Is eternal love and commitment really possible in our modern age or is it an outdated concept with a sell-by date?
I got married last summer and, after the honeymoon and inevitable back-to-work comedown, I began to realise that a 29-year-old married woman in my circle of London friends and colleagues is remarkably rare. At house parties, when people see my ring, they look at me like I might be hiding a chastity belt under my high-waisted jeans and often comment, "How young/ unusual/ traditional!" I’m the only person under 50 who is married in my office.
It got me thinking about how people perceive monogamy and whether being married today is the least cool thing ever. Will everyone eventually succumb to flings via apps because it’s that easy and inevitable? Is my two-hearts-entwined, love-everlasting view naive?
When one of my male friends [27 and single] casually dropped into conversation that he thought the concept of monogamy was outdated in this day and age, I decided to probe further...
Married Woman: In our society, the number of people who've had affairs is high (one in five adults in the UK). Is this behaviour a modern version of a non-monogamous relationship? Basically, polyamory is all around but socially inadmissible?
Single Man: I feel it is a modern version or maybe a cop-out of a monogamous relationship, based on a curiosity which leads to adultery, which I agree is inadmissible but doesn't change the fact that it exists and will continue to exist.
MW: So you don't believe in monogamy?
SM: No, my views on monogamy are slightly abstract as I grew up in a single-parent household and all my siblings had different dads so, from the get-go, my understanding of what a relationship is or a marriage is, was slightly skewed. I've never really had a girlfriend – maybe one real relationship when I was 16 – and I'm 27 now and still don't have any long-term plans in terms of settling. I guess my understanding of women being married is slightly tainted as l've slept with married women – not saying I condone my actions but the whole concept of wanting or yearning for another man/woman while in an agreement with another is taboo to me, yet there's women out there that entertain this and see it as escapism.
So do I believe in monogamy right now? No. But maybe as I evolve things will change.
MW: Do you think that you can only be emotionally monogamous to one person? And if you maintain that, then it's kind of fine whatever else you get up to?
SM: I feel emotion is something that can be shared with more than one person at different times. Do I think we should be emotionally exclusive or monogamous to one person? No, I think we naturally share grand moments with different people at different stages, fall in and out of emotion (love) with people, so I don't think emotion is the defining factor. I feel that everyone we share emotion – like, deep emotion – with, owns a part of us. I'm not talking about a one-night stand situation, I'm talking about the deep connection we yearn for or even the emotion we don't search for but that hits us, hence why we get hooked on certain people. Cheating is cheating, adultery is adultery; we can't have a section based on, 'It's ok as long as I own you emotionally.'
Not sure if that answers your question.
MW: I guess more practically speaking, could you see yourself having an open relationship?
SM: Nope. There's no in-between, it’s either I'm with one woman or I'm having fun. Right now the first option doesn't seem realistic.
MW: So it's more that your experience of monogamy is tainted, not that you don't believe in monogamy?
SM: No, it's more that monogamy is flawed until proven different, like the whole concept of monogamy in this day and age is flawed and until things evolve, my stance on it will be: single 'til it sticks.
MW: Why is it flawed in this day and age?
SM: The world we live in doesn't celebrate it as the ideal option – not that the world governs what we do but we have bought into an ideology that being single is a great thing (Tinder, Instagram, TV).
MW: Why do the married women you sleep with have affairs? There is some research to suggest that women have evolved to keep testing their relationships and looking for better long-term options.
SM: Beyond the surface, I feel most of these women are married to men who see them as a trophy and don't really love or value the woman for her true self, like a vanity project. So they chose to rebel and sleep with me while the hedge fund husband is in Zurich handling business. I'm simplifying it but, to be honest, it takes a bit of my soul every time. These women don't want to engage in leaving the reality they are in; they run away from the truth as it's too much of a luxury to sacrifice, so they stay in it but play around with me so they get the best of both worlds but are damaged internally, due to the fact they've sold themselves short.
MW: But if the husband doesn't know, the wife is happy and you're happy, everyone's a winner, right?
SM: No, I'm not happy. I'm as flawed as the woman cheating. Morally, everyone's wrong.
MW: Only 43 out of 238 human societies around the world are monogamous. Did we end up here basically because of the seventh commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery? In Tibet I could have two husbands…
SM: Would that be a bad thing? Could you be in love with more than one person? The theory of things we shouldn't do tend to be the things we do.
MW: I couldn't fully love two people but people do, and people cite the way you can love more than one child as an example.
SM: I think children are loved unevenly but that's a discussion for another day.
MW: Could you have two wives?
SM: No. The question is, could I have a wife!?
MW: Ok, could you imagine ever getting married?
SM: Yes, I could imagine a lot of things but that happening is another thing out of my control. With someone real, I can't control the variables, so women come and go with not much sticking, which is sad, but the reality is it's something I've learnt not to be good at.
MW: What’s the closest you’ve come to 'settling down' and what stopped you? Is it just that you’ve never liked anyone enough?
SM: Haven't really thought of settling, although I'm in a situation at the minute with an older woman – but the beauty of it is, we both know it will come to an amicable end.
MW: Do you think gender is at play here? I’m the woman and I’m married and monogamous. You’re the man and you don't believe in it and you’re out having fun.
SM: I believe all humans are free to do what they want to do, so I don't see it as a gender-governed factor. Do you think you'll always be monogamous? What about in 20 years, do you think you’ll still be monogamous then?
MW: I can't really picture myself on any other relationship path. I consider myself a pretty open-minded person but I don't know how people manage to navigate truth in these situations, and the emotions of lust and jealousy, and having children in an open relationship and how that would work.