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Future of relationships: changing views of Monogamy and Infidelity
Dick Pelletier   Apr 14, 2012   Positive Futurist  

Biological anthropology professor at Rutgers University, Helen Fisher, who has written five books on the future of human sex, love, and relationships, says that marriage has changed more in the last 100 years than the previous 10,000, and it could change more in the next 20 years than the past 100.

We’re shedding traditions that have survived since our culture began 10,000 years ago, Fisher says, and it appears we’re returning to the ancient sex and romance practices of our hunter-gatherer days.

Concepts such as, ‘till death do us part, a woman’s place is in the home, and men as the primary wage earner, began disappearing in the last half of the 20th century. Today, relationships are undergoing huge changes. Divorce is viewed more as a solution than a shame; working-women are now the norm; living together without marriage is gaining popularity; and some states have legalized same-sex weddings.

In addition, our concept of infidelity is also changing. Some married couples agree that it’s OK to have brief sexual encounters when they travel separately; others sustain long-term adulterous relationships with their spouse’ approval. Even our view of divorce is experiencing major transformations. Ending a marriage used to be considered a failure; now it’s often deemed the next step toward true happiness.

Historians, however, tell us these trends are not new. Anthropologists have uncovered clues to how our Paleolithic ancestors lived. Before the advent of agriculture, humans faced a short, brutal lifespan. Some survived to age 50, but most died young or at birth, with average life expectancy in the 30-40 range.

With such a short lifespan, ancestral children were likely to experiment with sex by age six. Most couples lived in temporary relationships, and being unfaithful was common for these cave dwellers.

When our forbears found themselves in an unhappy situation, they simply walked away and found another cave. Scientists believe that most hunter-gatherers had sex for fun, not just to reproduce.

In these ancient tribes, the females performed most of the work, regularly leaving camp to gather fruits, nuts, and vegetables; and returning with the evening meal. Double-income families were the rule, and women were just as economically powerful as men were. Throughout much of the world, women are now regaining this equal economic and social power they once held in our prehistoric past.

Researchers at Rutgers University’s National Marriage Project found that Americans are marrying later, exiting marriage more quickly, and choosing to live together before marriage; some couples are opting to remain single throughout their entire lives.

As we wind through the 21st Century, new relationships will challenge many of our traditions and social policies. Houston futurist Sandy Burchsted, who recently spoke at a World Future Society conference, believes that in the future, most people will marry at least four times and experience extramarital affairs with little public censure. Marriage will be considered an evolutionary process, not a one-time-only event.

The first marriage will be seen as the icebreaker, lasting about five years, where couples learn to live together and become sexually experienced; but once disillusionment sets in, it will be perfectly acceptable for the couple to separate, as divorce will carry little stigma in the future. Next, people will marry for a 15-to-20 year parenting experience. Raising children will be the primary purpose for this arrangement.

The third union, called self-discovery will be about partners getting to know each other at deeper levels and better understand what they hope to gain out of life. The fourth and final marriage will be a late-in-life ‘soul mate’ connection, filled with marital bliss, shared spirituality, physical monogamy, and equality. With medical science extending lifespans, this marriage could last indefinitely. The perfect, deeply rewarding relationship that humans have always been pursuing, seemingly forever, might finally become reality.

Today, we live in a sea of technological trends that reshape our lives. To bond is human. Drives to fall in love are deeply embedded in our nature, and with new aids to sex and romance; such as Viagra and estrogen replacement; longer lifespans; and growing acceptance of new ways to bond; we will have an opportunity to create a more-fulfilling partnership than at any time in our history. Welcome to the future!

Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.


Interesting, the ancient Celts had a great number of different marriages depending on property, children and the intent of the relationship. I would think that a similar development is happening now. The challenge will be to define the nature of the expected relationship before signing any papers.

I don’t think the evolution of relationships will happen quickly. It could take a half century or more before Sandy Burchsted’s idea that most people will marry at least four times and experience extramarital affairs with little public censure will become reality.

The radical change in how we relate on intimate levels will happen slowly, as support trickles forward through the years.

Remember, other technologies will advance during this century too. Life extension gurus are already talking about 1,000 year lifespans with everyone remaining in a youthful and forever healthy state. Some advocates believe the first person to reach 1,000 years of life has already been born.

In addition, experts talk of unraveling the mysteries of consciousness within the next two-to-three decades. Wild speculations over how this will affect humanity are mind-boggling. Many believe that with enhancements predicted that will increase the speed of our thoughts, we would be able to consider several options before making a decision. This could make the desire to harm or deceive others rarely chosen.

Non-monogamy, let’s call it, at this time benefits men more than women.


In today’s world, hyou’re probably right. Exctramarital affairs seems to benefit men more than women.

But in tomorrow’s high-tech world, not being monogomous may become an accepted way of life for everyone with benefits shared equally.

Sounds good—but then I’m a guy, so probably have nothing to lose however things turn out.
It is a Man’s world.

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