“It’s my parents’ silver wedding anniversary. I bought them theatre tickets to celebrate”. My friend’s parents have lasted nearly three decades in a marriage where dead romance sits in dust hidden beneath furniture. They don’t spend time together, rarely converse with one another and avoid basic PDA like hand-holding and smiling – at each other. But sure enough they’ll receive celebratory cards. And sure still, will others admire and appraise their commitment. Do we really need to find a life partner? Perhaps our ideals on love are wrong. Monogamously wrong.
We don’t need marriage; do we need monogamy?
American YouGov published 2020 January poll results revealing millennials in particular believe an ideal relationship is non-monogamous. Last year (nearly a year to this day) I published a post on love not needing marriage. My research found young people are beginning to find matrimony irrelevant. A costly declaration not proving much besides a desire to legally bound someone.
I’ve seen happy marriages and long-term relationships; our relationship system works for many. Divorce rates on the contrary prove our idealistic views don’t always equal happily ever after. We’ve grown so accustom to the notion of one true life partner, we’re blinded to how rare and miserable couples can be. In other situations, a near 50% success rate would impact our feelings. You wouldn’t confidently book a restaurant where 50% of diners leave early due to poor food. Or a holiday hotel where 50% of stays end in complaints.
For decades, people not seeking life partners were portrayed as hippies, a little eccentric. Swingers, polygamy couples and lovers who turn a blind eye to affairs. I listened to a podcast which explained why some French people are more accepting of love and lust – they can understand individuals can’t always gain both from a partnership. And therefore, fidelity isn’t always realistic. This goes against our romantic perceptions – joy is found from one ‘soulmate’ who we experience life’s ups and downs with. If a relationship ends, it merely means it wasn’t meant to always be. The search continues…
Gasp, affairs aren’t the worst thing
Nirel Marofsky did a Ted X talk in 2016 sharing why we should change our views on ‘consensual non-monogamy’. (Couples who openly admit their ‘adultery’). Nina described how monogamy is chosen for us with no alternative. Some people are now choosing to try a different approach. An article on Man Repeller notes how swinging has “rebranded”. We’ve started to perceive it as a serious lifestyle choice and not something seedy men from the 70’s enjoyed. The Feeld dating app (connecting alternative sexual practices), Man Repeller notes, is steadily rising in increased users.
The Conversation argues reasons for rethinking monogamy: Couples who switch partners quickly are debatably not monogamous, we place huge expectations on what relationships should deliver when research suggests “intimate relationships” become “less rewarding over time”. Not to mention most of us fantasise and picture sex with others outside our partnerships.
Liveabout.com published divorce coach Cathy Meyer’s beliefs on divorce rates, listing “childish” marriage expectations as a reason. The fantasy that we’ll fall in love, create a family and proceed to live in lifelong bliss, holding hands together at 80. As a confessed ‘romantic’, I’ve wanted this story since I’ve understood what marriage was. I believe in ‘soulmates’; mine is out there either experiencing what he needs to before we meet or currently trying to track me. Love keeps most of us going, it’s the comforting passion in capitalist society’s where work, cleaning and bills consume fun. I think watching Sex and the City didn’t make me a Carrie (as I’ve long said), it made me a Samantha. Because she’s drama free and fulfilling her sexual desires independently, to me she’s the most content.
Marriage can stop being a priority
People can turn a blind eye to a lack of effort, limited sex and unbalanced commitment (one doing most household chores and childcare duties, for instance). Yet an affair, perhaps a solo kiss, can quickly produce divorce files. I’m not advocating cheating – sex with other people should be equally agreed upon, but why is there such a stigma against sexual urges getting the better of someone when other negative traits can prolong?
It’s nice when a couple can spend their lives together prioritising each other’s needs, though love doesn’t have to bear significance forever. Some people go through twenty years of marriage, still love their ‘life partner’ but think actually, I want to travel alone and make my career paramount. Or maybe I want to buy another home and have more time by myself. Maybe two people just think: Yes, we’ll stay together and appreciate our company – we’ll also explore desires through others.
Millennials are accepting different relationship and sexual practices. There’s arguably less stigma on nude photographs, polygamy, threesomes and sex work. Cosmopolitan published a guide this month on the “best sugar daddy websites”.
Life partner: Jealousy, one-sided
Many of you readers will have presumably read through this post thinking: No! I am NOT going to let my boyfriend/girlfriend go out and hook up with people. That’s why I’m in a relationship. We’re on a similar path. There is jealousy to contend with, perceived constructs on what a relationship is and what it means. Plus, a fear of one partner pushing another to consider a threesome or flings when they’d rather stay traditionally committed.
It’s a difficult subject to comprehend. It asks you to edit everything you’ve been taught and change what you’ve spent however many years hunting. With that said, I have lately opened myself to new possibility and can see myself forming an open relationship if passion is gone and I’m not getting everything I want. What can I say, I’m a self-absorbed, millennial. (Shrugs).
A Life partner is this wonderful thing, a grown-up lifestyle to adopt. Yet: the early stages of dating, falling in love, learning about a person’s sexual likes and dislikes… these too are wonderful. I understand as beautiful as fairy-tale romance looks, a few of us want to edit the enchanted script.
The darkness in romantics
A BBC piece analyses the dark side of true love believers. Those who believe in destiny and fate bringing love together are “more-likely to overlook issues” and stay longer in “problematic relationships.” During the early dating stages, a true love fantasist may breakup with someone due to “an issue”, finding fault in minor things and ticking them off as not perfect.
I’m guilty of both. I’m terrible at staying past a sell-by date and equally look for silly excuses to turn a guy down. My true love ideology has caused me avoidable pain and years spent single. And funnily enough, I defend my stance on every blog post I get a chance to.
It’s food for thought. What commitment means, whether a life partner is important – could lots of partners be a better cure? I’m left unknown, not sure if I’ll have the answers at 50. Marriage has currently lost appeal, divorce rates are still high, and non-monogamy has the benefits of emotional intimacy without losing excitement from first experiences. I’d like to think my relationship future could take on various forms.