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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Do People Still Think Monogamy is Essential to Marriage?

In Tech Insider, Kelly Dickerson takes a look at the concept of monogamy (fidelity) within marriage and whether or not that concept retains its relevance in current society.

According to Dickerson, recent research indicates that sexual exclusivity is increasingly losing its paramount footing within marriage, partially attributed to changes in marriage as an institution.

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, researchers concluded that “some [people] no longer consider monogamy as an absolute essential.” This study was conducted by a team of psychologists in Canada. The subjects of the study included married persons (a few who were divorced and remarried but largely people who are currently in the first few years of their first marriage): 26 self-described heterosexual females, 21 heterosexual males, 21 gay males, and 22 lesbians. This sample size is very small and not representative of Americans in terms of sexual inclinations. However, the results from the study provide some insight into what may be a cultural shift away from marital monogamy.

Most of the subjects in male-female marriages did view monogamy as a standard in their own marriages; they spoke of it as something that was assumed between them, without any clarification needed. The subjects in same-sex relationships, in contrast, were more inclined to discuss their stance on sexual exclusivity with their romantic partner; fidelity was not assumed. Overall, more than half of the subjects in male-female marriages and most of the subjects in same-sex relationships held that marriage and monogamy could in fact be separable.

Statistics on this subject have been difficult to obtain accurately, making it unclear as to where Americans stand on the question of marital fidelity, as well as how many Americans actually engage in consensual non-monogamous marriages.

About the author
Currently studying theology at The Catholic University of America, Molly Boland is an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.