Is Monogamy Biological?

Is Monogamy Biological?

I’m no scientist. I’m just interested in science. So any time there’s a study regarding dating, relationships, sexuality, or behavioral economics, I’m paying attention. Which is why I’m sharing with you a recent New York Times article that talks about the evolutionary benefits of monogamy.

“The human mating system is extremely flexible,” Bernard Chapais of the University of Montreal wrote in a recent review in Evolutionary Anthropology. Only 17 percent of human cultures are strictly monogamous. The vast majority of human societies embrace a mix of marriage types, with some people practicing monogamy and others polygamy. (Most people in these cultures are in monogamous marriages, though.)

People (usually men) who explain everything in terms of biology tend to get excited about this. Surely, man is designed to spread his seed. We literally can’t help ourselves when we’re cheating! Well, that’s part of the picture, but far from the whole picture. Continues the NYT:

Our lineage never evolved to be strictly monogamous. But even in polygamous relationships, individual men and women formed long-term bonds — a far cry from the arrangement in chimpanzees. While the two new studies published last week disagree about the force driving the evolution of monogamy, they do agree on something important. “Once monogamy has evolved, then male care is far more likely,” Dr. Opie said.

Once a monogamous primate father starts to stick around, he has the opportunity to raise the odds that his offspring will survive. He can carry them, groom their fur and protect them from attacks. In our own lineage, however, fathers went further. They had evolved the ability to hunt and scavenge meat, and they were supplying some of that food to their children. “They may have gone beyond what is normal for monogamous primates,” said Dr. Opie.”

In other words, while we can make the rightful claim that monogamy isn’t hard wired – and that’s why men, in particular, will continue to be attracted to other women – we must also acknowledge that monogamy has a biological component as well. If I want to raise my two kids in the best possible environment, it behooves me to work hard, make money, and stick around to be a good husband, father and role model. This is common sense, of course, but it’s also biology.

Thus, any guy who justifies his cheating with the word “biology” is assiduously avoiding the biology that compels him to be faithful to his wife and there for his children.

The full piece can be read here.

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated below.

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  1. 31

    *our hurst = my boyfriend – weird autocorrect 
    Cheating to me is a deception and to deceive you need to lie. Going and sleeping with someone else without your partner knowing AND being ok with it is cheating. Sleeping with someone else with your partner KNOWING and AGREEING to the arrangement is not a deception. 
    Your response seems over sensitive and kinda doesn’t get where I’m coming from so I’ll do my best to explain further, but if after this explanation you still have this opinion then so be it. I never told my bf that he sexually bores me. I said that if we are together for a long time (I.E married 10 years + etc..) then things might get stagnated. I am comfortable with that. I can understand that these things can and do happen. I also recognise my libido as being stronger than his. This is a fact that existed before I meet him and has nothing to do with him. 
    That does not mean that I want a substitute, only that I would be giving him and myself permission to have something new and fresh in our bedroom. Please re read my comment and understand that if this were to happen it should be for both our benefit and not truly selfish. It should only be done if we are both ok with it. If he does express an opinion that he is not satisfied with my performance, I would be doing my best to improve, if it is agreed that another lady in the picture would help then I’d be cool with it. In fact I’d probably want to be involved somehow. 
    This is a sensitive area and I can see how it could cause offence, but one thing I will be assessing for in him and or/my future husband is the ability to move past this and be a little more open. My final point is that I am open to the idea so I would like my husband to be. Being open to it does not necessarily mean it will happen. 

  2. 32

    Nattyk31 – I can no longer see your original comment, nor mine.

    If open marriage and sharing different partners is for you, then who am I to judge?

    It just strikes me that one or the other person can get hurt or attached, but then, I do actually know of a swinger who just shags and moves on. He has absolutely no respect for women by his own admission. It would be difficult to imagine that a man DOES have respect for women with this kind of behaviour, but then, I’m sure there are those out there who think like animals, i.e. no heart, no emotion.

  3. 33

    To protect lineage.
    You can be a poor male but if you have lineage you are rich in the grand scheme of things. You have something bigger than yourself. Of value. Noble even. Your name will live on (assuming you have a role) through them. This is why divorcee’s are looked down upon in most societies especially when it is based on flimsy feelings and not the bigger picture as they are today.

  4. 34
    Karl Warrington

    I have studied long-term and permanent pair-bonding for most of my life and although “having a fling” is pervasive in the human species especially among males I believe natural and biological monogamy is a reality.  They urge to promote ones gene pool is offset by the urge to bond with one female.  Jealousy, maintaining pair bonds under unusually harsh conditions, and the drive to protect offspring from infanticide are all powerful drivers.  The problem with monogamy in our species is that we must try and try again to find out life-mate by trial and era instead of having a ready supply of possible mates at our fingertips.  “The one” may take some time to be found.  We will hopefully recognize  our true life mate when our brains can determine his or her chemical compatibility by our noses.  Pheromones maybe the link between the human knowing the love of our life and not.

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