Are New Dating Apps Killing Monogamy -- or Has It Always Been Dead?

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 31, 2015 | Go to article overview

Are New Dating Apps Killing Monogamy -- or Has It Always Been Dead?


Byline: Caitlin Dewey The Washington Post

Are new dating apps killing monogamy -- or has it always been dead?

Before online dating, before her two kids, before the Big Conversation with her skeptical husband, Jessie already had an inkling that maybe she wasn't quite like the ladies she saw at church, that maybe the sexual strictures of life in D.C.'s moneyed suburbs weren't for her.

Her first marriage, in her early 20s, had ended after an affair. (Hers.) Her second marriage, started shortly thereafter, was "happy -- very happy," but as her boys grew up and moved out and moved on, she was left faintly bored.

She thought about cheating on her husband of 20 years. She considered bars, parties, a review of the lapses in her mid-20s.

Instead, she sat her husband down and told him something that more and more progressive couples are beginning to realize. They loved each other and wanted to stay together -- but in the age of Tinder and Ashley Madison and OKCupid, they also both wanted to have other options. Options they knew were just a click away.

"Interesting, introspective, happily married D.C. professional," reads Jessie's profile on the new non-monogamous dating site Open Minded. "I'm into building deep and loving relationships that add to the joy and alikeness of being human."

Open Minded isn't quite like Ashley Madison, the unapologetic dating-for-cheaters service that expects a billion-dollar valuation when it launches its impending IPO. It also isn't quite like mobile hookup app Tinder, where -- according to one recent report -- as many as 40 percent of "singles" are secretly ... not.

Instead, says Brandon Wade, the site's pragmatic, MIT-educated founder, Open Minded is a new kind of dating site for a newly mainstream lifestyle: one in which couples form very real attachments, just not exclusively with each other. He expects swingers, polysexuals and experimental 20-somethings to use his site. But he guesses that most of his 70,000 users are people like Jessie: Those in committed, conventional relationships, who realize that, statistically speaking, few modern couples stay with a single person their whole lives.

"If you look at marriage, it developed as a survival strategy and a means of raising kids," Wade said. "But relationships are no longer a necessary component of life. People have careers and other interests -- they can survive without them."

That's not wrong, says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and one of the world's leading relationship researchers. In the cave man days, humans teamed up in nonexclusive pairs to protect their children. Later, as people learned to plant crops and settle in one place, marriage became a way for men to guarantee kids, and for women -- who couldn't push heavy plows or carry loads of crops to market -- to eat and keep a roof over their heads.

There's a long history of married men sleeping around, Fisher said. And the romantic notion that relationships are anything but transactions is relatively recent -- as is the social expectation that both people partner for life, to the exclusion of everyone else.

In fact, given the history and prevalence of non-monogamous relationships throughout cultures, it's not scientifically correct to say the human species mates or pairs for life. Dogs mate for life. Beavers mate for life. Humans have one-night stands, paramours and a 50 percent divorce rate. …

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