Monogamy, the belief in marriage between only two individuals at a time, is the basis for nearly all unions here in the United States (and in most localities across the globe). As society has secularized, though, calls for looser views on how marriage should be viewed have emerged. Infamous sex advice columnist Dan Savage’s less-than-pleasant views on the matter will be discussed in this Sunday’s edition of The New York Times Magazine.
In the piece, Mark Oppenheimer writes, “Today, Savage Love is less a sex column than a relationship column, one point of which is to help good unions last.” So, what’s Savage’s take on staying true to one’s spouse that will “help good unions last?” As Oppenheimer explains:
Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.
“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
According to Savage, the unrealistic expectations that monogamy thrusts upon married couples have the potential to do some real damage. In fact, he claims that this element “destroys more families than it saves.” Watch Savage discuss monogamy’s “ridiculous” and “unnatural” nature below:
[Content Warning: Explicit language]
Savage, who is in a same-sex union with a man named Terry Miller, practices something he calls “monogamish.” Basically, this theory allows him and his partner to have “occasional infidelities,” so long as the two are honest about them. Miller, who was originally opposed to the idea, is quoted as saying:
“You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you. Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff.”
CNN tackled this issue back in 2009 as well, writing:
In the age of hookups, friends with benefits and online dating, and as human life expectancy grows, is it still reasonable to expect people to pair up and stay monogamous until death do them part?
“It’s realistic that some people can mate for life in the same sense that some people can play the Beethoven violin concerto or other people can ice-skate beautifully or learn a new language,” said psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton.
Is monogamy difficult? For some people, it is. But, the flip side of Savage’s feelings on the matter is that human beings should learn self-control. Just as individuals must curtail their intake of food in order to keep a shapely figure, they must also control their desires if they wish to maintain a healthy marriage — or so opponents of this free-love philosophy would say.
What do you think? Is monogamy completely unrealistic?