There’s a very interesting article in the Guardian today by Helen Croydon called, Monogamy is a Fairy Tale: Affairs Won’t Go Away, another powerful reminder that, yes, dear friends, biology is STILL a bitch.
Croydon mentions three books, all three written by the happily married, all three in praise of extra-marital affairs: The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power, by Catherine Hakim, How to Think More about Sex by Alain de Botton, and Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan co-written with his wife.
Being in the ranks of the happily married for many years, I don’t find it surprising that all three books were written by those who are happily married. I think happy monogamy is a safe place from which to discuss other relationship alternatives free of the guilt, bitterness and angst that often accompany an affair. Perhaps that sounds a bit like the childless trying to give parenting advice, but I prefer to think of it as being a part of the cheering squad for the path that leads to happiness — whatever path that may be. Croydon presents lots of evidence that the ideal of everlasting love and happy ever after in a monogamous situation are relatively new. Monogamy was originally a business deal, if you will. It was all about property and alliances. And while the human male has evolved to spread his seed far and wide, the human female is geared to birth and rise the next generation, a long-term proposition. While the monogamous couple get their dose of oxytocin for bonding to insure the tag-teaming involved in the trash getting taken out and the kiddos getting delivered to school and ballet and sport, the lovers get the high flying, cocaine of brain chemicals, dopamine. The raising of the next generation has nothing to do with passion and sexual attraction. Biology is definitely still a bitch.
But from the viewpoint of a romance writer and a story teller, it all makes sense. There’s a reason why happy ever after comes at the end of a story and not at the beginning. There’s a reason why those of us who are in happy monogamous relationships can say, yep, if people want to have affairs, they should go for it. And being an author of erotic romance, my happy ever afters quite often involve ménage and multiple partners. It’s a lot more exciting to read about dopamine events than it is to read about oxytocin events.
If the bitterness were removed from unhappy marital and monogamous situations, if we all understood that monogamy is relatively a new-comer on the relationship scene, that it is really only one flavour of many, perhaps we might be a little less sexually repressed, a little less sexually neurotic and a little less concerned about the shape our happy ever after or happy for now takes.