Why Monogamy Isn’t Natural, and What This Means For Long-Term Relationships 
 A transcript of a  12 minute talk I was invited to deliver as part of ‘The Sex Lectures’ series in Manchester, November 2018
I’m going to begin with a bold statement. Monogamy is not natural.

But before you go running for the doors, start throwing tomatoes at me or rush out to go buy some pampas leaves to plant in your garden, let me explain why understanding this basic fact could actually be the key to re-igniting desire in your relationship.

And how you- as an individual and as a couple- can move into a second, third or even fourth stage of your relationship that is even more erotic, more intimate, and more satisfying than the heady days of when you first met.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans are most closely related (from a genetic and behavioural perspective) to the bonobo primate.

Bonobos, like humans, go through different stages of courtship and love. Bonobo meets bonobo, they fall in lust, they romance, they have their hearts broken,  they scale each other marks out of 10, fall in love and begin to make home together.

The pair stay committed to each other  for at least as long as the baby bonobo is able to literally to stand on his own two feet, at which point the parents part ways and begin the cycle of falling in lust, romance, love and child rearing all over again.

I like to imagine they at least high five and promise to send a card at Christmas, but ultimately life long commitment is not a construct they subscribe to. Indeed, even during their period of committed pair-bonding, our bonobo friends are free to have sex with whoever and whenever they want, with female bonobos known to have sex with 12 different partners a day- and still have time to go home and feed the baby!

How exhausting you might think.

And yet here is the rub... 
Human beings are the only social-living primates who actively subscribe to the idea of monogamy.
We too are innately driven by the biological urges of lust, as well as love. We want the security of the pair-bond, as well as the excitement of the new.

Yet as humans what can happen is that we put ourselves in either camp without finding the middle ground. We play the field... and crave companionship, we find our life long partner... and miss the thrill of the chase.

So we say until death do us part, furiously deny ever checking out the ass of a sexy passer by, and feel there’s something wrong with us if we do.

Monogamy is not natural- but we’re conditioned to think it is.

Given our longer life expectancy, our ever increasing connection to people, places and things is it surprising that this tension between what we’re conditioned to think about monogamy and how we are biologically programmed to relate to it is felt more than ever?

Whilst I’m not suggesting we make like our bonobos and start asking our neighbours for a quick orgy at lunchtime (although, hey, if that’s your thing…) , sex therapist Esther Perel suggests these evolutionarily (although not socially)  compatible needs for lust as well as love, for adventure as well as security, should be seen not as a “problem to be solved, rather a paradox to be managed”

So if we love our partner deeply, and don’t want to risk it all for a quick roll in the hay with someone new, how do we satisfy these contradictory urges without hurting our partner, our relationship or ourselves?
So, how do we inject the erotic into the everyday?
Foundation 1: Learn to Communicate
How often does your communication revolve around childcare, work, plans with friends or family, but not about the fundamental thing that got you together in the first place?

How many of you have admitted to your partner- or perhaps even to yourself- that your sex life has become a bit stale? That you’re feeling a bit bored, and maybe a bit depressed about the state of the whole thing?

Starting to get honest with yourself and each other, and talking about how you are feeling is essential if you are to start rebuilding your erotic connection.

Yes it can feel scary, but by opening up and having honest conversations about sex is the first step towards clearing old resentments and confusion, understanding each other’s perspectives, and establishing the solid foundation from which renewed intimacy and sexual connection can arise.

Traditional couples are made of 2 individuals. There is you, and there is your partner. Together you share your relationship.

When that relationship becomes such that each individual loses their respective identity, and becomes defined by the other, the relationship becomes suffocating. We look to the other to provide all of our needs- to be our confidante, our co-parent, our rock, our best friend, our business partner, our stand up comedian, our therapist....

There’s little space to breathe, let alone have sex-  and often these roles leave little room for the role of lover, which gets pushed down on the list of priorities as the demands of life get in the way.

And conversely when the relationship becomes too defined by respective individuality the distance between you becomes too great for you to connect at all.

To keep the erotic charge alive, remember that two do not (or should not) become one. You are interlocking circles. Together, and apart.

Research was done asking when people in long-term relationships are most attracted to their partner. The three most common answers?

1. When they are away- and when we reunite.
2. When I see them in their flow, doing something separate to me and to which I don’t belong.
3. When there is novelty in our relationship. 
Foundation 2: Rediscover Yourself, And Each Other 
Three Steps To A Better Sex Life 
Step One:
Reveal A Part Of Yourself That Is Unexpected
Ask each other about your fantasies.

Not only can this feel naughty, exciting and a little transgressive, you give each other the opportunity to view and be viewed in a new perspective.

I heard of a woman recently who confessed to her husband that the idea of having group sex really turns her on. This lady- a devoted mother of three, loyal wife, business owner and ardent cake-baker- imagining getting fucked by multiple men! Who’d have thought it? Certainly not her husband.

And whilst this was a fantasy- not a desire to enact it in real life, and there is a difference-  sharing this brought it into their shared erotic imagination.

The next time they made love, he started whispering to her, painting the picture of being surrounded by others… they were able to actively engage in this fantasy together- using it (and a number of different sized dildos eagerly bought from the local sex shop) to spice up their Tuesday night sex rather than it residing in the solitary- and often guilty- confines of her imagination.
Most of us tend to default to our old favourite way of self-pleasuring- the quickest and more efficient pathway to pleasure that becomes ingrained in our bodies and our brains.

The challenge can be that it becomes the ONLY way to getting off, and if our partner doesn’t move, touch, or lick in exactly the right way our sexual pleasure during partnered sex can become a little tricky.

And if sex isn’t satisfying, is it any wonder the drive to do it slowly dwindles?

Start to touch yourself in new ways. Get to know your body. Take control of your turn on. Slow down. Discover new parts of your body, play with different speeds, pressures and sensations.

This not only keeps you connected to and empowered by your sexuality for and of itself, it means you will be more able to start feeling more during sex- and therefore enjoy it more-  when with your partner.

The other thing you could do is watch each other masturbate. This is like the best form of adult show and tell around! Not only is it a massive turn on, we get to learn about what how our partners like to be touched.

And when you are having sex- find your voice ! Check in with your partner, how does this feel? What would make this more pleasurable for you? Do you prefer this touch, or this one?

And don’t wait to be asked- tell your partner when something feels good through words, or moans or gently direct by moving their hand to where you prefer to be touched.

Step 2: Start Masturbating More. Alone and Together
Step 3: Forget About The Orgasm
The most common complaint I hear from the couples I coach is that one or other either feels pressured to have sex, or rejected for wanting it.

When I ask, the sex generally being offered (or denied) is penetration, leading to orgasm.

Yet when I delve deeper, what’s really behind the desire is often more about connection, intimacy, pleasure, relaxation. And what’s really behind the refusal is not that the partner doesn’t want the same, but a lack of time or energy, a feeling of being under pressure, residual resentments and a sense it’s not going to be that exciting anyway.

But because these things are rarely discussed, walls go up, misunderstandings are made, the TV’s turned on, and the sexual relationship is turned off.

Distance is created, rather than the intimacy that is craved.

Finding our desire for sex isn’t always as simple as striking a match.

One way of keeping the fire always gently burning is, in Esther Perel’s words, to make sure that ‘foreplay begins the moment the last sexual encounter ends’.

So rather than focus on ‘sex as penetration’ or ‘sex as orgasm’, how about creating daily, bite-sized moments of sensual intimacy instead?

For example, start to re-ignite the joy of kissing for kissing’s sake. To share a bubble bath. To give each other a sensual massage. To send each other a flirty text. To tease each other with genital touch that doesn’t result in climax.

Even if you do end up having sex, if the same thing is on the menu every time then no wonder we become a little bored.

And in the spirit of honesty, sometimes having the same person on the menu can get a little predictable as well....

Start to expand your sexual possibilities together.

You could start watching porn together. This could be based on the fantasies you’ve shared already, or could be a way of discovering new fantasies together.

Try out a new position. Change location. How about committing to not having sex in your bedroom, for at least the next 5 times you make love?

And if you want to make like our bonobo neighbours and engage in sexual interaction with others in real life?

Then yes, IF it feels exciting, consensual and motivationally aligned with each other.

There are a number of ways of doing this.

You can watch other couples have sex online, and if you’re feeling brave turn the camera on yourselves.

Or the number of reputable sex clubs and parties are on the rise, and a great way of dipping your toe into some ‘live porn’ where you can get involved, or remain as voyeur.

You could have threesomes. Or foursomes.

You can even go so far as to having polyamorous relationships if that feels good to you.

There’s all this and more.

The possibilities are endless. And it’s likely that you’ll move up and down the spectrum of possibilities depending on where you are at, both individually and as a couple.

Sometimes netflix and a takeaway is all you need to feel connected. And sometimes it’s something much more.
Step 4: Inject Novelty Into The Familiar 
In Conclusion

There is such beauty to be found in long term relationships- the commitment, stability, comfort, shared values, familiarity, warmth, protection, nurture (the list goes on).

And there is such beauty in wild lustful abandonment, in embracing our hyper erotic, in allowing the full expression of our sexual vitality, and honouring this as our birth right.

And there is ultimate beauty in autonomy and having a life and relationship that feels authentic to you.

If that means polyamory, open relationships, serial monogamy, being monogamish, or even being in a sexless relationship if it is aligned with what you both want, then I say go for it.

I tell you not of the bonobos to give you license to roam.

Rather to help you understand that monogamy is normal, but it is not natural. To invite your awareness of this and to start communicating so that you are able to manage this paradox together.

Maintaining eroticism within loving long term relationships takes work- and I call bullshit on anyone who claims otherwise.

But it is possible to fuel your erotic connection as well as stabilise the foundation of your future.

With a little time, attention and renewed connection to yourselves and each other, you can start anew. The next chapter awaits. It’s just waiting for the two of you to turn the page.

Thank you.