Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
As you are well aware, the divorce rate today is nearly 50%. I recently read an article in the Huffington Post that described the more practical arrangement that many Japanese couples had. Over there, the stigma of not being married hurts men in business and hurts women as far as their social status, so often, people marry for practical reasons and leave love out of it. Mistresses are common place and acceptable. I know that this doesn’t just happen in Japan. In Mexico and South America, mistresses are common place, along with in many parts of Europe.
The article mentioned that lying and going behind someone’s back in a marriage was a destructive thing to do. But they put forth the idea that if couples could communicate and come to agreements, perhaps we could adopt a new model for marriage.
I’m not really for adultery, but this seems to make sense. With the divorce rate so high, the potential for damage to kids is just as high with a traditional marriage as with an open one. At least that’s the way it seems.
I know that studies have shown that monogamy isn’t natural to animals either. Are we just trying to force ourselves into an unrealistic mold and is it time to change the definition of marriage to include partners on the side?
Dear Mona ,
I read that article in the Huffington post on legitimizing adultery and although a lot of the arguments were valid, it still misses the big picture. They mentioned longer life expectancy and the rarity of monogamous mammals in general; but marriage is a construct of our society as a whole. It’s an institution born out of necessity. Look at how difficult it is to get any benefits or rights for live-in partners. Think of the hubbub over getting rights or benefits for mistresses.
Yes, mistresses are common in our culture. Currently, they have no real rights at all but they do, at least initially, have the power of secrecy. If they are mistreated, they can threaten to tell the wife; it gives them negotiation power. If their position were to be legitimized, they would lose that. Right now, many of them are treated better than the wives. Maybe it would be better to just give them a national healthcare policy; or someone could start up a mistress insurance company.
What this article is really about is sex, not alternative relationships. Our current structure of marriage and divorce would work just fine if people tried developing actual relationship skills.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
If mistresses were legitimized, men wouldn’t want them anymore; they’d probably go to hookers instead. Don’t you realize that the “forbidden” aspect of adultery is part of the turn-on? Along with the perceived lack of responsibility? Actually, I read the article in the Huffington Post too, and it did address issues other than sex: “I’m not condoning adultery as we know it, because I’m not strictly talking about sex…no one can deny that when you lie and do something behind another person’s back, you are doing something wrong. You’re breaking an agreement, and that lacks integrity.”
My problem with their article is that they didn’t examine this issue far enough. Yes, first there is the issue of breaking trust with a partner; but then there is the issue of that “other person.” This person may be considered merely a play toy by a roving spouse, but they are also another human being with an agenda of their own. You don’t have any idea what might happen when that “toy on the side” begins asserting their own rights. For god’s sake, hasn’t anyone seen the endless movies about the spurned mistresses and gardeners who go psycho, kill the family pets, and worse? A third party is a wild card in the marriage game. Adultery is not just an indulgence, it is leaving the door open to danger. When children are involved, the danger increases dramatically.
The whole argument of “neither animals nor humans are monogamous by nature, so multiple partners is natural” seems absurd to me. One wouldn’t excuse breaches of trust in a business that way- “well, people and animals are territorial, so we are incapable of forming a successful business together…”
We aren’t living in a world where we are supposed to just follow our animal instincts. One’s natural tendencies aren’t necessarily to be followed reflexively; otherwise, we would all kill each other or grab each other’s food when we got hungry.
It’s called civilization. We follow certain guidelines because it makes sharing the same planet less violent. People can be idiots, and if they follow their instincts without questioning them, they invariably run into trouble.