The Myth of Marriage, Friendship, and Fidelity

I am against marriage – I don’t make any bones about it. And today I think I read one of the best arguments against the stultifying institution of lifelong intimate partnership. MSN .com ( featured a piece on cheating – and the upshot was that if you even speak to a member of the opposite sex – you are on a fast track to infidelity, broken homes, broken children, and moral ruination. The basic assumption was that if you are married and you get any emotional or affiliative needs met by a member of the opposite sex, then you are not getting intimacy from the only place you should be – your marriage.

In this model, marriage becomes the company store, one stop required shopping, usually with inflated prices – the only place where intimacy needs are permitted to be met. WTF????

Is it realistic that ONE relationship can satisfy all needs for closeness for the remainder of one’s days? If the bar is set so high, it is axiomatic that all marriages will fail, unless both members of the marriage are so socially unskilled that they cannot make any new friends –ergo their intimate little union is protected from the transgressive influences of the outside world. And seriously – if the marriage can’t handle the so called “threats” of a friendship with someone of the opposite sex – it is probably wreckable and not that strong to begin with.

This turns marriage into a veritable Swiss Army Knife –one tool that is supposed to do everything- provide companionship, sex, friendship, intimacy, closeness, affection, sharing of secrets. That seems like WAY too much pressure. And it is why many marriages bend under the weight of unrealistic expectations.

This model does not allow one to diversify his or her emotional portfolio. If you have a pot of money – would you buy just ONE stock with it? Hell no. If that stock tanks – it’s sayonara sister. And you got nothing. Most people diversify financial investments – buying multiple investments, knowing that different investments will provide different yields. According to the ridiculous constraints of marriage – once the vows are taken – you are pretty much locked into a low yield money market.

Marriage has served a function throughout human history – transfer of property, pooling of assets, reproduction, protection of women who had to bear children – but was typically enacted within the tribal structures that we humans crave – women hung with women, men with men, sometimes everyone came together – but each person’s needs were being met by a diversified pool – if you think early man was hanging in the cave with just his spouse – think again. And as for protection for women – ladies – get a skill set and get a job – that way when he walks (and it is 50% shot that he will) – you don’t need to look for more mindnumbing “protection”.

Our big mistake is conflating romance and marriage, passion and marriage. Marriage isn’t designed for that. Marriage is practical and legal – and romance and passion, except in exceptional cases, have a pretty short shelf life. Marriage is also lazy – despite all those folks out there saying how much work it is. It actually isn’t. According to the MSN article, married people should not seek out any other friendships – so it does allow us to be the ultimate in lazy – no need to cultivate other human relationships – everything should be met by that one relationship –because If it’s not – apparently you are “cheating”. How hard is it to stay home and watch Dancing with the Stars with your honey? Sounds like torture, but not work.

My male friends are amongst my greatest loves – you guys know who you are. Some were once partners, some not. If being married means losing them, or suspicion about them – it ain’t worth it. To give up 50% of my friends in the name of social convention seems like an unacceptable sacrifice. I suppose people could negotiate their opposite sex friends on the way in – if their betrothed knows that the friends come with the package – then that may be permissible –but it appears that the acquisition of new gender opposite friends has to stop once the ring goes on.

As a psychologist – this feels inauthentic, and foolhardy. I encourage my clients to cultivate social networks – but apparently that advice is supposed to take on a different tenor when one is married. Nonsense. I won’t give in to that – and will not encourage clients to walk away from sources of growth in the name of inauthentic “fidelity”.

If the MSN piece is actually reflecting what constitutes betrayal in a close relationship – then I shall remain blissfully single- surrounded by a network so rich, loving, and joyful that there aren’t enough days in a year to be with all of my friends. I don’t worry about being alone – I love my company and the company of the people around me. If a man ever does have the courage to throw his hat in the ring with me – my guys are part of the deal – to lose them would be to cut out a part of my heart.

If waking up alone is the price of admission – then here is to my extra pillow.



This entry was posted on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 at 1:22 pm and is filed under Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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