Change is inevitable. This is as well true for human relationships which have been highly dynamic since the beginning of time. Traditions are flourishing and perishing, so are the ideas associated with marriage and relationships.
Today, we have many options of non-monogamous relationships to choose from that are flexible unlike earlier times. But before jumping into how these trends of relationships came into existence let us know why relationships till date were monogamous in the first place.
Are Humans Meant To be Monogamous?
There is no definite answer to whether humans are meant to be monogamous or not but they are definitely not of monogamous origin. It is a social concept that later came into being and evolved over time so much so that it is now considered as the only form of legal marriage in most countries and cultures.
Hence the idea that two people must be exclusively together in a large part is a socially constructed concept.
So How Did Monogamy Come into Existence?
It is interesting to note that polyandry ceased to be in practice much prior to that of polygyny. The reason behind this difference is partly biological and mostly socio-cultural.
Biologically, there are various factors such as parental-care, resource access, partner choice and sexual dimorphism that favor monogamy over polygamy.
Speaking in terms of the cultural context, it all started when humans started acquiring land and practicing agriculture. This led to the sexual division of labor and distribution of property among men. Societies became highly patrilineal.
In order to ensure that the property is inherited by the legitimate male successor, polyandry had to be stopped. It was further discouraged as the concept of religion evolved that labelled certain acts such as women being involved with multiple partners, immoral.
Indian societies witnessed widespread inequality by means of polygyny throughout centuries until the British banned polygamy entirely.
The Concept Of Polyamory And Open Relationships
In the 21st century however we are coming across various practices of polyamory, open relationships and other non-monogamous relationships popularized by the west(quite ironically). The phrase “open relationships” was first coined in 1972 and popularized with the publication of ‘Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples’ by the late George and Nena O’Neil.
Canada-based therapist Susan Wenzel in her book, “A Happy Life in an Open Relationship” defines an open relationship as such: “An open relationship is an arrangement wherein a couple decides to include experiences with other people often for sexual pleasure.
Open relationships do not encourage emotional attachment with external partners. Some people in open relationships prefer onetime sexual experiences or several dates, but ensure they do not become romantically involved with these additional sexual partners. A couple in an open relationship always prioritizes their primary relationship.”
An open relationship is thus ironically to polyamory as in the latter the concept of multiple “love” exists with no single lover being prioritized.
Modern couples are shifting from the made-for-each-other mindset to the more-the-merrier mindset. But is this mindset really as modern as it seems?
Are Open Relationships The Comeback Of Old Traditions?
All the forms of non-monogamous relationships seen today are by large a comeback of the age-old system of polygamy practiced in early societies with a few exceptions.
Unlike ancient times, when polygamy was a natural impulse, today such practices manifest the freedom of not binding one’s love life as per certain criteria of the society, which is a progressive move. It further challenges patriarchy and the concept that women should be chaste and exclusive.
It thereby creates a space for gender equality which was absent in earlier Indian societies where a married woman was considered the sole property of the husband (but not vice-versa).
The liberal side of such relationships is progressive. However, at the same time monogamy shouldn’t be labelled as outdated and there should be room for choice.
However, what is not so progressive is its self-centered nature. As individual beings, we have learnt to prioritize ourselves over the well being of the people around us. We tend to overlook the structure of kinship and ignore the emotions of our other halves. It is important to note that an open relationship simply allows affairs outside the primary relationship.
It does not necessitate the willingness of both the partners to entangle into such affairs at the same time with the same intensity. This creates an imbalance and jealousy so much so that the true essence of a conjugal life is lost.
This is largely true as human relationships are more than just physical intimacy. Such non-monogamous relationships are thus not a means to challenge social traditions but to bring back the old traditions that were abolished for the sake of bringing order in society and peace in individual minds.
What are your views on this? Let us know in the comments down below!
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This post is tagged under monogamy, polygamy, polygyny, polyamory, non-monogamy, open relationships, open marriage, George O’Neil, Nina O’Neil, Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples, Susan Wenzel