Monogamy and Marriage: The Battle Between Biology and the Buck

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Monogamy and Marriage: The Battle Between Biology and the Buck

Monogamy does not imply fidelity (Fisher 63), and marriage does not imply monogamy. To understand this surprising statement, the word "monogamy" must be interpreted in a biological sense, and marriage in a legal sense. In other words, monogamy is just two people in a relationship for their mutual benefit, perhaps involving an extended family and children. Monogamy does not necessarily mean a life-long relationship, but it can, nor does it exclude occasional philandering. It is monogamy as long as two people maintain a pair-bond for their mutual benefit, no matter how short the relationship lasts. Marriage, on the other hand, legally recognizes many different mating
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Men and women are naturally disposed to have one mate at a time.

In spite of the biological tendency to favor one mate at a time, marriage systems, however, have changed into many different forms, like polygamy (one husband and many wives), polyandry (one wife and many husbands), patriarchy (male rule),or matriarchy (female rule). These changes have largely happened for economic reasons. In other words, historically, marriage systems have reflected economic factors of the time. Thus, marriage encompasses an endless variety of combinations joined by a legal contract heavily influenced by economics. Clearly, economics is more powerful than biology.

In the modern era, with economic independence available for both men and women, many people are choosing not to marry these days. Williams reports that marriage rates have dropped to a forty-year low while divorce rates continue to hover just above 50 percent. In addition to the high divorce rate, the report issued by Rutgers University’s National Marriage Project indicates that the percentage of married people who reported “being happy” in their marriages fell from 53.5 in 1973-76 to 37.8 in 1996 (1). Williams attributes these phenomena to social changes such as legalization of cohabitation between

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