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Exploring the Decline of Monogamy in America

by John Santana

If, 50 years ago, you told someone you were dating different women, people would have criticized and judged you. Having more than one relationship before was considered taboo, and monogamy was and still is the prevailing type of relationship. But with the rise of modern dating, more people are keen on exploring other options. 

In a study conducted by the international data analytics group YouGov, 34% of Americans described their ideal relationship as other than monogamy. To define the term, monogamy refers to having only one partner in a relationship at a time. In the same report, it was found that 12% of Americans have engaged in sexual activity with a person other than their partner without their partner’s permission, while 20% say that they have engaged in one with their partner’s consent. Meanwhile, 55% of Americans say that they still prefer to be completely monogamous in relationships. Numbers are still in favor of monogamy, but the narrative is shifting as people become more gradually open to non-monogamous relationships.

Man and Woman Kissing

The decline of monogamy in America 

The decline of monogamy in America did not happen overnight. Several factors that happened over time led to the gradual increase in people open to exploring multi-partner relationships. Though not inherently wrong, some factors have contributed to more people slowly moving away from traditional definitions of relationships. One of which is the hookup culture in modern dating. This phenomenon paved the way for people to look for casual sex encounters without commitment. Also, the rise of online dating apps made it possible for people to explore different types of relationships without any pressure or expectations. It allows for sexual experimentation—a way to meet different people with no strings attached—just for pure pleasure. 

In relation to hookup culture, more people are leaning towards polyamorous relationships too—a US survey shows that 16.8% of people desire to engage in polyamory, and 10.7% have already done so.  

In a research and analysis study by Hnatkovičová and Bianchi, they explored the reasons why people engage in non-monogamous relationships. It includes autonomy in making decisions for themselves. Another reason is pragmatism, especially in those in monogamous relationships but in long-distance situations, thus leaving physical intimacy unmet.

Part of the motivations for engaging in relationships other than monogamy includes belief and value systems as well. As we grow, our known beliefs are often challenged, which leads us to question the validity of our own preconceived notions. Some say that monogamy is a social construct and not a natural aspect of human behavior. While for others, challenging their belief system means an exploration of sexual orientation and gender identity—whereas, in monogamy, a chance to explore one’s own sexuality is very limited.

The benefits and drawbacks of non-monogamous relationships

As the dating landscape evolves, more people are inclined to try other types of relationships other than monogamy. For Americans engaging in other types of relationships that contribute to the decline of monogamy in America, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to engaging in one.  

Increased sexual and emotional fulfillment

Most Americans who have tried polyamorous relationships have revealed that being with other people satisfies their sexual and emotional needs because they can diversify their fulfillment in these two factors. Sometimes, being with the same person for too long can get overly familiar, to the point where it can already get repetitive with the same person, and there’s nothing else to do. 

Opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery

In reality, non-monogamous relationships within our circles aren’t as common. And everything we know about relationships stems from monogamous relationships, as that has always been the norm. But people in America engaging in non-monogamous relationships see it as a way for growth and self-discovery– where there are unfamiliar environments and new experiences, one can only do so outside of monogamy.

Improved communication skills and relationship dynamics 

In non-monogamous relationships, communication is the number one factor in keeping relationships as healthy as possible. By being in several relationships, you’ll learn how to manage expectations, set boundaries, and clearly express your feelings. 

Jealousy and emotional challenges 

Of course, there will be drawbacks when engaging in relationships outside of monogamy, especially since not everyone is as open-minded as those who are in polyamorous relationships. With multiple partners come multiple responsibilities. You’ll have to manage your time efficiently to give them equal attention. Also, you have to be very understanding because different people have different needs.

Difficulty in finding compatible partners 

It’s not like you can casually ask anyone if they want to be in a relationship with someone who’s already in a relationship. It’s still a sensitive issue for most people and can even offend people. It’s hard to find someone to engage in non-monogamous relationships because humans are predisposed to viewing relationships as monogamous. And if you ever find one, it can also be challenging to compromise.

The risk of sexually transmitted infections

Being in a monogamous relationship doesn’t mean you won’t contract sexually transmitted diseases. But if you’re engaging in polyamory, your risk is higher, especially when you have multiple sexual partners. It’s more dangerous if your partners are not getting tested or are dishonest about the results. They can spread the disease to anyone they have sex with. 

Societal stigmatization and discrimination

Even when you’re in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, it doesn’t automatically mean everyone will understand your situation. In a traditional family setup, it’s never morally acceptable for someone to have multiple partners. In fact, you might even strain relationships because of this. It’s still a mono-normative society, but it can change in only a matter of time.

Is America Ready for the Fall of Monogamy?

There has been a significant change in how Americans view monogamy in the last 50 years. As Americans continuously live in the modern age, they are introduced to modern ideas and belief systems that can shake up current ideologies. What was considered immoral before is now slowly being introduced as morally acceptable to modern people. While monogamy continues to be the trend in most American relationships, no one can deny the fact that most Americans are exploring other options outside monogamy. It can be too early to say that monogamy is falling in America, but it is important to recognize that more people have become open-minded enough to accept any other types of relationships—a non-monogamous one, that is.

John Santana

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