Are we made for monogamy?

The dictionary defines monogamy as: 1. being married to one person at a time. 2. The practice of being married only once in a lifetime. 3. The condition of having only one mate.

It’s becoming increasingly rare to be married to one person in a lifetime in modern society. More common is serial monogamy–either being married to or having one mate at a time.

We don’t think we are biologically made for monogamy. We are made to procreate. However, practical reasons, such as economic and social pressures, as well as love, emotional fulfillment and concern for the kids, make us choose to stay with one partner.

  1. How do the biological differences between men and women impact monogamy?

Men generate about 150 million sperm every day. Testosterone, which drives libido, is released into their bloodstream every 17 to 60 seconds. Plus, the area for processing sex in a male’s brain is two to two and a half times larger than a female’s. Put all this together and what we get is someone whose attention is constantly drawn to sex, and following Nature’s mission, is continually on the look-out for females, particularly fertile ones, to have sex and procreate with. Nothing in a guy’s machinery is built for monogamy.

Women on the other hand, are built for monogamy, at least while their offspring are young. A female has a limited amount of eggs, has to carry the baby, give birth and take care of it for years to come. She needs a mate to stick around, providing and protecting for her and her offspring.

Even if a woman isn’t going to have kids and is financially independent, she still has this inbuilt instinct to be cautious about sexual partners and to seek a guy who focuses on her alone and provides and protects her–which today very much includes emotionally.  And historically, the majority of people living below poverty line are women and children, so finances are still a big reason for a woman to be with one mate.

  1. What about modern women and birth control?

Birth control definitely liberated women from the fear of getting pregnant, but not of contracting an STD, so caution may still prevail. Nevertheless, many women enjoy sex for sex’s sake and may not be particularly interested in a relationship with a specific man. Usually, though, they do want a loving, long-term relationship with the right man in the long run.

A biological reason for that is love. Women generate ten times more oxytocin, the bonding and love hormone, than men do. They’re very sensual creatures, and eye gazing, touching and kissing–basically foreplay–isn’t just pleasurable; it also generates oxytocin. Orgasm for both men and women releases huge amounts of oxytocin, but a guy’s testosterone blocks it once the deed is done. A woman’s estrogen magnifies it. So, women can become very, very attached to a man after sex. Also, the more sex a man has, the more he may become attached to that one woman.

  1. Are there times men are more likely to be monogamous?

Obviously, there are many reasons a man may want to be with one special woman–like love, connection, friendship, stability, growth, mutual values and needs, to name a few. But there are also biological times when testosterone lowers–when they’re courting, committed or married, and after becoming a dad.

Also, testosterone declines by 1%-2% a year after age 30, so by the time they’re 50, men have significantly less testosterone and increasingly more estrogen. Since they’re not as driven by their testosterone, they may want to bond more and be monogamous.

  1. Have we gotten past the caveman desires to have sex for the sake of reproduction?

Yes and no.  We’re still biologically built to reproduce, but in terms of human evolution, we are at a point in time where we have the luxury of having sex for the pleasure, connection and spiritual fulfillment. Viva the evolution!