It is not uncommon for people to seek me out to prove to their partner either monogamy or non-monogamy is right or wrong. They want me to settle the disagreement- and unfortnuately, on this I have to disappoint.
I don't hold either relationship model to be inherently healthy or righteous and in ten years of supporting nontraditional couples I can honestly say I've seen people get hurt in both monogamous and open relationships.
All too often people default to monogamy because it's mainstream and accepted and they think it's easier. But operating on these myths leads them to some of the bigger problems in monogamous relationships.
Read through the most common myths of monogamy I see and notice which resonates for you.
Monogamy is morally right and ethically sound
You don't have to look far to see that assumed or default monogamy isn't working out well. Statistics range from 50-80% of "monogamous" relationships experience infidelity at some point.
Just saying your monogamous doesn't mean you'll be honest, respectful, or caring in your relationship. The ethical part shows up in how you communicate and maintain your relationship over time- not in how many people you connect with.
Monogamy is natural
Plenty or research has shown most animals in nature are non-monogamous. But beyond that, most people will tell you "I can't imagine being with one person for the rest of my life."
This doesn't mean everyone should be in an open relationship. But it does mean the mainstream definition of monogamy (I'll only be attracted to one person for the majority of my years) doesn't work.
If monogamy is going to work out, couples need to discuss what their expectations and boundaries are if and when other attractions and curiosities pop up (because they are natural).
Anyone can do monogamy well
Again, the infidelity rates I mentioned above alone can squash this assumption. Just agreeing to be monogamous isn't enough. Relationships require work (even if you only have one at a time).
And monogamous or not, most of us aren't given lots of great tools to navigate healthy relationships. Maybe we lack healthy relationship role models, or we're embedded in a culture filled with toxic relationship norms- either way, most of us need help and clarity to learn to do relationship swell.
Talking with a partner about what the specific boundaries of your unique monogamous commitment are is critical to navigating long-term monogamy and staying together.
Monogamy is reassuring
Monogamy agreements by themself cannot bring you the security you might wish for in intimate relationships. This is often why even in monogamous couples partners feel insecure or need continual reassurance.
Instead of just agreeing to a monogamous norm, have a clear discussion with your partner about what might happen if either of you feels attracted to another. How would you hope a partner might handle that situation and respect the boundaries of your relationship?
Getting clear together and then following through on your agreements is the only way to the security you seek together.
You complete me
The other way I hear this myth from folks is believing I can meet all my partner's needs. This is ineffective and unhealthy for four big reasons:
1) It sets me us for failure because I cannot possibly be all those things.
2) It sets you us to either avoid exploring some of your needs or hide them from me.
3) It increases pressure on both of us to offer more than we can. It can really drain our reserves if we're the only support for the other and we're less likely to have healthy boundaries between us.
4) It decreases the likelihood we'll create healthy nourishing friendships, collegial relationships, mentorships, and other relationships.
Even if you never choose non-monogamy, it is essential you have a rich social network of support beyond your relationship that "completes" you.
Take a minute to consider these monogamy myths and which may have informed your views on relationships and let me know if you'd like to dive deeper into them 1:1. I'm happy to talk with you!
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- resolve sexual disconnection
- change unhealthy communication and codependent patterns
- open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
- keep passion alive in long-term relationships
Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.