Till death do us part… right? For some folks, maybe, but sticking to one mate for life is a rare phenomenon. Across the globe, about 95 percent of mammalian species and 85 percent of human cultures are polygamousCooperative breeding and monogamy in mammalian societies. Lukas, D., Clutton-Brock, T. Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge UK. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012 Jan 25.The benefit and the doubt: why monogamy? Schuiling, G.A., Division of Human Biology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2003 Mar;24(1):55-61.. But for the rest of us bonding to one partner, the benefits could be more rewarding than any type of bed-hoppingNeural correlates of long-term intense romantic love. Acevedo, B.P., Aron, A., Fisher, H.E., et al. Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2012 Feb;7(2):145-59. Epub 2011 Jan 5..
There are plenty of possible theories to explain the increasing rates of monogamy in the USA. Potential reasons range from economic factors to differences in mates’ childhood environments, and some suggest natural selection is pushing us toward tighter-knit family units. Some scientists have looked into the potential health benefits of sticking to a single mate. Research comparing the health status of monogamous and polygamous couples is pretty scarce, but studies suggest pairing off has benefits for our health and happiness that flying solo doesn’tThe neurobiology of pair bonding: insights from a socially monogamous rodent. Young, K.A., Gobrogge, K.L., Liu, Y., et al. Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 2011 Jan;32(1):53-69. Epub 2010 Aug 3..
It’s not clear that everyone benefits from a monogamous relationship. Some people have proposed contemporary alternatives to monogamy (like the ol’ “doesn’t count when I’m on vacation” thing), suggesting a relationship can be successful even if it’s not exclusive. And certain couples are coming up with their own terms of commitment, agreeing to have flings with other people on the side.
Some of us may also be more likely to seek out a monogamous relationship than others. Interestingly, scientists have discovered a male gene that’s linked to pair-bonding, and not every guy out there has itGenetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) associates with pair-bonding behavior in humans. Walum, H., Westberg, L., Henningsson, S., et al. Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008 Sep 16;105(37):14153-6. Epub 2008 Sep 2.. Whether that’s a fair excuse for being unfaithful is a whole other story. (Can’t blame genes for everything.)
Cuddle up. It doesn’t have to be all sex, all the time. (Well… your call.) Just a simple touch can strengthen that bond, so get cozy on the couch and feel the love start flowin’The science of interpersonal touch: an overview. Gallace, A., Spence, C. Department of Psychology, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2010 Feb;34(2):246-59. Epub 2008 Oct 17..
Be a power couple. Need another reason to exercise? Besides releasing feel-good endorphins, workin’ out together can bring couples even closer and reinforce trust. For some extra sexy-time, try naked yoga.
Give a kiss. Lips aren’t the only things that’ll get closer. Kissing releases the hormone oxytocin, bringing couples together emotionally as well. So go ahead and pucker up!
Use social media?! If out of date ideas, find new ideas on the web to help spark some innovation. (People aren’t just friends on this platform.)