This question was posed to me by a female reader a while back, and I think it’s an interesting one. Before I get into it, I want to side-step the whole question of monogamy for a minute and operate under the assumption that we’re talking about men and women who want to be monogamous and married. So the question is, would these people who spent years sleeping around be more likely or less likely to be good long-term partners?
The implication here is that someone who spends an inordinate amount of time carousing singles lounges and having one night stands is going to be more easily tempted to wander when they’re tied down, or at least have less patience for working things through with their spouse, since there’s always an easy alternative available.
My personal experience and what I’ve observed has been the opposite though. The more sexual experience I’ve gotten and the more I’ve gone out, the more unimpressed I’ve become towards casual sex and pursuing one-night-stands, and the healthier and more fulfilling my relationships have become. Granted, it took me quite a while to reach this point, but I’ve seen the same process play out in plenty of other people as well. Surveys suggest this as well, as younger generations are waiting longer to get married, are more promiscuous before getting married, and as a result, are having more successful marriages than the previous generations.
Because I’ve been promiscuous. the fact that my standards for a woman that I’m willing to settle down with have become so high lead me to believe that I’d be less likely to stray when I did find that woman who I’d be willing to commit to for the long-haul. When a man has only been with two women in his life, it’s easy for him to question how valuable his connection with his wife is. But when he’s been with 100, he can rest assured that what he has in his relationship is truly special and unique, and therefore he’ll be less motivated to stray.
Now, that’s a nice sunshine and rainbows answer, and probably what wanted to hear. And although it has some truth, I do think there’s a deeper, and slightly darker angle to this situation.
Promiscuous behavior has a strong correlation with low self-esteem, so do failing marriages and cheaters. As I’ve said for years, becoming promiscuous isn’t just about the girls, it’s an effort of self improvement in disguise. People drawn to it are often drawn to it due to underlying emotional issues and traumas, and these same issues and traumas are very likely to cause relationship problems down the road if not resolved.
On top of that, behavior that is useful for being promiscuous is often counter-productive or damaging for maintaining relationships with them. For instance, an unwillingness to compromise your needs is a sexy and attractive trait when you’re dealing with a sassy girl in a bar. But when it’s your wife complaining about you ditching her for your friends for the fifth week in a row, then it’s not really that attractive anymore. Relationships require a totally separate toolbox to operate successfully. And although there’s plenty of crossover between the two, many of the tools for relationships are polar opposite of the ones we use to seduce.
So on the one hand, we have people becoming more experienced, more sexually satisfied and developing higher standards and appreciation for the partners they do date. On the other hand, the same impulses that fuel a person’s desire to sleep with a lot of people are often the same impulses that undo the relationship.
Ultimately, I think this is an impossible question to answer definitively, as individuals differ way too much. It also depends on people’s various standards for monogamy. Non-monogamous or “open marriages” are becoming far more common. I would say that the people who promiscuity as an avenue for self-exploration, emotional growth and sexual experimentation, may even possibly set themselves up to be far better spouses than they would have been otherwise. They will be better communicators, better listeners, more in touch with their emotions, more sexually satisfied, and more secure in their sexual experience.
Meanwhile, people who (ab)use promiscuity as an addiction for external validation, as another means of avoiding their emotional problems and traumas, they are likely going to be worse relationship material. Their underlying fear and pain of emotional commitment will remain unaddressed, and on top of that, they will have less patience, less of a willingness to make necessary sacrifices, and easier avenues for cheating.
So I’d say it comes down to the individual. We all use these tools for both healthy and unhealthy purposes at times. Some of us need more external validation than others. Some of us have more internal hurdles to overcome first. Some of us have healthier beliefs and prior experiences with women than others. Promiscuity itself is relatively benign in the long-run.
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