An interesting discussion about monogamy broke out in the comments of the last post.
The subject of limerence and polyamory comes up from time to time, and not only from limerents who are desperately trying to find a way to solve the agonising problem of being infatuated with someone new while still loving their significant other.
You might just pick up from my snark that I am in the pro-monogamy camp, but I am sincerely interested in trying to understand what’s really going on with the decisions people make and the opinions they hold. Ethical polyamory is genuinely a thing, and when it is advocated, there is a strong emphasis on consent, setting of clear boundaries, and good communication at all times to ensure no-one is sidelined or harmed.
While this is admirable, sceptics may point out that many couples struggle to even negotiate fair allocation of housework, suggesting this ideal is rather optimistic. Others have taken a more critical view that the recent popularity of polyamory is a “luxury belief” – meaning the impact that it has on your life is dramatically different depending on your socioeconomic status.
As a counterpoint, monogamy is highly unusual among mammals. Humans are generally described as “socially monogamous” because we don’t pair-bond for life like some species. Most people have more than one sexual partner before forming a long-term relationship, only half of all marriages last, and infidelity is common – so lifelong monogamy in the strictest sense is very rare.
That leads to lots of interesting questions about how much of the desire for sexual and romantic faithfulness is driven by “natural” forces (like evolution and genetics) and how much by “social” forces (like culture and religion). And whether that distinction is even meaningful.
Obviously this is a huge topic to cover, but we can make a lot of headway by focusing on only one aspect of the puzzle at a time. So, this post is an attempt to understand why monogamy exists in our contemporary society. It hasn’t been the historical norm, it isn’t the cultural norm in all current societies, and lots of people fail to remain monogamous despite their stated intention to do so. Why then does it exist as an idea – indeed an archetypal ideal – in Western societies?
Well, I’d argue it’s because monogamy is psychologically powerful, evolutionarily useful and socially desirable. Let’s rattle through some of the reasons why.
1. It fits the ecstasy of early love
The exhilaration of first falling in love with someone is pretty much unrivalled in human experience. Limerents, in particular, are familiar with the extraordinary rush of euphoria when romantically connecting with a potential partner. The power of that initial attachment is remarkable. They seem remarkable.
When in the midst of limerence it’s hard to believe you could ever want anyone else. You want the feeling to last forever. The knowledge that you may well have fallen in love before, and surely could fall in love again in the future, is intellectual. You don’t feel it in your viscera like the ecstasy of limerence.
Romantic desire is based on wanting one, special person more than anyone else. We want to believe that they are The One.
2. It provides psychological security
It’s a rare person that has complete confidence in their romantic appeal. Even if you do, it doesn’t make you immune to infidelity from a partner.
For most of us, fear of abandonment and anxiety about how attractive we are is an intrinsic part of love. Obviously these are not noble or constructive impulses – especially if they overtip into jealousy – but they are normal human emotions. It’s hard to nurture a relationship if you are worried that it may unravel under the influence of the next Adonis or Aphrodite who passes by.
It’s hard to build on uncertain foundations, and it is hard to trust in your romantic appeal, without some overt declaration of love and commitment from a partner. A future of needing to repeatedly attract and secure a new partner, while living a life that is punctuated by periods of solitude, does not appeal to everyone. The security of having a partner allows you to both relax, and make longer term plans while trusting that you will have the love and support of a companion.
One clue that this need for psychological security is a big part of monogamy is that many studies have shown that people are more critical of signs of infidelity (even fairly innocuous things like flirting or texting) in their partners than in themselves. When pressed, people admit that they don’t really mean anything by it, so they see it as less harmful. But they lack the confidence to believe that it is equally innocent for the person they hope is committed to them.
3. It’s a successful mating strategy
Pair bonding is the best way to make babies. OK, maybe the second best way, after owning a harem and working around the clock, but pair bonding beats indiscriminate mating hands down.
This assumes, of course, that you care about who you conceive a child with, and that you care about the welfare of that child after birth. In a world of random, promiscuous copulation, lots of babies would also be born, but you can’t help but think they might not have such a great start in life.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, pair bonding. The point is that the chance of fertilization in humans is pretty low if you just mate randomly. The best way to ensure that conception occurs is to stick together in a partnership and repeatedly mate. That way, you catch the small window of opportunity during ovulation and…. bingo.
If you want to make a baby with a healthy, attractive, successful person that you esteem, and then help that baby through the most vulnerable period of their life, pair bonding is the way to go.
A caveat here, of course, is that once the child is on it’s way to maturity, there is not the same need to remain monogamous. Unless you want more children.
4. It provides confidence in paternity
Parenthood is a big investment in time, resources and energy for both men and women. Kids need a lot of support during the prolonged period of development demanded by our abnormally large and complex brains. As such, it is in both parties interests to ensure confidence in paternity.
From the male perspective, their genes would be propagated regardless of whether they stuck around after birth, but the odds of success go up considerably if they do support the mother and bond with the child. From the female perspective, they could in principle conceal paternity while seeking support from elsewhere. Their chance of getting the support and protection they need from a man other than the father, or from an extended family with their own commitments, is lower than someone mutually invested, though.
The most stable arrangement is for the father to have enough confidence to commit to his own offspring, and the best way to build that confidence is through declared and observed monogamy.
5. It results in better life outcomes for children
This sobering fact is not a criticism of single parent families or foster care or any of the many great lone parents and carers doing their best to provide a loving and safe home. The statistics are solid, though. Children do better on most indexes of wellbeing, academic achievement, and life success if they are raised by both parents in a stable home. (Summary of a couple of big cohort studies here)
There are lots of potential explanations for this effect, and – as with all population-level statistics – it has little predictive value for an individual. It would be much better to live in a loving, single-parent home than an abusive two-parent home. Nevertheless, on average, people who successfully remain as a monogamous couple (or, at least, maintain that appearance successfully) are more likely to provide the best environment for their children to thrive.
6. It promotes social stability
Another sobering observation from population studies. Left to a libertarian dream of no governmental or legal intervention, human communities tend to organise themselves into highly unequal mating hierarchies. Societies that accept polygamy usually end up with a few high status men with harems, and a lot of low status men with no real prospect of finding a partner. The women’s best hope for survival in this scenario is to seek the protection of the highest status man they can, especially if options for independent life are very limited.
As a side note, this patriarchal model has occasionally been replicated in matriarchal societies that practice polyandry, where powerful women who control access to land and resources select multiple male partners, and raise children collectively. Just in case you were starting to suspect that it’s always the men who are to blame.
Such inequality is highly destabilising to social harmony. If the men or women at the top of the mating tree have enough power they can crush any objections from the lower orders, but if the inequality gets too severe, the best strategy for those at the bottom of the tree is to chop the whole damn thing down.
This history of destruction appears to have been at least one of the stimuli for social condemnation of polygamy. The joint assaults of social shaming, religious edicts, and legal restrictions on marriage and infidelity provide powerful incentives to prevent spouse hoarding by the rich, and instead normalise monogamy as a moral choice.
Of course, romantic life can’t exactly be described as happily ever after for everyone since this innovation, but the evidence that it protects society against rebellion from the large mass of angry, frustrated and desperate men that would otherwise result is pretty compelling.
Societies that institutionalise monogamy are more peaceful and productive.
Whether you like them or not, if you put all those factors together you have a pretty powerful drive to monogamy. It’s a romantic fantasy for the lovestruck, it provides emotional and psychological security, it increases your chance of having children, it increases the life prospects for any children you do have, and it is a stabilising force in society.
Why then, would monogamy be so hard to maintain and need harsh social sanctions to enforce?
Let’s get to that argument next week.
It exists for the same reason “work” exists, or any other societal institution: to control us and occupy us so we don’t go off the deep end with our baser urges. 🙂
Allie 1 says
– Woman’s evolved natural urge = sex with multiple partners as more likely to conceive and creates better quality offspring (this is evidencable)
– Men’s natural urge = stop the above and keep as many women just for themselves as they can afford to as increases the chances that of offspring being theirs
In all seriousness, I am baffled that we are expected to structure our lives around a romantic relationship, which by its very nature — sexual — is the most precarious of all relationships. There is nothing more precarious than sex.
Allie 1 says
Yes I agree – it hardly seems the ideal model for living our best possible life. I guess it just shows how powerfully compelling the romantic and sexual urge is that so many choose that life. Or maybe it is just due to lack of alternative options.
Saying that though, in my experience of very long term monogamous relationships, over time, tend to evolve into something that has increasingly little to do with sex or romance.
“I guess it just shows how powerfully compelling the romantic and sexual urge is that so many choose that life.”
I think there probably is in the beginning, if there is a strong, limerent-urge to it.
“Or maybe it is just due to lack of alternative options.”
What else are you going to do, if everyone else is following one program? People talk about wanting to do something different, but who really follows through?
“Saying that though, in my experience of very long term monogamous relationships, over time, tend to evolve into something that has increasingly little to do with sex or romance.”
That’s my point. Why not start them in the place they evolve to, which is a really intense friendship, if you’re lucky? I mean, finding that kind of friendship is no small feat. I’m referring to the best friend of your life. The sexual element would then be farmed out, for lack of a better word, to short -termers. Writer Gore Vidal did this. He had a long-term, live-in SO for over 50 years. But it was platonic. And the sexual partners were short-term. For him, they were one-offs, but they wouldn’t have to be. I could see this becoming problematic if the person was a limerent and wanted to spend a lot of time with the sexual partner, and the platonic SO objected. But, then, as we’ve read on here, the original relationship prototype is broken, too. For a lot of people. I’m not implying all. Or you live communally with extended family (maybe if raising children).
Allie 1 says
“Why not start them in the place they evolve to, which is a really intense friendship, if you’re lucky?”
I really like that idea! But maybe you need the first 3-10 years of romantic connection to become sufficiently bound and institutionalised within the relationship such that you are able to tolerate the lesser selves that eventually emerge when you become that comfortable with each other.
Allie 1 says
“Or you live communally with extended family (maybe if raising children).”
There is a tribe in China called the Mosuo that has an old and very unusual Matriarchal culture. When daughters reach sexual maturity, they are given a room in the family home with a door to the outside. Through which her lover(s) can secretly visit at night. There is no marriage and she can have as many or as few partners as she chooses. Her and her brothers choose to remain in the family home throughout their adult life. She rears her children there, and her male family members play the role of father to her children, not the biological father – they are busy rearing their female relatives children. Everyone is happy. Everyone is sexually satisfied! External forces (governments, churches) tried to impose the western Christian relationship model on this town and it worked for while. But eventually they returned to their original ways as they were happier.
“But maybe you need the first 3-10 years of romantic connection to become sufficiently bound and institutionalized within the relationship …”
That’s assuming that you can bond with the person once the limerence dies. I think for some people, the people who elicit limerence and romantic passion and the people they can bond with long-term are two different people.
” When daughters reach sexual maturity, they are given a room in the family home with a door to the outside. Through which her lover(s) can secretly visit at night”
I like this idea. Friends and family through the front door. Lovers through the back. 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Thread: “Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin (1969)
“I wanna be your back door man…”
This was the lead song on “Led Zeppelin II.” I had this album but I didn’t buy it. I think I won it as a door prize in college.
After my parents’ divorce, my grandparents moved in to take care of me while my father worked. This album thoroughly offended my grandmother.
I remember listening to the album and “The Lemon Song” came on. When Robert Plant hit,
“Squeeze me, babe, ’till the juice runs down my leg
Do, squeeze, squeeze me, baby, until the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon-a
I’m gonna fall right outta bed, ‘ed, ‘ed, bed, yeah”
my grandmother came into my room, lifted the needle off the record player and said, “I’ve heard enough!”
I was never a big Led Zeppelin fan but they’ve grown on me as I got older. I gave the album to a cousin. LO #2 and I saw Robert Plant and the Honeydrippers in 1985 and my daughter saw him in concert about 30 years later.
Hi Allie and Marcia,
Enjoyed reading your conversation here. I’m going on a slight tangent here, but are you familiar with the concept of amatonormativity?
I think it is an excellent critique of society’s obsession with romantic love and romantic relationships.
“I think it is an excellent critique of society’s obsession with romantic love and romantic relationships.”
I hadn’t heard of that concept. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t put their romantic relationship at the center of their life and, by extension, their children. If they aren’t in a romantic relationship or don’t have children, it’s their family of origin. There’s another concept called “relationship anarchy” that is similar, at least in part, to amatonormativity. It’s the idea that you put the most important relationship at the center of your life. But I can foresee a problem if, for example, you put a friend at the center of your life but the friend doesn’t put you at the center of theirs. If most of the population is following one norm, it’s difficult to live differently.
Oooh yes, I’m familiar with relationship anarchy as well, and that one has more to do with putting a particular relationship at the center of your life. But my understanding is that this concept is saying that you don’t have to put the relationship that society tells you to, at the center. For example, it makes perfect sense to me to put your children at the center of your life and if someone doesn’t want to put their children at the center of their lives, I’d question why they had children in the first place.
The concept of relationship anarchy is more applicable for people who may have several relationships in their lives and they don’t want to put them into strict buckets as dictated by society. The clearest example applies to, relevant to the original blogpost, are polyamorists.
Amatonormativity is related, but it has more to do with the idea that it assumes that everyone seems to agree that heternormative, monogamous, etc. romance is better than all other alternatives. It places romance on a pedestal and places romantic relationships above all other relationships in life. And also that many in society assume that everyone must think this way.
For myself personally, I face intense pity and scrutiny because I choose to remain unpartnered and don’t go out of my way to pursue any romantic relationships or romantic encounters.
Oh and forgot to respond to Marcia’s point about relationship anarchy – you’re right, it won’t work unless it’s a 2-way street. But I think one of the core tenets of relationship anarchy is communication and transparency for this very reason.
I knew that relationship anarchy had more to do with polyamory, but I was extrapolating the concept to mean putting your most important relationship — whatever kind of relationship that is — at the center of your life.
I dont know if you remember me but like 1,5 years ago I was a raging limerent on this forum, and I remember you as one of the people who supported me so much.
I had to take a break to reset myself but I’m back to support the new ones.
Glad to see you are still here! im so curious how everybody is going
* I mean doing.
I see Thomas is still around!
Limerent Emeritus says
Welcome back, Mia?
Do you still have the canoe in your bedroom?
Limerent Emeritus says
Welcome back, Mia!
The canoe is still there, not in the bedroom anymore so thats progress! So funny you remembered
Im glad to be back.
Limerent Emeritus says
It put you in the LwL Hall of Fame.
Vicarious Limerent says
Nice to see you @Mia. I remember the canoe too!
Allie 2 says
Aaaw Mia! So lovely to hear from you again! How are you getting on?
Allie 1 says
Meant Allie 1 not 2!
Well it’s been a tough year, but I learned so much about myself . Basically I’m practicing how to love and date in a healthy way. By being vulnerable and honest and show up as myself. Lo and me (I should stop to call him lo) are dating and it’s actually going well. I don’t say this to give hope to all you limerents out there. I think my limerence is rooted in fear of abandonment, where I saw rejection all the time while there wasn’t any. It’s a hard job to fix this but step by step I’m getting there and lo is patience. My nerve system is still connected to him therefor I’m still a limerent with mood swings but I react to it in a more healthy way. ( Not lash out for example or try to change someone to get my needs met ) 🙂
Allie 1 says
That is so so lovely to hear Mia! I am really happy for you. Wishing you a long, loving and contented relationship with him.
I am still deeply embedded in my LE but I have learned to live well with it. It can be painful occasionally but I am working on accepting the impossibility of anything happening and finding other ways to get the stimulation and excitement I clearly need. Life feels more purposeful and interesting than it did, it no longer revolves around LO and limerent reverie. I can feel the grip of my LE weakening very slowly over time. Pretty sure I will always have some degree of feelings for this man but my aim is to shrink the importance of them into the background noise of my mind.
I would argue that in terms of life prospects (i.e. Number 5) are probably affected very much by the expectations of society. In a society which strongly promotes nuclear families of monogamous pairs the children raised outside of that model will inevitably face extrinsic and intrinsic barriers to healthy happy progress. Surely?
This also raises the question of the dichotomy between two parent units and single parent units. A third option is multiple parent units. An ex boyfriend of mine was raised by parents who separated when he was very young. He had long identified as being part of extended system of two households with resources coming from each. He was also fortunate that his parents new spouses (mums new husband, dad’s new girlfriend) were supportive of him and his brother.
Which, I realise leads onto the next point. That same person (my ex) now forms part of a gay make couple. They have adopted a little boy, but one of them is also the biological father of two children from a previous relationship. They are involved in all of these children’s lives, and the kids seem OK.
Then again I take Dr. L’s point about class/culture. One of the men in that set up is a senior academic and as a couple they clearly have cash around.
The simple link between child rearing and direct paternity is a bit complex from an LGBT perspective. For some LGBT people they want their children to come from their own loins. But for many others adoption is favoured – especially where (for example) a cis gay male couple (i.e. Lacking access to a womb) want to raise children AS a couple without surrogacy. Basically they go through a great deal of vetting, and effort, to prioritise their exclusivity as parents, over a genetic link to their children.
As with lots of evolutionary explanations for human behaviour, I think it’s risky assuming implicit evolutionary advantages. For example I think paternity can be confounded with property, property with colonialism, and colonialism with the violent assimilation of other cultures – irrespective of the success of their breeding strategies.
Just some thoughts.
Allie 1 says
“lots of evolutionary explanations for human behaviour, I think it’s risky assuming implicit evolutionary advantages”
I agree. For the first 190k years of human existence (out of ~200k), there is evidence showing that a child’s chances of survival were optimal if the mother had 2-3 sexual partners. More conceptions, better quality off-spring and 2-3 men with a vested interest in the child (their knowledge of reproductive biology was lacking!).
Thought provoking blog but I am also somewhat skeptical of the interpretation for Number 5. It makes sense that children with two active parents would on average thrive more than children with one parent – they have more emotional, financial, and other types of support. The article itself spells it out as such: “Having two adults who co-operate to raise the child, who give time and money, means there are just more resources than one doing it.” But it is not clear that being separated/divorced/not cohabiting means parents cannot or do not cooperate fully to raise their children. The article seems to use “single parent” households almost interchangeably with separated parent households, which is troubling from that perspective.
Anecdotally, my siblings and I are fortunate to have been raised by two parents who love each other and have a strong marriage. But I have also seen the terrible effects on friends of growing up in a household where the parents stay together for the children despite problems in the relationship. I am skeptical that couples who “maintain the appearance” of monogamy successfully are providing a better environment for their children to thrive than the alternative of separating. It could be, but it would depend on a lot, such as the toxicity of the relationship, the ability to co-parent successfully if separated and to remain geographically close and present for the children, etc. I too think monogamy can be important for a healthy life in many ways, but staying together for the children only is probably one of the least healthy and fruitful reasons for it…
Pardon the random interruption, but isn’t that first photo featuring the same people from the distracted boyfriend meme? They did more photoshoots on the same theme???
Yeah. When I found it, I recognised them too, and thought it would be a funny choice.
Allie 1 says
This is blog is very biased. Lifelong monogamy can be life affirming and wonderful but it can also be the very opposite thus I feel compelled to provide some balance.
I am neither pro- nor anti-monogamy. I am pro- flexibility, freedom, open mindedness and individual choice. Which we do not truly have in relationships currently. And I have to say that it has always seemed a little crazy to me that I must relinquish control over my own body to another person. That I cannot use it to meet my physical needs in a way that actually has no impact on him (post-child bearing, barrier contraception), other than due to his incorrect, culturally indoctrinated beliefs (fears) on what it might mean.
This blog makes no mention of the huge number of people that do not have their core relationship needs met by monogamy, do not feel psychologically secure in their relationships, are unhappy but cannot escape as they feel culturally and morally obligated to remain. Many are further compelled to stay because they are financially bound to their spouse, often due to patriarchal gender disparities in how we child rear and work.
Countless men (and some women!) post to this site suffering from a lack of physical affection from their spouses. The security of lifelong monogamy has a flip side… when your partner is a sure thing for life, people can stop making an effort, become their worst selves, or are simply complacent and negligent – both with their spouse and with themselves in terms of their personal appeal. And the advice given to those that are unhappy? “Work on your relationship”! To me this is comparable to telling the depressed to “snap out of it”. OK for some yet that is often impossible for one partner to do on their own.
The argument regarding children and paternity is also incomplete. Lifelong commitment (aka pair bonding) and lifelong monogamy are not the same thing yet this blog uses them interchangeably. There are other ways to achieve the same aims. We can commit to monogamy for the duration of rearing young children for example, that does not require lifelong monogamy. We are not living in the dark ages any more – we now have reliable contraception (and paternity testing!). There are also many adoptive and step-parents that do a far better job of child rearing than the biological parent did. A genetic relationship to your child/parent is not necessary, but for some reason, we place so much emphasis on that in the west.
The blog makes no mention of the fact that for 95% of human history, humans were in the main egalitarian, pair-bonded but polyamorous (mostly NOT polyandrous , NOT monogamous but with exceptions). Humans evolved to be polyamorous – our biology proves this (google sperm competition). In these early cultures, the anthropological and primate based evidence shows that sex was used to bind people and communities together and create mutual good will. It was not a big deal, just a pleasurable extension of affection and attraction. The norm of polyamory only changed once the invention of heavy agriculture removed women from the workforce into a life of domestication and effective male ownership. Women were then required to be monogamous, but not men. These were the conditions from which widespread polyandry arose causing the need for monogamy to be enforced as mentioned in the blog. But these conditions do not exist any more as women generally work. I doubt polyandry would become the norm in a culture with real gender equality.
I wonder how many long lived self-destructive LEs arise as a result of the barriers of monogamy and thus would not occur if immediate consummation was allowed.
I could keep going but have waxed on far too much already… better get back to my purposeful life 😊
“ The security of lifelong monogamy has a flip side… when your partner is a sure thing for life, people can stop making an effort, become their worst selves, or are simply complacent and negligent – both with their spouse and with themselves in terms of their personal appeal.” This is so true .. I was taken for granted in my most serious LTR and increasingly so over time and it became extremely dehumanizing. And yet often you struggle to leave precisely because that “safety” valve would have to be turned off and you’d have to face the unknown and be responsible for your own happiness. Many people stay stuck in this poisonous type of pair bond and genuinely become the worst versions of themselves with each other …
The thing is, we have always and will always be responsible for our own happiness. We have to choose joy. Sure, people can do things that increase our happiness, but we are truly responsible for it. No one should stay in or leave a relationship simply because they are not happy. That’s a you-thing, not a them-thing. If you are not happy with the way the relationship is going, buckle down and make the changes. If you don’t have a desire to, own it. If your partner doesn’t want to do the work, call it.
Allie 1 says
Got my poly’s mixed up! In above, replace polyandry (1 women/many men) with polygyny (1 man/many women)
Thank you for your long post. I was going to make many of the same points but no need to duplicate your effort here.
I find it perplexing that the original author comments on ethical polyamory in one sentence what seems to bass most of the argument again non-monogamy on the drawbacks of polygamy and polyandry.
It almost seems as if the original author does not fully grasp how vastly different those relationship structures are from polyamory.
Oops. Please excuse the dictation errors on my phone!! 🤦♀️
I am skeptical about some points raised in the post. Correlations do not make causality, as suggested for example here: “Societies that institutionalise monogamy are more peaceful and productive.” But it’s a “theme” throughout the post. Many of the benefits brought forth seem like they could be attributed to monogamy but they really could also just coincide or be mediated by other variables.
I’m team monogamy (for myself!!) but it comes comparatively easy to me. I know people who struggle with it. And I know people don’t aspire to it to begin with. There’s no one size fit all solution to relationships. The post insinuates that monogamy is superior to other “lifestyles” and I think that this becomes less true in an increasingly liberal and open world.
Thanks all for the great comments so far. To address a couple of key points:
1) Yes, this post is definitely and deliberately biased. The intent is to explain why monogamy exists by laying out the argument for some of the advantages it provides. It is not a moral critique, it is closer to an advocate’s case.
2) The counter argument comes next week, when issues like the weaknesses in these arguments, evolutionary advantages of multiple partners, lessons from LGBT communities, etc. will be covered. It’s too big a topic to tackle all sides in one go.
Till then, please do keep the debate coming! 🙂
Limerent Emeritus says
“Societies that accept polygamy usually end up with a few high status men with harems, and a lot of low status men with no real prospect of finding a partner.” – DrL
– “Polygamy, when tried under modern democratic conditions, as by the
Mormons, is wrecked by the revolt of the mass of inferior men who are
condemned to celibacy by it; for the maternal instinct leads a woman to
prefer a tenth share in a first rate man to the exclusive possession of
a third rate one. Polyandry has not been tried under these conditions.” – George Bernard Shaw (“Maxims for Revolutionists”)
“Pair bonding is the best way to make babies. OK, maybe the second best way, after owning a harem and working around the clock, but pair bonding beats indiscriminate mating hands down.” – DrL
– “Now if you or any other really intelligent person were arranging the fairness and justices between man and woman, you would give the man one-fiftieth interest in one woman, and the woman a harem. Now wouldn’t you? …Solomon, who was one of the Deity’s favorites, had a copulation cabinet composed of seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. To save his life he could not have kept two of these young creatures satisfactorily refreshed, even if he had had fifteen experts to help him.” – Mark Twain (“Letters from the Earth”)
There’s a lot more to this passage. https://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/twain/letearth.htm Skip down to Letter VIII
A great article. I enjoyed reading it. Very persuasively argued.
I have a few minor observations:
(1) Isn’t it amazing how the limerent’s desire for exclusivity and the cultural ideal of monogamy seem to be aligned in the honeymoon phase of relationships? I.e. if one’s a limerent in the early stages of love, one doesn’t really need or want to question monogamy, because one only wants one person anyway – the LO. In other words, biology and culture seem to be happily, gloriously aligned…
The passion of limerence (the first time it happens) and the social norm of monogamy seem to be compatible.
I guess the counterargument to this is that plenty of people can or want to practise monogamy, but have no desire for exclusivity? The limerent’s “desire for exclusively” (an emotional thing) needs to be distinguished from monogamous inclinations per se (a behavioural thing).
“As a counterpoint, monogamy is highly unusual among mammals. Humans are generally described as “socially monogamous” because we don’t pair-bond for life like some species.”
Dr, L, did you mean “socially monogamous” or “serially monogamous”, because both terms make sense in this context? I.e. human beings are monogamous at least partly in response to social pressures, but the result is often serial monogamy and not lifelong monogamy. Social pressure might take the form of being part of an extended family. Couples might stay together after romance has waned, etc, because they still want the esteem of their other relations/in-laws.
I read that serial monogamy in effect allows a resource-rich heterosexual man to “monopolise the entire reproductive lifespan” of more than one woman. I.e. he divorces his older wife, with society’s blessing, and partners with a younger woman who has many fertile years ahead of her. Society tends to turn a blind eye to this, usually because of the man’s status, and older wives don’t have much choice but to accept a pay-out. Having lost her youth and beauty and reproductive potential, she has nothing to bargain with – unless she’s an expert manipulator and can turn the adult children against him.
If serial monogamy is about nothing more than having a wife with a certain level of fertility, it’s distinctly unromantic in my eyes. If I were the younger woman or the older woman in this situation, I’d be horrified. I would feel I had been reduced to a commodity, and yet, obviously, if I were the younger woman, I’d also want the best resources for my own offspring… I’d justify betraying the older woman.
Limerence might blind all parties as to what’s really going on. Lovestruck limerents would say it’s all about feelings, and not about genes and power and property.
(3) Polyamory seems pretty lousy compared to lifelong monogamy. However, polyamory seems somewhat humane compared to throwing your ex-partner on the scrap heap, which is sometimes what happens in serial monogamy…
In other words, it’s important for people to think about how they treat ex-partners. Polyamory might be a way for an ex, who might not want a new relationship, to stay in the orbit of close family ties and social connections…
(4) The patriarchal ideal of monogamy, while great, can be sabotaged and exploited and perverted by a narcissistic spouse. Happy marriages and happy families involve give-and-take. Narcissists are very good at taking and very poor at giving. Essentially, a narcissistic mate will observe the letter of the law in marriage but not the spirit of the law in marriage. A narcissist will make a nice, reasonable person wish they were never married and never part of a family in the first place! The ideal of monogamy makes people reluctant to get rid of abusive partners such as narcissists, who can then freeload forever on the moral spouse.
In sum, I’ve always felt kind of bad about the “emotional messiness” of my own life. But now I see that even the most conventional couples, who believe in all society’s ideals, have their struggles too. I love the ideal of monogamy – I’ve always found it romantic. It never occurred to me it’s not completely natural in a purely biological sense. It’s also amusing people get more upset by their mate’s errant behaviours than by their own identical errant behaviours e.g. flirting and texting.
All great questions, Sammy. To answer one directly, I meant “socially monogamous” which is used by animal behaviour specialists to mean monogamy as overt behaviour, but with more covert coupling going on than is obvious at first. So, pair bonding but not necessarily with sexual monogamy.
Many other species do this – the classic example being the hedge sparrow that pair bonds for nesting and support, and was long assumed to be an example of exclusive monogamy. But, genetic analysis shows huge variety in parentage, meaning that Mr and Mrs Hedge Sparrow clearly know a good side option when they see one.
Serial monogamy would fit within this definition, and one might also draw an analogy with species that pair bond monogamously throughout a given breeding season, but then part before then next one.
But… one lesson from studying the natural world is that you can find an example of almost any mating behaviour somewhere, and trying to use specific examples to draw conclusions about humans becomes a bit silly.
I dunno. I used to have firm opinions about how non-monogamy and polyamory make more sense because monogamy puts a great deal of pressure on individuals to meet all of the needs of a partner. But really, I don’t know anymore. Society is changing. How we relate and form bonds is changing. As someone who is single and considering dating, meeting people seems a lot harder (online dating apps are pretty dire).
If I’m ever in a relationship again, I wouldn’t want my partner to feel they were somehow “not allowed” to form relationships with other people, but I’d also want to understand what needs they were trying to meet in doing so. For now, it’s simple – just me and my son (single parent here), our cat and no rumination about LO and the LE because I keep snapping a rubber band on my wrists and hands every time my brain tries to start with that bollocks and that hurts like a mofo so I’ve stopped doing it and that’s good.
What an excellent idea!!! Fetching a rubber band right away…
Blue Ivy says
This rubberband thing.. have others tried it? Did it work for you?
I am so sick & tired of my LE, I’m ready to give this a try. I’ve read somewhere that this may be a slippery slope to self-harm so that certainly gave me a pause. But maybe all it does is break the reverie & snap you back to present.
I haven’t done the rubber band technique, but I did try a technique where, every time I thought about LO, I told myself I needed to “divert my thoughts” to something else. Over time, I’ve tweaked it (because diverting my thoughts EVERY time I thought about him became cumbersome). Yes, I can still think about him, but when the rumination starts — why things didn’t work out, why he didn’t push things forward, what kind of person he is — I use the diversion technique. I don’t find dwelling on all of that years later remotely effective for recovery, and the reasons why don’t matter, anyway. This technique and going NC — no phone, email, text, social media, googling, asking mutual friends about him — has helped. I treat him as if he’s no longer part of this planet (at least not my planet). 🙂
Blue Ivy says
Thanks for sharing. NC is not an option for me. LO is my boss – a very supportive, thoughtful boss. My LE has been going on for almost 2 years now. I’ve tried emergency deprogramming. That worked… till it didn’t. I have felt a few times it was over, but I always seem to relapse.
I have started reading “you are not your brain”. Trying to break reverie & get back to present when the mind goes that way but difficult to do it consistently.
Allie 1 says
I could’ve written all that myself Blue Ivy. We are LE twins 🙂
Killing all hope in your mind is also an important tactic. It will make you feel sad but I find a bit of sadness is an excellent motivator to make me persist at re-directing my attention away from limerent reverie. I focus my efforts on reveries that are especially stimulating (i.e. sexual or romantic). I allow myself to imagine calm non-stimulating conversations with LO as it is too much to re-direct every thought.
Allie 1 says
“Societies that institutionalise monogamy are more peaceful and productive.”
Was also thinking about this. It is an outdated view I think.
You could also say “Societies that institutionalise organised religion are more peaceful and productive” – this was certainly true at some point in our history and is probably still true in some cultures around the world. But that doesn’t mean we should institutionalise organised religion.
Monogamy was created to resolve a problem caused by huge gender inequalities. Get rid of the gender inequality and you lose the main benefit of monogamy.
I’m not sure outdated is right – given we’ve been wrestling with this conflict for centuries.
The claim that monogamous societies are more peaceful and productive comes from comparing them to other societies (past and present), rather than every conceivable society (including personal utopias).
Monogamy is great in theory, but then there are cases (which have been discussed here in the forums) where one partner in a long-term couple no longer wants sex, and the other one is expected to remain faithful despite having a healthy sexual appetite. Somehow, that doesn’t seem fair, but I guess life isn’t always fair.
I think this is the hardest scenario to negotiate, Candace. As with many of the most tricky unfair aspects of life, no one is simply in the wrong or in the right, there is usually a long history of subtle events that leads to the situation, and no obvious way out.
The only real hope is to agree to be honest, purposeful, and break out of the old habits of behaviour that have kept you stuck. If they are willing.
Vicarious Limerent says
I am living in a sexless marriage at the moment, but the problem is not so much a mismatch of libido. I desperately want to have sex and have a very strong interest in it, but the problem is I just don’t want it with my wife. I would love it with someone else, but I won’t cheat and my wife refuses to divorce, so I’m stuck. I know it only takes one person to end a marriage, but there are many logistical and financial barriers to separation and divorce in our case. My wife just flatly refuses to accept it’s over and she says she isn’t moving out of “her” house. I know I could force a sale of the house, but that takes money and lawyers, and it would be incredibly difficult and adversarial.
So, I’m stuck in a sexless marriage, at least for the foreseeable future. I am not trying to be sexist here, but I am just going to talk basic biology, physics and common sense. In the past, women who didn’t feel like having sex were advised to “close your eyes and think of England.” I am NOT condoning anyone having sex against one’s will, and that is an extremely outdated attitude, but the problem as a man is it is pretty much logistically impossible to have sex without wanting it on some level. I simply cannot act like a performing seal and do it when I don’t want to. The problem is I know I would have absolutely no problem getting aroused for someone else (provided I wasn’t still married and overcome with guilt and worry). That causes me quite a bit of pain and guilt. I worried for a long time that I just lost interest in my wife, but I am pretty positive by now that most of my lack of interest in being intimate with her is because of the way she treats me. We had a pretty decent sex life for many years, but the end of that predated limerence by about three years. Limerence certainly didn’t help matters, but it wasn’t the cause of our problems in the bedroom. Paradoxically, limerence heightened my libido and made me feel like a horny 18 year-old again, but just not for my wife.
My wife even suggested we have an open marriage, but I do not believe for a second she was serious. She would NEVER actually go for it, as she is far too jealous and I wouldn’t be able to handle the guilt. So what does one do in this situation? Banal advice about sex toys or role play isn’t going to cut it. We have a dead bedroom and nothing is bringing it back to life.
Vicarious Limerent says
I should point out too that I have that familial sort of incest taboo about my wife that is a characteristic of many troubled long-term relationships. I care about her and want the best for her, but she feels more like a sister than a wife to me by now. Trust me though when I say my wife treats me like crap. I am not exaggerating and it certainly isn’t just the limerence talking.
I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but you have been leaving similar posts for a while, and I have learned in my (too many) years on this planet that people put time and energy into the things they want and prioritize, even if they aren’t conscious of it. I have a friend in her late 40s who sometimes says she wishes she’d had children. But when she was in her mid-30s and her window of time to have children was starting to close, she was in a relationship with a guy she says she would never have had children with. She implies in was the guy’s fault, as if he stole her opportunity, but this guy was clearly not ready for marriage and kids (he was quite a bit younger). And yet she stayed with him for almost a decade. I think the only thing to conclude is: She didn’t want children that badly. If I think I want something and I am hesitating, it’s usually because I don’t want it badly enough to do anything about it.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Marcia: I am not going to detail all of the reasons, but I listed out 16 reasons why I can’t “just divorce her already” on the private forum (I know you didn’t say that specifically but it was implied). For financial, legal and logistical reasons, I would literally have nowhere else to go but living in a cardboard box or under a bridge somewhere. I literally have no money for a lawyer, and we live paycheque to paycheque. I earn half decent money but my wife doesn’t and we are quite seriously in debt (and my wife can’t wait to put us even further in debt with even more household projects). That might explain why she is so resistant to separation and divorce. She doesn’t want to lose her middle class lifestyle. Also, in this jurisdiction you generally need to be separated for at least a year before a divorce will be granted. My only hope would be to sell this house and split the proceeds, but my wife refuses to do that. I know legally that I can force a sale, but that takes lawyers and courts, time and money, and a whole lot of conflict. House prices and rents are exorbitant in this area, and that would make it very difficult to find anywhere else to live without selling this house first. Even renting a room in a hovel somewhere is really expensive in this area. As it stands, we need to borrow from our credit line to pay for ongoing basic expenses. There is barely enough money for one household, never mind two.
Believe it or not, I do still care for this woman, despite our deep problems. I have read that it typically takes several years after realizing one’s marriage is over before making the final decision to divorce. I have also read that it is typically one party who wants out of a marriage, and by the time that person has communicated the desire to get a divorce that person has already kind of grieved the end of the relationship. The other party needs time to catch up and process that the marriage is over. I am aware of this fact and sensitive to the fact that my wife needs time to grieve, but at the same time I don’t want to wait forever.
The problem is I know my wife isn’t happy either. I am not a good fit for her, just like she isn’t a good fit for me. She would be far better off with a blue collar guy who is really handy and enjoys household projects, while also being a bit of a homebody who doesn’t really like socializing with others all that much or going out. I am not putting anyone down; to each their own. There are people out there like that, and I think she would have been happier marrying a tradesman or something like that. A really traditional working class guy who is home at 4:30 every afternoon and expects supper on the table at 5:00 sharp every night is the kind of guy who would be a good fit for her (although she does like it when I cook too, so I don’t know how that part would work out). In many ways, I think she would be better off with someone like her father. But she won’t see this or accept it.
For the longest time, counselling was touted as a possible solution. I was the one pushing for it at first, but then it was her who started suggesting we attend couple’s counselling. What changed my mind for a bit was when I read somewhere that in order for counselling to work the couple needs to have shared goals. How would that work if I want to end the marriage at all costs and she wants to keep it together at all costs? Since reading that, I had heard from others that the shared goals thing doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Counselling can help facilitate a more cordial and amicable split. That is important to me because I still care about this woman and don’t want her to be my enemy (that is one of the things that makes this so hard).
I definitely want to end my marriage. Make no mistake about that. But you don’t walk away from 20 years together, a child, a house, a dog, shared finances and a whole lot of shared memories all that easily. I don’t know why so many people are so quick to judge and think a marriage can be ended that quickly and easily. That is especially so when things are at least cordial and pleasant most of the time. Things are fine maybe 70% of the time, and that makes it very difficult for me. When things are relatively pleasant it actually causes me a whole lot of cognitive dissonance, and I am actually more settled and resolute in my determination to end my marriage when I am really angry with my wife and we’re fighting. Still, I really believe the pleasantries from her are at least partially her way of gaslighting me. I believe this woman has a personality disorder, and she understands that her manipulation and control of me would not work if she wasn’t pleasant to me the majority of the time.
So, I am going to go to counselling, but beyond that I don’t know what to do. I have told her maybe 100 times that I definitely want a divorce and that I will never change my mind. I don’t know why she wants to stay with a man in a sexless marriage who is rejecting her. Life is too short for that, no?
Allie 1 says
@VL It is never simple is it. I wonder what proportion of mid-life marriages are held together solely by finances and the obligation & sentimentality that arises from their shared history… but in reality, they would both be far happier apart or, as in my case, happier staying together but having a second partner. Life is so short it seems wasteful to spend decades of it wishing for the most important part of it to be different. I really hope for your sake that you find a way out at some point.
Sorry for the depressing tone… this subject really triggers me.
I didn’t say you should divorce your wife. I just said you’ve been posting similar messages for a while.
I hate my job. HATE IT. Dread every minute of it. Keep going to bed later and later because I know that, if I go to sleep, I will have to get up and go to work. I have nothing in common with the people and it’s boring and redundant. The only way I have been able to survive it is to mentally check out as much as possible.
Now, I can tell you in all honesty that I have looked for something else. I have applied to numerous jobs, been on interviews and had two offers. And I also can honestly tell you that I turned them down because the money was bad. And all of that would be true.
But if I am completely honest with myself, I can also say that the reason I’ve been at my job for almost two years is that the horror of the job does not outweigh the horror of looking for a job, at least for me. I ABHOR looking for a job — the process of it, I mean. Having to dance around to get other people to pick me. Tinkering with the resume/cover letter for hours, filling out the tedious online applications, going on interviews (sometimes more than one), waiting to weeks to hear back, only to be told you did all that for laughable money. Or nothing happens, and they tell you two months later that you won’t be getting the job.
I feel trapped by the money and my past experience, and I am, to a certain extent. But I’m also not exploring every avenue. I am choosing to not use what little free time I have to do something I don’t want to do … because most of my time is spent doing something I don’t really want to do. But it’s a choice.
Vicarious Limerent says
@ Allie 1: Thanks for your support. It is really difficult. In my case, I wish there was some sort of “spouse emeritus” status that people could have where you still have the person in your life, love and care for them in many ways but recognize that the romantic part of your relationship is over. I would still love to have her as a special person to talk to, confide in and give advice to. I would even want to get together for coffee or lunch on a regular basis. Now, I am not saying I would want to hang out with her on a Saturday night with all of my friends (after all, exes are exes for a reason) but I wish more people truly could be just friends after a long-term relationship is over. To me this song is about all of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0DNLDXJW8
@ Marcia: I understand what you were saying (i.e., that maybe I don’t REALLY want a divorce). I don’t think anyone can ever be 100% sure they are making the right decision, but I am pretty sure it is what I want. And trust me, the logistical and financial barriers are HUGE. It can be very difficult to truly understand what people are going through unless you have walked a mile in their shoes.
“I understand what you were saying (i.e., that maybe I don’t REALLY want a divorce)”
Yes, that is what I’m saying. The trauma of the marriage is less than the trauma of going through a divorce. I had a friend who was married but didn’t make enough money on her own to even afford a 1-bedroom apartment. Between her and her husband, they made decent money and had purchased a home with inheritance she’d gotten from her father. They both agreed that their marriage was not going well. He refused to get counseling. So she had a real estate agent come in and appraise the house. She was told they’d have to declutter it before it could go on the market. Her husband refused to help, even though they’d had several discussions that they both wanted out. Two years later, with him still refusing to do anything, she pulled the nuclear option and packed up her personal effects when he was at work and rented a room from a friend. We can argue the ethics of it, but he was essentially holding her hostage. He was going to live out the rest of his days … as they were. Of course, he went ballistic when she moved out … but after he calmed down, she agreed to help him as best she could with the bills and they got on with the divorce. She let of of the idea that she had put more of her money into the house and was willing to have her credit blown up, if necessary. She was even thinking she may have to move out of state to live with her mother. Far from ideal, but she’d gotten to the point where she’d had enough.
Thanks for your reply, Dr. L. You’re right that it’s complicated. He’s loving and affectionate, but his low libido has gotten worse with age and health complications. Low frequency of sex at home is easier to deal with, though, when I’m not limerent for somebody else. It’s hard, but I’ll get past it.
In theory, if a married couple stops having sex altogether, and one or both of them finds another sexual partner while they stay together in the (sexless) marriage, that’s still monogamy, isn’t it? If they are not having sex with each other and the relationship is purely familial and not sexual, then they are practicing serial monogamy…they ended their sexual relationship with each other and are engaged in a monogamous sexual relationship with someone else.
Allie 1 says
If two partners have a shared understanding that they are sexually monogamous but they are not actually exercising that exclusivity, I think the understanding still stands until both agree otherwise. Darn it.
Maybe the marriage contract should have some small print that allows a spouse to go elsewhere if their sexual needs are not met within the marriage. I am sure lawyers would have lots of fun trying to explicitly define “sexual needs are not met” in legal language, and in a way that covers all perspectives and eventualities😊
Allie 1 says
Eeek… thinking about the consequences of this contract now and imagining optimistic 20 somethings’ contractualising daily sex “or else”, not realising at all what it will be like to be in a tired mid-lifer with a stressful job and a family to manage!
Everywhere you look with this issue there are unintended consequences!
“Maybe the marriage contract should have some small print that allows a spouse to go elsewhere if their sexual needs are not met within the marriage. ”
Does that mean no sex or bad sex? “Needs not being met” is kind of vague.
Allie 1 says
That is exactly the point I tried to clumsily make about the lawyers. For me it is bad sex. For some it might be no sex. You just can’t define something like that in advance in a way that suits everyone forever. .
Which is why I think setting rules for how we conduct our sex lives is completely the wrong thing to do. We should institutionalise flexibility and generosity not rigid rules… we can agree personalised boundaries but should be pre-prepared to re-negotiate them as needs and circumstances change.
“For me it is bad sex.”
Agree. I’d rather have no sex than bad sex. Or even no sex rather than mediocre sex, if I was expected to engage it over and over again. 🙂
“We can agree personalized boundaries but should be pre-prepared to re-negotiate them as needs and circumstances change.”
And I don’t’ know about you, but what I like has changed over the years. Sometimes you don’t even know what you like until you experience it. 🙂
James A Afourkeeff says
Anyone who is now fully familiar with the concept of limerence knows that limerence employs a very powerful cocktail of emotions and has a definite, and powerful, sexual component to it; and sex is necessary for reproduction – just in case you hadn’t made that connection before. The opening paragraph in the Wikipedia article Rare Earth hypothesis is this:
In planetary astronomy and astrobiology, the Rare Earth hypothesis argues that the origin of life and the evolution of biological complexity such as sexually reproducing, multicellular organisms on Earth (and, subsequently, human intelligence) required an improbable combination of astrophysical and geological events and circumstances.
If your limerence seems to have cosmic significance, it is because it does.
“If your limerence seems to have cosmic significance, it is because it does.”
I’m not sure if I entirely understand what you’re trying to say in this post of yours. However, I would like to respond to the last line because I think it hits on something important…
I believe that limerence DOES have cosmic significance, almost always, in the mind of the limerent. However, limerence very rarely or never has cosmic significance in the mind of the LO – unless, of course, the LO is also simultaneously experiencing limerence for the first person.
In other words, many social problems can arise when we assume we know what the other person (the LO) feels/thinks. We can’t impose our subjectivity or our rich emotional responses on the other person. For example, a non-limerent LO will never feel the same “level of involvement” in the bond as the limerent.
Limerents get themselves into trouble, I believe, when they impose their own feelings on the object of their infatuation, instead of admitting that maybe the super-intense feelings aren’t reciprocated, or only weakly reciprocated.
In many cases, limerence turns out to be little more than unrequited love. If a “great love” isn’t reciprocated, does it still have cosmic significance in your view?
Do you understand what I’m trying to say here? If an experience is only cosmic for one person, is it still cosmic? Doesn’t limerence need to be fully requited in order for it to have any kind of meaning at all? But I agree … it always FEELS epic.
I’ve re-read your comment, and I think I understand what you mean now. Limerence has a cosmic significance – quite literally – because it evolved to facilitate human reproduction through more efficient pair-bonding and the likelihood of so many random factors coming together is incredibly low. I suppose limerence is a kind of miracle of evolution?
But obviously, not all instances of limerence lead to pair-bonding and reproduction. So the evolutionary process isn’t perfect. It’s only approximate.
Still, I guess limerence guides healthy men and healthy women of reproductive age toward a successful outcome often enough that limerent genes continue to survive in the human gene pool?
It is crushing, though, to experience unrequited limerence – an evolutionary dead end, as well as a source of considerable pain and confusion and embarrassment to the individual.
Deep stuff, definitely. 😛
Limerent Emeritus says
I can see the “Monogamy” breakout session at the LwL Limerence Symposium will need a pretty big room. I can’t wait to see the panel for this one.
I also think LwL needs a mascot. We’ll call him/her “Limey.” DrL can hand them out at the awards ceremony.
As far as I know it’s not derogatory and considering where DrL hails from, the irony is too funny. If it is, please accept my apologies.
Limerent Emeritus says
Article of the Day: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/24/vice-how-radical-is-radical-monogamy/
As the saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” [technology excepted]
The boards have been a little slow lately…
We need new blood. New stories. New peeps.
Dr L says
The forum’s been quite lively lately…
Limerent Emeritus says
“It’s The Same Old Song” – The Four Tops (1965)
Michael Jackson first performed a medley of Jackson 5 hits with his brothers during the 1983 Motown 25 special. As his brothers left the stage, he said, “I like those songs a lot, but especially I like the new songs. ” And he broke into “Billie Jean” and his breakthrough performance as a solo artist. He moowalked for the first time. And no one was talking that night about the old songs. It’s time for some new songs.
Limerent Emeritus says
As Robert Plant put it with respect to “The Song Remains the Same (1973),” “The lyrics are based on Robert Plant’s belief that music is universal. He told NME in 1973: “Every time I sing that, I just picture the fact that I’ve been round and round the world, and at the root of it all there’s a common denominator for everybody. – https://www.songfacts.com/facts/led-zeppelin/the-song-remains-the-same
[IMO, the only thing good about that song is the title. It reminds my why I don’t like most Led Zeppelin]
You could say the same about limerence. There may be a point where “if you’ve seen one limerent, you’ve seen them all.”
Think of it as a news cycle. You need something new to report on. Thus, we need new stories on here. Unless there’s a new development in an old story. 🙂
Vicarious Limerent says
It’s funny. Before reading the article I thought “radical monogamy” was going to be about returning to Victorian era morality around monogamy, but it doesn’t sound like that at all. However, I have to say I am witnessing two very polar opposite trends with respect to monogamy these days. On one end, we are seeing more and more people explore things like polyamory and serial monogamy, and there is a growing tolerance and respect for people with those sorts of alternate approaches to marriage and relationships. I personally think that is a good thing because traditional monogamy doesn’t work for everyone, and as we’re living longer it becomes extremely difficult to commit to the same partner 100% for 60 years or longer. I also think we are seeing a growing realization that men and women can be friends, and that there is nothing with socializing with the opposite sex (or your preferred gender) even if you are in a relationship with someone else.
On the other hand, I am seeing more and more people take an extremely moralistic stance towards monogamy that is (in my opinion) quite unrealistic and damaging to people’s psyches and their relationships. Some of this is driven by religion and highly conservative values, but I also see (primarily women’s) magazines and websites promoting concepts like “micro-cheating.” I personally think some of these concepts pathologize normal human behaviour and make it seem like just being human is something to be ashamed of. We are hardwired to find other people interesting and attractive. That doesn’t mean we are actually going to cheat, but some of the things described as “micro-cheating” seem ridiculous (and I know that cheating doesn’t have to involve full-fledged sexual intercourse in order to be cheating). For example, I know someone who was dating a woman who grew up in a very religious family. She wouldn’t even allow the poor guy to watch a movie with an attractive actress in it, and when he was walking down the street and an attractive woman was walking towards them, she would shout at him, “Focus, focus!” meaning he couldn’t even look at the woman. I honestly thought “radical monogamy” was going to be something like that, and I must say, if I ever got into a relationship with a woman who believed in that sort of thing or believed that women should remain in the drawing room while men retire to the parlour after dinner, I certainly wouldn’t be in that relationship for long. While a small amount of jealousy is a good thing, trust is also very important in any relationship, and we have to recognize and understand that society has changed and moved on from the Victorian era.
“I also think we are seeing a growing realization that men and women can be friends, and that there is nothing with socializing with the opposite sex (or your preferred gender) even if you are in a relationship with someone else.”
I don’t know what you mean by socializing. In a group? Yeah, probably not a big deal. But one-one-one, calling, texting, hanging out together? I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t think most straight men hang out with women one-one-one they don’t find attractive.
Vicarious Limerent says
@Marcia, yes, I was referring mostly to socializing in a group, but individually doesn’t always have to be a big deal either. I have a female friend I have totally “friend-zoned.” There is nothing “wrong” with her, but I just do not see her in a romantic way and probably never would (despite us having a lot in common on paper). We are truly just platonic friends. My wife senses this and she is not jealous at all of our friendship. So, it can happen, and I really don’t share the view that men only want to hang out with women they want to have sex with.
I guess if you are able to find female friends you don’t find appealing at all and the friendship truly is platonic. But almost every male friend I’ve had who I spent one-on-one time with eventually starting making sexual comments or a sexual pass. (I can only think of two who didn’t, and I’m am thinking of friendships all the way back to high school.) And with two exceptions, all of them floated away (or the friendship imploded) when I either ignored the comments or said no. Which leads me to believe their intention was never friendship. Of course, I don’t know that for sure. Maybe their feelings changed over time. Idk. But I considered these guys just friends. If I considered them more I would have been trying to push for more pretty soon after meeting them. But that’s me.