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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
Carrie Jenkins thinks so.

“Nonmonogamy can include so many forms,” she says. “You could just be ‘monogamish’”‰” – a term coined by the advice expert Dan Savage for long-term relationships in which partners allow each other to have occasional flings. “You could be swinging; you could have a ‘friend with benefits’ while looking for more-traditional romantic relationships. I sort of switched over to using the ‘polyamory’ label because this really means multiple loves. I have multiple loves.”

I have always found this topic to be fascinating. As a happily married monogamous man for the past 8 years and an ethical slut for the preceding 15, I’ve wondered if it was possible for men and women to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak.

I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage. But that doesn’t mean that my wife and I don’t find other people attractive and talk about what’s possible. Yet we always arrive at the same conclusion: there’s a very practical reason for monogamy.

Like communism (or libertarianism), polyamory sounds great in theory, but often has messy implications when normal human beings get involved. Jenkins disagrees.

“(She) believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love. And she believes that philosophy, the discipline named for the “love of knowledge,” needs to become more expansive – treating a wider range of questions and addressing a broader audience – in order to help create it.

Like communism (or libertarianism), polyamory sounds great in theory, but often has messy implications when normal human beings get involved

Take the  assumption that nonmonogamy is psychologically damaging. “Different people are different,” Jenkins and Ichikawa wrote. Many nonmonogamous people report that they come to feel less jealousy over time; conversely, many monogamous people complain of experiencing sexual jealousy. In response to the charge that nonmonogamy is “unnatural,” Jenkins and Ichikawa pointed out that virtually no species are sexually monogamous, even if they are socially monogamous or pair-bond for life.”

I read in “Sex at Dawn” that virtually no species is sexually monogamous. We are most closely related to the bonobo and for thousands of years lived in polyamorous communities of less than 150 people. It wasn’t until we moved to an ownership society where men own land and women sought resources and protection that we came up with the concept of marriage. But still, something feels dissatisfying about Jenkins’ assertions.

It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that sex or love outside marriage can be considered perilous to the marriage itself. If anything, it’s pretty predictable.

Let’s agree that monogamy isn’t natural and that we’re genetically programmed – men and women alike – to want to sleep around and crave variety. And yet here we are. A polyamorous author and philosopher trying hard to justify her life decision through iffy logic. So what if some monogamous people are jealous? That’s not an argument against monogamy. So what if some polyamorous people overcome jealousy? The reason that most people aren’t polyamorous – myself included – is because we determine that the costs outweigh the benefits.

At least that was how it sounded when Michael Sonmore talked about his open marriage in New York Magazine.    It was almost as if he was trying to convince himself publicly that he felt good about his wife fucking other people while he was home with his kids. Sure didn’t sound that way to me. I’m about as secure as they come and the thought of my wife taking a lover doesn’t make me feel jealous; it makes me feel icky.

It’s unfortunate that polyamorous people are judged morally by society. They shouldn’t be. Similarly, polyamorous people have to get that we monogamous folks aren’t prudes afraid of societal backlash. Nor are we less “evolved” than you. We just make decisions like every other couple else does – “would this help our marriage or hurt our marriage?”

It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that sex or love outside marriage can be considered perilous to the marriage itself. If anything, it’s pretty predictable.

Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated.