Dan Savage is a journalist, author, and activist for the LGBT community. He is best known for writing the relationship and sex advice column called Savage Love. Also, he is the one who came up with the term “monogamish.”
He came up with this term when he shared the relationship arrangement he has with his long-term partner. The two practice monogamy, but have slightly modified its rules. Dan and his partner are committed to each other but they can also have intercourse with other people. That would be Dan’s definition of being monogamish.
The main difference between being monogamish and polygamous is that when you are polygamous you are in a relationship with more than one person. When you are monogamish, you are committed to one person but the two of you can have fun with other people every now and then.
Contrary to popular belief, being monogamish does not mean Dan Savage is against monogamy. He supports it and also gives some of his best tips on how to make monogamy work. He also reveals the most common misconceptions about love and monogamy. In the video above, he shares more about this topic at Mindvalley’s A-Fest.
But, before we get to the tips, let’s learn a thing or two about monogamy.
What Is Monogamy?
You may not know the exact definition of monogamy, but you are definitely familiar with what it is. Monogamy is defined as the practice or state of being married to or having a sexual relationship with only one partner. It is the only legal form of marriage in many countries around the world.
Nowadays, we take monogamy as the standard mating system. However, there are many cultures around the world in which it is quite common to have multiple spouses. In addition, in ancient times, the first human beings were not actually monogamous. Monogamy is actually a historically recent development.
How Did Monogamy Evolve?
Thousands of years ago, when humans lived as hunters and gatherers they practiced polygyny, meaning they had multiple wives. The best hunters in a certain tribe often had more than one wife because they brought the most food and could support more than one wife. The practice of polygyny spread, even more, when agriculture appeared and men had access to even more food resources.
Polygyny started in ancient civilizations, such as those in the Middle East and Egypt, and then spread to other civilizations, including those in Western Europe. It is believed that this trend started to decline in the Middle Ages. There are several factors that may have led to the decline of polygamy, but a universal agreement about the correct answer still doesn’t exist.
Factors that led to the decline of polygyny
It is believed that polygyny started to decline in the Middle Ages when the Christian church gained more influence in Western European society and started encouraging monogamy. Their religious practices made monogamous marriage more common but it didn’t decline polygynous intercourse outside of marriage.
The acceptance of monogamy in a moral sense is associated with the appearance of democratic societies that strived for social equality. This way, not only the wealthy could have a chance to get married but also lower-class men.
In polygynous societies, the rate of child mortality was higher than in monogamous societies. The reason behind this is that men would get many different women pregnant but wouldn’t get involved in raising the children.
A recent study suggests that the appearance of STDs pressured humans to stay monogamous. In smaller societies that were typical of earlier hunter-gatherer populations, STD outbreaks wouldn’t have a significant impact on the population because they would have been short-lived. On the other hand, in larger societies, the STDs could spread so wide that the rates of infertility associated with certain infections (such as syphilis) would have been very high.
Once monogamy was socially-imposed and established, the Westerners became so accustomed to it and started regarding the formerly universal practice of polygyny as foreign and bizarre. As Laura Betzig said to modern monogamous societies that have grown out of the Christian Middle Ages, what used to be the rule now looks like an “exotic exception.”
Monogamy vs. Serial Monogamy
When we defined what is monogamy, we described the entire practice a bit vaguely. The definition of monogamy can be understood in two different ways – being married or in a relationship with one person during a lifetime or during a certain period of time. The first definition is a bit old-fashioned and the second one refers to what is known as serial monogamy.
Serial monogamy is a practice where a commitment to one person lasts only for a limited period. Basically, serial monogamy means having a number of relationships one after another but never more than one at a time. In serial monogamy, two people may engage in a relationship with someone else, but only when their relationship has ended.
Dan Savage’s Tips for Making Monogamy Work
Even though he does not practice monogamy but rather is monogamish, Dan Savage still supports all the people who are in monogamous relationships. As a matter of fact, he also gives some great advice for making monogamous relationships last.
1. Have realistic expectations
What Dan Savage advises for all people who practice monogamy is to be realistic. First of all, people should be aware that all marriages have about a 50% failure rate. So, the first thing we need to be aware of is that our relationships might not last forever as we tend to imagine.
Then, what we need to realize is that not every relationship which ends is a failure. For example, you might be in a relationship for a few years and have a great time. But after some time, you and your partner might realize that the two of you are not right for each other. The normal thing to do then is to break up. But, if you have mostly pleasant memories of that relationship, why would you call it a failure?
Dan Savage also states that we must be aware that our partners sometimes may be attracted to other people. This is not something bad, but something completely normal. So, what we need to stop doing is policing our partners. Instead, we should try to understand that being attracted to more than one person is simply a biological drive that we can’t suppress completely.
Dan also points out that 50-60% of men and women in long-term relationships cheat. The reason why a person gets hurt when his/her partner cheats is because of their unrealistic beliefs. If you are in love with someone, that doesn’t mean that you will never want to have intercourse with another person again. If infidelity happens, instead of immediately calling off the relationship we should think about the ways that will make the relationship survive and help us learn how to trust again.
2. Use the GGG model
The GGG model is something Dan Savage came up with and he believes that it is the key to a successful relationship. The three G’s stand for good, giving, and game. To be good refers to having good social skills and being compassionate and sympathetic in a relationship. Giving stands for giving pleasure and not expecting anything in return. The game refers to kink and variety but for anything, not only in bed. Dan explains that we should always be open up to trying out something new. We should even try out things that go beyond our comfort zone. However, we should never keep doing something that makes us feel bad and uncomfortable.
3. Spice things up
People who are in a long-term relationship tend to get bored. Whenever we feel the need to revive the spark in our relationship, we should spice things up. But, unlike other people, Dan Savage does not advise spicing things up in the bedroom, but in your life in general. Couples should get up, go out, and do something together. Re-igniting the spark can be as simple as going for a hike or riding a bike together. The key to having an interesting and successful relationship is having adventures together, not only having a spicy sexual relationship.
Besides Dan’s advice, here are some other tips that will help you bring the honeymoon phase back to your relationship.