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What is Monogamy?

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The Definition of Monogamy and How Monogamy Developed

Human evolution has resulted in some pretty incredible social structures that most of us sign up for without giving it a second thought. One of the most interesting chapters in human development is that of monogamy – a relationship where a person only has one partner for life, or one partner at a time. Today monogamy seems like the most natural form of a relationship there is, but that wasn't always the case. In the past, monogamy was rare, and it's interesting to see how it developed over human evolution.

The Development of Monogamy in Human Society

Way back when, while humans were still evolving, sexual promiscuity was the king of the castle, meaning there was no monogamy. The strongest males in every group got to have several females to warm them at nights, and human society was a polygamous one.

what is monogamy - a senior couple looking at the ocean
Source: gettyimages

Researches tried to figure out exactly when and how monogamy began, and the closest they came to an answer is with the following theory, based on mathematical models. In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, researchers theorized there was a shift from polygamy to monogamy.

Much like on other primate societies, higher ranked human males were the ones who got to mate with several females, while lower ranked males didn't enjoy that privilege. To attract females, the lower ranked males began to woo them not by displaying strength, but by caring for them and providing for their needs.

The vast majority of groups was made up of lower ranked males who began to imitate this behavior to attract females – a mission that was successful. During the human evolution, the female selection also grew more popular, and along with the caring and protective behavior displayed by lower ranked males, monogamy began to dominate.

what is monogamy - close up of couple holding hands
Source: gettyimages

Males had more to win by investing their resources in courting one female rather than fighting to be top gun, and the females responded accordingly; they preferred the caring males over the aggressive alpha males, so now they were the ones finishing last.

There you have it. Monogamy wasn’t always the natural choice for human beings, but a relationship model that came from necessity. In 2018, most people sign up for monogamous relationships, but plenty of others find it hard to stay faithful to only one person – probably a relic of our adventurous ancestors.


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