“Half the women I know are very unhappy in their marriages; the other half are having affairs.” A friend told me this the other day. A married friend. She was sincere. I heard distress in her voice.
She got me thinking. Of relationships. Of monogamy. Of marriage.
Being a single man who was married for years, I see marriages today in a different light. And I have a unique perspective these days because I was single, then I was married for 17 years and now I’m single again. I know what it’s like to be married.
And I believe in marriage. But, I confess, I’m skeptical.
Mostly, I’m struck by the drive in all of us. The drive to be known. The drive to find love. The drive to settle down. The drive for a lifelong partner.
Everybody wants a lifelong partner. Or, most people do.
But once that lifelong commitment is finally made—usually after years, of vetting, chaos, drama, uncertainty, fear, games (also known as dating)—most come to regret that commitment.
Ten years ago I was having a drink with my friend, Steve. He was married. He was happily married. Steve and his wife mentored married couples in their Roman Catholic church. They took personal vacation time to volunteer with a ministry called Marriage Encounter, a retreat to help strengthen marriages.
“Paul, you have no idea! Marriages are falling apart. About half of all marriages end in divorce. The other fifty percent? Most of those are struggling. I know. Those are the ones me and my wife try to help.” Steve went on. “Truth be told, Paul, we help very few. The institution of marriage is in big trouble.”
I’m not saying that happy marriages don’t exist. Mine was great for 13 years. I’ve seen many. You have, too. You know those marriages when you see them because couples who are happily married, both husband and wife, always talk about how in love they are.
But far more marriages are not happy ones.
Studies show that more and more are turning to the open relationship. These people know the facts on infidelity and divorce. They see the constraints associated with marriage. And they avoid it.
In her piece in The New York Times, When an Open Relationship Comes at a Price, Eliza Kennedy tells a sobering tale. She opted for an open relationship. But it didn’t work.
Eventually ditching her boyfriend, she fell in love, and got married. The ex-open relationship-partner-turned-monogamous-advocate writes, “…the wreckage of monogamous relationships lies all around us. The notion that they’re somehow more stable than open ones is an illusion. Not because monogamy is unsafe, but because all romantic love is. It’s powerful and thrilling. It’s also terrifying.”
As we all try to figure out love, romance, and commitment, I’m going to go with Kennedy’s words. Monogamy is powerful and thrilling. It’s what we all want.
But it’s unsafe; romantic love is unsafe.
There are risks.
You can be burned. Who wants to be burned?