Some Cultural Myths About Relationships

Matija Marohnić

I often have arguments about relationships and sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not against monogamy itself (I have monogamous friends whose relationships are great!), I’m against myths about relationships perpetuated by our monogamous culture.

“Sex is not that important.”

Having sex once with someone else can end a 20-year-old marriage. I’d say that sex is pretty important.

“If my partner likes someone else, it means that they don’t love me anymore.”

Monogamy isn’t a promise that you will never ever like anyone else, it’s a promise that you won’t do anything about it. Both you and your partner will probably like other people eventually, but if neither of you feels a continuous urge to act on those feelings, you’re good.

“A sprinkle of jealousy is healthy for a relationship, it shows that you care.”

Jealousy is a powerful emotion which ended many relationships. I wouldn’t say that any amount of it is desirable and I don’t believe that it comes from a place of love. I feel like our culture has a two-faced stance on jealousy—people don’t want to display it because they don’t want to be “that jealous partner”, but some of my friends have no problem saying that they are “extremely jealous”, almost like they’re proud of it, as if that means that they care about their partner.

Doing nice things for your partner sounds like a much better way to show them that you care.

“Cheaters are always exposed.”

To be clear, I’m against cheating, but I’m curious why so many people believe that it’s impossible to get away with cheating. There is no fidelity vigilante who dedicated his life to exposing cheaters, the world is still just chances and coincidences. Either you find out that your partner has cheated on you or you don’t. If you don’t find out about it, you won’t know that there is anything to find out about.

“Monogamy is the only ethical way to have a relationship.”

Today when we say “monogamy”, we’re actually omitting an important adjective: serial. Not so long ago we weren’t able to date candidates and choose our favorite, we were allowed only one relationship per lifetime. Today we date a lot, often non-monogamously. Compared to people then, we’re total sluts!

We shouldn’t pretend like our relationships looked the same through millennia, and we shouldn’t assume that our current iteration is the “correct” one.

“Cheating is unforgivable.”

“Through cheating we used to find love, but now that we have love in our marriage, cheating can destroy it.” —Esther Perel

Yes, cheating can be devastating, but sometimes we should learn to forgive, or at least try to understand. Cheating can be a symptom of a deeper problem in your relationship or it might not be connected to your relationship at all. Listen to the reason provided by your partner, give yourself time to process and don’t make rash decisions.

“Is this relationship going anywhere?”

Relationships don’t have to conform to the Relationship Escalator to be valid. I know that we agreed that we’re all supposed to want marriage, kids, house etc., but relationships which don’t follow this narrative can be equally real and fulfilling.

We’re gaining more and more freedom in designing our relationships and we’re realizing that love is much more complicated than we would maybe like it to be. It’s important to know yourself and to weigh cultural norms against your own common sense.