Rethinking Love and Commitment

Dan Savage: Monogamy is ridiculous and people aren’t any good at it.  

We absolutely need to rethink love and commitment.  60 years ago was when we decided that men had to be monogamous too.  Men were not monogamous.  For all of recorded human history men had concubines and whores and 60 years ago straight relationships began to become more egalitarian and it was less of a property transaction. 


A marriage had been a property transaction for most of recorded human history and it became a union of two equals and at that moment instead of deciding to allow women to have the same sort of freedom and leeway that men did we decided to let men have the same limitations, impose the same limitations what women had and we put monogamous, sexual commitment at the heart of all relationships, all long term commitments, all marriages and we have watched. 

We should now be able to recognize the consequences of that, which are a lot of short term relationships, a lot of divorce because monogamy is ridiculous and people aren’t any good at it.  We’re not wired for it.  We didn’t evolve to be.  It’s unnatural and it places a tremendous strain on our marriages and our long term commitments to expect them to be effortlessly monogamous because what we said is if you’re in love you won’t want to have sex with anybody else and what we need to tell people is that if you’re in love you can make a monogamous commitment and you will refrain from having sex with other people, but you will still desperately want to fuck the shit out of other people, but people understand love means I don’t want to fuck other people because of these misconceptions pumped into people’s heads about romance, love and what it means.

And so they meet somebody else that they’re attracted to and they’re attracted to this other person.  They go "Well I must not be in love with my partner anymore otherwise I wouldn’t be attracted to this person" or they feel threatened when their partners are attracted to other people because it makes them feel insecure. We just need to get past that. We talk about monogamy the way we talk about virginity, that you’re monogamous until you fuck somebody else and then you’re not.  You’ve ruined it.  You popped your monogamy hymen and destroyed your monogamous relationship.  We need to talk about monogamy the way we talk about sobriety, which is that you can be monogamous and fall off the wagon and then sober back up. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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