If I say it is natural they refuse to let me exit the conversation until I admit there is a volume of evidence suggesting it’s not natural.
If I say it’s not natural, they seem to think that I’m a charlatan for writing in a way that is pro-monogamy.
If I say it’s a mixture of the two, they start insisting that an adaptive strategy like swinging mixing the two is the way to go.
If I’m tired and grumpy and say they just want me to grant them permission to cheat, they tend to get offended.
Rather than by starting with debating whether or not monogamy is natural, let’s start with stating what is natural.
What is natural is the creation of long-term pair bonds between two people. It’s very natural that couples seek each other out, find each other acceptable as mates, start building a nest together, pop out some kids and raise them. It takes a long time to get a baby human to adulthood and pair-bonded parents generally speaking are the default setting for human history. This is, if you like, the Beta Strategy.
However what is also natural is seeking out opportunistic sex with those not pair-bonded to you. In the opportunistic sex method, men seek out as many partners as possible to maximize spreading their genes into the next generation. Women seek out the best possible partner for opportunistic sex, to thereby get the best possible genes added to theirs to spread them into the next generation. This would be the Alpha Strategy.
These two natural strategies lie in a dynamic tension with each other. It’s a gross simplification, but a lot of what I’ve written over the years is a way to play the Beta Strategy, by consciously augmenting it with elements of the Alpha one. I.e., being someone your pair bonded partner would also desire to have opportunistic sex with if they weren’t your partner.
Now while that’s all natural, monogamy isn’t.
Monogamy is an agreement that everyone needs to play nice and do the Beta Strategy. That agreement can be as mild as a social contract of manners and expectations, or it can be enforceable by the death penalty. It’s a sort of collective sexual strategy that makes a lot of good sense on a societal level, but can for more opportunistically motivated people, seem to be rather stifling.
If you’re playing the Alpha Strategy heavily, you tend to expend a lot of effort to get sex. It’s high risk as well. It may work out amazing, or it may turn into a Jerry Springer episode of fist-fights and paternity testing drama. It takes up a lot of resources to play Alpha all the time.
If you’re playing the Beta Strategy, you tend to expend more effort on non-sexual things, like amassing wealth and maximizing your investment into the kids.
If you’re in a position of power in your country, getting as many people as possible playing the Beta Strategy is a fantastic idea. It helps create a stable population who do all kinds of productive, functional work to develop your country. The Beta Strategy people go to work in the morning even when they feel shitty and they don’t clog up the jails. The Alpha Strategy people though, they’re a pain in the ass.
Let’s be honest here, you want to live in a country where everyone else plays by the Beta Strategy rules. It’s pretty darn awesome. Safe, secure, non-violent, productive and… and… and…
But there’s one small, itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie problem.
Monogamy as a social contract, does exactly what it intends to do. It works exactly as advertised. You’re getting what you signed up for.
Seriously now, go check the fine print.
All that was promised was a functional, stable, family unit and a day job. You’re imagining the clause about cock exploding into vagina while two bodies writhe together like they are being Tasered. If you both want that, you have to Alpha up. You have to develop the side of you that would do well in the opportunistic sexual market place.
In that sense, what I write about is a mixed strategy, trying to take what you can from the best of both strategies. Which I guess is getting to the place where the swingers want to chime in, so let’s do it. In terms of whether something is natural or not, purposely allowing another person to have sex with someone you’re pair bonded to, is about the least natural thing in the world. The most natural thing in the world is to try and kill them. It requires a huge degree of socialization to be a swinger, so let’s not pretend that it’s all wondrous and natural. There may well have been Sex at Dawn, but there would also have been Killing at Dusk too.
So no, monogamy is not natural. But that doesn’t mean it’s without value. Jennifer and I often talk about how peaceful and relaxed our family life is compared to many others we know. No step-kids, no ex-husbands or ex-wives, no 3rd or 4th set of grandparents, no stepping around how Christmas works because five different families have to be involved. It’s quite lovely. It’s also time and energy efficient and I couldn’t have written MMSL without that as a structural factor in my life. I’d just have been too busy with family stuff.
The core of the issue is that we’re just not perfectly adapted for a modern civilization. We do all kinds of things that aren’t natural but we still think they are a good idea and worth tempering our natural instincts. Some non-natural things that spring to mind…
The Rule of Law.
International Soccer Matches.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
So let me flip the question around on you a little. If we assume your partner isn’t in some way broken or objectively defective, they love you and are a generally willing sexual partner, is it possible that the problem isn’t monogamy, or you being married, but simply that you aren’t being as Alpha as you want to think you are. Which is to say, maybe you’re boring. If you’re bored with yourself, your partner is probably bored with you too.
One of the things that people I coach keep telling me in moments of self-realization is that, “The MAP really isn’t about sex is it? It’s really about just being a better person, about doing what you want to do with your life. That’s what’s attractive!” It’s usually right after this revelation that they find themselves having the best sex of their lives.
It’s a big world. I’m pretty sure there are still some achievements left for you to unlock.