I have always been interested in people and why they do what they do, but recently I’ve become curious about marriage, monogamy and non-monogamy. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Is it just a matter of choosing the “right one” or are we being set up for failure? Maybe it’s because I’ve been married now (happily, I might add) almost a quarter-century. I look at my role models–my parents were married just shy of 59 years when my mother passed away. How happy were they really, I wonder? What goes on between a husband and a wife behind closed doors is what I’m really curious about. And not just the sex they’re (probably not) having.
What I’ve come to believe is that our Western view of marriage is actually harmful to relationships. Seriously, how can one person be “everything” to another human being??? We expect the Disney “happily ever after” which is nothing more than a set-up of unrealistic expectations.
Even though we live in a time of blended families and legal gay marriage, the belief that there’s just “one” out there for us that will “complete” us sets couples up for disaster. And holding hands with this belief is that we will never be attracted to another person of the opposite sex ever again now that “the one” has been found. This person, this “one”, will be your best friend, your confidante, your only sexual partner. The person who helps clean up after sick kids and sick you. Brings home the bacon and fries it in a pan. You’re a whore in the bedroom and Martha Stewart in the kitchen. You’ll never gain weight or let each other down because you’re “in love”. These are just some of the myths and expectations that lead couples to think they’ve failed at marriage and lead them to divorce. How many of these do YOU believe????
It’s a fact that modern marriage does not work for most people. In fact, recent statistics show gay marriages are just as likely to end in divorce as heterosexual marriages (http://brandongaille.com) . So what’s going on??? Why can’t people stay married?
Maybe that’s the wrong question to be asking. Maybe we should be asking whether people should get married at all; if maybe marriage is an out-dated concept (it IS an “institution” after all, and I don’t know about you, but just thinking of it as an institution kinda makes it sound scary). Think of it as it truly is–marriage is a business contract first and foremost. You don’t need a contract (hippies of yesteryear proclaimed this an unnecessary “piece of paper”) to have a romantic relationship with someone.
First of all, too many women focus on their Disney wedding and not enough about the hypothetical “happily ever after”. Our society reinforces it with bridal shows and event planning and finding the ‘perfect dress” and the “perfect venue” not to mention choosing all the food and the song list for the DJ. How many couples sit down and actually discuss what monogamy really means to them? I know we didn’t; monogamy is our society’s default setting and it’s just assumed we all know what that means. Couples today have challenges my parents’ generation didn’t have (and mine didn’t until a decade ago) thanks to technology. What IS cheating today? “Liking” another girl’s Instagram pic? Wishing your ex a happy birthday on Facebook? Having coffee with an attractive married co-worker? The lines have gotten blurry and couples need to have these conversations whether they’re just dating or considering marriage. It’s not as black and white as it may seem.
We have been brainwashed to believe that we are only capable of loving one person at a time, and that we are monogamous by nature. We are NOT, and that’s probably the biggest reason most marriages fail. Did you watch the most recent “The Bachelor”? Did he not fall in love with two women???? And being that Disney produces the show (no big surprise there) he MUST choose only one. And all the scandal is about the damage he did in doing so–one woman’s soul crushing vs. the other woman’s joy at being “chosen”. I personally despise the show’s entire premise as completely unrealistic and ridiculous. However, I would give anything for it to end with all three of them getting engaged and living happily ever after. Not polygamy folks, polyamory. Quite different. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t like that very much.
We try to fit into boxes that we can’t fit into and drive ourselves crazy trying to. Add the fact that we are terrified of telling one another we have the hots for the gardener or the hot new IT chick and you’ve got a simmering pot of shit waiting to boil over. “You must not love me anymore” we cry hearing this and run to the nearest divorce lawyer. This is why most people are “serial monogamists” and hurriedly seek a new relationship thinking they’ll find something different. Rinse and repeat.
I’ll never forget a friend of mine who’s husband punched another guy in a bar for “looking” at her, “his wife”. I was horrified. And this is what is reinforced in our society! Our spouses are our property–look at the verbiage we use! “Taken off the market”, “She’s mine”. It really doesn’t sound romantic to me at all to be referred to like a piece of livestock. We also think we have a right to know our spouses’ every thought. I know I did. We think we should have all their passwords and access to their phones. We don’t trust; we play detective instead. And don’t get me started on religions that punish those for “committing adultery in your mind.” Complete rubbish and completely disastrous to any marriage. Fantasy is healthy. Sharing fantasies is healthy and sexy.
Why get married at all? Do you believe that it’s necessary only if you plan on having children? Or do you believe that everyone “should” get married? Moreover, what does 4,5, 6 decades with the same person— “til death do us part”–really look like to you? And does that “piece of paper” really make a difference, other than cost you around $30,000??
I remember that feeling of having “joined the club” when we got married. Society sanctions marriage in financial and social rewards. “Just living together” belittles the emotional tie between two people in assuming that they’re not serious: “shacking up” as Dr. Laura would say, as if we’re still living in the 1950’s. Goldie Hawn and Ken Russell were the first celebrity couple to buck the system and lived together over two decades without the “benefit” of marriage. They did split up–but would having been Mr. and Mrs. instead have kept them together “forever”? Of course not.
It’s my hope that today’s young couples who’ve been raised with technology, who’ve had multiple sexual partners before deciding to “settle down” are able to have the kind of conversations my generation didn’t think to have until we had to have them. In this right-swiping world we live in, where there’s more choices and opportunities than ever, it’s my hope that couples will decide for themselves what kind of a relationship they want to have. We need to support more and judge less. Why does a relationship have to end in marriage to be legitimized? Why do couples ask, “where is this relationship “going”??? Does every relationship have value, or only if it leads to “I Do”??
We’re in the 21st century now folks. It’s time for our relationships to be more flexible and less rigid and expansive to include all types of partnerships, not just the “man/wife” and “gay/gay” models the political agenda is force-feeding you.
P. S. I urge every one of you to read a great new book out called “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator” by Amy Gahran. https://offescalator.com
You can also follow Amy’s blog at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/79349178