Marriage, Monogamy and Mayhem.
My parents had about the worst divorce you can imagine. It was full of infidelity, lies, half-truths, custody battles, lack of parental and financial accountability, and a completely unstable and emotionally distressing environment for my sister and I.
My dad’s early infidelity drove my mom around the bend. She went from being a gentle and vivacious woman to one full of anxiety, anger and vicious depression. Her sense of retribution really knew no bounds- to this day I still only have a few photos of my dad with me as a child. She destroyed the rest.
Reflecting later as a teen, I felt sad that my dad felt compelled to try so hard to live by what he was not, and in the process built himself a life of shadow that was bound to come to light. I felt sad for my mom who felt the need to have this man exist and live by her perceived expectations so badly that there was no malleability or room for discussion or change.
I was a kid in the 70’s and my parents marriage was my Vietnam. Their messy divorce, the manipulation and overwhelming sense of sadness in my childhood home played out to me over my steady consumption of Toshiro Mifune flicks and Eastwood’s man with no name. Both cinematic loners that seemed self aware and untroubled by those kind of dark clouds on their horizons. I knew from a young age that monogamy was not for me. I’ve been honest and vocal about that ever since with every woman I’ve ever been with- whether she wanted to know or not, whether she accepted it or not. I saw at an early age what the unshifting expectations to do and be, could do to a person. The constricting control (whether intentional or not), and the heavy heavy pressure to live an exhausting and narrow ideal. Later as I grew into a young man I saw the derision and guilt thrust upon to anyone who viewed any kind of alternative to monogamy. The scorn and sanctimony of society, the emotional stake burning of marital heretics as selfish hedonists too narcissistic to understand what ‘real love’ is.
I suppose the intention was to goad or chastise people back onto the path, but for me it had the opposite effect. The path seemed hypocritical at best: People would claim that love is selfless and if you’d really loved them you’d be intimate with only them, missing the fully selfish nature of such a statement. Society’s insistence on monogamy ultimately made me feel that humans in general were widely incapable of having any meaningful and open minded discussion on sex and intimacy, the degree to which society equates sex with love and love with possession. It made me realize that for a lot of people love is a direct reflection of their own self-interests and ideals as opposed to an open heart and the ability to love unconditionally. Monogamy seemed like a cosmic inevitability without other alternatives and that struck me at an early age as unhealthy. It seemed a really arduous task-herculean really- for one person to be the person every time, all the time, for an entire lifetime.
It’s the 21st century and I feel like we still can’t have a serious conversation about monogamy without it deteriorating into the same old tired accusations. That if I were ‘enough’ you wouldn’t be attracted to other people. If you knew ‘what love is’ or ‘how to love,’ that you wouldn’t be attracted to other people. Human beings will go on about the limitless capacity for intelligence and love of the human race, but revert to the same diatribes when it comes to intimacy with others. And it’s ironic that instead of convincing others of the potential beauty of monogamy, it saddles them with a crushing sense of guilt and self-loathing leading them into duplicitous, stressful lives.
It’s funny how we can accept so many things as people, but are so challenged by the notion that for some people monogamy is not an inevitable end result, but rather a lifestyle choice they just have no interest in pursing. Or the idea that just because one doesn’t choose to be monogamous or has no interest in it, that it doesn’t equate to advocating promiscuity. Believe it or not one can be the former without embracing the latter.
For what it’s worth I have no real issue with monogamy. It works for a lot of people and it’s their heart’s desire. At times I often ask myself why I can’t. Maybe I love too much. Maybe I’m open-minded. Or maybe I’m afraid of real acceptance, too afraid to trust anyone with that much of myself when I’ve witnessed how humans, in general, trample the sacred. I suspect the real truth is somewhere in between. So my issue isn’t with the choice to be monogamous, it’s really with the unwavering expectation to be; the societal conviction that it’s the only or ‘right’ way to have a relationship. I hope in time that changes, but it’s been eons now so I’m not holding my breath.