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Monogamy: Nature or Nurture?

By September 5, 2008 - 8:31am
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Just read an article about a researcher who claims that monogamy/bonding may be in the genes.

"We were actually able to take the gene from the prairie vole (small, furry rodents that have underground burrows) and inject it into the brain of the meadow vole, which normally should not form bonds," said researcher Larry Young at Emory University. "And when we did that, the meadow voles were actually able to form an attachment to their mate."

What do you think? Is bonding innate, learned, otherwise?

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This post reminded me that I have this book, called Hot Monogamy by Patricia Love (I attended one of her seminars at a health conference, and she was wonderful...and so is the book!).

From what I remember of the book, it does not discuss the nature vs. nurture theory, but it does talk about putting the excitement back into monogamy. The main complaint about monogamy (especially in long-term committed relationships) is that "familiarity sets in", and the "excitement" and "intensity" of newly dating is no longer there.

The author says, "Men and women alike want the security, safety and comfort of a committed love relationship, but they long for the passion that seems to come only from a new relationship or an affair." "What they are searching for is what may appear to be a contradiction in terms: Hot Monogamy."

The premise of the book does sway my belief that perhaps monogamy is not a biologically inherited way of being ("nature"), since it is something that has to be worked at and counseled on, which sounds more like a "nurture" way of being to me.

On the other hand, from an evolutionary standpoint, monogamy is probably the safest type of relationship for humans and animals to have, in order to raise offspring in an environment with either two parents (or an entire community for protection).

I would love to learn more about this, as it is interesting subject!

September 7, 2008 - 7:22pm

Monogamy is rare in the animal kingdom. Perhaps it's our "higher intelligence" that allows us to make a conscious choice to be or not to be monogamous. Who knows what compels us to search for our "soul mate?" Then, do you know when you've found that person?

You might be interested in this July 2002 radio interview with Anne Hollonds: The Myths of Monogamy.


19th century author Alexandre Dumas sagely opined that "the chains of marriage are so heavy that it takes two to bear them - and sometimes three". But Dumas was no radical: it seems that monogamy has never been the norm for human societies. Or at least, that's the view of David Barash and Judith Lipton, authors of a new book entitled "The Myth of Monogamy". They argue that our evolutionary biology leans heavily in favour of multiple sexual partnerships, and that there's something distinctly unnatural about our moral predilection for one lifelong mate.

September 5, 2008 - 6:12pm
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