Whether or not monogamy is “natural” is missing the point.

Recently, I came across this comment on a post about Tiger Woods.

“The problem is much deeper and it is a society that still tries to cling to a belief in monogamy. I can’t blame them as I also cling to that same belief, but maybe we as society should rethink what we demand from ourselves. Even if we follow it, is monogamy the right way to live, or does Tiger have it right?”


Rethink what we demand from ourselves? That guy sounds like he’s trying to justify an affair in the near future. Does Tiger have it right? As in, should men all sleep with whomever they please?

How about we stop demanding anything, start accepting our basic goodness, and make our daily actions congruent with what we want out of life… perhaps many of us are already doing that though…

The real problem is that we “cling” to anything. Clinging to monogamy, or “clinging” to the neighbor will both cause suffering.

May we be “monogamous” not out of insecurity, but because we are secure. May we form our opinions on the validity of “monogamy” not on what is happening, but on what is healthy.

Forming opinions on what /Tiger Woods/Bill Clinton/closeted senators/the neighbor/ is doing may not work out the best for us. I could be wrong though. Perhaps we are all meant to be arrogant, aggressive, selfish, and unfaithful.

Why should we allow the dregs of society to determine our values?

While most animal species are not monogamous, quite a few are… although neither of those facts are very relevant. WE HAVE MUCH BIGGER BRAINS THAN THE REST OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM! Let’s use the brains we have. THAT is natural.

Then again, if we define “natural” by “whatever we feel like at the moment” then of course a huge percentage of us are not monogamous. A huge percentage of us would also then be classified as arrogant, aggressive, and ignorant. The real “natural” in my opinion is the end result of living a life of personal growth, of not clinging, of serving others, of not letting short term pleasures get in the way of much, much greater goals.

The proof to me that monogamy is natural for humans is the myriad examples of humans who choose NOT to be monogamous: polygamists, polyamorists, swingers, cheaters, etc. etc.

Are those the groups that should be the base for our “natural” norms?

“Natural” or not, the real issue here is what causes infidelity, and what are its consequences.

About shenpa warrior

"Patience is not learned in safety." View all posts by shenpa warrior

14 responses to “Whether or not monogamy is “natural” is missing the point.

  • Andrew S.

    to stir up some controversy, I’ll ask: what if you are simply culturally biased in your question in the third to last paragraph? You say polygamist, polyamorist, swinger, etc as if those ARE bad things. They are said in the same breath as cheaters as if they inherently fit in the same category. Is fidelity necessarily a concept reserved for monogamy?

  • adamf

    Yay! I need some controversy again. 🙂

    I agree it could just be an issue of being culturally biased… and perhaps they don’t all belong in the same category, but I think they’re all messed up in their own ways. Of course there is no universal standard for “bad” though…

    What I’d really be interested in is any research done on those groups. I can’t imagine any polygamist sect would jump at the chance to be researched though.

  • M

    I would like to stir up even more controversy, please. How about this headline: Whether or not homosexuality is “natural” is missing the point. Just like monogamy, it doesn’t matter if it is natural- that’s missing the point. What matters is what is morally right as defined by God.

  • Jen

    I think seeing the consequences of Tiger’s behaviors gives us a clear perspective on what is right and what’s not. It wasn’t necessarily a problem for him to sleep with whomever he wanted, the problem was when he chose to get married and THEN sleep with whomever he wants. Marriage implies monogamy UNLESS something has been decided otherwise between both the husband and wife.

    I think it is scary when people place satiating their sexual desires above the feelings and security of their wife and children. I see nothing natural about that, just purely selfish and arrogant beyond belief.

    • adamf

      Now you say that, it does seem strange that he got married. Why bother? Surely he didn’t want the situation he’s in now. I can’t believe he’d wanted to hurt his wife and children. So why get married in the first place? It’s hard not to imagine it had something to do with his corporate sponsors. A family man, imho, seems a bit more marketable than a free-wheelin’ bachelor. That is all speculation though, of course, as we really don’t know. Now he’s in rehab, which I hope means he actually DOES have a real problem, and it’s not just a cover up to blame an “addiction” for his choices.

      Incidentally, a guy I once knew (an RM no less, still in his 20’s) recently left his wife and two kids, and ran off with another woman.

  • Jen

    I think the bottom line is if a person gets married and decides to have an affair or affairs(especially if they have children) it will ALWAYS come back to bite them hard. It may not right away and the person may have fun for a time, but the consequences are following that person’s behind and will catch up to bite it eventually. I had several friends from high school whose dads chose to have affairs and I can still see the negative consequences they are enduring today because of their choices over 20 years ago.

  • Steve

    People have affairs b/c it is easy to do. People choose to NOT have affairs b/c they either take the extra steps to avoid the situation or care more about their spouse than themselves, at least in the moment of greatest weakness.

    As for “natural”, that is a total opinion. There are several societies, lots of Africa for instance, where multiple wives is fine and “normal”. Also, if poly folks are ALL ok with it, then so be it. “Knowing” what God thinks is “morally good” as M states above is forcing you and your beliefs ie your religion and your God onto someone else. My God might think it is ok and/or encouraged even!

  • adamf

    Jen – I agree – with kids involved it is SO much worse and long-lasting than it would be otherwise. What I want to know, is why don’t these guys just get divorced first? THEN they can run off with a girlfriend and ostensibly not hurt the wife and kids AS much, although probably still a little.

    Steve – No argument there. If they are all okay with it, then fine, although I must question the environment that brought them up that made them feel okay with it. Although as Andrew said above, that’s my cultural bias. 🙂

  • Steve

    I think a lot of it is this spiral. You know how if you are abused as a child the odds of YOU abusing someone go up substantially, maybe the same can be said for adultery; if you witness it as a child, you are more likely to commit it as an adult?!?!? I know Tiger hated his father’s affair. As for not getting divorced, it is b/c he/she still usually loves their life/spouse more than their life without that person. They just fail to think about the longterm risks that a ‘one-time’ tryst could have.

  • SteveS

    I’m surprised no one has asked if polygamy would be good for the economy!

  • Anonymous

    when it comes to issue of parent role models i believe that in life we make our own choices. Maybe it will be said that the percentages speak for themselves but we all have a choice to make and blaming our own failings in marriage on the past infidelities of a parent doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Too often, like tiger, its easy to blame our mistakes on ‘addiction’ or someone else. In this blame culture we can loose sight of what really matter and accept the ‘inevitable’. I say let a bad example in a parent be a good example of how not to behave. At this point in my life I am far from monogomous but I do believe in honesty and responsibility and when i choose to commit myself to marriage and a life with children I will do so with knowledge of the choice I am making. I’m sure that the benefits of a monogomous life would outweigh the limits. I agree that infidelity is a selfish and pathetic short term substitution with emotional consequences that stretch far into the future – but i disagree that infidelity and polygomy must be uttered under the same whispered and disdainful breath.

  • adamf

    Thanks, Anonymous. It is a lot easier to blame others for everything (or the opposite, to blame oneself for everything).

    Thank you for pointing out the “whispered and disdainful” – even using the term “infidelity” can be judgmental at worst, and not useful at best. Perhaps we should put infidelity, polygamy, polyamory, swinging, fantasies, etc. all under the term “extradyadic involvement.” That takes the emotion out anyway. I also agree, that in some cases, polygamy (just like swinging and polyamory) involves consent, while infidelity does not.

  • Anonymous

    Most human societies in the past practiced polygamy. It usually involved males with more resources that took more than one wife. According to evolutionary theory, the amount of sexual dimorphism between a male and female primate predicts monogamy versus polygamy. Gorilla males are much larger than females and they have a harem system. Gibbons males and females are of equal size and they practive monogamy. Human males are about 5% larger than females so one would predict something inbetween monogamy and polygamy. My point is that human behavior is rooted in our evolutionary history. Not to say that behavior is hard wired and cannot be modified.

  • adamf

    Agreed – our behavior is rooted somewhat in our evolutionary history, and CAN be modified. Thanks for the comment.

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