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Agnius Balabonas

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Debate: Can non-standard monogamous relationships work?

I've been wondering if these different kind of relationships could work, how they would work: what would be the guidelines and things to watch out for.

I'm interested in an open, well-argued and as little biased as possible constructive discussions to come out of this.
I encourage people to share the scientific material, historical data and their own experience of the area. And I strongly discourage wars based solely on opinions and cultural bias.

So far I believe, that these types of relationships can only work based on honesty, openness, trust and clearly agreed upon guidelines, so that the parties involved know what to expect and won't get hurt based on failed expectations.

There is still very little quantitative research in the area available, so I hope we will be able enrich each others views and open up the mind to a broader perspective.

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Closing Statement from Agnius Balabonas

I thank people who gave a little more insight, views for their experience and opening up some controversial topics to conversation.

I was a little bit sad however.. That's a lot of the people misunderstood what was the conversation about and the conversation lacked focus.
I think in future I should formulate the topic in a more clear way making it harder to misinterpret.

This conversation was meant to be about any kind relationships involving more than two parties. It was not about an exclusive relationship between two people, it was not just about sex and it was not about "cheating".
Hope that helps clarify a lot of the misunderstandings I saw in the discussion.

Nevertheless, I want to thank to all the people that participated and shared their insights.

  • Oct 17 2012: Almost half of all people who get married in the USA get divorced. This indicates that a very big portion of our population cannot maintain a simple relationship. I am sure that some people can maintain relationships with more than one partner, but I suspect the number will be very small. Such relationships require values, skills and attitudes that our society does not particularly foster. As just one example, consider selfishness. I once met a psychological therapist who firmly believed that all relationships were about the needs of the people involved and how the relationship met those needs. This therapist gave no value whatsoever to love or loyalty. If we view relationships as a means to fulfill our own needs, it is not likely that the relationship will last very long. Our needs change through the years. Most young people do not understand their own needs, much less the needs of others.

    The answer to your question depends on what you mean by work. If you mean a relationship that fulfills the needs of everyone involved for as long as they are together, I am sure that such relationships are common and short lived. If you mean a relationship that lasts a lifetime, these relationships will be very rare.

    By the way, I have very little confidence in formal research in this area. Human relationships are far too complex for the scientific method.
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    Oct 18 2012: Any relationship that is not built on trust and commitment is doomed to fail. Where most people fail is the commitment part. Because they think they've found a reason not to keep their promises, they do things that jeopardize the trust their lover has in them. Some fail in their commitment because they think that falling in love will end their attraction to other people, hence they misunderstand their attraction and mistake it for love.

    A successful relationship takes more than most people are willing to give; being committed to only one person is not an easy path; that is why so many people take the easy way out as if it is impossible. Monogamous relationships will work if it is not between two selfish people.
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    Oct 18 2012: Hi Agnius.
    It saddens me that when we talk of relationships we invariably mean sex. I have a 38 year monogamous relationship with my wife. My best friend is a female my own age, & I have a woman half my age who treats me as her dad; in addition to one of each natural children. My surrogate daughter has her own family & I inherit a grandson. In addition I have many friends of both sexes who know that when it comes to sex, I am trustworthy & will not complicate life for them.
    My point is that my monogamy has allowed me to love & accept people without any alterior motives & I believe this has been a major plus point in my life.

    :-)
  • Oct 23 2012: What about long-distance relationships? I would consider them non-standard.

    I have been in a long-distance relationship for almost a year now. We are on two different continents. And from all that I know, we feel very deeply and mutually about each other. Our relationship suffers, though, because being able to be physically near your significant other is something I didn't realize was something that I took for granted so much. Since we have entered our relationship, I believed that it could be something I could easily manage, since we have talked about making sacrifices and moving to be with each other.

    But despite all of the reassurances, long distance relationships are not at all like standard monogamous relationships. You feel as if you are constantly putting stress on a person and that they are not able to fill their own needs (sex, and physical interaction in general) because you expect them to be committed to only you. After a while, you begin to question how faithful they are to you. And then you start thinking about deviating, yourself. It's very hard to have a deep sense of trust when you are thousands of miles away and you are both only HUMANS.

    Not all relationships require trust. I feel that trust, at least for me, is only significant if I can see the person in my life long-term. I'm not that concerned with what everyone else does, especially not in casual relationships. In casual relationships, I can tolerate "cheating." But to me, it's unacceptable for this to occur in a committed relationship.

    Also, something else worth thinking about: people are usually either slightly more monogamous or polygamous and you must create your trust based off of these observations of your relationship. Every relationship you create with a new person should reflect the dynamic of the individual situation.
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    Oct 23 2012: Monogamous relationships...in my opinion, takes a lot of time, patience and genuine understanding of each other. Also, you've got to also do a lot of listening with one another. Listening is a BIG PART for any long term or serious relationship, because i believe listening to one another creates sharing information with one another...that way both participants are aware of what one they are saying, and not just one person making all the rules and whatever, cause that would just seem selfish if it is just one person calling all the shots. it requires teamwork and "the wanting of being together", being attracted to one another, not just physically, but all the other aspects, mentally, and whole heartedly... and being open about things that frustrate you...talk about your problems. be comforting ...a lot of people find it difficult to be open with there problems cause they see it as a sign of weekness, but really...i believe in a monogamous or any relationship with someone being open with your problems creates this comfort in which you can help the person by being there for them, because sometimes the world is a crazy place, and just a shoulder and someone to talk to, can mean so much at that moment, that is creates a stronger bond, a sense of faithfulness and security...which is a big thing also i think in these kinds of relationships. and lastly, YOU MAKE IT WORK. if you want to be in a monogamous relationship then so be it. you can make it happen, anyone can, its just that statistically nowadays with the high devorce rates in America, i guess a lot of them choose not to. but thats them. its really all up to you how you want to live your life. : ) People perceive love in many ways.
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    Oct 16 2012: Monogamy used to be a condition of a couple that ran out of options. I don't buy the whole Judeochristian farce about romantic exclusiveness. I don't think couples are happier when they voluntarilly shoot their sex life in the foot.
    The Athenians had it figured out, but then Jews, Christians and Muslims spilled primitive nonsense all over the civilized world. We live in a society where gay adoption is controversial, believe it or not! And we've been to the goddamn moon!
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    Oct 16 2012: Could you define what you mean by "non-standard monogamous relationship?" Do you envision something like a monogamous marriage plus a well loved best friend of the same gender as the spouse? That you use the word monogamous suggests to me that you are not talking about a person's having two or more spouses in the sense that exists in some cultures.

    I have no doubt a person can love multiple people simultaneously. Those of us with children love them all intensely.

    A friend of my sister's who was born and raised in Africa before his law school education in the US was the child of a father with eight wives in addition to his mother. Somehow it is hard for me to believe that the dad loved only one of his wives.
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      Oct 16 2012: A standard monogamous relationship is a relationship where there are only 2 partners. I wanted to discuss relationships involving more than 2 people. Hope that helps clarify.

      I wanted to address the main human drives and what kind of not purely monogamous relationships, where people have certain feelings for more than one person. What is possible, what are the issues, how to they differ from a normal relationship?
      As well as the physiological, psychological and cultural aspects influencing such relationships.

      I wanted to have a broad subject, that's why it includes a lot. I'm not a big fan of labeling things because labels like: friends with benefits, plural marriages and etc., Because it tends to distract people from the underlying human forces of influence.
      I also don't believe that institutionalizing an activity changes the core aspects of human beings that are already present. (You can argue about whether it's nature or nurture, but it's just my personal opinion)

      I want to discuss the core aspect and if any of these types of relationships were sustainable at all.
      But I thought it best to focus more on relationships where trust and honesty are core aspects of a relationship, secret affairs and those sort of things don't interest me as much and I believe they have already received a sufficient amount of interest.
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    Oct 16 2012: i think it is ok .and we can deal ,maybe different people have different views .i will tell you a story ,a real one ,

    i dont know weather you know or not about Liang Sicheng ,Lin weiying and Xu zhimo .
    they are famous in chinese history ,the two are in love with Lin weiying .

    it is a long story ,maybe you can google it ,it is a good example of this case;
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    Oct 16 2012: To start of discussion I suggest you might be interested in reading:
    http://evolution.binghamton.edu/evos/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Can-You-Love-More-Than-One-Person-At-The-Same-Time.pdf A Research Report by William Jankowiak (University of Nevada) and Helen Gerth (University of Nevada)
    That handles mostly on two concurrent love relationships, though one of them is typically a secret.

    You may also watch the two relevant videos by Helen Fisher or read some of her books describing different types of love.

    I haven't yet read or seen any in-depth research material looking into polyamour arrangements where all the parties involved knew about each other.
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      Oct 16 2012: Interesting article but really no surprises. I think humans have the capacity to love more than one person at the same time. Indeed it is recorded throughout history in many stories and books. You can tell the morays of the society by the ending of the story. As all good stories will reflect cultural values. (There's an interesting hermenutical study right there:)

      Because of the current mainstream values, I have never seen this type of love endure. I am not sure if it is possible in a different society with different values. I suppose it is possible to sustain, but we have this little evil monster called jealousy we have to deal with. Even in an amicable divorce, where the original relationship morphs into a new one and both are remarried. The original love does not go away but turns into a new relationship. It is not appropriate to cross certain behavioral barriers not just physical but mental also. But I'm from the midwest and am heavily ingrained in that corn-raised morality.

      When my daughter was young, she asked me why she only had one daddy. All the other girls had two and she wanted two daddies too. I told her I could get another daddy if she wanted but what was I to do with her current daddy? She said he could sleep in the basement.

      I told her if she could convince her daddy, I would get another one for her.