I have noticed an increasing amount of debate in the press recently with articles like “Is Monogamy Dead?” and people questioning more and more whether is more natural to sleep around or “be in a relationship”.
My take on this argument is that it has never been a choice between the two. There is a third option and believe it or not, this third option is far, far closer than the other two when it comes to modelling human sexual nature accurately.
However, we can be forgiven for seeing things through a sex 2.0 lens and mistakenly regarding it as a choice between the two but words like “monogamy” and “polygamy” are sex 2.0 words and were invented only relatively recently. The word monogamy was first recorded in use in the English language only as recently as 1605–15 and polygamy around the same time (1585–95) so our thinking has not always been this way.
(Interesting side note that the usage of the word polygamy came before monogamy. What does that tell you about human sexual nature historically?)
So what is that third option? Well, to understand the third option you need to understand that Sex 3.0 is modelled on two basic facts about human relationships (and I use the word “fact” relatively rarely for reasons explained here).
Fact 1 – Human beings are not livelong monogamists by nature.
Fact 2 – Human beings are natural pair-bonders
What do I mean when I say “pair-bonders”? I mean we are sexually attracted to people naturally, we have sex and fall in love naturally, we become infatuated naturally. In short, bonding sexually and emotionally on a deep level with another person is intrinsic to our nature as human beings.
Also, the desire to build a nest with our partner within a loving relationship is perfectly understandable so you might be forgiven for thinking that these two facts hand us a terribly un-resolvable conflict. How can we resolve pair-bonding and nest-building with the fact that neither men nor women are livelong monogamists by nature?
Well these two facts are not as un-resolvable as first they may appear but we certainly have to stop staring through the sex 2.0 lens that society hands us at birth in order to do so.
If human beings are both pair-bonders and nest-builders but are not monogamous by nature for life then being a nest strayer and returner is far more natural than the choice of sleeping around (presumably casually and with no regular partner) or being in a fenced relationship for life.
When I say nest-strayer and returner I don’t necessarily mean that you live in the same house. Even some married couples with kids, like Tim Burton and Helena Bonam-Carter for example, live in separate houses next door to each other (with a connecting door) and are perfectly happy. As a couple they are inseparable (and have been for more than a decade). They are a happily nested family unit with the luxury of having their own space.
As Bonham-Carter said:
We see as much of each other as any couple, but our relationship is enhanced by knowing we have our personal space to retreat to. It’s not enforced intimacy. It’s chosen, which is quite flattering, if you can afford it.
Which is exactly the point – chosen intimacy and not forced intimacy. It’s very hard for chosen intimacy to erode a relationship and extremely easy for forced intimacy to do so.
Now I am not suggesting for one moment that this rather unaffordable-for-most-people kind of living arrangement is the third way that I am trying to describe. What I am describing instead is being a nest strayer and returner (or at least having the option of straying should you feel the need to do so). I mean having a deep, loving, pair-bonded, long-term relationship that is unfenced.
One in which the relationship is not based on the mutual agreement to fence in your own sexuality and make it un-available to everyone else in the world. One in which you are free to stray and, as long as you return to the nest, it is totally fine. One in which all intimacy between the two of you is chosen intimacy and not forced intimacy. One in which you re-affirm your connection and commitment to each other by constantly choosing to return to each others arms time and time again when you have the choice not to.
That is true commitment. Handcuffing yourselves to each other on an exclusive basis to prevent the other one from leaving should they wish to do is not true commitment and it never has been. Think about it, how committed can two people really be to each other when they both feel the need to handcuff themselves to each other and forbid any and all competition for their sexual attention?
Sure, being unfenced is not for everybody but, as many, many people are realising to their cost, monogamy does not equal security.