Are you like a zebra finch? Zebra finches are social songbirds and, according to science, are sexually monogamous. A mated female zebra finch has a dopamine reaction only to the song of her mate.
She experiences no pleasurable response to the songs of other male finches. Her male partner has no reason at all to feel jealous, because she is not interested in other males, no matter how attractive they are or how hard they try.
Does Attraction Go Away in Monogamy?
Some people believe that being in a monogamous relationship should feel like being a female zebra finch. The belief is that being monogamous means never feeling attraction for people outside the relationship. And yet, almost everyone has felt a surge of jealously in response to a partner’s wandering eye, both those who are monogamous and those in open relationships.
Related story: “How to Handle Jealousy in Your Relationship”
Humans are not zebra finches. When we enter into a monogamous agreement, our capacity to be attracted to other people does not magically go away.
A monogamy agreement means that you agree together, explicitly, that certain behaviors are out of line and won’t be engaged in (and these agreements differ from one relationship to the next).
Related story: “How Do You Define Cheating?”
We Feel Jealous Because We Know Attraction Still Exists
Just because someone feels attraction for someone else does not mean they are going to act on that attraction. We have the capacity, as humans with more complex brains than zebra finches, to differentiate between feelings and behaviors. We make the conscious choice to honor our monogamy agreements. Or not.
For those who do not wish to be monogamous, there are a variety of other options. The New Monogamy (the title of my book) is an understanding that in the modern world, couples are making agreements that may allow for some sexual exploration outside of being an emotionally monogamous couple.
Other people choose to engage in a variety of consensual non-monogamous relationship types, such as polyamory or swinging.
Related story: “Could Open Marriage Be Right For You?”
Make Relationship Agreements That You Can (and Will) Stick To
No matter what type of relationship you choose, your agreement should be explicit and consensual. Having an explicit agreement means that all the rules and boundaries are spelled out and talked about. A consensual agreement means that the rules and boundaries must be agreed to by all parties, without coercion.
A cheater is one who breaks their monogamy agreement. This happens so often that it’s pretty much guaranteed that humans are not like zebra finches. We can choose to break our agreements when we feel aroused by people outside of our relationships. Or we can choose not to.
We always have a choice.
There’s no need to feel jealous if you’ve negotiated an agreement that everyone involved is happy with. If you need help negotiating a consensual monogamy agreement, check out my book, The New Monogamy, or schedule a session today!
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