Saturday, October 15, 2011
Marriage And Relationships Are Never Going To Be What They Were, So We Should Concentrate On What They Can Be.
Relationships between American men and women are at an all time low. As the marriage rate declines, divorce and vitriol have risen. Since 1970, the marriage rate has been in free-fall according to The National Marriage Project and if the trend continues, unmarried couples will be the norm.
If marriage isn't working, then we need to examine not just the institution but the basic relationship that underlies it and we cannot be afraid of theorizing about ways to solve the problem.
With this in mind, I believe that the western version of the 20th Century "relationship" is now obsolete and in the 21st century, what people need is nothing less than a new paradigm of intimate interpersonal connection.
We need a Realityship. (C) 2011
Realityship - noun.. 1. An intimate interpersonal involvement which is commensurate with true nature, the limits of love and the necessity of respect and friendship. 2. A relationship devoid of hypocrisy and devoted to longevity. 3. Gary Hardwick's latest brain fart.
So, what does this mean? Well first, it means the end of marriage.
For most of history, marriage was more or less a business agreement between two families who set up the marriages of their children. Romantic love, and even simple affection, were not considered essential.
Monogamous marriage is now an old institution and now that we don't die at 35, people find it hard to sustain. You didn't live long enough to get tired of each other, then suddenly we did. (Thank you modern medicine!) So once we lived longer, we invented no-fault divorce, community property and ushered in The Age Of The Disposable Relationships. This has led to The Children Of Divorce who have since sent divorce rates, birth rates and psychological analysis soaring.
I know this is jarring. Most of the people in my generation were the product of marriages. It's all we knew and what we were taught to want one for ourselves. The baby boomers are the first generation to falter in our quest for lasting matrimony. But if we can accept that in our lifetime, we have gone from rotary phones to satelite-phones, from TV tubes to flat screens and from landing on the moon to landing on Mars, then we can certainly conceive that the next generation will not need a relationship theory that does not work for them.
I know what you're thinking.
"Marriage doesn't need to change: we do. People are selfish, weak, narcissistic and love shitty reality shows and bad music, that's the real problem, man! Also, you heathen, it is obvious that marriage is failing because people are losing faith in the God whose Word marriage is based on."
If this is true, then how successful have we been in changing people by reversing societal evolution to fit long-standing convention which has fallen from popular favor?
The answer is never. Society changes, the tradition falls and a new one is built from the old. And as for the religious argument, it's a long story but my sentiments are pretty much expressed here.
The goal instead should be a friendship, a sharing of resources and in the advent of a child, a life-bond and commitment to that child that takes precedence over the couple's individual desires.
With 75% of black children born out of wedlock and 52% overall, it is clear to anyone who is watching that people are giving up on marriage but still want children. But if parents don't form some kind of alliance in favor of that child, we are lost.
We've all been taught that marriage comes first then the rest and if you go against that order, then there's something wrong or bad about you. But at this point in time, we can no longer live and judge by a code which bears no impact on reality. Either we accept that society is changing or we accept that we are all a pack of devils who are going to Hell in a handcart in which case all of this is moot.
So what are the rules of a Realityship? So glad you asked.
Men cannot trade sex or extended adolescence for responsibility to family. At some point, a man has to become an adult and do adult things. Running from a stable relationship and the care of children will only find you old, alone and bitter. Men who abandon their kids take away a negative psychological baggage that ruins them and poisons everything else they touch. And under this burden, men crumble succumb to weakness and pathology and become the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Women cannot trade their most fertile and productive years for the fallacy of male equality. Women and Men are not equals anymore than apple and oranges are. Legally yes, women and men should be seen as equals but the social notion is a trick that tells women to trade female power for male attributes which they can never possess and do not need. The result is a Sisyphean-like social life where women struggle to "have it all" and end up with nothing. (See Faludi, Susan Backlash.) Women should instead seek to increase societal respect for female power which men and women have been trained to see as inherently inferior.
We must respect the time value difference of the sexes. A single woman at 40 is a very different thing than a single man at 40. A young woman is ripe; a young man is green. A woman's youthful years are more critical than a man's especially if she wants to have children. The upshot is, if you want to have children, don't think you have twenty years to do it and men don't waste a woman's time with bullshit. If you don't know what you want, do her a favor and keep it moving.
Children take precedence over personal animosity. Not much to say here. We clearly know now that kids are the only losers when parents are stupid.
Chivalry and Modesty must return as accents to romance. Without a silly tug of war with women over pettiness, men can afford to be a gentlemen again. And women can afford to accept this behavior as a tribute to their charm. If no one seeks to take advantage, then everyone has an advantage. And yes, I know this is easier said than done.
And the big one, we must at last, leave behind juvenile notions of sexuality. Every man I know who left his wife and family to get some "new stuff" has ultimately regretted it. And every woman I know who divorced a man because he "cheated on her" has regretted it. In both cases, the men and women find that the people they hooked up with next were no better than the ones they left and the value of sexual fidelity can't pay a bill, raise a child or keep you happy.
Let me be clear. A couple would have the option to take themselves out of penis and vagina prison and spur the notion that you go to hell for sleeping with people because you broke some cosmic or divine rule of copulation. You see, the people who are going to screw up were going to to it anyway and we have thousands of years of history to prove this is true. I know it will ruin TV, film and books but it's a small price to pay.
So how would this work as a practical matter?
Leslie and Steve both want kids but neither of them wants the perceived hypocrisy of an institutionalized, religious-influenced sexually-limited union. So they put all of their cards on the table and agree to support their kid and live together or in near proximity. As long as both are reasonable and committed to the child, and each execute mutual wills, it should work.
This is usually the place where I put my last pithy remark and close with some "How clever am I?" but I'm afraid I don't have one this time.
By the way, I still hope things will get better. I still hope that people will somehow magically be propelled by love, passion, faith and family. I hope that men and women will find some kind of power to defeat our proclivity to attract then destroy. And I hope we will learn to put our natural tendencies aside or at least learn how to hide them better. But most of all, I believe in the resilience of human beings and I know somehow, we will find a way to make it all work.