Is monogamy simply a social and emotional construct?

5 min readJan 22, 2017

While having children is undoubtedly a person choice, anthropologically speaking, procreation is a perceived (and archaically assumed) feature of most relationships between the opposite sex. For those who seek to have children, and those that don’t, a monogamous relationship is usually deemed the most ideal unit from within which to procreate or simply to coexist with a partner. It represents stability, support and, bizarrely, social success of being in a relationship.

However, if we critique this approach, does monogamy really provide the aforementioned or have we been conditioned to believe it does to reinforce the very arguments that are made in its support? Furthermore, as emotional beings, is there an emotional attraction to monogamy that we crave in seeking an exclusive and reciprocated belonging, acceptance and love from a partner who is considered unique in fulfilling said role?

Firstly, I need to make a disclaimer that this isn’t about me expressing a desire or endorsement for polygamy or a proclamation that I am polyamorous (which would go against my own monogamous relationship). Had it been, I would likely have chosen a more personal forum to announce this to my partner. It’s also not something I’m seeking to explore, not to mention a practice I can’t envisage my wife embracing.

Nevertheless, the practice of monogamy has largely remained unquestioned in contemporary society. For even those of us that are more liberal-leaning, monogamy is still broadly considered sacrosanct. Polyamory is becoming more visible and accepted (Laurie Penny wrote an article on her own experience as a polyamorous woman) but there is still a stigma around it. For the conservative brigade, it’s probably just a synonym for liberal promiscuity that we blindly criticise. Why? Because it threatens the status quo of monogamy as the standard for relationships.

Our physical attraction to a partner is typically underpinned by a sexual attraction. And in anthropological terms (for a hetrosexual couple), an underlying desire to procreate. Although, society’s expectations when having children, and the pragmatism surrounding it, downgrades that underlying desire to sex for couples of all sexual orientation. Subsequently, that attraction forms the basis of compatibility for a…