Monogamy

close-up-of-mature-couple-holding-handsMonogamy is the practice of mating with only one mate at a time.

What Is Monogamy?

While the definition of monogamy can seem obvious, there are actually several competing definitions, and our understanding of monogamy is ever-shifting. In biology, monogamy is defined as mating with only one partner for the duration of a mating season. Even this definition is hotly contested, as many so-called monogamous animals procreate with a partner other than the monogamous partner.

Among humans, monogamy is typically defined as a long-term commitment to only one partner—usually through marriage or cohabitation. In more recent years, monogamy has been treated as an orientation in contrast to polygamy or polyamory. Polygamy is the practice of taking more than one spouse, and polyamory is the practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships. Many ostensibly monogamous marriages have brief periods of nonmonogamy during which one spouse has relations with someone outside of the marriage. Psychologists also often refer to serial monogamy. This is the practice of engaging in only one monogamous relationship at a time, but having several monogamous relationships over the life span. A person who has been married three times, for example, might be called a serial monogamist.

Monogamy in Popular Culture

Until relatively recently, monogamy was widely accepted as the only healthy way to have a relationship in the United States. However, increasing awareness of open relationships, polyamory, and other arrangements have changed this understanding. Being monogamous or otherwise in relationships does not necessarily directly affect mental health by itself. That said, violations of agreements to be monogamous can cause severe anxiety, jealousy, depression, and relationship problems for one or both partners. By contrast, people engaged in openly nonmonogamouos relationships tend not to experience these effects.

Advice columnist Dan Savage popularized the term monogamish to refer to couples that are primarily monogamous and highly committed to one another but who are also open to the possibility of occasional outside sexual relationships.

References:

  1. Fuentes, A. (2012). Race, monogamy, and other lies they told you: Busting myths about human nature. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Last Updated: 08-12-2015

  • 3 comments
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  • Jarlath M

    Jarlath M

    August 23rd, 2016 at 5:30 AM

    Well I am going through a marry breakup through my wife cheating on me all through our marry. I myself know I made mistake in our marry, but to find out what my wife and her friends were doing behind my back for years telling me we will always be together. I have try to move on with my but am very lonely and down in myself thinking all the time about (what if) beating myself up about it all the time. I believe sometimes the world would be a better place without me

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    August 23rd, 2016 at 7:41 AM

    Hi Jarlath,
    Thank you for your comment. Please know there is help available! If you are in crisis, or feel you may be in danger of hurting yourself or others, please dial 911 in the US or visit your local emergency room for immediate assistance. If you would like to get in touch with a therapist, you can search for a mental health professional in your area on the GoodTherapy.org directory:https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    We are thinking of you and wishing you the very best, Jarlath!
    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Jeff G.

    Jeff G.

    April 8th, 2018 at 4:23 PM

    You are definitely not alone… the same happened to me for about 10 years. I felt like a total moron when I learned that everyone knew but I was blind to it. Partly because we had 3 kids together and the other part was because she was my high school sweetheart. It gets better, just get back up on the saddle and get back in the field. Even a good rebound chick may help.
    The world is much better with you in it than not…believe me. Hope life is treating you good now but if not..you got my email…. Hit me up and share the burden.

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