Monogamy is outdated.
Religious demands for loyalty made sense when there were no effective remedies for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and life expectancy was much shorter. Things have changed, and church prohibitions are simply meaningless.
Let us start with less important considerations, and gradually move on to more important ones.
First of all, the supposed remedies did not save people from diseases – alas, since the late 1970s, AIDS has claimed many lives, and we have not yet learned how to treat this terrible disease (although we have learned how to prolong people’s lives with appropriate drugs taken on a regular basis). Secondly, the number of abortions indicates that there are no reliable guarantees against unwanted pregnancies either.
This isn’t the only problem. The destruction of traditional monogamy affects everyone – both women and men. When intimacy becomes a commodity that people exchange, it immediately turns out that some bring to the market their looks, while others bring status and wealth. The first ones have to compete and they are doomed to lose, because physical attractiveness goes away over the years and those who are younger and more beautiful appear fairly quickly. The second ones can be betrayed at any moment because there is always someone who is more wealthy and successful.
It denies people – men and women alike – true intimacy and trust, leaves them gravely robbed of the most important things in life, and condemns them to the inevitable suffering that a person who has been abandoned for the sake of another experiences. Socially accepted infidelity hurts everyone.
There are also some more profound reasons why monogamy is important and will never become obsolete. This is where it is important for us to reflect on the question why we were created in the first place. Do we have common good and a real purpose? Is there true happiness in life that we are called upon to achieve, a true calling that we must fulfill?
Any issues in life – including those pertaining to monogamy – can be addressed at the most superficial level: will they bring about joy or suffering? – and it is already clear at this level that the rejection of monogamy leads to suffering for all parties involved.
However, we can and must put the question in a broader context. What do we really want from life and from our relationships with other people deep down in our hearts?
Faith is a very hands-on way to navigate the world, and it often confirms what we have come to know deep down in our hearts. The meaning of life is love – not love as a romantic experience that comes and goes, but love as a relationship.
We are created to love and be loved. Whenever we walk past love, we miss the single most important thing in life.
Love is the recognition of the unique, irreplaceable value of another person who deserves full commitment, devotion and loyalty. It is the capacity to turn away from oneself to the Other, from one’s own concerns and needs, to the Other who has legitimate rights over me.
The natural attraction between the sexes, like everything in our nature, is the substance from which we are called to create something much more real, important and beautiful, that is, love, fidelity and care, that are like God’s love, faithfulness, and care.
Therefore, monogamy reflects our true good. We are truly happy in the environment of fidelity and mutual care. It also reflects our true purpose to learn to love and be loved so that we can enter the eternal kingdom of God’s love for which we are destined.
Who needs this myth, and why
What we need most is to love and be loved. Unfortunately, the Fall led us into a situation where we have very little ability to do so. We need love from others, but it is very difficult for us to display it in relation to our neighbors. The fallen man is in an insoluble contradiction – he is an egotist who wants to be happy. Selfishness and happiness, however, are two completely irreconcilable things.
Happiness, both in time and eternity, requires us to turn our backs on ourselves, and face one another as well as God.
People can be guided in this situation by the principle of “sour grapes” – since we cannot build the relationships of trust and commitment that our hearts desire, let’s say that we didn’t really need them, and that we are satisfied with the draught from the door that each of us keeps open to be able to leave at any moment. Let’s consider this draught a wind of freedom.
This eternal human misfortune is further augmented by the powerful industry of commercial exploitation of human sexuality, which pushes it into the realm of consumerism rather than love. It is an industry that promises happiness, a bright and fulfilling life – and brings nothing but brokenness.
Human nature was created for love and damaged by sin, and it has not changed over the centuries. Like in the first century, monogamous, faithful, and committed relationships between one man and one woman are what we are created for, and what we have little ability to do.
However, we do not only believe in the law that tells us how it should be: we believe in grace that forgives, heals, and strengthens us when we consciously wish to obey God’s commandments and seek His help. We are not left alone. There is also God above us who wants us very much to be happy both in time and eternity. We need to trust and embrace Him, to accept His forgiveness and relief.
“Like in the first century, monogamous, faithful, and committed relationships between one man and one woman are what we are created for, and what we have little ability to do.”
I hope that some day I will be in such a relationship, God willing.