We need more divorces. This has been my relational battle cry for over a decade. There is no valor in staying trapped in an institution that no longer meets your desires or supports your growth or happiness. Individuals own psychological health and functioning must come before a rigid failing system of needless agonizing contracted commitment. Contracts are for business ventures, ownership, and vacation rentals. The bond that “marriage” creates often makes “love” and “commitment” tenuous and toxic. Being and staying in a relationship is best born out of interest, fulfillment, and love. Once these qualities have dissipated and are replaced with resentment or resignation, it’s time to reconsider the contract. “Love” and “commitment” should not be slandered and held together by a contract. Have enough integrity to want a partner that wants you, and not one that feels trapped, obligated, or stays under the duress of divorce. Leaving a relationship MUST always be an option, or we are talking about a hostage situation and imprisonment.
I want my clients and friends to have lifelong intimacy, support, and love, but “marriage” is not what builds or sustains this. The individuals own love and commitment do this. Contracted relationships instead erode and deteriorate as it introjects a wall of finite possibilities. Relationships are fluid, ever-changing organisms that do not adhere to social constructions such as contracts, fantasies, or “grand narratives.” The vision of lifetime dyadic synchronicity is both flawed and unrealistic. I cringe when I read articles and books by “experts” that promote “marriage” as the only or ultimate form of intimacy building, reified display of love, or the “healthy” form of relational configuration. Love is about choices and desires. Love is about wanting what’s best for your Other. Love is to take pleasure is seeing your partner happy, and not trapped. M Scott Peck had it right when he discussed the confusion between “love” and “cathexis”. What we often deem to be “love” for our Other is often just our own self interest and seeking of comfort. Your partner is not like your pet, whose life is solely built around always keeping you content and happy with restricted freedoms and autonomy (“cathexis”).
Date, have relationships, even get married if you want to, but the underscoring of commitment and love with a state sanctioned contract should not be needed to “hold it together” long term. This keeps many couples unhealthily tethered, abusively bludgeoning each other due to anxiety and stress about the work required for a divorce. Then add on the cumulative impact of culture, media, religion, and society policing and enforcing the primacy of the “marriage” contract above personal mental health and happiness, and you end up with catatonic immobility; freeze response due to impending death.
In my professional life, I aid many individuals in making their marriages work when the marriage is chosen by all and serving the desires of all involved. Marriage can be a beautiful sustainable venture, but it can also be poor decision making. Marriage is not forever; it is for now. Marriage needs to be renegotiated when desires change.