The Meme Files: Is Monogamy Realistic?

I spend a lot of time thinking about relationships. Maybe it’s because I’m always single and seem to have too much free time on my hands, but in any case, it’s one of those things that I think about when I have nothing better to do. I recently came across a TED talk by a…


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I spend a lot of time thinking about relationships. Maybe it’s because I’m always single and seem to have too much free time on my hands, but in any case, it’s one of those things that I think about when I have nothing better to do. I recently came across a TED talk by a lady named Esther Perel who spoke about ways to think through infidelity.

Somewhere between seeing the meme above and watching Perel’s talk, I started thinking about whether or not monogamy is really right for everyone. I get that the “monogamy or no monogamy” debate wasn’t the point of her talk, but this is how my mind works. It goes on tangents that aren’t necessarily related to the topic at hand.

On some level, I would bet that most people imagine that when they get married, they’ll sail off into the sunset of monogamous bliss, but in many cases that doesn’t happen. Think about it, the entire reason the Perel video exists is literally because she spends a good bit of her career dealing with people who faltered in their quest for what were intended to be monogamous relationships.

I don’t think I would be wrong to assume that when most of us think of relationships, we usually picture monogamous ones. I find that ironic because monogamy (particularly marital and sexual monogamy) only recently started becoming the norm for some human civilizations. In fact, monogamy of any sort is actually pretty rare among mating animals altogether (see here). Hence, infidelity and all the various turmoils that it wreaks on a person and the lives of those most closely involved in the relationship (typically the significant other and maybe the children) might be a novel concept as well.

I haven’t gone looking for evidence of this yet, but I would speculate that infidelity is a concept that is possibly more common in societies that endorse some form of monogamy as their cultural norm. Given that monogamy is relatively uncommon globally, and can have some serious potential downsides if it fails, it makes me wonder if monogamy is a realistic goal for everyone.

On a certain level, true social and sexual monogamy seems like the holy grail. But when so many people fall short of that, sometimes willingly and habitually, my inner pessimist wonders if it’s all worth it. I’m sure that some of us have heard that statistic that around 50% of US marriages end in divorce, with infidelity being cited among the most common reasons for divorce. Even in Nigeria, where you can be polygamous if you really wanted to be, many people still opt for monogamy. Interestingly enough, they still fail at as well. According to a 2012 study by Durex (yes, that Durex), 62% of Nigerian women are cheating on their spouses.

To be fair, I’ve heard many valid arguments that their methodology might not have been perfect. Yet, when I tell people what the results were, they invariably ask about the men, with the expectation that their percentage will be even higher than that of the women! The study doesn’t specify what kind of relationships the women were already in, but it’s not inconceivable that some, perhaps many, were in supposedly monogamous marriages.

When we all pretty much assume that infidelity is going to be a forgone conclusion, it makes me wonder if monogamy is even worth it. Hell, it makes me wonder if marriage is worth it.

LOL. I’m being cynical as hell today and I don’t know why. It’s probably not a good idea to go around assuming that most couples who go down the aisle and say their vows to “forsake all others till death do us part” are lying through their teeth. I hope I’m wrong about that because that seems like it would be a seriously shitty way to go through the world. That said, I’m not entirely certain that monogamy is a realistic goal for everyone.

For the record, I’m not saying that you all should go out and start cheating on your spouses and significant others. And I’m definitely not saying that it’s something that I would do. This is purely a thought experiment on my end, and a very bad one at that. I imagine that when I get to that stage in my life I will aspire to have a faithful monogamous relationship, but that’s definitely a long ways away for me so maybe I shouldn’t waste so much time thinking about this stuff.

What do you guys think? Is monogamy something that you will aspire to? Do you think it’s a crazy and unrealistic relationship goal? I want answers, people, help me out here!!


  1. blaqlotus
    Can we count flirting as cheating? Anyway, monogamy can be achieved, but it’s difficult, very difficult to keep a monogamy relationship, and it takes a really strong and determined person to be monogamous. Not even with the sexual exposure and no-strings-attached relationship that can be gotten at whim these days.
    1. Tola Post author
      Flirting is a grey area for some people. Infidelity is one of things everyone feels like they know it when they see it, but nobody has a complete set of criteria for it
  2. Lee
    Hmm…I do think that monogamy can be achieved but it is really difficult to do so. I am more for an open relationship, with both partners knowing why they are sleeping with other people and making sure that no strings get attached with the other people. Most times that does not work, so I would settle for the do-not-get-caught cheating were the cheater(s) know they are in relationships (the cheater and the cheatee), are discreet and do not develop strings…
  3. Nosa
    I’m going to say this once. Cheating is a choice and the only reason is because you can’t be sexually attracted to only one person at a time. you may be inlove with just one person but that doesn’t stop you from lusting after another. it’s just sex(where there are no feelings). so you cheating is simply you choosing to move forward and act on your lust for someone else.So yes, monogamy is actually realistic because it is a choice.

    you can’t tell me that those dudes with two wives or more actually loves all of them. it’s just lust, sexual attraction.

    I’m not going talk on monogamy in terms of ease or difficulty because how easy or difficult it is depends on the individual.

    And when someone cheats, my irritation is not because they were lusting after another (that is completely natural), but going into a relationship that you would stick to that person, so you cheating is you breaking your word. I can’t be mad if you are sexually attracted to someone, but I will be mad when you break you word to remain exclusive.

    1. Prime Babes
      Can I hug you? thank you for articulating the thoughts loating in my head so had pretty much the same discussion with my married elder brother and his wife last week and we (the women) ended up with the same conclusions: Cheating is a choice…..and yes, I get really upset that people would make vows which they do not try to keep.
  4. Omali
    Another one on those articles. The simple reason why people cheat is because they want to and can. Simple. Forget all this scientific, philosophical, diabolical reasons for cheating. Men are wired differently and like variety crap. It has nothing to do with cheating rather they are simply excuses. Why are we even compared to animal, we dominate and have a far greater intelect than it. One of the greatest gift we have as humans is free will. We have the ability to think, act, and choose as we please. Do as u please, but beware of the circumstances. If monogamy is expected from marraige then so be it, it not a bad or an crazy expectation. It is very possible to achieve it, but only if u want to. Is monogamy a unrealistic goal? That your choice to make.
    1. Tosin
      i’ve written essays on this in BellaNaija comments 🙂 i just have no interest. if i love you, i want you to shag whoever you need to. if it’s over too, i want to be able to kiss you and say bye. what is to be gained by swearing some stuff that you don’t need?
      that said, i am on the market for a fling, three weeks or so, someone super-amazing. apply.
  5. Detonah
    Someone once said that no matter the length of a relationship, the infidelity of those in the relationship is a question of time. We may not like o accept it but it wont change the fact that it is what it is. People at some point in their lives are likely to cheat. I was shocked when a couple i look up to as an example of good godly marriage ( they have been married for over 30 years) told me they have had their share of infidelity from both sides in their journey. He also cautioned me that because you have not cheated to date does not mean that you will not cheat in 5 years time. The fact that you are in love with someone does not mean you will not be attracted to or desire other person but one should strive not to but desire into practice. However, no matter our best intention as humans we still err in more ways the we would ever have thought. Whether it is possible not to cheat in a relationship especially one that is monogamous or better have a “monogamish” ( i just discovered this one now) i.e. a relationship that is mostly monogamous but occasionally exceptions are made for sexual play, is a matter of choice. I must admit however, that some choices actually leave you with no choice at the point of making them. It seems that most people cheat when they at their lowest ebb. Especially, when things are not working well at home or at work. The fact that your brain faculty may not be at 150% capacity that is needed at such time is also not helping matter. As for me i would pray, lead me not into temptation… for i can find my way there.

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