Is Monogamy a Myth?
by Peggy Vaughan

Many people think the title of my book The Monogamy Myth means that 'monogamy is a myth.' That is NOT what it means. Monogamy itself is not a myth. But there are many beliefs about monogamy that are myths. It's this 'set of beliefs' that I refer to as The Monogamy Myth.

Here are some of the beliefs about monogamy that are myths:

  • Myth: Most people are monogamous.
  • Myth: Society as a whole "supports" monogamy.
  • Myth: You can just "assume" monogamy when you get married.
MYTH: Most people are monogamous.

People are very resistant to acknowledging the prevalence of affairs—because they desperately want to believe that "most people are monogamous." This way of thinking only provides a "false" sense of security. But we can't begin to address the problem until we more accurately define it. One of the most damaging effects of believing that most marriages are monogamous is that if an affair happens, it's seen strictly as a personal failure of you, your spouse, and your marriage. This belief (myth) is particularly damaging because it leads to personal blame, personal shame, wounded pride, and almost universal feelings of devastation.

MYTH: Society as a whole "supports" monogamy.

While we as a society give "lip service" to monogamy, we contribute to some significant societal factors that actually support and encourage affairs, including: the overall fascination with affairs, the glorification of affairs in movies, TV, etc., our sex-saturated culture that uses sex to sell almost everything, and the 'training' in deception we get as teengers due to the lack of honest discussions of sex between parents and their children. This is not to say that all the blame should be placed on society. That would be just as shortsighted as blaming only the particular people involved. But if we're to understand and more effectively deal with this issue, it's essential that we look at the social context within which affairs take place.

MYTH: You can just "assume" monogamy when you get married.

Unfortunately, there is a magical belief that just taking the vows guarantees monogamy for the duration of the marriage. Also, the belief that society as a whole is supportive of monogamy (and of people's efforts to remain monogamous) leads people to expect to have a monogamous marriage. This false sense of security serves to prevent couples from doing the kind of talking on an ongoing basis that is essential in order for monogamy to be a reality for a lifetime. Preventing affairs is not like having a one-time inoculation—or even getting occasional booster shots. It's more like taking a pill every day for the rest of your life.

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