Over the past decade there has been lots of discussion about whether humans are “naturally” monogamous or if we are actually polyamorous creatures in a monogamy-focused culture. As these discussions increasingly focus on evidence that we evolved as promiscuous and non-monogamous mammals (just look at our close relatives, the lusty bonobos…), this can have the effect of threatening people’s ideas about what is right for them and whether they are making the right relationship choices.
This can be rather confronting.
But rather than seeing this evidence as a prescription for how you should be running your relationship/s, an alternative way to use this information is to acknowledge that our culture’s preferred form of relationship (the monogamous relationship) will come with challenges: The challenge of managing attractions to other people, the challenge of familiarity and reduced novelty, the challenge of managing ongoing conflict, and the challenge of routine.
And this is just to name a few.
If we can give up the fantasy of happy-ever-after, and instead expect challenges to come about, then we are in a better position to manage these challenges, communicate about them, and sustain relationships over time.
And on the other side of the coin?
Well, just because polyamory may be more biological wired into humans does not mean that these relationships will be easy either, especially in our monogamy-focused society. The challenges faced in polyamorous relationships include social stigma, managing jealousy, the challenge of negotiating safe sex practices, time management, and the challenge of developing relationship rules, expectations and attitudes with little role modelling available.
The moral of the story: Be prepared to fight for the health of your relationship/s. Gain skills over time that will help you do this – keep adding tools to the tool box.
People can do this in a number of ways such as reading books, having relationship check-ups with a psychologist or counsellor, attending couples education sessions and reading online resources.
Always take care of your relationship with yourself – make relationship decisions based on your own values and what fits for you. And this may well change over time.
Dr. Alice Hucker
Clinical Psychologist & Sex Therapist