loneliness, or just the opposite, hunger for intimacy of the same kind.
My perspective on the whole matter had always been, if humans weren’t designed for monogamy, then why did our emotions say otherwise?
“I think we’re just hard wired for monogamy,” Michaela said, and I nodded. I recalled a seminar I’d attended months ago that had included a panel of women discussing the same topic. The grouping had included a family therapist, clinical psychologist, biological anthropologist, and a relationship retreat guide. The women had shared that fidelity was a choice, and explained their perspective.
“Mono means one, and gamy means spouse, so it means one spouse; it doesn’t equate to fidelity,” the psychologist expressed. “We do not share naturally, we are a monogamous species, we’ve got tremendous brain pathways to fall in love and attach to a partner.”
“We’re pointed as human beings into different directions. We want to be free to go where we want to go, we want to be free to have experiences,” the relationship guide added. “We love variety, spontaneity… so if you’re deciding you’re only going to be with one person, in some ways you’re giving that up. On the other hand, if you’re in a committed relationship, it’s secure, safe… you know what’s going to happen every day. You have this peace of mind that you have this person to come home to that you love.”
The downside to that, she said, was boredom, or sort of a dampened passion. She related that people opting for fidelity needed to work hard to keep the sizzle in their relationship.
In the age of hook-up culture, more and more people were steering away from monogamy, choosing instead more liberated lifestyles. Irrespective of those options, the ladies believed there was a single element at play, part of the human emotion, that even sexually liberated humans could not escape.
“People need to be aware that they’re going to be dealing with a very, very strong human emotion, no matter what it is that they think, and that human emotion is jealousy.”
The strongest message that had come from their presentation was that often people found in other relationships what they hadn’t cultivated enough in their own, and I expressed just that to Torrent and Michaela.
Even in the hurt that still lingered, Michaela nodded.
“I would have no issue opening my heart to someone else, if only that came with a guarantee of honesty. Whether we can all agree that we’re a monogamous species or not, the least we can do is learn to be honest and upfront before emotions get involved!”