Marriage

The Science Of Monogamy, Part II

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Let's continue the debate about monogamy with a little quiz:

Which relationship structure has been proven to be the most effective?

A) Monogamy: Agreeing to be exclusive with a single partner decreases health risks and honors the special relationship you share.

B) Nonmonogamy: It is unrealistic to expect fidelity to a single person for an entire lifetime, and monogamy places artificial and limiting restrictions on relationships that inhibit the expression of love and sexuality.

C) All of the above.

D) None of the above.

If you're looking for an answer, prepare to be disappointed: the answer is that there is no right answer. Compelling arguments have been made from both sides, and that doesn't even take into consideration the myriad other possible forms a relationship could take. I could probably spend the rest of my life posting about nothing but the pros and cons of the various relationship arrangements I have encountered, but for simplicity's sake let's focus on the two most common approaches: monogamy and nonmonogamy, in the most general senses of both terms.

Up first: the scientific arguments for monogamy.

  1. Having multiple partners might serve our genes, but it doesn't serve us as emotional individuals. When humans become sexual with a new partner, the brain's dopamine reward system is kicked into overdrive. But after that intense high, the brain shifts into a low-dopamine stage and humans find themselves in an unhappy hangover-like state. When partners are constantly changing, this cycle continuously repeats and dissatisfaction increases. Remaining faithful to one partner, on the other hand, allows the brain to maintain a comfortable level of happiness without the ensuing crash. (Source: The Monogamy Challenge)
  2. Monogamy is beneficial for childrearing. In the wild, children with two parents are more likely to survive and learn to socialize properly. Their chances of growing to adulthood and reproducing are therefore increased.
  3. Studies show that having a steady, intimate partner might be good for your health. Multiple studies associate this kind of relationship with increased longevity, faster healing times, and lower rates of illness, depression, and alcoholism. AIDS patients with partners, for example, have a tendency to live longer and develop the condition at a slower rate. (Source: Marital Status and Health)
  4. Research has found that monogamy is consistently valued across cultures, biological imperative or not. Noted anthropologist Helen Fisher points out that, even in polygamous cultures, less than 10% of men choose to have more than one wife at a time, and calls monogamy "pretty standard" for the human species. Author Tara Parker-Pope adds that "Almost without exception, men and women say they value monogamy in relationships. So while it isn't absolutely necessary from a biological standpoint, from a social, cultural and emotional standpoint, it's important to many people and that's why we try for it." (Source: The science of marital unhappiness)

Proponents of monogamy, then, seem to have science on their side. Can the nonmonogamy camp say the same thing? We'll find out next time!

The Science Of Monogamy

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The debate about monogamy has been long and fierce. Some believe that it is unnatural for humans to promise themselves to one person for their entire lives, and that we should instead embrace open relationships. Others believe that choosing monogamy honors, protects, and enhances a relationship with a partner who is extremely important, and that the jealousy that can arise from a nonmonogamous relationship isn't worth the potential benefits of sexual freedom.

Some people even disagree - with their own partners - about whether or not their relationship is monogamous. A recent study conducted at Oregon State University found that young, heterosexual couples frequently do not agree with their partners about whether or not their relationship is open. 434 couples between the ages of 18 and 25 were interviewed about the status of their relationship, and in a whopping 40% of couples only 1 partner reported that they had agreed to be sexually exclusive with their significant other. The other partner claimed that no such agreement had been made.

"Miscommunication and misunderstandings about sexual exclusivity appear to be common," says public health researcher Jocelyn Warren. Many young couples, it appears, are not communicating the terms of their relationships effectively - if, that is, they're discussing them at all - and event amongst couples who had explicitly agreed to be monogamous, nearly 30% had broken the agreement and sought out sex outside of the relationship.

"Couples have a hard time talking about these sorts of issues, and I would imagine for young people it's even more difficult," Marie Harvey, an expert in the field of sexual and reproductive health, posits. "Monogamy comes up quite a bit as a way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. But you can see that agreement on whether one is monogamous or not is fraught with issues."

Difficult though the subject may be, it's clear that every couple must come to an unequivocal, precisely-expressed understanding regarding the status of their relationship. Lack of communication can lead to serious unintended risks, both physical and emotional, for partners who unknowingly disagree about the exclusivity of their relationship. What is less clear is which choice - if either - is the "right" one. Is monogamy or nonmonogamy a more effective relationship style? Can one scientifically be proven to be better, or more "natural," than the other? Or is it simply a matter of personal preference?

We'll take a look at the scientific support for each approach in more detail in the next posts.

Shaadi.com a Popular Choice for South Asian Parents

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The custom of arranged marriage is very popular in India but in countries like the United States and Canada it is not popular. In North America when a match could not be found locally, families from India and other Asian countries sometimes resorted to using newspaper classified sections to find a potential suitor for one of their children. This practice has now changed thanks to online dating. Dating sites like Shaadi.com have matched more than a million South Asian couples and now parents are logging on to find potential matches for their children. Many parents find "religion, mother tongue, residency status, education, caste or class, astrological sign and diet" important attributes in a mate for their child. Shaadi.com does keep track of this information within member profiles which makes it easy for parents to find matches. Roughly 20 percent of profiles on Shaadi were created by parents looking for a partner for one or more of their children. The average age of a profile is in the range of 26 to 35.

In Canada Shaadi.com has become so popular that they have opened up their first North American center in Mississauga Ontario in March of this year (close to Toronto). The greater Toronto area is home to more than 700,000 South Asian Canadians making it ideal for a matchmaking center. Shaadi also has started to promote their new center not only online, but off as well through billboards and other physical media to better reach their target audience.

To find out more details about this dating site, check out our review of Shaadi.com.

Married Couples are Happiest at almost 3 Years

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A British wedding website conducted a survey of 4,000 couples. On the survey the couples had to indicate the levels of happiness during the different stages of their marriage. From the results researchers pinpointed the happiest day at 2 years, 11 months and 8 days after the marriage. During this time, British couples had the most sex, best social life, vacations and romantic meals. This is also the time when the couples have the longest heart to heart conversations and when wives receive the most compliments.

Here are a few things that the researchers found which led to those happy marriages:

  • Spend 24 minutes having a heart to heart a day.
  • Allow for 75 minutes of alone time a day.
  • Never go to bed with an argument unresolved.
  • 5 cuddles a day and say "I Love You." at least once.
  • Spend 3 nights a week curled up on the sofa together.
  • 4 phone calls / emails / text messages a day.

Is monogamy realistic?

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Jude Law, David Letterman, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the list goes on and on. What do these people have in common? They have had sexual relations with someone when they were already currently suppose to be in a monogamous relationship with someone else. CNN asked an evolutionary biologist and psychiatrist if it still reasonable to expect people to partner and stay monogamous? According to them, yes, but it is not easy. A more realistic model that was suggest may be serial monogamy. This is when someone stays committed to one person for a certain stage of their life. Once that stage is over, both people move on and find another long-term relationship. Since the 70's, others have tried a similar idea, an open marriage (think swingers). You stay married to your partner but you both can still date other people.

The practice of polyamory is also on the rise. Polyamory refers to having multiple romantic relationships with several people, with all involved having full knowledge and approval. Newsweek estimates that there are about 500 thousand polyamorous families in the USA.

All of these types of relationships take hard work to ensure the happiness of all involved but being in a monogamous relationship probably has the biggest payoffs. You don't have the emotional chaos that WILL happen when dealing with multiple people and raising children becomes easier.

For more on the story, read CNN.

"Shaadi" in Hindi Means Marriage

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It seems that the dating site Shaadi.com is becoming fairly popular with British Asian singles. The Guardian in the UK wrote an article about the dating site and included several success stories and a few not so successful ones. No dating site is perfect and when I see a article written which includes information about what the site may be lacking or has problems with I tend to give it more weight than a story that is all positive.

Shaadi.com now claims 15 million people have signed up for their service since the website launched in 1997. Currently they have 5 million members using the site at any given time which generates about 300 million page views every month and 6,000 new profiles a day. This dating site:

is tailored to the typical criteria of traditional matchmakers, with questions about family values (traditional, moderate or liberal), profession and even complexion.

Shaadi's search engine allows members to be incredibly detailed about the type of person they wish to find or be matched with.

To find out more about this India dating and matrimonial website, read our review of Shaadi.com.