Monogamy might seem like a straightforward concept—many of us think of it as the practice of being in one committed relationship, with one partner at a time—but is that really all there is to it?
What Is Monogamy?
According to Merriam-Webster, monogamy is the state or practice of only having one sexual partner at one time, and/or only being married to one person at one time.
"A monogamous relationship is a romantic connection between two people who promise emotional and sexual exclusivity to one another," explains relationship expert Liam Barnett. "[Historically], monogamy is sticking with one partner during your whole life. However, the contemporary dating world has adapted the term to represent relationships that include only two partners as long as the relationship lasts." That means we may not only be with one person for our entire lives, but those in a monogamous relationship are only with one person at a time.
Meet the Expert
Liam Barnett is a dating and relationship expert, and the founder of DatingZest.
Here, we detail what is involved in a monogamous relationship versus a non-monogamous relationship, and we walk through the values typically associated with monogamy.
Monogamy Versus Non-Monogamy
If you're curious about the meaning of monogamy, it's worth understanding the definition of non-monogamy and polyamory, too. When a person practices non-monogamy, it means that they are open and honest about having more than one sexual or romantic partner at one time (this is also often called being in an open relationship or open marriage). You may have heard the term "ethical non-monogamy"—this version of the definition puts an emphasis on the consent and communication associated with non-monogamous practices.
Polyamory is similar to non-monogamy and involves two people in a committed long-term romantic relationship (often a marriage) who consent to engage with others sexually, and possibly even romantically.
The Values of Monogamy
Like any healthy relationship, monogamy requires both partners to come to the relationship with respect, honesty, and good communication practices. "Trust, compassion, empathy, and clear communication are just a few of the fundamental values that monogamous couples should share for a healthy and successful relationship," says Barnett. If you feel that your partner doesn't share these values, it may be worth having a serious conversation about the relationship and whether or not it's right for you.
Is Monogamy Right for You?
Because we live in a society where monogamous relationships are the norm, you may not have actually sat down and asked yourself: Do I want to be in a monogamous relationship? Keep in mind that first and foremost—and no matter your dating style—you should always be in a relationship that makes you feel comfortable and safe. It's completely okay to feel like monogamy is the only type of relationship you're interested in—similarly, it's 100 percent okay to feel curious about non-monogamy!
As you're evaluating whether or not monogamy is right for you, think about what you really want from a sexual and romantic partnership. Consider the values that are most important to you. As long as you are honest with yourself and your partner, and prioritize communication, you're setting yourself up for success and happiness in a romantic partnership, no matter what type it is.
Meriam-Webster. Monogamy. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/monogamy.