In the past, monogamy referred to being married to one person for your entire life. In the modern day, monogamy means being romantically and sexually committed to one person, whether married, living together, or living separately and dating. People in monogamous relationships may set different rules for the relationship and what they consider a violation of relationship boundaries.
This category page offers articles about what it means to be in a monogamous relationship. You may also find articles on non-monogamy and how this relationship type functions.
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Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti M.Ed, LPC
Monogamy is a type of relationship where one person commits to one partner, and both people do not partake in infidelity or romantic and sexual relations with others. Some monogamous people may spend their entire lives with their partner. In contrast, others may date monogamously, only looking to have casual or short-term relationships with someone who is also exclusive to them.
There are different kinds of monogamy, including serial monogamy. Serial monogamy is when one person has many exclusive relationships that occur one after another repeatedly. Serial monogamists often have short-lived relationships. When they are exclusive with someone, they may break up with them a few months or years afterward and start another exclusive relationship immediately after.
Monogamy is the prevalent relationship type in the United States, often seen in marriages. When people get married, they may form a monogamous relationship where they are committed to one another. However, some married and non-married couples choose to partake in ethical non-monogamy, which refers to dating, loving, or having sexual relations with more than one person.
Marriage And Monogamy
Marriage is one of the most common forms of monogamy in a legal sense. When two people are legally married, they commit to a legal bond with each other, which involves a promise to be faithful. Marriage is sacred to many people, and for some, taking wedding vows is a vow to remain with someone until death. Some married couples may consensually choose not to be monogamous. However, marrying more than one person is illegal in the US, so they may have commitment ceremonies with their other partners.
Sexual monogamy means only having intimate relations with one person. To be sexually monogamous, you don’t need to be married. Instead, it means you are choosing not to have sex with other people.
In consensual sexual monogamy, both partners agree to be in a one-on-one relationship. However, it can be critical for partners to be on the same page about this topic, as some people may have different ideas of what “infidelity” means. Partners may benefit from sitting down and discussing their physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries at the beginning of the relationship.
In a healthy relationship, there is trust and emotional intimacy between all parties. Intimacy can lead to a sexual relationship. If one or both partners want to open the relationship, it can be essential to have a conversation. Having sex with more than one person can lead to an increased risk of sexual infections and pregnancy, which one partner may not know if safe sexual practices are not discussed beforehand.
Is Monogamy Realistic?
Some people theorize that, since humans are animals, we behave like some other mammals and may crave more than one partner. Certain people claim that monogamy is unrealistic because people naturally gravitate toward different relationships simultaneously. However, monogamy may be more complex than this definition. Some people love monogamy, whereas others aren’t comfortable with it. These people might not be compatible with each other but can find other partners who have similar beliefs about love and relationships.
Monogamy isn’t necessarily “unrealistic.” It is a choice. You can choose to be with one partner or many. If you are honest with every person you date about whether you are monogamous or polyamorous, they can decide whether they’re comfortable with that dynamic. Cheating is not an ethical form of non-monogamy and can cause severe consequences for those involved.
Relationship Challenges In Monogamy And Polyamory
Some relationships are polyamorous, often considered the opposite of monogamy. In a polyamorous relationship, people have multiple partners. Both types of relationships have their strengths and deficits, but neither is immune to having relationship conflicts. For example, one partner in a monogamous relationship might realize they’re polyamorous, causing conflicts. In these cases, couples therapy may be beneficial.
Whether you work with a couples therapist in your local area or online, it can help you and your partner maintain healthy boundaries and build a solid foundation for your relationship. Seeing a mental health professional allows you to voice your feelings and be heard.
Some couples may prefer online therapy platforms, like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples. These platforms offer the option to meet with a therapist from home via phone, video, or chat. In addition, with online couples therapy, couples can meet from two separate locations simultaneously, which may be beneficial for long-distance relationships or separations.
Studies also back up the effectiveness of online therapy for couples. In one study, couples reported being more comfortable with their therapist through an online platform, as they were able to have some distance to discuss challenging topics. The couples also reported significant improvements after treatment.
Monogamy is one way of maintaining romantic and sexual relationships. Although previously considered a synonym for marriage, monogamy is no longer considered the only ethical way to date. Consider reading the above articles to learn more about monogamy, non-monogamy, and relationship dynamics. You can also contact a therapist online or in your area for further support.