Monogamy by Adam Phillips

Monogamy is a short book by the English psychotherapist Adam Phillips. It contains 121 extremely brief chapters on what Phillips calls “the only serious philosophical question” for some of us (the fortunate or affluent). Phillips is given to exaggeration and paradox, but that’s o.k. 

Below are some of his observations on being monogamous, with occasionally flippant responses:

(39)  “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nowhere to go. Which is one of the reasons why couples sometimes want to be totally honest with each other.” Because they have nowhere else to go or don’t want anywhere else to go?

(62)  “It is no more possible to work at a relationship than it is to will an erection or arrange to have a dream.” Yet doing something on purpose, like smiling, can sometimes make us happier.

(69)  “There is always someone else who would love me more, understand me better, make me feel more sexually alive. This is the best justification we have for monogamy — and infidelity.” Since there will always be someone better, you might as well stop searching. Or not.

(75)  “From the child’s point of view, the mother is — as the father will soon be — a model of promiscuity. She has a thousand things to do. She knows other people.” Yes, she was quite a disappointment that way.

(98)  “If we don’t choose monogamy, our fate will be isolation or the chaos of impersonality.” Or both.

(111)  “Familiarity may increase our affection, our respect, even our time for other people, but it rarely increases our desire for them.” As the song says, how can I miss you if you won’t go away?

(115)  “One way of loving people is to acknowledge that they have desires which exclude us; that it is possible to love and desire more than one person at the same time. Everyone knows that this is true, and yet we don’t want the people we love to start believing it about themselves”. It might be possible, but not everyone believes it is.  (4/1/13)