When I reflect upon all the men and women that I helped in my clinical practice, who were struggling with relationship problems, I came across two kinds of people: Monogamous and Polygamous.

Most women I met were monogamous. They were one-man women. Once they fell in love, or got married, they were dedicated and committed to their sweethearts. They did not think of dating or sleeping with other men. If their relationship ended, they felt sad, grieved about the loss, recovered, and then fell in love with another man. Even if they had multiple intimate relationships with men in their lives, they were serially monogamous and slept with one man at a time. They did not wish to have multiple lovers.

On the other hand most men I met were not monogamous by nature. They had polygamous personalities. They were not one-woman men. They fantasized about other women, wanted to date and sleep with them. Many such men had multiple lovers before marriage but once they got married they became monogamous to please their wives, families and communities but had secret fantasies. Since they were not monogamous by nature and not committed to their spouses from a sexual point of view, sooner or later an opportunity arose whether at work or in a seminar far away from home and they had a brief extra-marital affair. Since they could keep it a secret and did not suffer any consequences, they became more daring. Then they looked for opportunities and had brief secret affairs. As they became bolder, they also became more careless and finally their wives found out. And it was the beginning of a crisis.

In therapy I had serious and honest conversations with such men. I tried to help them at two levels:

A, accept their polygamous personality

B, choose to have monogamous lifestyles.

Many polygamous men I met had been denying their true nature. Since their culture, society and religion had conditioned them to be monogamous, they felt abnormal and guilty to have sexual fantasies about other women secretly. Since they had been suppressing and repressing their sexual wishes and desires to be promiscuous, the feelings and urges came back with more pressure and force and finally they gave in especially if they lived in a permissive culture.

After accepting their polygamous personality I shared with them that to be happy they have to be honest with their spouses. They could not have double standards. They could not accept faithfulness from their wives and not offer that gift in return. I asked them to do some soul-searching and decide to

either leave their wives and lead a polygamous and promiscuous lives


to choose to be monogamous voluntarily and not because of the pressure from their wives and families. For some men it took a long time to accept their personality and choose a lifestyle that was compatible with their hopes and ideals and dreams of a happy and healthy life.

In some cases wives were not willing to wait for them to get therapy and resolve their conflicts so they dissolved the marriage and started a new life and waited for a man who would love them and offer them a committed and faithful relationship.

I was most fascinated with those wives who, all their married lives believed that, if their husbands ever cheated on them, they would leave them, but when they found out the tragic reality of an affair, they found themselves in a strange dilemma. They wanted to leave but they could not.

When I asked them, “Why did you not leave him?”, I received the following answers,

“I have no where to go and no money to survive.”

“I can leave my husband but cannot leave my children. I do not want to ruin their lives.”

“ I will be too ashamed to tell my family that he left me.”

“I do not believe in divorce. It is against my belief system.”

“I am now realizing that if I was a more loving wife, he would have never cheated.”

In therapy I helped these women either to accept the polygamous personalities of their husbands and negotiate a monogamous lifestyle or feel strong enough emotionally to end that marriage, recover from it and wait for a committed and faithful marriage. I helped such women to accept that those men were polygamous even before they got married and they need not take responsibility for their husband’s personality and life choices. If those women were faithful themselves and wanted committed relationships, then they did not need to settle for less than the best. They needed spouses who were compatible with them.

I think couples can be divided in three groups

A, two monogamous people having a traditional marriage

B, two polygamous people having a non-traditional open relationship

C, one monogamous and one polygamous spouse unsure of the future of the relationship. Such couples have ongoing struggles to define the boundaries of the relationship.

In therapy I help such couples to have a sincere and honest dialogue. I share with them that if they love each other and care for their children, then, with professional help, they would be able to resolve their conflicts, accept their personalities and discover new lifestyles, which would be compatible for both of them.

It has been my experience that by accepting the reality that one spouse has a monogamous personality and the other has a polygamous personality makes it easier for the couple to negotiate a mutually acceptable lifestyle. As long as they are denying their true nature and not willing to face the reality of their personalities, it is hard for them to resolve their differences.

I share with couples that love is not only a feeling it is also a choice and we need to make healthy and wise choices if we want those choices to last. Until both partners are happy with the final outcome it would not be a healthy relationship. If both parties are willing to make some sacrifices for the future of the marriage and family then they would both enjoy the outcome and it would be a win-win situation. But if one party feels suffocated and making most of the sacrifices then he/she would resent it and become unhappy and miserable. For couples to learn to resolve emotional and romantic conflicts is one of the key factors to decide the future health and happiness of marriage. In therapy once they learn those skills then they can negotiate the issue of faithfulness but other conflicts as well. Resolving the conflict of affair is one of he most difficult one as it not only involves a third party but also a sense of betrayal, which is one of the most painful feelings to endure, cope with and recover from.

March 16TH 2005