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Monogamy: Definition And How It's Different From Polyamory

Monogamy, open and polyamorous relationships are just a few ways that humans make love connections.

Monogamy and polyamory are both forms of relationships, meaning that they are two different ways of that we have to establish sexual or emotional connections. Each type has different traits closely linked to the monogamy dominated culture that we live in.

In this article, we go over what monogamy is, what it means to be monogamous  and the features associated with a monogamous relationship. We'll also discuss the main differences between monogamy and polyamory.

What is monogamy?

In the animal kingdom, the definition of monogamy is two animals that remain sexually exclusive during the reproduction period, and afterward while raising their mutual offspring.

On the other hand, in human beings, the concept is much more complex although it starts from the same base.

In humans, monogamy is a type of romantic relationship between two people where exclusive sexual and emotional relations are established for an undefined amount of time.

This connection can be declared legally through marriage, whether this is via church or state (as is the case with civil unions), but it doesn't necessarily have to be.

Other monogamous relationships

Within the general monogamous model, there are different subcategories — for example, serial monogamy. Serial monogamists are people who choose to be with one partner at a time, although once one relationship ends they move on to the next exclusive relationship.

Unlike the traditional version, where one person is chosen for a lifetime, here, this exclusive relationship lasts for a specific period in time. Of course, in this case, the person never has more than one partner at once.

What does being monogamous mean?

Someone that's monogamous either identifies with or practices monogamy. No studies have been done on a psychological or biological level to determine individual traits linked to this relationship style. In other words, there's no evidence of a mental or physiological inclination to establish monogamous relationships.

On the other hand, a person can be 'open-minded' and choose to be in this type of relationship with their partner. Others change their relationship model depending on the stage of life that they find themselves in.

This means that although this relationship style is traditional, being monogamous doesn't necessarily mean that a person is necessarily traditional in other aspects of their life.

Likewise, this doesn't necessarily make a person is more loving, respectful, honest, or more committed in their interpersonal relationships. Keeping this in mind could open many doors in your life as well as connections with those that decide to live their lives differently.

Monogamy implies having an exclusive emotional and sexual relationship with someone for an undefined period.
Monogamy implies having an exclusive emotional and sexual relationship with someone for an undefined period.

Are humans innately monogamous?

There are different points of view on this relationship model.  Some defend monogamy as an adaptation of human beings to ensure the continuation of the species.

However, others knock down these affirmations and think that this type of relationship is a simple social construct, and entirely unnatural for humans.

This is related to the paradigm of romantic love, the dominant model, especially in Western society where it has been prevalent for centuries. This way of loving teaches submission, and often there is much inequality between one partner and the other.

Starting in childhood, we are taught that someday we will meet a person that's meant for us and that this love will last forever.

In general, this thought is considered natural, healthy, desirable, and accepted by nearly everyone. However, there are actually movements and studies that reveal that romantic love and monogamy are just two of the many options that individuals have in sexual and emotional relationships.

In other words, no matter which theory you choose, it's important to accept that monogamy is just one more relationship model -not the only one.

Open your mind to other models like polyamory or relationship anarchy. Like monogamy, these models also coexist in harmony with human nature.

How it's different from polyamory

Polyamory is another relationship model, but this one is the opposite of monogamy. Unlike the latter, in polyamory, neither member of the relationship is exclusive sexually or emotionally. This means that both parties can have other consensual relationships.

To get a better sense of this, below we show you the main differences between these models.

Number of people involved

While monogamy only includes two people, polyamory leaves room for loving and being with more than one person at a time. This is why more than two people are involved  in a single relationship -something that's talked about and agreed upon beforehand with those concerned.

En polyamory, values like honesty and commitment take on meanings that differ from the traditional ones.
In polyamory, values like honesty and commitment take on meanings that differ from the traditional ones.

Associated conditions

It might not seem like it, but polyamory implies taking a lot of different rules into account, and this varies depending on each relationship. There can be polyamorous relationships involving both monoamorous and polyamorous people as long as one fundamental prerequisite is kept in mind: all parties involved need to be informed and agree to engage in sexual and emotional relations with several people.

Meaning of infidelity

On the same note, the definition of infidelity changes in these models. In monogamy, cheating is when one of the two people in the relationship engages in sexual or emotional relations with someone besides their partner. Meanwhile, in polyamory, infidelity is when the conditions agreed upon are broken.

Definition of commitment

People often make the mistake of thinking that polyamorous people aren't interested in commitment. However, in this case, the construct of 'commitment' is different than in monogamous relationships.

In polyamory, commitment and honesty mean knowing everything that happens in the relationship, deciding this together, and finally, respecting this.


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Heckert, J. (2010). Love without borders? Intimacy, identity and the state of compulsory monogamy. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.), Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 255–266). London: Routledge.

Klesse, C. (2006). Polyamory and its ‘others’: Contesting the terms of non-monogamy. Sexualities 9(5), 565–583.