In the mainstream – part 2/2: The monogamous fallacy

The monogamous fallacy is essentially a derivate from the patriarchal construct of the social role “woman”. The only difference is that a complementary social role (like the social role “man”) is not necessary any more. People maintain and reinforce the monogamous fallacy regardless of gender, be it women, men or other genders. The monogamous fallacy consists of four individual wrong claims:

  1. Desires and wishes at the sexual level and the romantic level are the same thing.
  2. If someone is sexually attracted to another person, a desire for intimacy at the romantic level will always be a part of this attraction.
  3. As long as the romantic relationship is healthy for both individuals involved, it is not possible to fall in love with someone else.
  4. As long as the romantic relationship is healthy for both individuals involved, it is not possible to desire another person sexually.

The heteronormative mainstream is represented by the majority of the total population of every patriarchal society. The majority of this group either believes in the monogamous fallacy or at least displays it publicly while acting out the opposite privately. The desire for sexuality is one of the strongest internal forces of each person. Therefore, suppressing it always leads to significant consequences. If desire at the sexual level is only acted out in unison with the romantic level, thus according to the monogamous fallacy with only one person, a significant part of one’s own sexual desire will always remain unsatisfied. The suppressed energy will go somewhere; that’s why the pressure in one’s unconscious increases, until desire breaks its course.

In the short term, an obvious sign for this claim are sexual activities that are pursued “spontaneously”, after all individuals involved have consumed enough alcohol or other drugs, so that they are less inhibited and their suppressed wishes don’t have to overcome so many obstacles on their way out. In order not to question the existing false idea and thus to act against the majority of people, these eruptions usually happen secretly, or are concealed as well as possible afterwards. In the medium term, secret sexual affairs will be pursued which are carried out beside sexual activities with one’s romantic partner. If someone pokes into the topic, the individual who has an affair will be quick to offer weak justifications, such as:

  • Going after sexual practices which they believe their romantic partner dislikes / doesn’t accept
  • A wellness session or little treat they somehow “deserve”
  • A get-back for lack of emotional attention or fair treatment from the romantic partner

The funny thing is that these justifications are never about the person with whom the secret sexual encounter(s) took place, but that they always allow a glimpse into the emotional issues within the romantic relationship: The unwillingness to listen to their partner, to ask for needs and wishes properly, or to initiate a talk about their own needs and wishes. This shows that the necessity for secrecy is not rooted in the reasons the justifications contain, but in the wish to avoid conflicts – mostly with one’s romantic partner, but also with one’s (patriarchal) social environment since most of its members will have the same issues and the same unwillingness to confront them.

This is the true origin of the word “cheating” for having secret sexual encounters while in a sexually closed relationship: The individual who has an affair gets their desire at the sexual level more satisfied in a way that would raise conflicts while the same person continues to act sexually closed in public and thus receives a fake sense of peace and tolerance in their romantic relationship and social environment.

To whom this might look like a clever strategy: Don’t be fooled. While it may seem that one can circumvent the conflicts, the individuals involved only repress them. Since the purpose of a romantic partner is to love and care for each other, meaning to share each other’s life to the maximum extent, this person has a right to participate in all decisions that influence the shared time, energy and space – including sexuality. This is why hiding fundamental wishes such as one’s own sexuality and sexual fantasies from one’s romantic partner can be considered unethical without question. The “cheat” even makes the situation worse than before: It fuels additional conflicts due to its unethical, unfair nature which creates the potential for explosive uncovering of the secret sexual encounter(s) or affair(s).

The Belgian-Jewish psychotherapist Esther Perel gave a comprehensive TED Talk on secret affairs, and I agree with it in every aspect. It discusses what drives people in a closed relationship to pursue secret sexual activities, and how affected couples have a chance to reunite after an uncovered affair.

The conclusion, however, that those who secretly pursue their sexual desires are “the evil-doers” and those, who don’t, are “the good ones”, is just as false as the whole fallacy. In reality, both individuals involved in a romantic relationship under the monogamous fallacy play their part in its perpetuation.

The person who suppresses his/her own sexual wishes towards other people also expects this from his/her romantic partner: This is the first 50%-portion of responsibility for the situation, as expecting one’s romantic partner to ignore his/her own sexuality, which, due to its internal force, is quite identity-shaping, is not love, but just egocentric possession thinking. One’s romantic partner is actually treated like a sex toy, which can be put back into the drawer after usage, not like an individual person with feelings.

The person who does not suppress his/her sexual wishes expects from his/her romantic partner to not put any limitations to the pursuit of his/her sexual wishes. This behaviour originates in the psychological principle that in order to overthrow something standing in one’s way, one must use the exact opposite as a weapon. If one side constantly sets up pointless limitations in accordance with the monogamous fallacy, the other side tries to terminate this suppression mechanism by an allergic reaction against all limitations whatsoever. These are the missing 50% of responsibility.

The two courses of action described above then reinforce each other: The person who wishes to act on his/her sexual desires gets more and more annoyed because of the constant pointless limitations by the person who suppresses his/her own sexual desires, and ignores the sexual wishes of his/her romantic partner. Depending upon duration and the way the conflict is expressed, the active person can develop a lot of anger, which later unleashes in unilateral actions: “If you deny me my right to be an individual and instead keep treating me like your personal sex toy, I will pursue my sexual desires without asking or telling you!”

Naturally, this behaviour is usually noticed by the suppressing person in some way, but instead of questioning his/her principles, the anger is vented towards the romantic partner and the ignorance increases: “You have to desire sex only with me, and you have acted against this law, so now I will put up more barricades!” Both parties are convinced to have the “right” strategy and try to persuade the other one of the correct strategy. However, in fact, both individuals carry out a 50%-portion of a patriarchal idea which has been false from the beginning.

This destructive dynamic can go on until the monogamous fallacy shoots itself in the foot:

  1. Desires and wishes at the sexual level and the romantic level are the same thing.

One person within a romantic relationship is sexually attracted to another person and would like to pursue sexual fantasies with him/her – the respective person is recognized as sexy, hot or very beautiful.

  1. If someone is sexually attracted to another person, a desire for intimacy at the romantic level will always be a part of this attraction.

Now this person confuses – unconsciously (!) – his/her own wishes according to the fallacy: “Just sex” cannot be the case since a sexual attraction to another person will automatically be linked to a desire for romantic intimacy with this respective person. In addition, the constant necessity for secrecy gets more and more annoying. Why can’t we just “do it”? Openly and honestly, not worrying about how to sneak past one’s romantic partner and tell a convincing bundle of lies afterwards?

After that, the person starts to develop a crush on the person, who he/she is sexually attracted to at the time. But this is not about being an asshole and faking romantic desire in order to get sex. The person who has a crush on someone else actually feels like they are in love and desires a romantic relationship with this new person.

If the crush is reciprocated, the suppressing person is defeated with his/her own weapons: Since there is also a new sexual level included in the new romantic level, the active person can finally act on sexual desires to another person than his/her romantic partner – openly and officially. But because of the third and fourth points within the monogamous fallacy, the romantic level with the pre-existing romantic partner is now in question:

  1. As long as the romantic relationship is healthy for both individuals involved, it is not possible to desire another person sexually.
  2. As long as the romantic relationship is healthy for both individuals involved, it is not possible to fall in love with someone else.

From the perspective of the monogamous fallacy, the fact that oneself or one’s romantic partner fell in love with a new person indicates that the current romantic relationship and/or mutual sexuality were not working for both individuals involved. If they had been working, one would not have fallen in love and/or pursued sexual activities with another person. This conflict results in emotional pain for both sides and usually leads to the pre-existing couple’s separation.

This is already a well-known phenomenon in the heteronormative mainstream (and the queer community as well!): The term is serial monogamy.