Both monogamy and marriage can be beautiful and vital life experiences for those who choose it. The idea of two people choosing a lifetime of love has been romanticized in western culture for thousands of years. We fantasize about it. We celebrate it. We toast to it. We write novels about it. We sing songs about it. We search for it. We long for it. Monogamy and marriage offer numerous advantages and disadvantages – both bring great security, but demand the greatest restrictions. The flip side is that with all of the benefits, both monogamy and marriage hold the potential to make a blood sacrifice of the needs of the individual for the requirements of the “couple”. Many are left as sacrificial lambs on the altar of marriage and monogamy and great psychological suffering exists within the privacy of marriage as a result of this; hence the ubiquitous “unhappily” married couple.
In spite of its deficits, monogamy, as well as marriage, for thousands of years has stabilized society through the strengthening of the family unit. In this matter of family stability, both have served civilization well, but we must acknowledge that for some people, long-term marriage and monogamy may not provide the personally deep rewards and satisfaction promised.
The fact is that for some, this relationship construct fails to meet expectations for both women and men. Systematically, women are enculturated to accept and support monogamy without question. However, many men have never completely bought into the monogamy construct, while secretly questioning its wisdom, and rejecting it in practice. Herein the conflict lies. When it comes to monogamy, women and men are socialized differently. For many women, particularly those seeking to raise a family, marriage is a priority. Women are made to feel as though something is wrong with them if they are not “picked” by a man to be his wife. Women are made to feel that marriage validates their existence somehow. Men, however, are given subtle, and not so subtle negative messages throughout their lives that marriage should be an option and not a priority. Therefore, most women and men are on two different pages when it comes to the merit and the validity of monogamy and marriage. The reason we are seeing very high divorce rates in the western world is because both men and women in the western world, for the first time in history are secretly questioning the concept of having one lifetime sexual partner. The obvious question remains, “Are humans naturally monogamous?” “Can one partner sufficiently meet all of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the other over the course of the entire adult lifespan?” “Is our glorification of marriage as the ultimate relationship construct realistic, or is it naïve within the modern context?”
Every 23 seconds a divorce is finalized in this nation. There are close to 700,000 divorces recorded each year in this country. While we fantasize and dream about a lifetime partner, consider for a moment that the median duration of marriage in America has been 7 years for the past half century. In spite of this, we take the risk, and courageously take that daunting trip down the aisle believing that we can beat these statistics and that, somehow, we have an immunity from the marriage failures others have experienced. The larger question is – “Have we failed the institution of marriage?” or “Has marriage failed us?”