These days, people seem to be shocked when they find out that their relationship partner has been having sexual relations with someone else. But is infidelity really that strange and unusual? Are monogamy and commitment to only one person natural for humans?
Let’s start with the claim that humans fall into the category of mammals. And now, let’s look at the facts. There are around 5,000 species of mammals in the world, and only up to 5 percent of them (or us) commit to one partner completely at a time that can last a lifetime. Beavers and wolves are among those mammals that can be considered the kings of monogamy, while geese are the only species that only have one partner throughout their entire life, and if their partner dies they never mate again. Humans aren’t naturally as loyal.
Humans are fairly monogamous, but according to psychologists – not by nature but by social rules and constrains. There is even a term that goes around full loyalty and justifies occasional flings by calling the phenomenon ‘social monogamy’. This basically means that a person who is in a ‘committed’ relationship with one person with whom he/she raises children can be called socially monogamous even though he/she may be having sexual intercourse outside the relationship, as long as he/she comes back in the evening and remains part of the family. Some would think of this as hideous. Some would justify it. It all depends on the person and viewpoint.
But why do people feel the need to seek for sex outside their relationship?
Evolutionary psychologists believe that men have the urge to ‘mate’ with more than one female in order to increase the chances of reproduction, subconsciously wanting to fertilize as many females as they can. Of course, for that they are looking for the best looking female with good genetic predispositions. You can believe this or not. These psychologists believe that women feel the need to mate with more than one male, as well.
So, if the world works like this, if it is not something natural – how did humans become ‘monogamous’ creatures?
A common belief is that humans developed committed, loyal relationships in order to sustain a family and raise their children better. A psychology expert and TED lecturer, Christopher Ryan stated his opinion that humans are much like chimps and bonobos – they don’t just have sex to reproduce but to bond. He also claims that monogamy is imposed to humans by society rather than being a genetic predisposition. Monogamy, as Ryan says, was first reinforced in the Victorian era, as then it was first seen as the ideal way to raise children. Though society tells us that being faithful and monogamous is the right way to live and behave, the primal urges of humans, as well as almost all other mammals, are to mate with different partners and not to be restricted to having sexual relations with only one person for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t mean that nobody is faithful, it’s just that everybody probably has the urge, at least once during their committed relationship, to experience intercourse with someone else; or as Ryan likes to put it – “Just because you have chosen to be a vegetarian, doesn’t mean that bacon stops smelling good”.
Jane Lancaster, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, agrees with Ryan that monogamy emerged for the sake of the children’s well-being, and adds that humans are unique in a way that males are more invested as fathers than any other species. She also speaks about various evidences about males having more extramarital relations than females, explaining it with the fact that males usually have less to lose. As women are usually dependent on their husbands and their support, being promiscuous and losing the financial and other kinds of support doesn’t really benefit them.
It turns out that humans are somewhere in between a polygamous and a monogamous species.
Though many scientists agree that humans are actually not born to be monogamous, but they get restrained by the social rules and live their lives how they think they are supposed to, it doesn’t have to be the rule for all humans. Don’t think that this article justifies cheating on your partner just because we are saying that humans may not be genetically predisposed to be faithful. As it turns out, humans are somewhere in between a polygamous, mildly polygamous and a monogamous species, which basically means that humans are deeply confused about their urges and often cannot explain them. So, even though we are probably not meant, by nature, to be with only one person for our entire lives, choosing to do so doesn’t make our actions unnatural, especially if you really feel that you are involved with a person you love and want to spend your life with.