From the time we’re kids, we’re bombarded with fairy tales about finding our one true love. Love songs, rom-coms, and stories across cultures and continents all preach a very similar message: Finding your match, your soul mate, is the key to a fulfilled and happy life.
But here’s the thing: Love and monogamy aren’t the same. And humans are terrible at the latter.
In 2016, more than 2.2 million couples got married in America, but more than 800,000 got divorced. Cheating and breakups cause grief and heartache every day. Yet some historians and evolutionary biologists say monogamy is a relatively new, self-imposed system. Their evidence suggests humans lived without it for more than 250,000 years. And we only started marrying for love in the 1700s.
So if monogamy is so hard, why do most of us, all around the world, make it a central goal of our lives?
Vox tackled this question in the first episode of our new show with Netflix, Explained. We’ll have new episodes every Wednesday, on topics ranging from monogamy to gene editing to the racial wealth gap and more. If you like our videos, then you’ll love this show; it’s our most ambitious video project to date.
To watch, search “Explained” on Netflix or go to Netflix.com/explained. Click the “My List” button to make sure you don’t miss an episode!
Learn more about monogamy:
A philosopher makes the case for polyamory (Sean Illing, Vox)
9 things I’ve learned about marriage from being a couples therapist (Sherry Amatenstein, Vox)
Marriage, a History (Stephanie Coontz, whom we interviewed for this episode)
Sex at Dawn (Christopher Ryan, whom we also interviewed for this episode)
The Myth of Monogamy (David Barash, whom we also interviewed for this episode)
Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (a TED talk by Christopher Ryan)
Married, with infidelities (Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times Magazine)