Does monogamy cause cheating? That’s the million-dollar question.
After having my heart badly broken in an emotional affair with a married man, I can say, with perfect truth, that I’ve researched hundreds of articles and books about cheating over the past six years. And watched a ton of videos about it.
I’ve read what psychologists have to say. I’ve read lots of first-hand accounts: What the cheated-on have to say, what the cheaters have to say, and what the affair partners have to say.
I’ve even read what the astrologers have to say. And, I’ve noticed something.
There’s only one group among all of these who blames monogamy as the reason for cheating and, you guessed it, it’s the cheaters.
If you’re reading something from cheaters, you will read this viewpoint a lot: “I’m not getting my needs met. It isn’t possible to get all one’s needs met by one person! Therefore, it must be monogamy that’s the problem.”
So, does monogamy cause cheating? Taking an informal survey, here are 4 reasons why cheaters believe monogamy is the root of marital unhappiness.
1. The entire problem lies with sex.
Sex gets routine. Sex gets boring. There’s not enough sex.
There’s no more of the chemical high that comes with meeting a new person. It’s all sex, sex, sex to these folks!
2. Communication always stalls within a relationship.
There’s a problem but somebody is getting stonewalled in solving it. The other partner shuts the unhappy one down, leaving the unhappy party with “no recourse.”
This group tends to blame monogamy in this way: “All relationships that go on too long end up like this, so we shouldn’t be stuck with just one person.”
“One person can’t meet all our needs!”
And there are several variations on this: “If society didn’t insist on monogamy, I could just leave! Or have two partners!”
3. They’re just narcissists.
These folks flit from affair to affair like a butterfly sampling meadow flowers.
They lie to their spouse, their lover, and everybody in-between. One wonders why they bothered to get married at all.
4. They are caregivers to their ill spouses.
This is a small subgroup but some of these folks are caregivers of a spouse who is so ill that the caregiver is literally getting used up by staying in the marriage.
The ones I feel most sorry for are the people whose spouses have a long illness with no obvious endpoint. Some sick spouses are so sour that they’re emotionally abusing the caregiving spouse.
Alzheimer’s is even worse. Either way, the sick person has no insight to do better and the caregiving spouse feels too responsible to abandon them.
But these fundamental reasons that blame monogamy for cheating have holes.
1. You don’t have to cheat to include others in your sex life.
Some people, no doubt about it, are just highly sexed. And sex with the same person just doesn’t have the same zip-zing in Year 10 as it did in Year One.
You don’t have to open up your marriage in order for it to stay sexually exciting. However, as Liam MacAdam shows in his Monogamish Marriage Blog, you don’t have to cheat to enjoy amazing sex in a marriage — even if you do include other people.
What you have to do is stay honest with yourself and your partner, whether you end up including others in your sexual adventures or not.
2. Honest communication is king.
Here’s the common denominator: Honesty, or the lack thereof.
Comparing the state of the “dead” marriages to those who swing and are happy, what you see is that where courageous, honest talking and listening fails, so does the relationship and the sex.
Every person saying, “I resort to cheating because I can’t solve the problems in my marriage,” is describing really honest speech and listening that’s broken down.
Notice that the Monogamish Marriage couples are still fearlessly and courageously connected to each other, even with outside sex. Who you do or don’t have sex with is irrelevant.
3. Narcissists attract codependents.
These folks never had or will have a courageous connection to one another. One, or most likely both, people in the relationship don’t have enough connection to themselves.
Narcissists tend to attract codependents and the two stay together in a miserable push-me-pull-you.
The narcissist is too busy chasing an image of themselves that they define and feed with exciting sex. The codependent, ever self-doubting, stays and stays.
“Aren’t I good enough? He said he’d change. Ohhh, I feel guilty. I don’t want to hurt anyone by leaving. Maybe I can change something that will change him.”
Neither person believes they are good enough, so they’re both too scared to be honest with each other or with themselves.
4. Not every caregiver wants sex elsewhere.
Not every marriage in which someone is chronically ill drains the caregiving spouse so badly they need to cheat.
I doubt there was any cheating in Christopher Reeve and Dana Morosini’s marriage. And, I didn’t feel the need to cheat while I was seeing my own husband through his terminal bout with brain cancer.
To be fair, we were having sex once a week up until two months before he died. But, even if he hadn’t been capable, it wouldn’t have mattered to me.
I loved him and we were soul partners right up until the end. (There’s that honesty theme once more.)
But then again, he was lucent most of that time, and I knew his life expectancy would be tragically short. And, except for some transient steroid-induced paranoia, he was never abusive to me.
That said, here is perhaps the only instance where society’s insistence on monogamy could be considered unfair. Physically ill spouses can also deteriorate mentally and emotionally.
Is it reasonable to ask someone to caretake a person who is not only physically incapacitated, but emotionally distant or even abusive as well, for an open-ended period of perhaps decades?
With none of their own physical or emotional needs met?
What will happen to that person as a result?
Do we care? We should.
Again, however, the real problem is that fearless, courageous, honest talking and listening is no longer able to take place.
Once you’re disconnected from each other, the relationship sours.
Whether it’s because a spouse has become ill or whether they’ve simply become unwilling, when that goes, so does the relationship.
As Liam MacAdam and his wife teach us, people can be having passionate sex with other people, but as long as they are passionately and honestly connected to one another, the relationship is still strong.
Conversely, people can grit their teeth, stay married their entire lives, and blame monogamy for their unhappiness, but what was it that really died?
Their fearless, courageous emotional connection to one another, that’s what.
Passionate emotional ties in a relationship have nothing to do with who’s having what kind of sex and with whom. Or the fact that you can’t swap your old partner out for a new one every other year so you can get that new-sex dopamine hit again.
What’s really at issue is each person’s willingness to speak to and hear the other.
It’s trusting connection, not monogamy, that makes or breaks a relationship.