Friday, January 13, 2012

"So Happy Together?" Monogamy and Jealousy

Good evening LOVEanese, and happy Friday! Before I get into the content of the post, I just want to remind you about the March against unjust laws governing women's rights, rape, and domestic violence. We're meeting tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 14) in front of the Ministry of the Interior near Sanayeh Gardens (Here's a map) at 12:00 PM. We'll be marching to the Parliament in Downtown Beirut. Come out, bring a sign, a jacket, a friend (or two), and an umbrella (just in case), and stand up with our women for our women!

On another note, in case you weren't following on the LOVEanon Facebook Page, I've been posting a lot lately. The Fb Page is a great resource to share interesting articles, links, photos, etc., especially ones that I don't want to dedicate an entire blog post to. I really appreciate your activity on it, and if you haven't "liked" it yet, what are you waiting for??

So, what's up with the title? The title is in reference to two things. The first is a song by The Turtles. The second refers to an article I posted on Facebook a few days ago. It's about monogamy. I feel like I've been seeing/hearing a lot about this lately, so I wanted to talk about it and also bring up another topic: jealousy.

There's a lot that's been written on maintaining the romance in a relationship (for instance, this article I recently posted). I've written a post about it, and a point I have vehemently reiterated in this blog is that relationships take work (e.g., here and here). Recently, I saw this really great article about how relationships take work and marriage in particular is a work in progress. A great point the author makes is this:

"Very few of us carry accurate beliefs about what love and marriage are really about. Instead, we consciously or unconsciously live our lives according to the models propagated by the media. We grow up watching Disney movies and popular television where we see a basic equation for love portrayed: meet - play a game of chase - fall in love - get married. Inherent in this formula is the assumption that by the final stage - getting married - every conflict, quirk, annoyance, and issue has been resolved. We may watch a relationship unfold over several years on a television series, but by the time the couple finally gets married, the conflicts are resolved and the show usually ends, And herein lies the false message: your relationship should be "perfect" at the time of the wedding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like all courageous endeavors, marriage can and must evolve over time."

"Ya Allah, what do you mean the hard part's just starting!?"

So, what does this have to do with monogamy? This particularly sobering article recently posted by the Guardian is really interesting and thought-provoking, but this older article in many ways to me stands as a stark contrast to another article I posted that was a bit incensing but also interesting. I definitely recommend you read it. The author of the post interviewed sociologist Eric Anderson (University of Winchester) about his new book The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating.

What was somewhat aggravating about it was not necessarily the points he was trying to make, but rather the way he was saying it. He was challenging the established idea of combining sexual and emotional relationships. It wasn't an attack on monogamy per se, but he was advocating for an alternative to the typical monogamist relationship. Tayyib, that's fine. But what I was not OK with was the inherent sexism that seemed to surface during the interview. The author even mentioned it, but it was then blamed on culture for reinforcing gender norms and stereotypes as opposed to individual actors making independent and critically-thought out decisions (e.g., according to the males in his sample, it's OK for men to cheat but not women, and it's society's fault alone that this double-standard exists).

Monogamy as a whole is (largely) a social construction (though there may be a biological or ecological link, particularly since some think monogamy is one of the leading factors of humanity's boost in the process of evolution), and Western constructions of monogamy often differ from other non-Western mating traditions (for instance, just check out American anthropologist Laura Bohannan's account of Shakespeare in the Bush with tribes-people from West Africa). Moreover, much has been written on monogamy from a scientific and social scientific perspective. For instance, Fisher (1994) wrote an extensive book looking into the (evolutionary) past to explain monogamy, divorce, and adultery, yet mainly concludes that serial monogamy mixed with adultery (but not additional marriage) seems to be the norm, at least in the Western world (mind you, at least 0.5% of the world population can attribute their ancestry to Genghis Khan alone). Others such as Reichard and Boesch (Eds.) (2003) and Wickler and Seibt (1983) provide great overviews of monogamy rooted in biology and in society, respectively, which, of course, makes sense because being single is hard. If the added value vs. cost of pairing up were lower, we wouldn't have evolved, both biologically as well as socio-culturally, to favor it so strongly. In other words, the grass is always greener, but when it comes to the benefits of being in a loving relationship, the science speaks loud and clear (especially if you're male).

In the Arab world, monogamy is a relatively new tradition. Before you start making assumptions about Islam and polygamy in Islam, polygamy was something that has existed here in this region since the beginning of Mesopotamian civilization. Only after the birth and proliferation of Islam was it something that became connected to Islam. Many would argue that it has been wrongfully focused on (e.g., as my friend put it, Islamic law regarding wives exists to act as a limit, not a license). In many ways, it's something historically cultural. Barakat (1993: 107) echoes this when he said:

"Traditionally, marriage has been a communal or societal affair more than an individual has been perceived as a mechanism for reproduction, human survival, the reinforcement of family ties and interests, the preservation of private property through inheritance, socialization, and the achievement of other goals that transcend the happiness of the individual to guarantee communal interests. This principle is seen in most patterns related to marriage, including arranged marriage, endogamy, [and] polygamy..."

He continued, "Another traditional Arab marriage pattern is polygamy...though polygamy is not encouraged, it has been justified or rationalized by conservative Muslims. In reality, however, polygamy is now rare" (Barakat, 1993: 112).

It's time for a photo, and I really wanted to add a funny photo about polygamy. But I couldn't find one that wasn't offensive to women. So, here's a photo of some cute puppies instead.

Polygamy is not also something just between one man and multiple wives (that's called polygyny) There's also polyandry where one woman takes multiple husbands. In this sense, this is socially prescribed. But can we as a society move beyond the established and collective norm that one must be in a committed relationship with one person at a time? Especially in a place where adultery and cheating have been accepted as normative (i.e., here)? This article in Psychology Today seems to think otherwise, and blames it mainly on differences between individual men and women's levels of sexuality, particularly when women are more sexual. Perhaps I'm naive, but I just don't think that our biology has to have a choke-hold on our lives. Biological determinism does not have to rule our lives, especially as I would argue much of our lives is socially constructed.

I recently watched a movie that challenges this "one person at a time" norm. It was called Seeing Other People (plot synopsis here). It was... interesting for a lack of better words. Basically, it's about two people who really love each other and have been together for a long time. They are happy and are planning their wedding, but then one of them decides that they aren't sexually experienced enough, and wants to have more sexual experiences before they get married. The whole movie details the ups-and-downs of "seeing other people" while they are still together and still planning their wedding--more or less describing a scenario where there is a relationship with a strong emotional connection, but extra-relational sex. Bear in mind that this is a movie, not real life... true. But it's interesting to see how this "fantasy" concocted by Hollywood turned out. That is, it almost destroyed the great relationship they already had. As I've mentioned before, Hollywood and the capitalistic system in general have a lot of reasons to keep monogamy the norm. And while this movie's overall theme was reinforcing it, it made me think about it.

If you've been following this blog awhile, you might be able to tell where this is going (let me give you a hint, it's the other word in the title I haven't talked about yet). How many of you, whether you're men or women, would be able to fathom seeing the person you love, the person you're in a relationship with, be with another person?

You're never too young to be pissed off about them kissing someone else

Jealousy. It's a remarkable emotion actually. Some writers/bloggers think jealousy in a relationship is a good thing (like this one), others say it's bad (like this one), but most remain value-neutral about it or consider that there's various types/levels of romantic jealousy, some healthy and some not (e.g., this one, this one, this one, and this one). However, evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss (Wiki here) at the University of Texas-Austin has a lot of interesting things to say about this. Buss (2000) goes so far to say that jealousy is necessary for love and sex, and thus, relationships. This was also a pioneering work that employed a cross-cultural survey if men and women in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Zimbabwe, and found that the majority of women in the study were troubled more about a partner's emotional infidelity, while the men were most upset about sexual transgressions of their partners. This article explains it better:

"Female sexual infidelity jeopardized the opportunity for a man to continue his gene pool and also placed him in the unfortunate situation of raising a rival's children. Women do not share this problem, since they know that they are the biological mothers of their children. One of the African cultures that Buss studies uses the phrase, "Mama's baby, Papa's maybe." But our ancestral mothers had other problems. Their challenge was to continue to attract their partner so that he would stay and help to raise and protect the children. As painful as a sexual transgression might be, what women have always wanted to know is, "Do you love her?" If a man forms a strong emotional attachment to another woman, he is at risk for abandoning the relationship and his children. A meaningless one-night stand does not make him want to leave his family."

Buss (2000) even writes, "Jealousy is not a sign of immaturity, but rather a supremely important passion that helped our ancestors, and most likely continues to help us today, to cope with a host of real reproductive threats. It drives us to keep partners from straying with tactics such as escalating vigilance or showering a partner with affection. And it communicates commitment to a partner who may be wavering, serving an important purpose in the maintenance of love."

Buss isn't the only one to tackle relationship jealousy, many others have as well including: Greenberg and Pyszczynksi (1985); Andersen, Eloy, Guerrero, and Spitzberg (1995); Guerrero, Andersen, Jorgensen, Spitzberg, and Eloy (1995); Afifi and Reichert (1996); Guerrero (1998); Knobloch, Solomon, and Cruz (2001); Fleischmann, Spitzberg, Andersen, and Roesch (2005); Guerrero, Torst, and Yoshimura (2005); Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007); and Demirtas-Madran (2011). Some of the most interesting findings include that the more expressive someone is about their jealousy and the more individuals in a relationship exhibit reactionary jealousy (as opposed to possessive or anxious jealousy), relationship quality tends to increase. Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007: 177) define reactionary, possessive, and anxious jealousy as the following:

"Reactive jealousy is the degree to which individuals experience negative emotions, such as anger and upset, when their mate is or has been emotionally or sexually unfaithful. For instance, individuals may become angry or feel hurt when their mate is flirting or kissing with someone else."

"Possessive jealousy refers to the considerable effort jealous individuals can go to [in order] to prevent contact of their partner with individuals of the opposite sex. For example, possessively jealous individuals may find it not acceptable that their mate has opposite- sex friends and/or forbid their mate to socialize with others."

"Anxious jealousy refers to a process in which the individual ruminates about and cognitively generates images of a mate’s infidelity, and experiences feelings of anxiety, suspicion, worry, and distrust."

Now, the discussion: what does this mean? Basically, what many of these studies are demonstrating is that a little bit of jealousy is good, but this "goodness" also relies on how it is being communicated and what kind of jealousy is being exhibited. If someone is feeling jealous, but is not communicating it either through physical actions, words, etc. or in a way that is meaningful to their partner, then it will most likely hurt the relationship. In other words, if you're jealous, don't hold it in. Of course, don't be controlling, manipulative, or suffocating either. But everyone likes to be desired. As Robert Frost once said, "Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." By showing your partner that you're jealous (in some crazy, weird way) reaffirms your feelings for them, and this is something I'm not just making up. The research shows it, and much of it is based in our evolution. In the end too, I can never stress open and honest communication enough. It is a fact of life that even if you're madly in love, you still will be attracted to other people, and you might even flirt with them. But this doesn't mean you're going to cheat, for instance. And of course, this should never be taken out-of-hand to the point where it becomes a real problem for a couple or your partner. But if a little jealousy is exhibited in a healthy way, it can actually lead to better outcomes for the relationship. Once again, just remember that this is conditional (I highly recommend you read Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra (2007) study).

Tying it all back together, I'm not sure if we really have the ability to manage both emotional closeness/intimacy and physical intimacy with multiple people, at least without eventually hurting someone in the process. One argument might be that monogamy should remain the norm, but if someone wants to deviate from the norm (e.g., Mormon polygamists in the U.S.), they should have the freedom to do so.

I say do what's best for you and your partner, but we always have to remember that what's best for you may not always be best for your partner, which is where compromise and sacrifice come into play. If you're in a committed relationship, it's understandably expected that (usually) you're not supposed to sleep with someone else. In my opinion, I think anything else will only just cause problems. So, while monogamy might be new (evolutionarily speaking), it's really based on culture. If it is culturally acceptable and normative to practice it, then it's hard to deviate from that (once again) without hurting someone emotionally. If it is normative to have multiple wives or husbands (e.g., in certain tribes), that should be allowed too.

In the end, we have to consider other people's feelings, and right now, being with one person and tending to their emotional and physical needs is what the society's exerting hegemonic dominance has collectively agreed on as being the norm. This has been incorporated into many individual's subjective realities. Without taking any particular stance or advocating for conformity, I will close by restating the importance of resisting selfishness, especially if you are in a loving and committed relationship (unless a partner also feels the same way, and you both exercise a similar lifestyle, then it's a different story). Moreover, I simply do not think that the majority of people could handle emotional commitment and physical intimacy with different people. But once again, it's a personal thing--just don't forget that our actions affect much more than just ourselves.

What do you think? Monogamy and love? Monogamy, love optional, behind-the-back infidelity? No monogamy, just love and whatever else? I value your opinions. What works for you? What do you like? What works here in Lebanon? You tell me.

Spread the love,

P.S. Just thought I'd update this post with some interesting scientific research that received a lot of publicity recently. According to Science Now at the Los Angeles Times (citing research publications), one biological/ecological explanation/theory for monogamy include solitary living and infanticide, which are linked to origin of monogamy in mammals. In another article from the New York Times, some scientists are beginning to conclude that monogamy may account for humanity's boost in evolution. Interesting!

P.P.S. Another great article I recommend: an interview with respected marriage historian Stephanie Coontz titled "Why do we still believe in monogamy?"


Afifi, Walid A., and Tom Reichert. 1996. "Understanding the Role of Uncertainty in Jealousy Experience and Expression." Communication Reports, 9(2): 93-103.

Andersen, Peter A., Sylvie V. Eloy, Laura K. Guerrero, and Brian H. Spitzberg. 1995. "Romantic Jealousy and Relational Satisfaction: A Look at the Impact of Jealousy Experience and Expression". Communication Reports, 8(2): 77-85.

Barakat, Halim. 1993. The Arab World: Society, Culture, and State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Barelds, Dick P. H., and P. Barelds-Dijkstra. 2007. "Relations Between Different Types of Jealousy and Self and Partner Perceptions of Relationship Quality." Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14(3): 176-188.

Buss, David M. 2000. The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Demirtas-Madran, H. Andac. 2011. “Understanding coping with romantic jealousy: Major theoretical approaches.” Retrieved from:

Fisher, Helen. 1994. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. New York, NY: Ballantine.

Fleischmann, Amy A., Brian H. Spitzberg, Peter A. Andersen, and Scott C. Roesch. 2005. “Tickling the monster: Jealousy induction in relationships.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(1): 49–73.

Greenberg, Jeff, and Tom Pyszczynski. 1985. "Proneness to Romantic Jealousy and Responses to Jealousy in Others." Journal of Personality, 53(3): 468-479.

Guerrero, Laura K. 1998. "Attachment-Style Differences in the Experience and Expression of Romantic Jealousy." Personal Relationships, 5(3): 273-291.

Guerrero, Laura K., Melanie R. Trost, and Stephen M. Yoshimura. 2005. "Romantic Jealousy: Emotions and Communicative Responses." Personal Relationships, 12(2): 233-252.

Guerrero, Laura K., Peter A. Andersen, Peter F. Jorgensen, Brian H. Spitzberg, and Sylvie V. Eloy. 1995. "Coping With the Green-Eyed Monster: Conceptualizing and Measuring Communicative Responses to Romantic Jealousy." Western Journal of Communication, 59(4): 270-304.

Knobloch, Leanne K., Denise Haunani Solomon, and Michael G. Cruz. 2001. "The Role of Relationship Development and Attachment in the Experience of Romantic Jealousy." Personal Relationships, 8(2): 205-224.

Reichard, Ulrich H., and Christophe Boesch (Eds.). 2003. Monogamy: Mating Strategies and Partnerships in Birds, Humans, and Other Mammals. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wickler, Wolfgang, and Uta Seibt. 1983. "Monogamy: An Ambiguous Concept." Pp. 33-50 in Mate Choice, edited by Patrick Bateson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


  1. Ogie!

    I loved reading this! I love the fact that you added a photo of cute puppies in order not to offend women!

    I also loved the fact that "Some of the most interesting findings include that the more expressive someone is about their jealousy and the more individuals in a relationship exhibit reactionary jealousy (as opposed to possessive or anxious jealousy), relationship quality tends to increase."

    I always wondered about that.. I usually keep jealousy to myself.. I'll make sure to express myself from time to time in my (hopefully) next healthy relationship!

    Thank you for teaching me something new each an every time.

    Forever inclined towards monogamy,


  2. you couldve talked more about how exactly being lebanese (or half in your case) affects jealousy and monogamy. How is this subject different in Lebanon. (hence title of your blog?)
    or what you have seen in your friends. from my experience, dating in the arab world (or maybe just in lebanon actually) seemed very different and this subject in particular was a strong point of discussion when i was dating. from what i could see in mine and other relationships, dating lebanese men was subject to a lot more jealousy and possesiveness than say western world. this may be too reductive/general.
    i can only speak from personal experience but i did have this feeling that i "belonged" to my partner when we were in public and leaving a woman unattended was precarious seen as how most lebanese men are quick to hit on and try with any woman regardless of relationship status. Due to the nature of most lebanese men, men and women in relationships in lebanon have probably more cause and concern to be jealous.

    1. Anon: Definitely, I get your point. Unfortunately, it's never really been studied to my knowledge, and I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations just based on anecdotes or personal observation. I like to ground it in research. You can see the possessiveness of individuals when you're out, for instance, but it's hard to say how jealousy really is influential on a Lebanese relationship.

      I will agree with you though once again that I've noticed much possessiveness, and there's a culture of masculinity that resembles Latino machismo.

      Also, it makes me wonder if jealousy in this sense is culturally constructed and affected by gender roles? In the end, if this is really true for the majority of the population as a whole, it's simply inherently sexist, yet not necessarily unhealthy on the individual level if that's what's normative and people subscribe to.

  3. also. i was often told by my extremely lebanese born and raised partner (and by others) how despite a huge culture and value for marriage and family and low divorce rates, how RAMPANT and prevalent cheating was in lebanon.
    this couldve been a interesting topic to talk about as oppose to general articles and points on monogamy which are already found in various websites and books as you so clearly pointed out.
    cheating is prevalent all over the world but how is this different in lebanon and how is it regarded? also to be noted, how does it occur in a small country where everyone literally knows everyone.

    1. I completely agree, but where's the data?? Has anyone ever done interviews or collected information? I'm sorry to sound so "academic," but while you have an excellent point (and I tried to satirically comment on how rampant cheating is in Lebanon), there's no data on it to my knowledge. It's common, yet taboo.

      And just a note: marriages are treated like currency. It's not about the personal emotions, it's about the ties between family. It's almost tantamount to human trafficking. Feelings in many cases are not important or completely disregarded. As long as family standards and expectations are upheld, there's a lot of "looking the other way" to what actually goes on in a marriage as far as personal satisfaction is concerned.

      Anyone that tries to give you that "we value family speech" is telling the truth, but what they are forgetting is the we neglect individual emotions and feelings and govern it with patriarchy and sexism.

    2. see, THAT is an interesting worthwhile topic you could have expanded on. You said "we" neglect individual emotions and feelings and govern it with patriarchy and sexism". Please expland/explain this!!! this is what is most interesting about this blog and the title of your blog. YOU have this knowledge/insight and can talk about it to others who do not know how it is different.

      Yes, there is no data. Maybe you could collect it! :) it really would be interesting to know in fact how many people are actually cheating and how the divorce rates manage to stay so low in comparison to western countries. THIS is love in lebanon! :)

      There is no data, and it hasnt been studied and yes, sweeping generalizations arent great but I do believe you are onto something here if you expand/delve deeper into what it really is to be "in love in lebanon". I have enjoyed some of your topics but many are general discussions on issues that have been touched on extensively already but yours with only a slight emphasis on Arabic culture.

      how is it different to date in lebanese culture? are there any characteristics lebanese men have in common regardless of religion? what is it like to be a lebanese woman in a relationship? what things are more prevalent, what things are DIFFERENT? WHY are they different when dating someone lebanese? why are divorce rates low? how many marriages are NOT treated like currency? maybe it would be interesting to have anecdotes or interviews from non lebanese dating lebanese and vice versa. with enough research couldnt that be considered data?

      just some ideas or things I was expecting to find in your blog. :)

      anon = Erica

    3. Haha fair enough Erica! Part of that was my own impassioned opinion based on my own empirical observations that you inspired. Nevertheless, I completely understand. I just feel hesitant to talk about it if I can't back it up with facts. I'm not an expert, and I don't try to come off as one. In fact, I vehemently deny that I am.

      I'd love to collect it one day :) Maybe I'll become the "expert" one of these days haha.

      Yes I know at times, I only touch on Arab culture, but these questions you're asking are things I'm trying to find out haha, with my thesis research anyway.

      I appreciate the feedback and the ideas. By no means am I going try and write off the things you're saying, but I just don't have the answers to those questions. I'm not sure anyone does. I HAVE conducted interviews, and in about 6-8 weeks, hopefully I'll have all that information ready to present :)

  4. let find the answers then! :)

    im not sure how but in any case i would love to help and I will keep commenting. it would be nice to hear a womens POV of dating in lebanon. I feel I could fill a book on my personal experiences and I still have so many questions!

  5. And that's all I could ask of you right now! Stay engaged, challenge me, challenge the topic. Share your experience, your advice, your anecdotes, your POV. I really want this to be a community. And I'm glad you're a part of it :)

  6. oh Ogie this is too long!!! :p
    also we can not call that a blog but it could be an scientifical artical!!
    but i really appriciate the job you are doing, it shows that you spend a lot of time reading, congratulation! so it clear you don't have time for a lot of wifes or may be you are against marriage :p.
    in this blog, you are speaking about a two bigs problem, polygamy , jealousy, two big in one blog!! rather to speak about them separatly.(sorry ogie)
    now i'm gone share my opinion, let's take jealousy.
    Jealousy is a natural feeling for a natural people (since you love one person, you will not accept that is person is with someone else). it could be negatif if will not control it, but a person who don't feel jealous (in love), is someone ill.
    2- polygammy: big subject too, but to be bref, all the people that i know, and who are against polygammy, accept to have many girlfriend or either boyfriend for girls. so it is not fair to be against something and you do it. try ask all your friends, who are against polygammy, how many girlfriend (or boyfriend for girl) or how many time you slept with these persone? they will answer you, you had made a mistake while asking me "how many" better to ask how much!!!

    1. Haha ok, it was a bit long... but thank you for reading. And thank you for such kind and funny words :P

      I get your point too, there's a lot of blatant and rampant hypocrisy (regarding mates).

      And as I said above, a little bit of jealousy dealt with in a manageable way is good for a relationship. But there's a fine line of where it transforms from helpful to hurtful.

  7. Just a quick semi-off topic comment, Ogie :) Regarding "I'm not sure if we really have the ability to manage both emotional closeness/intimacy and physical intimacy with multiple people" - one of my professors recently stated that - according to some study, she didn't specify - people are only able to maintain close emotional ties to 15 people at a time throughout their lives. Of course this pertains to any and all close emotional relationships, not only romantic.

    1. Thanks for the validation Lisa :) I should look up that study

    2. No prob. My 'validation' isn't all that useful when it comes to reflections on monogamy, anyway:

      15 - 2 (parents) - 1 (sibling) - 1 (grandmother) - 5 (close friends) in my case would leave room for emotional closeness with 6 potential husbands :) Not to mention the fact that 'emotional closeness' with all spouses isn't generally considered (as far as I know) a necessary component in polygamic relationships, anyway. Just thought I'd share an interesting tidbit ;)