Is Monogamy Safety? – Competition in Non-Monogamy


Is Monogamy Safety? - Competition in Non-MonogamyLast night a thought occurred to me (as thoughts often do while I’m trying very hard to sleep because I have to be up frightfully early) that monogamy itself may be an attempt to defend against our nature to compare and rank. I’m not speaking anthropologically, as I’m not qualified to do that, nor do I care to bother myself with such things called research. (And would never live up to Sex at Dawn.) This was just a concept that hadn’t struck me before and I felt the need to chase it down since I had to be up in less than five hours.

We already have the compare and contrast problem in life with previous lovers. We look at our current lover, and our previous, and compare their strengths and weaknesses. The dichotomy of the previous is interesting though, because I think we often rail very hard against them, due to a mediocre denoumont or exceptionally bad breakup. This colors things, usually long enough to firmly entrench ourselves in our next relationship which is, of course, so unbelievably better than our previous one…

Of course sometimes the opposite happens. Because we were younger then. And more excited perhaps. Or less afraid. And we tint the entire past relationship rosy so that our current always has to live in the shadow of the past. I myself have never had this happen to me…but I’m told it does. Most of my previous lovers I’m damned lucky to be rid of, with a few I look back on fondly, though not longingly.

So, what happens then when you introduce concurrent lovers. This often happens in the casual dating stage of life. Two or three people on the possibility train at any given time. But while they’re not actively competeing, you’re ranking and adjusting for the curve. Until one wins out. The marriage lottery as it were. That one obviously was…BETTER.

Because New Relationship Energy kicks all emotion up a notch, and excitement, and energy, the new relationship is often standing below a flashing neon light that says “better” indeed. This is what causes the excitement of the external relationship in an affair. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s…DIFFERENT. And sometimes, especially after a long period in one relationship, different is all you need to see better.

And so the relationships compete.

So I wonder this, do we align ourselves with monogamy (as a species, not the actual we meaning me, because I do not) because it takes away the opportunity to rank and contrast? Because with one, it can only possibly be THE BEST (though also the worst, but that’s a thought for another time) without confusing us. Without making us think too terribly hard.

We do often wonder what else might be out there. We mourn the end of possibility with the bachelor and bachelorette parties. (Though you want to see where people do bachelorette parties RIGHT, just look on over to Europe. And if anyone can explain to me those gigantic room parties with all the sex and blowjobs and that endless loop of It’s Raining Men, I’d really appreciate it.) But we take comfort and safety in the fact that, at least until we have children, we are the best thing in our partner’s life.

Non-monogamy introduces a variable we’re often not prepared to deal with, doesn’t it? The possibility that someone else could be more exciting, more attractive, more fun, more engageing, more adventurous, more…more?

Monogamy gives us a bit of a defense against this, by making it forbidden. This is not to say that it works, though. With some staggering estimates of infidelity frequency, one would suggest this defense works very little, but it creates a system and mechanic that simply reinforces “partner=good.”

So that’s my thought. What’s yours?


About Author

About Cooper Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset: The Podcast since 2010, author of swinging & polyamory novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching The Swingularity, and memoir My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is a graphic & web designer, photographer, and voice over artist, has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, & is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He is currently working on two instructional non-fiction books, one about beginning non-monogamy, and another about pegging.


  1. I’ve been involved in non-monogamy since my very first boyfriend; he was 16 & had a girlfriend, at 14 I was his “younger lady on the side” & that was quite comfortable for me. I’ve never thought of it as a competition. Each person is him- or herself, separate & distinct from every other person in the world. The feelings I might have for one have nothing to do with what I might feel for any other, though I’ve often found that love feeds on itself so that as I love more, there’s more to go around. All comparing & contrasting has ever done in my world is create bad feeling on both sides. It makes perfect sense in the way only something that comes naturally can, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s just proof of my odd nature (not necessarily a bad thing).

  2. Monogamy isn’t a defense against our natural inclination to be attracted to many people. It is a dogma of denial. In poly, like in wave mechanics, relationships can “compete” and sort of cancel each other out, or they can reinforce each other and create something more powerful than they are individually. That is when it really gets fun.

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