Having one committed partner in a settled, long-term relationship has worked for millennia – REALLY, it has! The significance of monogamy in our world today is that it creates safety and certainty within a relationship, allowing both partners to jointly work toward a lasting, loving, fulfilling union. The benefits of monogamy are emotional safety, created by trust and respect for a partner; health, brought about by the reduced exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted infections; and economic stability as a necessary part of a mutual relationship.
But, what does all that mean? Monogamy is a way of contributing to the creation and maintenance of a healthy relationship that stands a chance of surviving for a long time; it's not the only ingredient though. Monogamy is a promise that implies commitment, trust and perseverance, all of which are basic cornerstones of a strong relationship.
Perhaps some quick thoughts on five aspects of monogamy might be useful:
- Mutuality – this allows partners to know the boundaries and limits of themselves in relationship and the limits of their relationship. It is common these days to hear of 'open relationships' in gay circles; it has even become everyday to hear of these being successful. Perhaps, the success of such relationships should not be judged by whether the relationship survives, but by the extent of emotional and loving commitment that partners hold toward each other. The idea of an 'open relationship' can at times cover up pure promiscuity and risky behaviour, both of which can be detrimental to the soul of a long-term relationship.
- Commitment – an on-going renewal of the idea of 'being there, no matter what'. Commitment is the faith that you can expect someone to stand by you through whatever life brings, while it creates the expectation on the part of your partner that the same applies. Another way of looking at it is that we can assume that when the going gets tough, we will know who loves us.
- Trust – the million dollar ingredient! Knowing who and how far we can trust someone gives us a sense of inner safety and security within our relationship. Not knowing what your partner does behind your back can be unnerving and devastating. Moreover, this is about fundamental trust, truly trusting someone with your life; is it really possible to do that with someone who is having sex with others in a world of HIV/AIDS?
- Perseverance – always tying to build and work on the relationship, even when times get tough or the relationship is in a funk. It is not about tolerating nonsense, but it is about sitting through the hard times and understanding that your significant other may need support and constant love.
- Equality – you both have the right to a predictable, loving relationship, one which exists through time, unthreatened by the presence of other sexual partners and the risk of disease.
It's easy to be 'moralistic' about monogamy, but the issue is one of true self-respect and respect for the person you love. If a relationship is not fulfilling, the question is not necessarily 'who can give me fulfilment?', but rather 'why is this relationship not working for me and what am I contributing to that situation?'