Is Monogamous Marriage Dead?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 23, 2011
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‘Til 10 Years or So Do Us Part?

Via Huff Post:

…When dad Nick asked Clooney to think about marriage, citing his own 51-year marriage to Clooney’s mother, George made clear that he wasn’t interested.

“I hate to blow your whole news story, but I was married,” he said, talking of his 1989 wedding to actress Talia Balsam, which ended in 1993. “Yeah, so I’ve proven how good i was at it, and I just… I’m allowed one.”

All my life, I thought I’d get married. Have a few children, the whole catastrophe.

These days, I’m not so sure. While I’d still like to have a ceremony, a ritual, I’m not sure that closed marriage makes sense. What’s changed? I know a lot—too many—intelligent, amicably divorced or separated couples who took the vow…and broke the vows. People change. What’s to say you can’t love someone, but change, and no longer be a good fit? How can I vow to do something that may not make sense for her or myself?

But if traditional marriage is dead, is there some middle way? After all, bachelorhood can be caddish after awhile. Dating gets old. Meaningful relationships, while difficult, help us to grow up and become more fully human beings—a casual relationship won’t scratch below our brittle surface.

I’m in a meaningful relationship now—so it’s on my mind. It’s incredibly difficult—and meaningful, and sweet, and worthwhile.

Ideas? What would a modern, mindful relationship or marriage look like?

Via Gawker, Piers Morgan, US Weekly…via everywhere:

George Clooney says he will never get married again. He’s been dating Italian model Elisabetta Canalis for a while, but told Piers Morgan “I was married, so I gave it a shot.” Apparently Clooney already was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989-1993 and now he says he will never get married ever again… [US Weekly]

Bonus: unrelated but worthy:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


32 Responses to “Is Monogamous Marriage Dead?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Is Traditional Marriage Dead? […]

  2. waylonlewis says:

    You're right. You're wrong.

  3. anniegirl1138 says:

    Way to take stand:)

  4. Juliana says:

    As a Buddhist, I think committing 100% to something or someone is path. Watching yourself buck and cower and experience claustrophobia while finding a way to relax with the whole thing is big time path. And having a significant other who knows you, really knows you, and knows how to give you honest, even if painful, feedback is immeasurably helpful for growth.

    I haven't wanted a serious relationship until now–it's hard work. But someone told me that as you get over, what's fun must change. I've found that to be true. A serious relationship for now is more challenging and rewarding than any alternative.

    As for open relationships–I've heard that no matter what the arrangement, sleeping with another person is the equivalent of stabbing your partner in the heart. It means creating difficulty and pain. From my understanding, that is not what we are supposed to do as Buddhists. Pain and confusion arise naturally without our creating it.

    "Never forget the hinayana." That's our ground.

  5. Kelly says:

    I think the idea of marriage is the problem and the solution. The problem is that if we think of marriage as a goal, we may ditch out on relationships prematurely out of some false assumption (i.e. thinking) that we're on the prowl for the perfect mate, and if x, y, and z don't match up early on in the relationship, we should bail because to carry on would be antithetical to the goal of marriage. If, on the other hand, we think of life and relationship as great adventures that may teach us vastly if we're willing to risk change, vulnerability, and seeing beyond x, y, and z, then we may go forth in a relationship with the desire to learn everything we possibly can from that particular relationship, regardless of outcome (which doesn't exist anyway). The idea of marriage makes us look for faults or perfection instead of gifts of the moment and possibilities. The idea of marriage is too linear. But the idea of marriage in the sense of a commitment to deepening and curiosity may lead us to great unknowns our hearts powerfully yearn for.

  6. waylonlewis says:

    Was just trying to offer more than one answer!

  7. waylonlewis says:

    Beautifully expressed.

  8. Juliana says:

    But I guess you don't want the same thing.

    I hope you manage to have fun as a perpetual bachelor. Sounds a little boring to me.

  9. anniegirl1138 says:

    It kinda does though b/c most couples who prefer not to go the marriage route don't do all the legal paperwork they need to in order to safeguard each other in case something happens. I know some couples who have attended to the wills, the POA's, the living wills etc. but I know they are exceptions.

  10. anniegirl1138 says:

    Me too. Great minds, eh?

  11. Hi, anniegirl. I didn't mean to diminish the importance of marriage to provide legal protections and understandings in long term relationships. But even all these things are almost trivial compared to the emotional, moral, financial, commitment, and legal implications of having children together.

  12. The answer is simple. Kids change everything.

    Otherwise it doesn't matter so much one way or the other.

  13. TamingAuthor says:

    Traditional marriage is much more alive than commonly assumed. Even gay radicals are trying to crash the party. It is perhaps the most sought after but elusive type of relationship possible. When something is so rare (in its true form) it becomes super valuable, like diamonds.

  14. I don’t know if traditional marriage is dead or at least I hope not. I was married for 10 years or so. We grew apart, I grew up, etc. It is my opinion that many people get married way too young and that is exactly what I did. I did know what life was all about. Heck, I didn’t know what I was all about. I hope to get married again someday. I miss the good parts like having someone else to blame or moving the car keys to a different place than where I left them.

  15. barefootlotuss says:

    As for how to make it work? I love John Gottman's research and writing on this, I am loving what I'm learning from Stan Tatkin and his book is due out in February called "Love and War in Intimate Relationships." Also, Susan Johnson's work. .. "Hold me Tight."

  16. candicegarrett says:

    And yes, it's possible to "grow apart" but it is just as possible to "grow together." Intention is everything.

  17. barefootlotuss says:

    One of the interesting things about marriage to me is I like to see it as an archetype that it is evolving. . .and makes for a great topic to consider, especially it's history. I love the book 'Marriage, A History" by Stephanie Coontz where she addresses considerations of marriage as an institution involving money and property, and how it's developed into this idea of being linked with love. I love the movie "Monsoon Wedding" because it means to me that somewhere in the Indian consciousness/psyche is this wonderful notion (as an ideal) the promise of which is celebrated and the relationships within are often enduring and meaningful. My teacher Stan Tatkin, Ph.D. who has developed a psychobiological approach to couple's counseling notes that the primary attachment relationship (in the attachment neurobiological system as an infant through to adulthood — 'cause the brain is still wired early on even though it is also subject to change) works at one end of a spectrum to soothe and relieve and at the other end of the spectrum to celebrate our excitement. Another interesting topic is what the "marriage" means as a commitment vs, not marrying. . .but staying committed in a monogomous relationship. I love Elizabeth Gilbert's book called "Committed" about much of this. I personally gravitate toward the notion that the home is the foundation of society, and that an enduring, primary attachment can be healthy for every part of being human as a human being.

  18. I could write much about this … and frankly, it probably oughta be a whole new post …

    I've been married for five years to a woman I deeply love, admire and respect. She has been my dearest friend and committed companion for almost seven. Yet physical distance for close on two years, coupled with an explicit agreement to accommodate other lovers during our separation, has resulted in a situation where the marriage no longer seems to work. It's not that we no longer love each other – we do. But a combination of prolonged separation and financial stress coupled with my evolving relationship with another has brought us to a place of recognising that (for now, at least) this simply doesn't work.

    I'm still interested in marriage. I firmly believe that lifelong relationship can work. I'm not interested in the seeming complication that comes from 'open' relationship nor from polygamy (having just lived through both, in a way) because there are some trials that, for me at least, just don't seem worth the effort when the reward is so fleeting (and yes, i do understand that 'open relationship' is more about sex and polygamy is more about connection).

    The structure of marriage does seem to both imply and impart a deeper commitment … not only to each other, to family and to going ever-deeper, but to moving in the world in a way that actually makes sense. We so often abandon the gift of our intellect when it comes to loving that we don't consider, from a clear and impartial space, how to structure ourselves in a way that not only makes separation easier, but makes union easier as well.

    In short, how can we ensure that the logistics of relating are separate from the emotion of it. How do we ensure that as parties to a relationship we are accountable to taking care of each other, and that, as with a business, there are clear consequences to breaching agreements (not making enough money to feed the kids, for example).

    I often hear people talking about the reasons why marriage doesn't make sense – from a cultural, anthropological and biological perspective. Yet each argument seems to fundamentally deny the reality of the world in which we live.

    Do i believe there are strong reasons for the dissolution of the institution of marriage (and i'm conflating monogamy with marriage)? Yes! Do I believe we live in a world that directly supports moving in the world in one of the various other ways that (appear at least) to make more sense? No!

    I'm in love with love – I made peace with that some time ago. I'm interested in sharing my life with one person because, in this system at least, it not only makes sense, but it feels the most loving way to engage with the world around me.

  19. Interesting article! I live in Denmark right now and it's pretty common for people to 'not' get married. Couples will have children and then perhaps down the line decide to officially tie the knot. There doesn't seem to be a rush or a 'living in sin' type of thing going on. People seem more relaxed about it and if they do get married, it's usually pretty quaint.

  20. barefootlotuss says:

    This is nice. . .it is possible that the "archetype of marriage" (from Caroline Myss) doesn't work well for some people for some reason only their greater self might know. For example, I heard a story of a couple who did great for years not married, and then when they finally tied the knot the whole thing fell apart. Perhaps there is a lot of baggage for some in this thing called "Marriage" that doesn't sit well with their greater path in this world.

  21. carol fishisland says:

    It takes all kinds of people, of relationships, to make a world. There's no one way for everybody. Rejoice in diversity!

  22. Waylon Lewis says:

    I hoping there's some middle way. Maybe there isn't.

  23. Waylon Lewis says:

    via facebook:

    Taleah S No. Maybe it's not for everyone, but what is?? It definitely still works for some people. Personally, I love being married ~ going on 10 years!

    Nicole W I love being married too! It's an amazing life with my best friend!

    # Taleah and Nicole – I'm with you! ben R

    Lisa N I love being married too, but a note: swans don't actually do it. I just recently saw a segment with the British Queen's royal swan keeper. He said it's quite common for mates to practice infidelity right in front of each other like it's no big deal. Not sure this is a system that works for all of us…

    Neen W marriage serves a purpose – that being 2 souls who are truely committed to each other are recognised in society – however what gender these 2 people are is totally irrelevant. Its about love and joy- why mess that up by saying that only a certain % of the population can enjoy this status. These people who try and deny this don't truely understand the concept of love and shouldn't be married. heck love means different things to everyone so why is it restricted ????

    Renee S I was married for 17 years and although the end was rough, we had some VERY good years. I am not bitter about marriage, I think it works if you want it to. I don't know if I will marry again, but I am supportive of the people who want to and the marriages that are truly until death do us part!

  24. Waylon Lewis says:

    Love that.

  25. Lilith says:

    Great blog! I am working on a reply to this thread that I think you might be interested in…
    I'll at very least post a link here for you.
    In solidarity!

  26. Shelbydh says:

    I read your blog… I too once thought that monogamy was restrictive, that open relationships were the only true freedom, etc., etc. Then I fell in love. Yes, I am liberal to the core (I haven't bought my membership card to the CPUSA yet because something about paying for that seems intrinsically wrong), and I do believe that open relationships can work for some people. But the reason that "traditional" relationships are monogamous is that they have been borne out, over time, to work out better, for longer, with the vast majority of people.

  27. […] our popular culture, we portray being single as a time to feast on sexual pleasure and marriage (or monogamous relationships) as the time when “the party is over.” In the traditional Hindu paradigm, […]

  28. krista says:

    I very much agree with your last statement- the idea that home is the base- and that a secure attachment is critical from day 1. Thanks for the book suggestions- going to check them out.

  29. […] even though in my family, we were raised to believe in commitment. Particularly when it came to marriage. Barring the three deal-breaking A’s—abuse, adultery & addiction—you stuck it out, no […]

  30. […] this new game field, the rules of engagement are not about societal mores of monogamy or legalities around adultery. Rather, in this liberated game of real love, we look first and […]

  31. […] often think back to our foursome and fantasize about having another couple as an intimate part of our lives or even our […]

  32. @e2mpower says:

    For me… there IS a middle way. It's commitment or "pair-bonding" rather than marriage. I have never been married, nor do I have any desire to be. I have always believed in long-term committed relationships and I've had a few good ones including (most especially) the one I am currently in. I think the real problem with marriage lies in it's expectation that once you take those vows, you are strictly committed to that person for the rest of your life. When you think about it, that's a pretty scary undertaking and could strike fear in the heart of the most loving of couples. The reality is that when we take the pressure of lifetime commitment off ourselves and our partner, choosing instead to stay present, we have an opportunity to watch our love grow. As for "open marriages", I believe they undermine true intimacy. All of us deep down crave one thing…intimacy! We long to feel connected, loved, and accepted. To know that your loved one is gripped in passion by the loins of another erodes the foundation of true intimacy.
    Cara Corr