The End of Monogamy and the Beginning of Conscious Connections
Now that I am at the end of this book, I am compelled to return to the beginning and remember the me from many months ago. Honestly, I was haunted. The regrets of past relationships were regularly roaming the halls of my heart, howling about the ignorance, infidelity and lack of integrity I brought to the unions. I was still bothered by a broken marriage, and feelings of being faulty frequented my days. I could hear the chains of coupledom clanging, and the question from Aunty Dot was continuously calling me to pay it some critical attention. My mind was muddled, my heart was hardened, and my spirit was saddened by all I had seen. While there were moments of Eros and ecstasy, I was far away from the eudaemonia I yearned to experience.
There was only one cure for such a sorry state, and that was to figure shit out! I began by writing down all the questions that were worrying me. I needed to know more about monogamy and why remaining faithful was so difficult. I had to know what it meant to love someone truly, and whether love could actually be lost. I required an understanding of religion’s role in my beliefs about relationships and how my parents and peers had influenced my ideas about sexual exclusivity. I was eager to figure out how much my culture had impacted my choices and the extent that I was free to make my own way in this world. I had to quell the confusion about what it meant to grow up and settle down and the role sex played in my spiritual development.
From all of these questions came the structure for this book. If I was taking the time to research adult relationships, I might as well document my findings just in case they may be helpful to others in a similar puzzled predicament. The process of research and writing was relatively easy. However, each revelation forced a period of reflection which were twirling tempests of thrill and terror. A dear friend had once described to me his beautiful theory of transforming trauma into the authentic self. Writing this book, I began to understand the tossing and thrashing that such a transformation entails. I have never yet attended an exorcism, but I now understand the painful procedures sometimes required to bring peace.
I will be forever grateful to Aunty Dot for asking me why I would choose just one loaf of bread. This small question has led to a grand adventure. It has compelled me to find the time and space to explore my experiences and examine my expectations. In this process, I have been able to lessen my ignorance, think for myself, form my own conclusions and shape my spirit. The integrative blessings that have come with this book have helped me convert ghosts of fear into guides of love. And while I understand that what I have learnt will require much more practice to perfect and that the remorse of past relationships will take much longer to resolve, Aunty Dot has given me the kindest gift of all — that of knowledge.
Monogamy as a moral dilemma
The day I understood monogamy as a moral dilemma was when I took one step further from fear and towards unconditional love. I came to understand that monogamy was drenched in conflicts, namely between what is normal and what is natural, and between the moral foundations of loyalty and liberty. Finally, I had identified the source of the many tensions that had toxified my past relationships.
Monogamy is not natural. Sexual exclusivity is not embedded in our physiology or neurology. Both males and females are wired to seek out several mates, and no amount of social engineering can subvert these innate human desires. However, monogamy is normal and, moreover, is seen as the gold standard of morality. Wherever there is a distance between what is natural and what is normal, tension will result. And .as long as the unnatural state of monogamy is seen as the gold standard of morality, those who fail or flounder in this relationship form will be seen as weak, broken and unworthy. When, in fact, they are just human. While any deception or disrespect is unacceptable, we should consider that it is not these people that are aberrant. Instead, we should be surprised when commitments remain constant, and coupledom is unchallenged.
“It may be normal, darling; but I’d rather be natural.”~ Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories
The tussle between loyalty and liberty plays out in many areas of our lives, showing up nowhere more seriously than in our relationships. We feel compelled to be faithful to tradition and the tribe, yet we also feel the need to pursue our freedom. Despite our modern world providing us with considerable choices, we still face proactive peer pressure to follow conventional practice and find a partner. It is incredibly difficult to drift away from the standards set by our parents, with the result often being mindless movements towards monogamy and marriage. Having a spouse is also not just an individual interest. It is a significant sign of social success and has also become a source of self-esteem. With this, people are then pulled between fitting in with the expectations of others and experimenting to find their truth.
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice; it is conformity.” ~ Earl Nightingale
Because monogamy is seen as moral, as the righteous relationship arrangement, the automatic adoption of it is dangerous. As Adam Phillips says:
“If trauma is untransformable experience, then any moral belief — that is simply abided by rather than personally transformed is akin to trauma.”
The only way to avoid such an outcome is to allow people to ask questions, understand the truth of our human nature, experiment, take and make a moral their own.
Through my contemplation over the past few months, I have come to believe that monogamy is not moral. It is a relationship arrangement that can bring great happiness. But because it is both unnatural and drenched in dichotomy, it also presents significant challenges. There are two routes through these: one with consciousness, communication and compassion and the other with censorship, castigation and conflict.
There is another danger in continuing to see monogamy as moral: humans’ propensity to use differences to dehumanise, disparage and destroy. With increased sexual freedom in society, there is a natural gravitation towards polygamy. The leaning towards liberty is laudable, but there is a risk that some groups use these divergences to justify demonisation and to create further division. John Stuart Mills held out hope that we can shift the focus from where we vary and towards our common values. I suggest there is unity in the desire to create respectful and loving relationships regardless of their form. Suppose we can drop the preoccupation with what our relationships look like and examine them instead through the lens of love. In that case, we can expand and connect our communities and incite a whole new era of inclusivity.
Monogamy requires maturity
Another great revelation from my research was the incredible impact that maturity has on our relationship choices and our ability to reconcile conflicting desires and establish constructive couples. This is because monogamy is not a fixed or independent entity that we can grab, take hold of, and insert into our lives. It is a series of choices made by individuals, each with its own level of insecurity.
Monogamy, like any relationship model, is better described as a system. It has its inputs, processes and outputs. The inputs each individual brings and the processes of the pair will determine how well they can deal with the inherent dilemmas of coupledom. I have come to believe that a person’s level of maturity is one of the most important inputs to achieving flourishing results. This is because you can only truly love someone to the level of your own insecurities.
Marianne Williamson sums up this situation beautifully when she says:
“We cannot give what we do not have: We cannot bring peace to the world if we ourselves are not peaceful. We cannot bring love to the world if we ourselves are not loving. Our true gift to ourselves and others lies not in what we have but in who we are.”
More specifically, the level of maturity of each person will influence so many factors that contribute to relationship satisfaction, including:
- The extent to which each person feels like coupledom is a free choice or an onerous obligation.
- The definitions of love being used to support the union and the degree to which their love is wrapped up in pleasant emotions and notions of possession or confluent connection.
- The outcomes each seeks from sharing themselves with another, specifically, whether they are hoping purely for hedonistic happiness or aim to support each other to attain their personal potentials.
- The role that sex plays in the relationship, specifically whether it is used as a tool of power or pleasure.
- The amount of understanding, acceptance and love they each have for themselves, and therefore can give to the other.
For this reason, it is an act of sheer ignorance to continue to preach the morality of monogamy. To build a new generation of respectful relationships, we must invest in supporting the population to progress along the path of maturity. We can create constructive and compassionate couples by bringing greater self-love to singles. The adults will benefit from peaceful partnerships, and children will be more confident in dealing with conflicts and caring for their future companions.
Nothing escapes the natural laws
While I was hesitant about including my investigations into the natural laws in this book, I have heard that some people have found it insightful. I am so glad because learning the truths about our context and understanding how we can align with them has reformed how I see and work in this world.
For example, while people feel monogamy brings simplicity to their lives, the law of polarity tells us the opposite always exists. Committing to a partnership does not dissipate duality. Where there is love, there will still be the possibility of loathing. Where there is a desire for closeness, there will also be an impetus for independence. There may be regard for rules and routines, but there will also be a craving for creativity and spontaneity. Partnerships do not pair down or polarities but simply provide another person to explore them with.
Likewise, where some may seek solace in what they believe is the stability of coupledom, the law of vibration tells us that, in reality, everything is changing and will continue to change throughout the relationship. The revels of romance will slide into the tranquillity of tenderness. Eros and the ecstasy it brings will inevitably leave and let in the relatively mundane Pragma. A promise made at one point in time is no guarantee of goodwill in the future. And the connection that feels cemented today may crumble tomorrow. This is because each individual fluctuates and flows. The only difference in the dynamic is whether people suppress their shifts to maintain a façade of firmness or have the confidence and comfort to communicate these changes with their companion.
“Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple. It’s that scary.” ~ Leonard Sweet
Others may hope that embarking on coupledom will naturally create the conditions for nurturing the self and other. The reality is, though, in our modern world, masculine energy rules. Both people are likely working hard to create some form of collective comfort. They combine resources of time, energy and money to survive and build, where possible, a snippet of financial security. This pursuit of progress, this way of working, is heavy in masculine energy and can easily consume the couple. It takes great discipline to balance these masculine motivations with attention to the feminine focus of care and restoration of relationships. Without diligence and devotion to balancing these gender energies, the relationship will soon feel less like love and more like a life sentence.
“For somebody I thought was my saviour
You sure make me do a whole lot of labour” ~ From the song Labour by Paris Paloma.
The pivot to polygamy
The natural laws also have predicted the swing we currently see towards polygamy. The moral mandate of monogamy, supported by social strictures, could only hold for so long before it gave way to gravity. With increasing liberty comes the rejection of the rigours of the past and the testing of other relationship models. Unfortunately, with social media, though, there is less focus on polygamy as a process of personal exploration and more on making a sensationalist statement of rebellion.
What is worrying is that social media presents polygamy as a sign of an enlightened nature. Being ‘poly’ is presented as the prime choice for the precocious. As we have seen in this book, though, the reality is that for many, polygamy may not be a process by which they investigate their authentic identity but a convenient choice to avoid vulnerability. Suppose it is the latter motivation that is driving the push for polygamy. In that case, this will only lead to stunting growth rather than creating a confident character. Without the foundation of maturity and love, polygamy will create the same suffering that monogamy has in the past, just crammed into a different context.
Love and understanding
A precious product of this book has been my definition of what I believe love to be. I have spent much time traversing all the different types of love and the emotions they entail and realised that emotions are not love. For me, love is action. More specifically, it is the actions taken to reduce suffering, increase happiness, and help others reach their fullest potential. While feelings will fluctuate over time, we always have the ability to make choices based on care and compassion.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor Frankl.
Using this definition, it has become clear to me that love does not die. Sure, the ecstatic emotions of Eros may wane to be replaced by the placid Pragma. Still, through each persona of love, we can act with openness, honesty and integrity.
I have also come to enjoy the idea pronounced in the Bible that love rejoices with the truth. It warms my heart to think that the love being lived in a monogamous couple should be strong enough to:
- Celebrate the fact that monogamy is not natural.
- Delight in the fact that we can feel desire and pleasure outside our committed relationships.
- Exult in the fact that we have separate mental functions for lust, romance, and attachment.
- Cheer on the changes in our expressions of love over time.
- Champion open, honest, supportive, and compassionate conversations about individual needs, common goals and how the relationship is meeting them.
- Enjoy the process of understanding ourselves and the other — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Thich Nhat Hahn has also told us that love is synonymous with understanding. It can be argued that understanding others is intertwined with the knowledge of the self. We can only empathise with another’s suffering when we have realised our own, and we can only support another’s dreams when we know the pull of our own desires. Therefore, if we are adamant about creating intimacy with integrity, then we must be willing to investigate the following for ourselves:
- Our human nature and the complexities and conflicts it brings to coupledom.
- The natural laws and how they align with our philosophies of partnership.
- Our definition of love and the actions required to sustain it.
- Our life goals and the role relationships play in our vision of flourishing.
- Our level of maturity and how this may impede our decision-making integrity.
- The associations being made between sex, love and self-worth.
- The extent to which fear may be foiling our ability to make clear and compassionate choices.
In this way, a great lesson for me has been the importance of self-love in successful relationships. Whereas I may have considered it selfish in the past, I now understand that the more I love myself, the more love I have to give to others. It is not egotistic; it is essential.
One answer and many more questions
The final lesson this book has provided for me is the authentic answer I would give to Aunty Dot’s question. I have concluded that I would willingly embrace and work within a relationship resembling the next-gen model of monogamy (Monogamy Mk2). I would participate in a partnership founded on connection, compassion and co-creation. However, I have also gained the fundamental insight that due to some still untransformed traumas, it will take much practice on my behalf to perfect. I am comfortable with the realisation that my thoughts may change as I see out my second half of life. I am willing to give myself a break and reject the solidification of my identity and my sexuality and instead focus on taking whatever shape is of best service to this wacky and wonderful world.
While this book has provided me with many valuable answers, it has raised many more intriguing questions. I find great joy in this outcome, for I now have new sources of inspiration and novel fields of investigation to dance within. I look forward to discovering the practicality of monogamy Mk2 and whether my theoretical construct is possible in the real world. I am excited about the prospect of probing further into the world of polygamy. I want to understand further the attraction of this arrangement and the fallacies that may be presented in its promotion. While such a relationship is not currently on my radar, I find it fascinating to understand how it may work in the modern world. I would also love to explore celibacy further and comprehend the conflicts such a choice creates. The next immediate study, though, will take me deeper into our sexuality. I seek to appreciate how it is stirred, suppressed and subverted by our modern society and its relationship with our sacred spirituality.
In this way, as perfectly put by T.S. Eliot:
“The end is where we start from.”
This book’s end is just the beginning of so many more wonderful adventures.
The beginning of conscious connections
In closing, I would like to address some sagacious supporters’ suggestions that I should avoid using the term monogamy. I heartily agree that the term can be a significant distraction from what is most important: creating relationships based on awareness, understanding and compassion. With this being the intent of my Mk2 model, there is certainly the ability to rebrand it under the banner of conscious connections, and this is something I am certainly considering.
On the flip side, though, there has been an incredible amount of interest in the next-gen model of monogamy. I believe this is because there is still so much moral weight and social success placed on coupledom. The reality is that around 60 per cent of people are operating from a socialised mind and so are obsessed with the sentiments of others. As a result, many people still strive for perfect partnerships. They are desperate to show their parents and peers they are normal and worthy. Yet they are also still suffering from a lack of understanding of monogamy’s inherent conflicts and challenges. In this way, the moral dilemma of monogamy is not going away any time soon.
For this reason, the term monogamy must continue to be used, but only as a skilful means to shift attention away from moral righteousness and towards the truth. I have the chance to use monogamy as a mindful middle-man to move people away from the notion of being completed by coupledom and instead concentrate on compassionate connections with self and others. Monogamy can be the lure that leads people to have conversations about something more important, being love.
My aim for this book has never been to advocate for any one relationship arrangement. It has only been to understand what I have chosen in the past and to dispel the ignorance that would prevent me from making more courageous choices in the future. I humbly hope that the lessons I have learned in this process provide others with a pathway to peace and allow a greater love for themselves along the journey. If I could make one wish, it would be that the ending of this book is the beginning of more conscious and compassionate connections.