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Origins of monogamy

May 6, 2022

The stigma against polyamory and other alternative relationship structures leads some to wonder we are so strongly monogamous in the first place. While the exact origins of monogamy are unknown, we can see evidence of pair-bonding stretching back thousands of years.

Despite this, monogamy hasn’t been prevalent in many parts of the world for very long.

In fact, according to Kit Opie, an evolutionary anthropologist from University College London, “the modern monogamous culture has only been around for just 1,000 years.”

To put this in perspective, humans have been around for roughly 2 million years.
Monogamy in the Americas stemmed from colonization when many Native Americans were forced to convert to Christianity a mere 500 years ago.

“When the European settlers came to what we now call the United States, they brought homophobia, transphobia, and the idea of what we call the nuclear family now,” said Megan Amunrud, a professor of Queer Studies at Skyline College. “Many indigenous cultures were and are not based in monogamy, so that tradition of polyamory was very common in people’s lives prior to colonization. Romantic relationships were less economical and based on more of a kinship structure.”

Relationships such as these can be seen throughout history worldwide, showing monogamy hasn’t always been the status quo. Despite modern misconceptions, polyamorous relationships aren’t uncommon, and keep many fulfilled and happy.

*These names were changed by the author to ensure anonymity for the sources that were interviewed, in accordance with Carlmont Media’s anonymous sourcing policy.

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