In a successful relationship, both partners must feel they are important to the other
In today’s evolving landscape of relationships, the concept of monogamy is a topic of much discussion. On the one hand, there are staunch proponents of monogamy, valuing both physical and emotional exclusivity in their partnerships. On the other, there is a growing belief that relationships can be strengthened when partners engage in “open relationships” that allow for more freedom in romantic connections.
It is not my place to pass judgment on either perspective, as the success of a relationship ultimately depends on its strength and effective communication of boundaries. However, I often encounter the aftermath when the philosophy of “open relationships” unravels in my office.
I firmly believe that two primary motivational drivers significantly influence our behavioural choices, whether positive or negative:
- A desire to belong, which equates to a need for love and connection.
- A need for significance, encompassing power and position.
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These drivers often work in tandem rather than being mutually exclusive. In a healthy, committed relationship, each partner must experience a sense of importance to the other, coupled with feelings of love and belonging. The debate over which of these aspects takes precedence can be somewhat moot.
Our brains are remarkably adaptable and shaped by our experiences, whether we welcome them or not. The perspective we gain from these experiences fundamentally alters our expectations. For instance, if your partner grew up in a family marked by constant strife and contentious relationships, they may interpret the absence of conflict as a sign that everything is going well at home. Silence may be perceived as tranquillity, leaving them oblivious to your potential feelings of loneliness or unhappiness that you might not explicitly voice.
Now, contrast this with a partner who has endured toxic past relationships, resulting in possessiveness, jealousy, and insecurity. If you were dating someone who routinely invaded your privacy by scrutinizing your phone, demanded constant whereabouts updates, became enraged or wept when you spent time with friends or exploded in anger if you missed a single call or text, would it not create tension? In this scenario, the partner is acting as if infidelity has already occurred, leading to the question: why not cheat further? In their view, things cannot get much worse.
It is not a far-reaching assertion to claim that the likelihood of infidelity in a relationship is directly linked to the level of misery each individual experiences within that relationship.
A client of mine, who had gone through two divorces, once remarked that “the quickest way to kill a relationship is to take one another for granted.”
A relationship should never be viewed as an obligation; it is a conscious choice made every day. This choice extends to how partners conduct themselves within the relationship, regardless of the influence of external factors.
To sustain intimacy requires constant nurturing, rooted in deep connection and a clear understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour within the partnership. During moments of conflict, directing attention towards opportunities that foster feelings of belonging and significance can alleviate strain and help maintain the commitment that initially brought the two individuals together. Ultimately, it is within the partnership that the definition of monogamy should be established by both parties, aligning with their unique desires and boundaries.
Faith Wood is a professional speaker, author, and certified professional behaviour analyst. Prior to her speaking and writing career, she served in law enforcement, which gives her a unique perspective on human behaviour and motivations. Faith is also known for her work as a novelist, with a focus on thrillers and suspense. Her background in law enforcement and understanding of human behaviour often play a significant role in her writing.
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