“I’m a single girl and I love it. I want to focus on my career, school and friends. What do you think about monogamous relationships? Are they even real? Can you be with one person for the rest of your life? Is that how humans were made?” -Monoganonymous
Based on biology: no, humans were not made to be monogamous. However, society today (especially in the U.S.) seems to think monogamy is the best or even the only option.
Christopher Ryan, Phd., coauthor of “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships” notes on the FAQ webpage for his book that monogamy is perfectly fine as long as people are able to accept that their decision conflicts human evolution.
He states that, for example, “you might happily choose to work the night shift, but the resulting disruption of your circadian clock will increase your risk of cancer, cardio-vascular disease, gastric disorders, and so on no matter how committed you are to your decision.”
He further notes. “Similarly, we can choose to wear tight corsets, or ill-fitting shoes, or to live on chili-dogs and ice cream, but because all these behaviors run counter to our evolved nature they will cost us over time. Like celibacy, lifelong sexual monogamy is something we can certainly choose, but it should be an informed decision.”
Everything is good in moderation, as the saying goes, including junk food, tight clothes and even monogamy. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing lots of different people (safely), but if two people choose to remain exclusive this can also be a wonderful thing. In my eyes, monogamy can only go wrong when it’s assumed that two people are going to be together forever.
Relationships are also commonly viewed by their end result. Couples either break up or get married (or just cohabitate for the rest of their lives). With that mindset, practically every budding relationship is doomed. Instead each relationship should be seen as a learning experience. Two people grow and change on their own while learning from and enjoying each other. These experiences can be for a few weeks, months, or years, but eventually most couples find themselves at different points in their lives. Instead of trying to miserably push through and make it work because you said “forever and ever,” it’s okay to accept that a relationship is over. You don’t have to be friends in the end, but unfriendly exes are better off than couples that loathe each other.
Fairy tales, rom-coms, and almost every love story ever has broadcast the message that as humans we walk around as empty halves. Those halves are supposed to be filled by our soulmate and we’re just not complete without them. That is completely false. Even in a relationship, two people should be perfectly capable of completing themselves. Falling in love is a wonderful thing, and yes, life may be not be the same without that person, but if the relationship is simply not working out in the end, everyone should be able to move on and be happy with themselves.
Long-term relationships in high school and college are often shrugged off and seen as unrealistic or idiotic, but this is far from the truth. Young love can be one of the most beautiful things a person experiences in their entire life. The point where it gets idiotic is when teenagers and people who are barely considered adults tell each other that they’re going to be together forever. At such a young and impressionable age there’s almost no way you’re going to like the same things or the same people 10 years into the future.
This concept doesn’t necessarily change with age either. The person you are at the age of 30 probably won’t be the same person as 50 or 80-year-old you. Sure, it is possible to be able to grow and change with someone for a long period of time, but this is certainly not as common as the media makes it out to be. Saying you want to be with someone and grow old with them shouldn’t have to come with a 100 percent guarantee.
Live your life and love as many people as you want, easy. There are two things, however, that can totally screw this up: money and babies. In Aziz Ansari’s standup special “Buried Alive” he details a marriage proposal as a man creepily asking a woman if she wants to “keep hanging out until one of us dies,” making her “swear to God you won’t back out of this deal” and feed him a slice of cake “with two tiny dolls that look like us,” all in the name of tax purposes. While this is hilariously exaggerated, it’s not too far off from reality.
The way our country is set up, if you’re an independent adult in a committed relationship, there are a ton of benefits to promising you’ll be together forever and ever. The website freedomtomarry.org details many of the rights unmarried same-sex couples are denied, which apply to heterosexual unmarried couples as well.
Domestic partnerships are only honored in a few countries and U.S. states and are generally not given any legal recognition,“and leave families without the clarity and security of knowing what their legal status and rights will be,” according to the site.
Freedom to Marry notes that, “If a couple is not married and one partner dies, the other partner is not entitled to bereavement leave from work, to file wrongful death claims, to draw the Social Security of the deceased partner, or to automatically inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items in the absence of a will.” Unmarried couples also have no access “to the courts, structure, or guidelines in times of break-up, including rules for how to handle shared property, child support, and alimony, or protecting the weaker party and kids…Unmarried couples cannot file joint tax returns and are excluded from tax benefits and claims specific to marriage. In addition, they are denied the right to transfer property to one another and pool the family’s resources without adverse tax consequences.” The law seemingly punishes couples who aren’t married, and the pressure to gain access to rights like these are what cause many people to marry who may not have even thought about being together forever.
Children in this country are taught that the couple who raised them is supposed to be together forever and ever. When this doesn’t happen and a child’s parents decide to divorce, the process can be traumatic. “Children of divorced parents are seven times more likely to suffer from depression,” according to an article for Naples News written by Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO of NCH Healthcare System.
In December of 2014 The New York Times took a look at divorce rates in the U.S. They noted that while divorce rates among young couples are falling, “gray divorce,” which occurs between middle aged couples, is on the rise.
“As life expectancy continues to increase, gray divorce will most likely continue to rise, even if divorce at earlier ages continues to decline,” according to The New York Times.
With that being said, there’s no reason to start planning your wedding or even your divorce right now. While you’re still young and single go ahead take the time to focus on yourself. If you fall in love, great. Make every relationship a learning experience. Some may end with a break-ups, divorce, or even friendship. Hell, you might be lucky enough to find one that never ends. But in the end, you are still one whole complete person who doesn’t need anyone else.
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Selene San Felice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org