Pro Marriage. Pro Monogamy.

photo by j. gaddis

Monogamy and marriage as practiced in this culture are bankrupt.

Traditional marriages sound awful to me. Barf.

I work with a lot of couples who, when they first come in to see me, still have a fantasy about what marriage and relationship are like. Even though most of them grew up with uninspiring models of intimacy and they are not currently experiencing warm fuzzies and bliss,  they still believe that another person is there to “complete” them.

Our pop culture (movies, books, and music) still perpetuates seriously flawed and misinformed magical thinking about love.

Before marriage I bought the bullshit that infatuation lasts. When it didn’t, I bailed. During this time I was confused, unhappy, longing for more, and in general a pretty immature dude relationally. On the inside, I secretly wanted a woman to complete me. On the outside I was that guy that said “I’ll never get married, ever.” I used to love telling folks what a dumb idea marriage was.

Then I met my wife. It was not a fairy tale thing. I had no interest in her early on. I was still kind of shut down and emotionally unavailable. My ego wanted to keep roaming free and not be tied down. Give up my freedom? No way. Not a chance.

My soul had another plan.

Slowly but surely as we got to know each other she saw me, she cut through my games and had little room for my bullshit.

As scary as that was, and as much as I got defensive at times, it strangely felt good.

Relationship started to take on a whole new meaning. My heart began to soften. I began to see what a maze I had created for anyone to come near my heart.

I was letting her in, slowly but surely….

Sitting in the fire of relationship with her has changed my life. It is one of THE critical breakthroughs I’ve had to date.

Some folks need a trip alone around the world, others need a new job. I needed a real, raw relationship to confront my self absorption and my fears of intimacy.

There is a lot of talk these days about why marriage kind of sucks. Understandably so. I meet very few people who are deeply satisfied in their marriages. However, I’d argue that’s partly because people have a traditional, conventional context for their marriage.

I have no need to convince anyone about the merits of marriage, but I do want to share my experience in the face of increasing criticism about monogamy. In a nutshell, having the proper context (or view) for a marriage is EVERYTHING.

For example, it ain’t long before a married couple realizes that once the honeymoon is over, some aspects of the relationship can trigger every last nerve in us. It can be so frustrating and painful that we consider calling it off. By firing our partner, we can get relief again. But the problem is the trigger is in us not them, which means it won’t go away until we face it. Our partner is giving us the opportunity to face whatever is being triggered and heal it.

Or, if we don’t want to run away because “we made a commitment god dammit!” we might bury our complaints of our partner trying hard to not fight or get too upset. Then we might become best pals and roommates on top of a mountain of shit. Or, we might try to change our partner to fit in to who we want them to be, because then it will feel much better.

These responses to the rub of marriage are understandable, but hardly milk the raw potential of what’s possible when two souls come together.

When we choose to get together with a life partner and seal the deal by making a commitment, it provokes all our wounding around love, from infancy on up. This presents an endless amount of “material” to work on and work through if we choose to.

None of this is a problem for people with a context that supports healing and awakening through marriage or marriage as a spiritual path.

But what about those of us who prefer to hang on to the child-like fairy tale that our partner is supposed to “complete us” and make us feel better? What if we look to our marriage to make us happy?

This is a trap of course that is doomed for failure or flatness.

Then why bother? With divorce rates so high and growing criticism against marriage, why make the leap?

Many ask the question,  “is marriage even relevant or desirable anymore?” For example, here’s a great psychology today article which makes a strong case against marriage.

Yet because my wife and I have a pretty unconventional view of marriage, we are growing and deepening after 8 years of being together. And, yes, it’s still work. Everyday it is work. Add in two kids = more work. More work = more growth opportunities.  Everything in our marriage is an opportunity to go deeper and learn more about ourselves and we don’t have a fantasy about being together until death do us part (When we’re done, we’re done and we’ll both know it whenever the hell that may be).

When I see marriage as a path, it changes the game.

For example, my marriage is alive even when it’s not. Huh? In other words, when things get flat, and they do sometimes, we examine it and put it on the table. We might get lazy for a while, but sooner or later, we roll up our sleeves and deal. When “we lose our juice” for our marriage or sex, or whatever, we have to get back in the ring and face each other. The so called “ruts” or stuck places are ALWAYS opportunities for both of us to grow, and for us, we choose growth.

When I see marriage as a spiritual path, it takes on a different meaning completely (Read more here on Elephant Journal). And be sure to watch Mooji discuss this subject on the video below. He speaks my views very accurately on intimacy, marriage and relationship. THIS to me is where marriage and monogamy have a future.

 

Comments

comments

5 Comments

  1. I would just like to point out that non-monogamy isn’t antithetical to commitment or to marriage. My husband and I are both polyamorous AND we are committed to spending the rest of our lives together. But we are also open to the very likely possibility that we will find others we want to spend the rest of our lives (or a few years, or months, or days, or hours) sharing love with and who want to spend their time with one or both of us as well.

    The only problem I have with monogamy is that it is assumed to be the only/right way for real, committed, faithful relationships to work.

    Reply
    • Bex, sounds great to me. You said “The only problem I have with monogamy is that it is assumed to be the only/right way for real, committed, faithful relationships to work.” Did I say that or suggest that? Monogamy is the only right way for me right now. Who knows, I might change my mind, but right now it’s serving my ass off. And, I disagree in that assumption. I think many folks agree with you and that monogamy isn’t right for them. Here in Boulder, there are pockets where the opposite is true–folks think that polyamorous is “better.” Each of us have to find what is right for our soul path.

      Reply
      • I did read in your writing the assumption that marriage = monogamy, but perhaps that was unintended.

        Reply
  2. Great article – this too is how I look at marriage. It is a path to complete me, but it isn’t my wife’s job to fill in the blanks. Instead, our relationship is often how I discover the missing pieces in my own life.

    And vice versa of course – except sometimes she gets really tired of me pointing out my errors. Especially when I’m being too overt

    No really, sometimes I find the woman in my life wants more bliss and peace – but I that’s not how it works out – especially when her ways are really highlighting my failures.

    Reply
  3. i remember pairing up with you in a dyad in counseling relationships class the last week of our second semester of grad school, about a month before my 2003 wedding. you were saying that marriage is “total bullshit” and questioning why i’d ever enter into it. this conversation with you stuck with me – at the time it was so curious to me because you were assuming things about my relationship with my partner. reading this i understand more about where you might have been then, and now. marriage as a spiritual path and choosing growth – yes, always. for us, there is no other way than that to be in authentic connected conscious marriage. this is a nice piece on making that distinction.

    Reply

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