Understanding the Difference between Polygamy and Monogamy

If you’re curious as to whether you’re a monogamist, don’t be alarmed. Most of us are. However, in other cultures, such as those in Africa and the Middle East, it’s common for men to have multiple wives. It’s referred to as polygamy. The different types of polygamy include polygyny (one man has multiple wives), polyandry (one woman has multiple husbands), and group marriage (where multiple people are married to one another).

This raises the question: what’s the big difference between monogamy and polygamy? Is either one better than the other? For starters, in monogamous relationships, both partners are committed to one another, meaning they only have one romantic partner at a time. Conversely, polygamy involves multiple partners in some form or another. While there are some attractive qualities to this arrangement, it’s not without certain complications. For example, there’s a possibility of jealousy, possessiveness and favoritism.

History of Polygamy and Monogamy

Polygamy and monogamy are two systems of marriage where polygamy stands for the practice of marrying more than one spouse and monogamy stands for the practice of marrying one spouse. Both polygamy and monogamy have been around for centuries, but the idea of having multiple partners or one partner has been accepted or rejected by different cultures and societies throughout history.

The history of polygamy dates back to the biblical times, where patriarchs and kings of Israel were known to have multiple wives. The book of Genesis tells a story of Jacob, who had two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their children often had conflicts due to their mother’s jealousy. In Islamic cultures, polygamy is still practiced, and the religion allows men to have up to four wives, given that they can provide for all of them equally.

  • In ancient Rome, it was legal for men to have concubines, mistresses, and wives, but women could only have one spouse.
  • In ancient Greece, polygamy was allowed but uncommon.
  • In China, polygamy was legal until the mid-20th century, where it was abolished with the Communist Party’s rise to power.

Monogamy, on the other hand, was a concept introduced during the Middle Ages and is widely practiced in Western cultures. The church enforced the idea of monogamy and condemned polygamy, considering it sinful and deviant. With the spread of Christianity, monogamy became the norm, a symbol of purity, and fidelity, whereas polygamy was associated with barbarians and despots.

It is essential to note that although polygamy has been widely practiced in the past and in some cultures, it is illegal in most countries. Polygamy is considered a crime in the United States and other countries where monogamy is the only legal form of marriage. However, polygamy has been gaining popularity in recent years, with some advocating for legalizing it as a form of individual freedom.

The clash of ideas between polygamy and monogamy has been a recurring theme throughout history. The notion of having one spouse or multiple spouses is tied to cultural, religious, economic, and social factors and differs from society to society. Understanding the history of these two systems of marriage can help us gain a new perspective on these complex and controversial issues.

Cultural differences in polygamous and monogamous relationships

While the idea of love and relationships might be universal, the way different cultures approach the topic can vary greatly. This is especially true when it comes to monogamous and polygamous relationships. Here are some of the cultural differences between these two types of relationships.

  • In African cultures, polygamy is more commonly practiced and is often viewed as a way to build larger families and tribes. Having multiple wives is also seen as a symbol of wealth and social status.
  • In Western cultures, monogamy is the dominant relationship type. It is often seen as a way to build a strong emotional connection with one partner and create a stable home and family life.
  • In some Middle Eastern cultures, polygamy is allowed but only under certain conditions. For example, a man must be able to provide equally for all of his wives and must receive permission from each wife before marrying another.

These cultural differences can have a significant impact on the dynamics of relationships. For example, in a polygamous relationship, jealousy and competition between wives can be common. However, in some cultures, the wives are encouraged to support and care for each other as a way to build a strong family unit.

In monogamous relationships, the emphasis is often on building a strong emotional and physical connection with one partner. However, this can also create a sense of pressure to stay in a relationship even if it is no longer fulfilling.

It is important to note that cultural differences are only one factor that can influence relationships. Ultimately, the success of any relationship depends on the individuals involved and their ability to communicate, compromise, and make each other happy.

Polygamy Monogamy
Multiple wives/husbands One wife/husband
More common in African and Middle Eastern cultures More common in Western cultures
Seen as a symbol of wealth and social status in some cultures Seen as a way to build a strong emotional connection with one partner in some cultures
Can create jealousy and competition between spouses Can create pressure to stay in a relationship even if it is no longer fulfilling

At the end of the day, whether you choose to have a polygamous or monogamous relationship should be a personal decision based on your own values and cultural background. What works for one person or culture might not work for another. The most important thing is to find a relationship that makes you and your partner(s) happy.

Legal issues surrounding polygamy and monogamy

Both polygamy and monogamy have their own set of legal issues, ranging from marriage laws to inheritance and divorce. Here are some of the most notable legal issues that arise from these two types of marriages.


  • In monogamous marriages, the law recognizes only one spouse. Polygamous marriages, on the other hand, are not recognized by law in most countries, which means that they are not legally valid.
  • One of the major legal issues surrounding monogamy is divorce. In a monogamous marriage, the couple will have to go through the legal process of divorce to end their relationship. This process can be lengthy and expensive and can involve issues such as property division, spousal support, and custody.
  • Another legal issue that arises from monogamous marriages is inheritance. In the event of a spouse’s death, the surviving spouse is entitled to inherit a share of the deceased spouse’s property. However, if the couple was not legally married, the surviving spouse may not be entitled to any inheritance.


Polygamy is illegal in most countries, including the United States. The legal issues surrounding polygamous marriages are therefore significant.

  • In polygamous marriages, only the first spouse is recognized as legal. This means that any subsequent marriages are not recognized by law, and the other spouses are considered to be living in a state of adultery.
  • Another legal issue surrounding polygamy is child custody. If a man has multiple wives and each wife has children, it can be difficult to determine which wife should have custody of the children in the event of a divorce or the man’s death.
  • The issue of spousal support in polygamous marriages is also complex. In most countries, polygamous marriages are not recognized, which means that the other wives are not entitled to spousal support if the husband dies or divorces the first wife.


There are many legal issues surrounding both polygamous and monogamous marriages. In monogamous relationships, the law recognizes only one spouse, while in polygamous marriages, only the first spouse is recognized as legal. Both types of marriages can also face issues with divorce, inheritance, and child custody.

Legal Issue Monogamy Polygamy
Number of spouses recognized by law One Only the first spouse
Divorce Legal process required, can involve property division, spousal support, and custody. Complex, can involve multiple spouses and children
Inheritance Surviving spouse entitled to a share of deceased spouse’s property Other spouses may not be entitled to any inheritance
Child Custody Determined based on custody laws Complicated due to multiple spouses and children
Spousal Support May be entitled to spousal support Other wives not entitled to support, polygamy is illegal

Overall, the legal issues surrounding polygamous and monogamous marriages are numerous and complex. It is important for couples to understand the laws and regulations surrounding their marriages to ensure that their rights and interests are protected.

Religious views on polygamy and monogamy

In various religions across the world, marriage is considered a sacred institution that brings two individuals together for a lifetime commitment made before their deity. While different religions have different beliefs and practices when it comes to marriage, most commonly, there are two forms of marital union – polygamy and monogamy.

  • Polygamy: Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple partners simultaneously. It is further categorized into two forms: polygyny – a husband having multiple wives, and polyandry – a wife having multiple husbands. Within some religious communities, polygamy is still practiced, but in many parts of the world, it is banned, often due to human rights, women’s rights, and social considerations.
  • Monogamy: Monogamy is the practice of marrying only one partner at a time. It is the dominant form of marriage in most countries. Monogamy, particularly the nuclear family model, has been favored by modern Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions which view it as the ideal form of marriage.

Religious views on polygamy and monogamy vary widely across different communities and cultures. Some religions approve of one or the other, while some consider them equal in some way.

In Christianity, monogamy is highly encouraged and celebrated, with the Bible speaking of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the importance of fidelity in that relationship. Christians believe that God created Adam and Eve to be together as a unit, and therefore this is the best form of marital unity. However, some followers of the Mormon Church still practice polygamy, as they believe that God has commanded them to do so.

In Judaism, monogamy has been recognized as the only acceptable form of marital union since the 10th century, and polygamy has been banned. Orthodox Jews who still accept polygamy justifies their reasoning by pointing out that it is written in the Old Testament, however most of them also acknowledge that it no longer has a place in modern society.

In Islam, polygamy is allowed, but strictly regulated in some form. Men may have up to four wives, provided they have sufficient means to support them equally, which ensures that no wife is deprived of anything that is needed to have a decent life. Islam has a strong stigma towards infidelity, and thus a lawful polygamous marriage is viewed as superior to men having several extramarital relations.

Religion Polygamy Monogamy
Christianity Discouraged, though some smaller groups permit it Encouraged
Judaism Banned Recognized as the only acceptable form of marital union since the 10th century
Islam Allowed but strictly regulated Viewed as a preferred form of marital union

Though the world’s religious views on polygamy and monogamy vary widely, it is generally accepted that in modern societies, monogamy is the preferred form of marital union, where polygamy is regarded more as a relic from the past. With the focus on gender equality and the establishment of various legal rights for women, the world has become more accepting of monogamous marriages in the recent era.

Social dynamics in polygamous and monogamous relationships

One of the significant differences between polygamous and monogamous relationships is the social dynamics involved in both types of relationships. Social dynamics refer to the various ways individuals interact, communicate and relate to each other within a social context. In polygamous relationships, social dynamics are different from those in a monogamous relationship due to the presence of multiple partners. Below are some of the social dynamics in polygamous and monogamous relationships.

  • Power dynamics: In a polygamous relationship, power dynamics can be complex, and the distribution of power is not necessarily equal. The first wife in a polygamous relationship often holds more power than subsequent wives. This can cause tension and jealousy among the wives. In contrast, monogamous relationships have a less complicated power dynamic, with power being relatively equal.
  • Communication: Communication is vital in both polygamous and monogamous relationships. However, communication can be more challenging in polygamous relationships because there are more people involved. Clear communication becomes pivotal in ensuring all partners in a polygamous relationship feel valued and included. Monogamous relationships, on the other hand, have the advantage of readily available communication between two partners.
  • Jealousy: Jealousy can be prevalent in both types of relationships. However, it is more prominent in polygamous relationships due to the presence of multiple partners. Each partner may experience a different degree of jealousy, making it difficult to manage. Monogamous relationships, on the other hand, have less potential for jealousy since there are only two people involved.

While these social dynamics exist in both types of relationships, they tend to be more pronounced in polygamous arrangements. It’s worth noting that these dynamics can vary depending on the culture and religious beliefs of the individuals involved. For example, some polygamous relationships are organized around a patriarchal structure, while others are based on mutual agreements between partners.

Overall, the social dynamics in polygamous and monogamous relationships differ based on the number of partners involved, the distribution of power, communication, and jealousy. Understanding these differences is crucial in helping individuals maintain healthy relationships with their partners.

Social dynamics Polygamous Relationships Monogamous Relationships
Power dynamics Can be complex, distribution of power is not equal Power is relatively equal
Communication More challenging due to more people involved Readily available communication due to only two people involved
Jealousy More prevalent due to the presence of multiple partners Less potential for jealousy due to only two people involved

Understanding the social dynamics involved in polygamous and monogamous relationships can help people navigate their relationships better. It’s vital to create open communication, build trust, and respect each other’s emotions to maintain an equitable and healthy relationship, regardless of the type.

Psychological effects of polygamy and monogamy

Polygamy and monogamy have differing psychological effects on individuals, their partners, and their families.

Some of the psychological effects of polygamy include:

  • Jealousy and competition between wives which can cause stress and tension in the relationship
  • Emotional strains on children as they struggle to navigate complex parental relationships
  • Feelings of insecurity or neglect from partners who are not the primary focus of attention
  • Higher rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression

On the other hand, monogamous relationships tend to have more positive psychological effects:

  • A greater sense of emotional security and trust between partners
  • Lower rates of infidelity and betrayal, which can lead to higher levels of happiness and relationship satisfaction
  • Stability and consistency in the parental relationship which can lead to better outcomes for children
  • Reduced risk of sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies

A comprehensive study on the psychological effects of polygamy and monogamy conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that polygamous relationships typically have lower levels of relationship and life satisfaction, increased levels of stress and depression, and a more negative impact on mental health overall.

Psychological Effects Polygamy Monogamy
Jealousy and competition between partners High Low
Emotional strain on children High Low
Feelings of insecurity and neglect High Low
Mental health disorders Increased Lower
Life satisfaction Lower Higher

Overall, the psychological effects of polygamy and monogamy can have a lasting impact on individuals and their families. While polygamous relationships may work for some people, the risks and negative consequences of this lifestyle choice should be carefully considered before pursuing such a path.

Future trends of polygamy and monogamy in society

The future of polygamy and monogamy in society is a topic that has garnered much attention over the years. While the practices of these relationships have been around for centuries, the emergence of technology and changing societal attitudes have caused a shift in how they are perceived and practiced.

Here are some of the future trends to expect in polygamy and monogamy:

  • Increased acceptance – With the growing acceptance of alternative lifestyles, it’s likely that both polygamy and monogamy will become more accepted by society. As more individuals voice their support and visibility increases in popular culture, the taboo surrounding these relationships may lessen in the coming years.
  • Legalization – While currently illegal in most Western societies, it’s possible that the future may see polygamy and monogamy legalized and more standardized. This would create different legal structures for these relationships, potentially giving individuals greater protections and rights.
  • Technology – With new technological advancements, polygamy and monogamy may become more accessible. One potential future trend is the development of virtual reality relationships, which could allow individuals to have multiple partners simultaneously.
  • Less gender bias – In the past, polygamy has largely been practiced by men with multiple wives. However, in the future, we may see more women practicing polygamy as women’s rights and gender equality become more prevalent. This shift could lead to polygamy being seen as less patriarchal and more egalitarian.
  • Genetic advantages – Research has shown that practicing polygamy can lead to increased genetic diversity within a population. In the future, this may influence attitudes towards polygamous relationships, as individuals look for ways to optimize their genetics and ensure the health of their offspring.
  • Influence of cultural and religious beliefs – For many individuals, their cultural and religious beliefs play a significant role in their decision to practice polygamy or monogamy. As these beliefs change over time, it’s likely that we will see corresponding shifts in the prevalence of these types of relationships within certain cultures and religions.
  • Continued debate – Despite these potential trends, the future of polygamy and monogamy is still up for debate. Many individuals and organizations are opposed to these relationships on moral, ethical, or legal grounds, and there will likely continue to be lively discussions and debates surrounding these issues.

Overall, the future of polygamy and monogamy is uncertain, and there are a variety of potential outcomes. Whether these relationships become more widely accepted or remain taboo, it’s certain that they will continue to be a topic of conversation and debate for years to come.

5 FAQs About the Difference Between Polygamy and Monogamy

1. What is polygamy and monogamy?

Polygamy is the practice of having multiple spouses or partners at the same time, while monogamy is the practice of being married to or having a romantic relationship with only one person at a time.

2. What are the benefits of polygamy and monogamy?

In polygamy, having multiple partners can provide emotional, financial, and social support. On the other hand, monogamy can provide greater stability, loyalty, and intimacy in a relationship.

3. What are the legal aspects of polygamy and monogamy?

Monogamy is the only legal form of marriage in most countries around the world. Polygamy is only legally recognized in a few countries, and even then it is heavily regulated.

4. What are the social and cultural implications of polygamy and monogamy?

Polygamy is often associated with certain religions and cultures, such as Islam and certain tribes in Africa, while monogamy is the most common form of relationship in Western societies.

5. How do people choose between polygamy and monogamy?

The decision to practice either polygamy or monogamy is usually a personal one, influenced by culture, religion, beliefs, and individual preferences.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped you understand the difference between polygamy and monogamy. Remember, whether you choose to practice polygamy or monogamy, the most important thing is to respect the choices and boundaries of others. Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you again soon!