Marriage has changed. In the past couples married for children, security and dynastic reasons. Today there is not the pressure on singles to marry to have sex, procreate or raise children. But still at the core of all relationships is a personal concept of monogamy.
But what is monogamy, and does it still have the same relevance today? Conventionally, monogamy has been an exclusive sexual and emotional union between two people. A couple’s principle relationship upholds the traditional shared values of exclusivity of sexual and emotional intimacy and trust. Although most couples place monogamy as a priority in their relationship a staggering 55 percent of women and 65 percent of men admit to being unfaithful during their marriage.
Another statistic of note is; 35 to 55 percent of people who engaged in extra marital affairs stated that they were happily married at the time of the infidelity. They stated that they believed they still had rewarding relationships with their spouse and good family life. Their sex with their partner was still good and they generally felt happy in their relationship. This begs the question does an extra marital affair indicate that there is something wrong with the relationship? In many cases there appeared to be many other reasons for why people engage in affairs or sexual encounters outside of their principle relationship.
Couples are now giving a new definition to monogamy. Leaving their principle partner after the disclosure of an affair may not bring them the happiness they desire. They now realise that the second time around may not be any better than the first. And resolving issues within their current relationship may lead to a happier and more satisfying relationship. Couples are now looking to define their sense of monogamy in their own way which may or may not include traditional values of exclusivity.
Long term research has indicated that couples are now more willing to accept that there will be some infidelity by their principle partner during their relationship. Couples are no longer viewing infidelity as the end of their relationship. Couples are beginning to discuss new boundaries in their relationship and how they may work. The new boundaries may allow the individuals to explore their sexuality more freely while still maintaining their current principle relationship. A new term has been coined to describe the new phenomenon “modern monogamy.” For some couples who are exploring their new boundaries the old fixed concept of monogamy may be replaced by a more fluid relationship. For example a couple may begin their relationship as monogamous but progress towards modern monogamy later in their relationship.
Christopher Swane - Couples Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand