Friday, January 21, 2011
Legally Monogamous Polyamorous marriage
A while back I wrote an article that talked about divorce rates and to say I was surprised by the numbers is a mild understatement. I was even more surprised that given the current divorce rate, people still get married. (By the way, I'm talking about marriage in the U.S. only).
Think about that for a second. If you were buying a car and I told you there was a 50% chance the car would break down and be completely useless in a year, would you buy it? If I told you there was a 50% chance the house you were buying might burn down in the next year, would you still plunk down 20% and take out a six figure mortgage? Then again, if you were dying of an incurable disease and I told you there was a 50% chance an experimental vaccination might cure you I'm guessing you would give it a shot. But people who are getting married, in general, aren't dying of a terminal illness right? So why do they do it?
I think maybe the biggest reason is that legal marriage is the most commonly, and only legally in most states, recognized form of union between people in the U.S. It is also the most socially recognized form of union. If you want your friends and relatives to know you are committed to someone, you marry them.
But that is where I think a lot of problems begin, rather than end. For some I think the bond of marriage doesn't so much involve a commitment between two people as it does an expectation of commitment. An assumption that because I've married you, you are mine. I don't have to worry any longer about you straying. Because there is a ring on your finger prospective suitors will see it and walk away. A false sense of security supported by a legal contract of marriage is created. A byproduct or sub-category of this is that maybe marriage creates feelings of ownership. That you now have input as to what your partner can do with their body and emotions.
After everyone says "I do", they don't. They stop trying and relax, assuming that since the goal of marriage was achieved they can quit trying so hard. Relying on those false feelings of security and ownership, they don't put as much energy into the relationship anymore. In some ways, it is taken for granted. And when problems start to peek out the sense of security and ownership allows them to be overlooked and ignored because after all, we are married. Committed to each other. Legally bound to love forever. Right?
That is probably about the time things explode and another couple adds to the 50% divorce rate.
I'm curious if those same factors would contribute to divorce rates if poly marriage was legalized. I wonder if because another partner was involved people would continue to put energy into their relationships. Maybe the feelings of ownership and security would be diminished because they were sharing their partner with another. Would there even be feelings of ownership and security? I think those feelings as they apply to monogamous marriage have a lot to do with physical fidelity. With polyamory physical fidelity is often a different animal from the start so maybe they wouldn't even exist.
My experience with polyamory is that a lot more effort must be put into relationships. The reality, in my mind, is that if you want to keep your partner who probably has another lover, you need to put energy into keeping your relationship interesting and fulfilling. The expectations of commitment and security don't seem to be as strong with Polyamory as they do with Monogamy for some reason. I'm not saying you have to constantly step it up a notch to keep your partner, but simply that you can't fall back on the expectation of commitment. Maybe a better way of saying that is with polyamory keeping your partner satisfied so they have no reason to end the relationship is more important than simply attaining the relationship, which seems to be the goal of a lot of folks who get married. A large part of that, ironically, may be due to the lack of a legal marriage.
So where are you with this one? Do you think marriage helps create feelings of ownership and security? Do you see those same feelings in Polyamorous relationships? Would reasons and numbers of divorce remain about the same if poly marriage were legalized or would they change?