Monogam-ish? Really?

There is an idea related to marriage that is slowly gaining traction in our culture. It is the idea that you can be monogamous maritally, without being exclusive sexually. The term for this is “monogam-ish.”

When I first encountered this term, I was doing some web research and it came up in a Google search. My first thought was, “Monogam-ish? Really?” Curious, I clicked on a video explaining the concept of being monogram-ish. My reaction went from “you’ve got to be kidding” to “I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion!”

The rationale behind being monogam-ish goes like this…

Marriages have roughly a 50% failure rate, depending on how the data is collected and read. Supporters of being monogam-ish say that in almost any other area of life, this kind of failure rate would be unacceptable and we would demand recalls, modifications, and changes to fix such a poor success rate. (After all, who would agree to fly an airline that has a 50% chance of crashing.)

So the supporters of being monogam-ish say that a 50% failure rate in marriage means the concept of total monogamy is not working and needs to be fixed. Their proposed fix is that married couples should be committed and exclusive to one another in every area of marriage except…sexual gratification. Supporters of being monogam-ish tend to believe that couples divorce because they “lose their spark” and the way to reignite that spark is for spouses to have the freedom to pursue other, agreed upon, options for sex. The thought is that finding sexual satisfaction in avenues other than just their spouse will breathe new life into their marriage, allowing them to be fulfilled and complete all areas of their marriage.

Here are the problems with this line of thought …

  • When something is not working, it needs repaired, not redefined. When the air bag is not working in a certain model of car, you don’t redefine automobile safety, you repair the airbag. The underlying thought here is, “If something is not working for me, it should be manipulated so it does.” But if monogamy is not working, redefining monogamy doesn’t make it better. It just disguises what’s wrong.
  • When you fail to operate within the intended design parameters of an institution, you don’t blame the institution when things go wrong. If you don’t use a computer as it’s intended and something goes wrong, it’s not the computer’s fault. It’s operator error. It’s prideful and arrogant to say that if marriage is not working the way I want it to, the problem can’t be me. When marriage is not working, it probably has more to do with the people in the marriage than the institution of marriage itself.
  • Adding “ish” to something doesn’t strengthen it. It lessens it. If someone is being truthful-isn, they’re being less than truthful. If something is monogam-ish, it’s less than monogamy. So the term monogam-ish says that we’re willing to settle for less. No one walks down the aisle willing to settle for less. If monogamy-ish would not have been an option when you walked down the aisle, it shouldn’t be an option now.
  • It’s a very short-sighted view to assume that sex is at the root of all marital failures. Sex is an important part of a marriage, and research does show that sexual satisfaction is important to marital satisfaction. But communication, emotional closeness, financial stability, friendship, honesty, and a host of other things are just as important to marital satisfaction. You cannot isolate just one of these and make it responsible for divorce.
  • I’ve never seen someone respond positively when their spouse found sexual fulfillment outside of their marriage…even when they tried to convince themselves it was ok. I’ve worked with struggling marriage for over twenty years now. Every time a spouse has turned to someone or something outside of the marriage to fulfill any basic marital need, it has not breathed life into the marriage, but rather a sense of betrayal, hurt, and insecurity.

The points listed above are some practical reasons why being monogam-ish is not a wise solution for a sagging marriage. But if you’re a Christian, there’s another reason. God, the Originator of marriage, says that being monogamy-ish goes against the original design and won’t be fulfilling. Yes, you will find people in Scripture that had multiple wives and concubines, but in each case, there were tensions and problems that had a lasting negative effects on the relationship and their descendants.

If there’s trouble between you and your spouse, being monogam-ish is not the answer. If there is trouble between the two of you, what makes you think you’ll have less trouble when there’s three of you. It will only complicate things further. Being monogam-ish is not just about what you do with your body. It’s about what you do with your heart, and the heart is not so easily compartmentalized.

I know this sound cliché, but marriage is hard. Like a car, a marriage will get into a rut, but the answer is not leave the car in the rut and find another one with leather seats and a great paint job. The answer is to get your car out of the rut. The flame of a marriage will dwindle from time to time, but the answer is not to build another fire somewhere else. The answer is to fan the one you have back into a blaze.

Don’t drink from the “ishing well,” and don’t settle for anything less than the real thing…MONOGAMY!

Do you have thoughts or opinions on being monogamy-ish? If so, share them. I would love to get a conversation going.

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg