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Monogamy Versus Polygamy and Other Forms of Marriage

“I believe in monogamy if that is what a couple decides upon together, but it all depends on the personal history and culture of the two involved. ” -K. D.

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Lang. The traditional family system–a lifelong alliance of a man and a woman–has in the past served as an institution for mobilizing the economic, moral, and emotional resources needed to raise children, (Bergmann, 1996). In many cases, marital satisfaction is influenced by the husband’s supportiveness, maternal employment and the age of the husband.

However, “a 50 percent divorce rate in the USA makes a mockery of the beautiful brides’ pictures that appear in newspapers across this nation. It suggests that America’s belief in a lifetime monogamous marriage has degenerated into the mere acceptance of serial matrimony” (Miller, 1989). Roget’s Thesaurus defines monogamy as “a kind of marriage. ” In other words, there are other kinds, and perhaps one of these might suit us a little better (Preston, 2011). Monogamy is the only form a legal marriage in Western society.

Monogamy can mean marriage to only one person for a lifetime or, as is more common today, marriage to one person at a time, aka “serial monogamy. ” Monogamy is usually between opposite sex couples, though same-sex monogamy is becoming legal in some states and countries, (Libertine, 2008). “Society expects marriages to be both, but studies that have shown that ten percent of babies are fathered by men other than their legal fathers indicate that the two don’t always go hand in hand; that while social monogamy might be ubiquitous, biological monogamy is not”, (Libertine, 2008).

Monogamy can mean marriage to only one person for a lifetime or, as is more common today, marriage to one person at a time, aka “serial monogamy,” (Libertine, 2008). Monogamy is usually between opposite sex couples, though same-sex monogamy is becoming legal in some states and countries (Libertine, 2008). Monogamous marriage defined as sexually exclusive, though we must distinguish between social monogamy and biological monogamy. The assumption is that this has been the one “right” way to be married since ancient times, until threatened by the sexual revolution starting in the 1960s.

According to a report released by the Census Bureau in October 2006, legally married heterosexual monogamous marriages are no longer the majority of American households, though various forms of marriage-clone relationships continue to flourish. Many other more popular types of marriages do exist. Polygamy, also known, as polygyny is either man or a woman can have more than one spouse. Polyandry, although much less common this is when one woman has several husbands. It has occurred in Tibet, Mongolia, the Canadian Arctic, South America, Nepal, Bhutan, among other places.

Polyandry is especially suited to populations that have more males than females, which is perhaps why it is less common than polygyny, because females outnumber males in most societies. In all marriages, there are obligations and duties that the couples agree upon once entering into marriage. Pinning down the No. 1 duty of a spouse can be a tough call, but there is evidence that honest communication is the most important role a married person can play (Herrington).

A 2005 study examined the relationships among communication, sexual satisfaction, and marital satisfaction, demonstrated that communication and sexual satisfaction independently predict marital satisfaction, (Litzinger & Gordon, 2005). However, the findings go on to say, “if couples have difficulty communicating but are sexually satisfied, they will experience greater marital satisfaction than if they have a less satisfying sexual relationship. ” Thus, sexual satisfaction may partially compensate for the negative effects of poor communication on marital satisfaction (Litzinger & Gordon, 2005).

Herring also pointed out in her article the ever so important sharing of responsibilities. Studies revealed that when one partner feels family duties are shared equally, he is more likely to consider the marriage a happy one. This can prevent one spouse from feeling that he shoulders all of the burdens of life, which often leads to marital strife. Helping to absorb the stress of daily life helps couples feel their relationship is fair, and is an important obligation for married people (Herrington). Sharing responsibility is often connected to the sharing of financial responsibility.

The role of economic forces in the development and operation of families, he suggests reasons why the development of nontraditional, non-nuclear families is congruent with economic laws, and why their development is to be expected, today and even predicted in the future (Westley, 1998). Well-known economist Gary Becker asserts “the primary motivating factor in human action is self-interest, an indisputable basis from which to begin”. Although most economists agree with this concept of human behavior as it relates to economics, Becker also understands how this same concept applies to marriages.

People will marry when they think that they can achieve a greater degree of utility in that state than when single, and they divorce when they feel that they can achieve a greater degree of utility in that state than when married (Westley, 1998). The traditional family system has its advantages and disadvantages however, “whatever the character of society or state, polity or economy, religion or culture, parents cannot escape responsibility for the quality of their children as citizens” (Halsey, 1997).