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Is Monogamy a Challenge for Men?

By carolyncastiglia |

Babble’s Deputy Editor Jack Murnighan has written an interesting piece for our Special Issue on infidelity called The Case for Monogamy: A Man’s Perspective.  In it, Murnighan describes himself as a single 40-year-old who has “dated more than any good man should.”  In my mind, it’s not dating around that makes a bad man, it’s not picking up the check.

Despite his will to roam, Murnighan considers himself a “closet monogamist,” and argues that though monogamy doesn’t come easily – or naturally – to men, rising to the challenge of sleeping with just one woman at a time is worth it.

Though Murnighan identifies as pro-monogamy, he never advocates mating for life.  I’m not sure about Murnighan’s thoughts on marriage, but given that he’s got two kids and remains single at 40, I think it’s safe to say he’s not too worried about tying the knot.  It’s all well and good to talk about the value of monogamy when you’re not married – if you get a sudden urge to be with someone else, you’re free to end your relationship and go get busy!  We all know serial monogamists who have proudly (and technically) never cheated, but they’ve never been alone, either.  Serial monogamists overlap relationships from one to the next.  They get all the comfort of monogamy and all the excitement of cheating without ever having truly sinned.

I don’t know if Murnighan considers himself a serial monogamist or not; he doesn’t say.  But he does admit to feeling the need to be wanted and to loving the thrill of the chase.  He says, “We know that men often try to seduce women like they try to make money, for power and prestige, but when you look deeper, you see that it’s more than just belt-notching: sex and seduction help us believe in ourselves, form ourselves, and that can be a tough thing to give up.”

Murnighan mentions multiple times throughout the piece that monogamy is challenging – for him and for men in general.  Men derive a sense of self, according to Murnighan, from “influencing and seducing,” and I can see what he means.  What could make a man feel more manly than acting like a man’s man?  But he also concedes that “most of us dream of spending our lives with a partner, having all the comfort, intimacy, trust and history that one can only gather by getting together with someone and staying together.”  He says the only thing not on that list of benefits is self.  I agree – and I think that’s precisely why women suffer when relationships end, because we have the opposite problem.  We derive a sense of self from the intimacy and the togetherness and the clinginess and the smothering… oh wait, sorry… I got carried away there… and then once that goes bye-bye, we’re often left wondering how we lost ourselves with it.

Murnighan thinks if a man is “missing the seduction thrill, that means (his) sense of self isn’t what it needs to be.”  My question is, if a man needs that thrill, what is going to replace it?  Hunting?  If you can’t hunt for ladies at the bar, step out into nature.  Visit a stream with some buddies and trap all the beaver you want!  My guess is, that just won’t cut it.  Murnighan never gives concrete suggestions as to how men who feel the need to stray in order to have that sense of self can prevent themselves from cheating.  If monogamy is such a challenge for men, can their inherent compulsion to stray be squelched by a little gold band?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should ask a serial monogamist.

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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9 thoughts on “Is Monogamy a Challenge for Men?

  1. anon says:

    OK…so you make your husband re-seduce you all the time…and make yourself worth seducing (ie not fat, dumpy or frumpy and bitchy) as far as expecting a guy to pick up the check, I hope that’s a joke because if women want guys to be so equal with the child rearing and they want to be equal to men in the workplace, why should a guy pick up the check, logically?

  2. anon says:

    or, they just grow the fuck up (how they get to be monagamous) and realize dating is just too much work (which I think is the case with my husband) I mean, who has the time to cheat?

  3. JZ says:

    I always thought that to anon…but there is always time to cheat.

  4. Iggy says:

    It goes both ways. I’m male and had no problem with monogamy and long-term commitment. But I had the misfortune to marry a women who believed that marriage should have a shelf-life and was a proponent of “serial monogamy.” She somehow failed to mention that to me before making “till death do us part” vows, though.

  5. anon says:

    oh no!

  6. Ri-chan says:

    I’m a big supporter of polyamoury :)

  7. leahsmom says:

    I love my spouse, and haven’t – and will not – act on my challenges, but I will say, I’m female, and I do find sexual monogamy challenging, every so often. Lust isn’t always associated with anything but, well, lust, and I think it’s unreasonable to ask that everyone should put away their desires for good. The point should be, if you commit to being sexually exclusive, that you agree to take on that challenge. I think honesty about it helps – if I try to lie and say I am never attracted to anyone but my spouse, then I’m more likely to rationalize or make excuses about things. But if I honestly say – hey, sometimes, a person will just really turn me on, but I made a decision that I’m not going to act on those feelings – that’s much easier. Much of being human is a challenge, I think – sexually or not – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile or that we all need to make the same choices. A challenge doesn’t mean impossible, either – which is how sometimes these proclamations read. After all, many of us find flossing our teeth daily to be a challenge, but you don’t read studies going “Men find flossing their teeth to be difficult at times” – and concluding we should abolish flossing!

  8. anon says:

    well said

  9. JEssica says:

    Maybe the author of this piece needs to go see a sex therapist or her doctor. I mean I am faithful, but I still feel the “pull” of the opposite sex. And I haven’t been married for eleven years yet.

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