Are humans meant to be monogamous? This seems to be a question on everyone’s minds as we attempt to crack the code to modern romance. In her new book “Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Modern Relationships” author Sue Johnson presents evidence that suggests that humans are in fact meant to mate for life.
Johnson is a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa and after decades of neuroscience research into human emotion, claims that just like the bond parents have with their offspring, monogamous love makes sense as a survival code.
According to Johnson, humans are not wired to face the world alone. Our brains are designed to use the people we love as physiological and emotional safety cues to make the world a safer place. To quote Johnson, “Secure attachment – having one other person you can count on as an adult – is related to almost every index of good functioning, happiness and health.” Johnson says that social isolation can be detrimental to our health, citing increased risk of anxiety, strokes and heart attacks as side effects to loneliness.
Johnson claims that because we no longer live in small, close knit communities, “People now often depend on romantic love as their main source of social support.” She explains that the trouble with polyamorous relationships is they don’t fulfill our physiological bonding need to have “one person that we depend on, that we come first with.”
Although life is easier when you have someone rooting for you, I’m hesitant to agree that monogamy is the only answer. Johnson’s theories discount the fact that humans can receive emotional support from other people besides their partner - whether that’s biological family or a “chosen family” composed of a closely knit network of friends.
As for Johnson’s assertion that couples in monogamous relationships have more satisfying sex lives, I’m sure many polyamorous people would argue that their sex lives are just as fulfilling, meaningful and scorching hot as those of monogamous couples (if not more so).
In fact, in the book, Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha present scientific and anthropological evidence that humans evolved from small-scale, egalitarian societies where partners were often interchanged - therefore, pointing to the fact that monogamy maybe isn’t as “natural” as we have been led to believe.
However, I like to think that one of the bi-products of our evolution is personal choice. Instead of trying to slot ourselves into a set of binary categories, we should choose the relationship style that feels best to us at any given point in our lives - whether that’s monogamy, polyamory or something in between.