When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and millions of people were confined to their homes, many saw the increased time spent together as a benefit to families and couples. As time went on, though, tensions rose and marriages were put to the test. Wedding vows never said anything about a 24/7 lockdown, and as many people finally find themselves on the other side now, it’s clear why.
The pandemic inspired honest conversations about relationships, particularly how monogamy isn’t always the fairytale we’re led to believe. Some even consider it a turning point in non-monogamy’s popularity. With that in mind, Ashley Madison, the world’s leading married dating site1, surveyed its global members as well as the general American population on their attitudes toward non-monogamy and how they feel about more fluid relationships replacing traditionally monogamous ones as society’s default to happiness.
Monogamy has been the gold standard of relationships for centuries, but infidelity and divorce have existed for as long as marriages have. Clearly the one partner traditional monogamy structure doesn’t suit everyone, especially long term, yet so many people still choose to conform. Is it finally time for a change?
“The popular media in western cultures repeatedly dispels information that tells us that each person has a ‘soulmate.’ Because of this socialization, the majority of people report expecting monogamy in their romantic relationships and that this love will last a lifetime. The expectation for monogamy has increased in recent decades. More than ever, people are expecting their romantic partner to meet all of their needs (e.g., parenting, financial, security, intellectual, social, creative) and no one else's. These lofty expectations make violations of monogamy incredibly devastating, particularly because many people opt to dissolve relationships after acts of infidelity. For example, if one's partner engages in sexual behavior with a secondary partner, he/she/they might opt to terminate the relationship which ultimately means that not only is that person no longer getting their sexual needs met, but all other needs as well. Consequently, violations of monogamy may be viewed as the ultimate form of betrayal because it often results in losing a partner and failing to get one's needs (even the most basic) met.”
When asked how monogamy does or would make them feel, 26% of Ashley Madison members say unfulfilled and 23% say trapped. Further, 65% don’t believe in monogamy, so it’s unsurprising that when asked to describe their ideal relationship type, the majority opt for something more open.
“For some open monogamy marriages, keeping the emotional monogamy is a priority, while seeking sexual excitement outside the marriage can heighten things for both partners. Finding ways to add more eroticism and intensity can bring energy home, into the bedroom, without threatening the primary partnership. Because it's in the open and both partners agree on the boundaries, it can add to the relationship instead of taking away from it. Many times it's in the sharing of the sexual experience with others that the marriage is strengthened. Ashley Madison is at an advantage because of the large number of members, representing a growing population of people interested in being in an open relationship and finding a platform where they can meet other couples and singles who want similar types of relationships.”
Previous Ashley Madison research2 has revealed that 26% of women compared to 13% of men have a more open and fluid monogamy agreement with their partner, and 82% of women compared to 74% of men report fulfillment within these relationships. Despite long-standing stereotypes, women aren’t more programmed for or in favor of monogamy than men are. Not by a long shot.
“Traditional forms of marriage and commitment have always assumed sexual and social monogamy. Today, the definition of monogamy can include new ideas of what it means to be in a committed relationship. I call this new definition of monogamy ‘open monogamy,’ and more couples than ever before are embracing open forms of sexual and emotional commitment while still being attached to a primary partner. These relationship types are agreed upon within the committed partnership. Each couple agrees on their own definition of monogamy and comes up with their own monogamy agreement. It starts with an explicit conversation that includes negotiation around boundaries, desires, and hard and fast redlines. Marriages and committed partnerships grow and develop through stages, and monogamy agreements should be subject to change. Make sure to meet and discuss potential changes regularly instead of assuming your partner always wants the same thing you do as you both grow and experience new phases of your relationship. If we renew our license to drive a car, why not renew our monogamy?”
Throughout my marriage, I felt like I was missing out on an essential part of myself. I wasn't getting my needs fulfilled, specifically intimate, emotional, and physical, and I started looking elsewhere. I felt bad lying to my husband so I gave him the choice of either divorcing me or continuing our separate lives. He chose to remain with clear boundaries. Since opening our marriage, my ego has thrived. I believe that a particular segment of society will embrace a non-monogamous lifestyle because the information is more readily available and less taboo. While I know it's not something many people talk about, I've noticed an increase in non-monogamy among women. Having more confidence and comfort in oneself allows women (especially) to experiment and live their lives to the fullest. So if you're curious about exploring your sexuality and/or relationships, don't be afraid: go for it!