Monogamy is something we have imposed on ourselves, not something that’s built into our biology. Where men and women do differ, perhaps, is in the way we handle this imposition. Traditionally, society conditioned women to behave in a “respectable” fashion… and allowed men both their extramarital shenanigans and their boyish protests that they simply could not control themselves.
Is monogamy too much to expect of a man or, for that matter, any human being? Brides and grooms still promise to be faithful until death does them part, but perhaps they don’t realise what a long, long time that may be. After all, marriage is a custom that evolved at a time when life expectancy was less than half of what it is today. Have we set ourselves up by expecting that romantic love itself a relatively modern concept will conquer all, even our own natures?
Perhaps the answer lies less in taming our inner beasts than in deciding what’s really important to us. If it’s true that we’re all tempted to stray at one time or another, it’s also true that all (or at least most) of us would be badly hurt by a partner’s infidelity. We want stable homes for our children. We take comfort in pairing off in this couples-oriented world. Those may not be the most romantic reasons for remaining faithful in a “Temptation Island” world, but they’re the realities around which we build happy lives.
And reality need not be at odds with our idealised visions of love. EMI recording artist Alberto Plaza’s music is a celebration of romance, but the singer and composer whose latest CD, Febrero 14 recognises the practicalities of being in love, too. “Monogamy is, in effect, a loss of liberty, but that loss is totally voluntary,” he says. “Many times, life presents us with the necessity of losing something of our liberty to gain other things. Parenthood is an example. To have children is to lose many liberties, but the benefits are infinitely better. In our culture, monogamy is a concept that is ancient, but not antiquated.”
Neither is it an ideal that’s impossible to attain. “If a man is really in love, it’s natural for him to be faithful to his woman,” adds Plaza, a husband and father whose songs frequently are inspired by and dedicated to his wife and son.
Ultimately, the choice to be monogamous (or not) comes down to decisions we all make about our desires, our values, and what we need most in our lives. We make the sacrifice to avoid the greater sacrifices of loneliness and loss of love and to gain the trust and fidelity of the person who is more important to us than anyone else in the world. On balance, for most people that’s a prize worth holding onto even if we have to fight our libidos at times to do it.
Article by Randy B. Hecht.