Why Marriage And Monogamy Are Outdated
The current dynamics of marriage, exclusive relationships and monogamy don't seem to be working for an increasing number of millennials and post-millennials. Are we being selfish? Are we being immature? Are we scared of commitment?
These questions plagued my mind as I navigated the dating scene as a millennial in 2018, having to step back and figure out what I really wanted from a relationship, and why the standard partnership of exclusivity with the eventual goal of marriage didn’t work for me, and quite frankly, seemed outdated.
Love is infinitely abundant, and every human has the capacity to love more than one person. Each relationship you partake in is unique, and the love you have for a person in one relationship should not diminish or hinder the love felt for another person in another relationship, yet we tend to compare our relationships with people instead of simply valuing each one for what it is and not forcing relationship hierarchies.
Perhaps this is just an echo of what is becoming a clear trend; in the last decade marriage rates have been plummeting for millennials and post-millennials when compared to our generation X and baby-boomer counterparts at similar ages. It would seem as though many more young adults are growing weary of the institution of marriage, which in and of itself is a mere social construct and unnecessary financial burden on many, with expensive structures like weddings, engagements and diamond ring exchanges mere expedients to embellish the fleeting concept.
In an attempt to explore this conversation further, I arrived at some key reasons that explain why these canonical relationship structures didn't appear to work for a growing number of people, myself included.
1. Marriage does not equal proof of love or long-term commitment
Fundamentally marriage does not indicate proof of love or long-term commitment in any reliable way. Many married individuals treat their partners horribly, and some of the most committed and loving relationships in existence involve people who aren’t married, so why do we as a society keep pretending that marriage is the ultimate signifier of commitment and adoration?
The institution of marriage as we know it was birthed from patriarchy and capitalism, originally serving as a legal partnership between families to ensure the maximum amount of wealth and security for the family members involved in the partnership. In fact, the idea of 'marrying for love' is a relatively new concept, and yet many marriages still prioritize establishing family connections, financial incentives and social benefits over the love between individuals, in addition to other superficial motivations.
The only valid argument I have been able to come across for marriage is as a celebration of union. Sure, we’re in love and we want the world to know, so we’re gonna throw a party to celebrate, that’s great and should be encouraged, but is there really a need to involve the state and legal system in our love affair?
One recurring argument I hear in favor of marriage is on the matter of raising kids, with many stating that married couples make for a better growing up environment for children. This is merely confirmation bias, with the real reason being the fact that those married parents tend to prioritize the upbringing of the child over other matters in their relationship, an understanding that can be achieved without the structure of marriage, as there are many examples of successful co-parenting between individuals who are raising a child but aren’t necessarily married, or constantly living together.
2. The institution of marriage discriminates against the unmarried
Marriage is the only form of relationship recognized by most states, which have no business in sanctioning the consensual personal relationships of it’s citizens in the first place. In addition to regulating what kinds of individuals can get married, many countries view the married couple as the default, leaving the unmarried as an afterthought. As a result of this, many married couples often enjoy numerous benefits in areas as diverse as banking, taxation, healthcare, and even immigration. These are benefits that many unmarried couples in stable, long-term relationships could stand to benefit from but are seemingly deprived of.
By endorsing a specific type of relationship with valuable incentives while denying others, the state is inadvertently catalyzing inequality in society, while also condoning the historical abuses associated with marriage and it's patriarchal roots. In addition to this, states that only recognize marriage tend to discriminate against - and in many cases stigmatize - other relationship styles and the individuals who participate in them, which often include lawful individuals in open and/or polyamorous relationships of varying sexualities.
Furthermore, the institution of marriage places unnecessary pressure on women to get married. Beyond a certain age, women who are unmarried are considered by many in society to be undesired and desolate which could have many harmful and undeserved effects on their self-image and psyche, whereas men don’t face the same stigma and in many cases are actually hailed for our supposed independence.
In a marriage-free society, the state would treat all people, relationships and families equally, leaving any legalities to the individuals involved in the relationship, who may come up with their own relationship contracts in private, if they desire to do so, without feeling the pressure to conform to any anachronistic practices.
3. Feelings and people change
As human beings, the only constant in our lives is change. The inevitable nature of this change portends how fleeting our feelings towards a person may be after a given amount of time. The way one feels about a person at a certain point in time does not guarantee that they will feel the same way in the near or distant future, and there are numerous examples of ended relationships and fallouts that highlight this.
This is normal, but by marrying you are legally binding a specific version of yourself to another person forever. And in the event that you both change in ways that make you less compatible romantically, you are forced to suppress these new versions of yourself in order to remain compatible with your partner, which is an unnecessary compromise.
The only alternative in situations such as those is to go through an expensive and usually messy divorce, where one party commonly faces stringent and unjust legal repercussions, not to forget the social fallout and ignominy on both sides, especially on the side of the woman in the case of typical heterosexual marriages.
Moreover, annulments of marriages aren't isolated events, far from actually. Recent studies show that roughly 40 to 50 percent of recent marriages end up in divorce, with the divorce rates for subsequent marriages being even higher. This means it is becoming more and more likely that every new marriage will end up in a divorce, while the average duration of marriages is also shrinking, signaling that people are staying married for shorter and shorter periods of time.
4. Monogamy does not equal proof of love or long-term commitment
Another common component of conventional marriages and relationships is monogamy. Besides the fact that a good marriage or relationship is no guarantee against so called infidelity, there are many reasons why I believe monogamy doesn’t make sense, but will begin with the most glaring. Monogamy, just like marriage, does not inherently equate love or long-term commitment, as it is very possible, and reasonable, to love and be committed to someone in a deeply romantic manner while desiring sexual relations with another.
Additionally there is the common issue of out-of-sync libido. In situations where one partner is not in the mood or position to engage in sexual activities for whatever reason, or seperated by distance, their partner also has to unfairly suppress their libido when they should have the freedom to satisfy it elsewhere via another person, if they desire.
At this point, I feel it’s important to state that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with monogamy, but we as a society need to stop pretending that sexual attraction to a person outside your immediate relationship is unnatural and should be shamed. We as human beings are not hardwired to be sexually attracted to just one person, yet have convinced ourselves that for a partner to truly love you they must arbitrarily suppress their natural and primal urges towards other individuals.
This is not to say every person in a relationship should go around satisfying their sexual desires with anyone they run into, but rather that we should strive to break away from the mental trap of erroneously conforming to these arbitrary rules regarding monogamy, and have open, honest conversations with our partners to find relationship structures that truly work for all parties involved without unfair and unreasonable compromise, accelerated by balking the current convention of monogamy that tends to introduce unneeded tensions in relationships by preying on insecurity.
5. Loving someone means allowing them to be their freest self
We've all heard the adage, 'If you love someone, you'll set them free'. This does not necessitate encouraging them to leave your physical presence indefinitely, but rather you affording them the opportunity to live as their freest selves, far removed from the toxic, fictitious doctrines that society imposes on relationships via marriage and monogamy.
Being committed to someone means being dedicated to their entire existence, not just their physical body, and this is a kind of dedication that can be given to more than one person or thing at a time.
Truly loving someone means allowing, and even enabling them to be their freest and most abundant self, both mentally and physically, and sexual freedom is one of the greatest freedoms there is!
As time progresses and society continues to recognize it's flaws and inconsistencies, it is becoming more and more evident that monogamy is an outdated concept that continues to constrain key individual freedoms, and introduce unneeded tensions in relationships by preying on insecurity, while marriage remains an unnecessary and expensive relic of the past that still has roots in subjugating women, and fueling inequality, under the pretense of forming a union out of love.