How Darwin Can Save Your Marriage

Go Here Now,To Save Your Marriage!

Christopher Ryan argues that we are hardwired to crave novelty, which leads to infidelity in marriages. Ryan says the way that culture responds to this "natural behavior" causes more problems than it solves. In other words, sex isn't such a big deal, so why do we let it get in the way of all the other important things? The point of marriage is to grow old with someone and develop a sense of trust. Therefore, Ryan argues we need to take a "harm reduction approach" over an "absolutist approach." That means that marriage needs to adapt to the realities of human nature.

Transcript–
We are designed by evolution to be titillated by erotic novelty, males and females. Given that evolutionary design, it's completely predictable that 10 years of the same thing, whether it's the same music or the same food or the same sex partner, is going to lead to resentment, discomfort, whatever. It's going to lead to a diminishment of passion, certainly. So we start with that and then we add to that the notion that we're taught that that shouldn't happen, that if it does happen there's something wrong with you or something wrong with your relationship. And so people aren't expecting that to happen, and so they interpret that diminishment of passion as a failure.

The point that we're trying to get across in the book is that it's not your fault. It's not your partner's fault. It's the fault of the clash between the sort of animal we are and the sort of society we've designed. And as long as there's that conflict between our biology and our societies, there are going to be these problems. So a harm reduction approach might make a lot more sense than this sort of absolutist approach that a lot of people take where any infidelity, any, you know, my husband looks at porn, that means he doesn't love me anymore. I mean, these sorts of responses to very natural behaviors cause a lot more problems than they solve, I think.

I think if marriage is going to survive as an institution, it's going to certainly have to continue adapting to the realities of human nature as opposed to trying to shoehorn human nature into some predetermined shape. The point of marriage is that you want to get old with someone. You want to share your life with someone. Maybe you want to raise children with someone. You want to have a certain stability and trust that you couldn't possibly get with short-term relationships. That's the point of marriage. And by imposing this expectation of sexual exclusivity for 40, 50, 60 years, we're cutting ourselves off from those really important things for something that's essentially trivial. Sex really isn't really that important. It's not that big a deal. And by making it such a big deal, we sabotage things that really are important, these primary relationships. We have children going through divorces, victimized by the psychological trauma of divorce, over what? Over what? That mommy or daddy had sex with someone else? Who cares?

The problem is, much like the war on drugs, the problem is that we take this absolutist approach to something that people are always going to do. People are always going to smoke marijuana. People are always going to drink alcohol and coffee and whatever. But we make these arbitrary judgments on what's acceptable and what isn't, that have nothing to do with the actual harm that anything of these things could cause to people. So we throw people in prison for, you know, growing a marijuana plant on their windowsill. It makes no sense; it causes much more harm than just letting people do what they want to do.

And really, whose business is it if a couple decides that they're going to, you know, allow a little casual sexual behavior on the side, especially if, as Dan Savage argues, and I agree, it takes the pressure off the relationship. If the door's open a little bit, you don't feel trapped. It doesn't mean the door has to be swung wide open, but, you know, the fact that it's open a little bit doesn't mean that the marriage is a farce, certainly.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

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30 thoughts on “How Darwin Can Save Your Marriage

  1. I’m 38 and I’ve been married since 2006. I still very much love my wife. But I also still very much crave for other women of a certain type (asian and spanish). I don’t flirt or even allow myself to get to friendly with women at work who I find very attractive. I don’t want to risk it. So I settle for asian/latina porn. I don’t want to cheat on her with an actual person from work/life, because I don’t want to giver her the liberty of sharing me with another man. I don’t want an open marriage.

  2. The right thing is to do everything consensually. If someone agrees that the partner can have sex with someone else, what’s the problem? If someone wants to have sex with multiple people, (s)he can do it without getting married.

    But what should change is the law… the law should permit other forms of relationship, for example polygamy. What’s the problem if everybody inside the relationship agrees?

  3. marriage is a choice, not an obligation.
    if you don’t want to be faithful, don’t get get married.
    if you still wanna get married, find someone who will agree to an open relationship.
    and face the consequences of your choice.
    it’s that simple!

  4. I agree with this guy and I think it is common sense. My girlfriend says this guy is full of crap though. I guess women and religious nuts lack common sense.

  5. What’s to say that hasn’t happened? I recommend reading his book, “Sex at Dawn” to see there’s more to it than just jealousy. But yeah, humans are irrational. What this video, and his book, call for is a rational approach to this very emotional topic, and in the book he goes into much greater depth about the evolutionary roots of our behavior.

  6. I loved Ryan’s “Sex at Dawn” book, and his evidence-based approach to human behavioral evolution, and this talk is a nice little teaser into that concept. I’m not sure I’m a fan of these “Big Think” videos though. I guess their point is to titillate and inspire further investigation by viewers, but the problem is that they’re like TED talks for the short attention spanned, and they’re too short to really convince skeptics.

  7. Jealousy is nothing more than a fear of not fitting in. A fear you might be left alone, that you are not good enough. That’s a fearytale for weak people. When you both know you are the best there is and you have already built the base floor of your building, go ahead and have sex and be free. And don’t ever listen stupid idiots in the Internets.

    1. Daniel Korolev Right. I agree with you. People who are happy, confident, and secure in themselves don’t get jealous and possessive. Jealousy is nothing more than insecurity. Insecurity is a very unattractive energy anyway. Like you said, jealousy is for weak people. Be strong, happy, and confident. And yes, be free.

  8. If a couple mutually decides to explore their sexual options and does so will full trust, openness, and honesty between the two of them, I’d hardly consider that cheating.

  9. where was the sound engineer on this one? the whole video has scratching noise. Otherwise, an interesting discussion.

  10. I have read “Sex at Dawn” and I am in complete agreement with Dr Ryan. We were not meant to be monogamous and so it will be a struggle to be so. To each his or her own, but don’t let society tell you that you are weird if you have sexual thoughts (or even actions) toward someone who is not your spouse. Agriculture caused us LOTS of problems. Men and women used to be much more equal. Sex was a way to be social. I have also read a lot about Bonobos culture. Read the book…then make your comments.

    1. April Deeana Hughes Right. I agree. We aren’t meant to be monogamous. It’s true. It’s religious brainwashing that causes these problems.

  11. If sex isn’t a big deal then no one would do something they know would lose them their partner for the sake of sex, he shoots his own point in the foot when he says that.  A person isn’t just a hole, you don’t just go up to a person (generally) and stick your wang in them.  Which means if you’re in a committed relationship and having sex with someone else you’ve decided that your significant other isn’t enough and have spent actual time flirting ect with another person, forming a connection with that person enough that you’re comfortable screwing them.  If sex isn’t a big deal don’t make it a big deal, stick with your partner.  It’s not a ‘so what’ situation it’s about loyalty, it’s about knowing that you’re enough for one another.

    1. Easier said than done. Boredom is a real thing, we are designed by evolution to seek novelty. Sticking with your partner (only, completely) can turn into a lot of resentment because your freedom is being squashed. The main desire of all people is freedom.

      Marriage is meant to help you grow as a person, and to get really intimate with someone. That is a good thing. But the reality is, our species is attracted to sexual variety (new research is even saying women need MORE sexual variety than men to keep their libidos going). Basically, we get bored with the same thing (whether it be food, sex, entertainment) over and over again.

      Our species would not be where it is if it weren’t for this drive for novelty. Period.

      I agree with Dr. Ryan. We really need to get over this “monogamy is the only moral way” B.S. If you really love your partner, you won’t be possessive and you’ll let them have a little freedom to breathe. Again, like Dr. Ryan said, you don’t have to swing the door wide open, but the door should be open a little bit. We should allow our partner a little fling here and there.

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  12. I agree, enthusiastically. But the problem is that most people, especially women, cannot force themselves to look at relationships, and act in their relationships, from this meta-instinct perspective for their whole lives. I know, wholeheartedly, that I could marry a woman and go out and have sex with other women—even fall in love with other women—while still taking care of, having sex with, being committed to, and living with my wife till she and I die. But to expect most people to be able to do this is irrational; for we are still too much like other animals; we live by feelings, by instinct, not by rationality. Until we’re able to deeply alter our brains, this kind of meta-instinct perspective will neither become widespread nor stable.

    1. +Mike James: Interesting, you don’t use the word love in “while still taking care of, having sex with, being committed to, and living with my wife till she and I die.” I am not judging. I appreciate the matter-of-factly straightforwardness here as I am curious to understand the different ways we, humans, define and express our own versions of monogamy especially in the light of Dr. Ryan’s and others’ books on this topic. I don’t have all the answers either but glad the conversation is taking place thanks to these books and lectures.

    2. Thanks for your reply. I should have included the word ‘love’ – for I would be able, I believe, to love a woman in addition to doing those things for and with her and in addition to having sex with other women. I consider love for a woman to be something deeper and more stable than merely that intense in-love feeling that many of us experience at least a few times throughout our lives.

    3. +Mike James: Yes of course there is loving beyond the intense in-love phase. What many of us, humans, are trying to figure out through these books and discussions is — how do we, both men and women, conclude in our heads the difference in merit between that something deeper and more stable situation of “living with wife” vs. “going out and having sex with other women—even falling in love with other women” … how do we evaluate, measure and sort through the differences in the level of attraction, emotional connection, commitment, comfort and habitual of an established attachment, social convenience, etc. and decide to stick with one person, if that’s the case, and why. Perhaps it’s more complex than just something like — women can’t and men can. But it is definitely worth thinking about. Thank you for the though provoking comment. Peace.

  13. This talk completely overlooks the fact that given genetic differences in bonding hormones etc, for many people sexual fidelity is an intrinsic component of emotional bonding . Proposing that people with monogamous inclination adopt the preferences of those with polyamorous inclinations is unfair and cruel. Let’s just be honest with each other about who we are and what our inclinations are so we can avoid relationship disasters. The problem I’ve frequently encountered is that many polyamorous people lie and take advantage of the monogamously inclined. They want freedom from fidelity but do not like their partner to have the same….so they lie.

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  14. I totally agree with Ryan … marriage should help you grow to become a better person. it should not be a trap. Good job!

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  16. France and Italy are already doing what Dr. Ryan recommends in the video. France and Italy have very high rates of affairs, yet the divorce rate is super low. It’s about 11% in Italy, as opposed to America’s 53%.

    The reason French and Italian marriages stay together is because they have far more realistic expectations regarding sexual behavior. They don’t expect complete sexual fidelity. The Mediterranean countries have a “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding affairs. As long as you keep the affair secret and discreet, everything is fine. No wonder they don’t get divorced. People are far happier in the countries that have a more relaxed attitude toward sex.

    Dr. Catherine Hakim speaks of the Mediterranean countries policies toward marriage in her book “The New Rules”. It goes into great detail regarding different cultural attitudes regarding sex. She particularly likes the French model, for sure. We would be a far happier society if we took on the French model of marriage.

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