Current Magazine

Monogamy is a Fairytale Ideal, Argues Helen Croydon

By Periscope @periscopepost
Monogamy is a fairytale ideal, argues Helen Croydon A couple. Photo credit: Gregory Jordan

Author and journalist Helen Croydon has re-ignited the simmering debate around marriage and monogamy in a hard-hitting Guardian Comment is free opinion piece entitled “Monogamy is a fairytale ideal: affairs won’t go away.” In the piece, which has attracted over 500 comments since it was posted on 27 August, Croydon argues that “we need a more flexible view of coupledom than one just based on everlasting love.”

As much as we love to feast on the Hollywood-inspired fairytales (there is a soulmate out there who can make our dreams come true, and still make us quiver between the sheets every night), I’m afraid my research finds more evidence of boredom, bickering and monosyllabic TV dinners than passion, princes and someone who massages your feet every night.

We all desperately want to believe in a never-ending happy ending. We only have to see the vitriol stirred up at the mere suggestion that Katherine Jenkins was involved with David Beckham to get a taste of how defensive we are of this nice, but unrealistic, ideal. After all, I’d rather not rain on the fairytale parade myself; like the writers above, I too am in a monogamous relationship. But I believe only in monogamy from the heart, not from a pact. Perhaps I’m biased; it’s a new relationship and I’ve still got the butterflies.

As much as I would like the champagne fuzz and fascination of a fresh lover to last forever, the occupational hazard of researching relationships has left me startlingly aware that romantic lustiness and long-term familiarity don’t marry up well. Passion fades to friendship. Elation and mutual fascination gives way to conversations about who’s taking the bins out. And it’s scientifically proven.

Anthropologists have studied brain scans of couples in love. The ones in the early throes of romantic love virtually dribble dopamine. Their brains, according to Dr Helen Fisher, behave exactly like someone on crack cocaine. They are obsessed and infatuated. Thankfully – for the sanity of society – couples who’ve been together for a bit calm down. Their brains bathe in oxytocin: they feel attached and secure and want to pack each other’s lunch boxes but alas, they’re unlikely to want to snog in the back of a taxi.

People only started to marry for love in the late 18th century. Marriage was a strategy to form business partnerships, expand family networks, craft political ties, strengthen a labor force or pass on wealth … Throughout history and across cultures, societies have provided a system for paramours …

Now more than ever, we need a more flexible approach to coupledom. As the world allows for increasingly autonomous lifestyles, we tighten the reins on our spouses. We give our partners rules, curfews and DIY lists. We expect them to be our exclusive lover, best friend, co-parent, holiday companion and to fix the car. The job description doesn’t fit with modern mores.

Does this mean a life of serial flings will make us happier? I wouldn’t personally choose that, but I find a one-size fits all framework for relationships equally unrewarding. What we do need is an adjustment to our rigid, moralised relationship settings and an admittance that as much as we don’t like it, affairs won’t go away.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog