The problem with monogamy
By: Sharon Ryan
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 08, 2012 06:00 am
Dull. Thatís how most people describe their marriage. One study found the top boredom factors include lack of fun, lack of conversation, and lack of romance. All soon-to-be-married couples and most newly-married couples like to think of their relationships as happy, fulfilling, and indestructible. Yet the divorce rate hovers at 43.1 per cent, so what happened to all the nice couples?
A recent study out of UCLA indicates that even satisfied newlyweds march head on to divorce. Even more puzzling is the finding that low-distress couples with high levels of rewards within the relationship end up in divorce.
So this finding begs the question: what causes a happy-go-lucky couple with everything going for them to wind up in divorce court along with the miserable ones?
The stress-free spouses whoíve had an abundance of good times and enough resources find that as they become established in their day-to-day routines, the negative attributes of their partners become more pronounced, whereas those little nuisances were overlooked in the early years of the relationship.
In an effort to maintain the status quo, they discourage the expression of feelings and insist the partner just solve their problems on their own. In short, the stress-free spouses become maladaptive at any negative variability in the day-to-day relationship experiences and soon forget that they are overall quite happy with the relationship. They focus on their temporary unhappiness and begin to look for relationship alternatives.
All this begs the question: does monogamy work? And what about those swingers who agree to an open marriage to keep things fun and less boring. Well, believe it or not, this strategy may work better for women than for men. A separate study found that men become bored faster with a partner outside of marriage than women do. My point is that polygamy and promiscuity, even if it is sanctioned by both partners, yield the same result as the marriage did in the first place Ė eventual boredom.
But there is hope. The UCLA study found that one factor when present helps to sustain both high-stress and low-stress couples. That factor is commitment to the relationship.
To use an old analogy, itís like having the knowledge that old wine is always better than new wine. Itís even in the bible: ďAnd no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, Ďthe old is better.í Ē Luke 5:39. So there must be some truth to it.
But why is old wine better and how can we relate wine to couples? Old wine has had more years for the alcohol and sugar to react together, producing more subtle flavours. Old wine is better in taste, quality, and value.
To relate the findings from the UCLA study with this ancient metaphor, perhaps the secret to a long marriage is to be more agreeable, laugh lots, have a sense of humour and smile. Thatís exactly what happens when people drink wine and if they drink really old wine, then theyíre getting a fantastic dose of age-old wisdom. Not only will they be more agreeable but theyíll also be experiencing first-hand why old wine is better than new and maybe spouses can look at each other with a renewed appreciation.
The problem with monogamy is the same problem old wine has had for centuries; it just isnít appreciated until itís tasted. Thatís the catch 22! You canít experience a monogamous marriage if you donít actually have one. And the moment you veer the other way, you have essentially opened the bottle of wine and stopped its aging process, thereby limiting the full fruition of its burgeoning flavours.
So perhaps the secret to a lasting marriage is to spend a little more on your wine. No, I mean Ö spend a lot more on your wine and when your spouse gets on your nerves, just smile, and tell yourself that one day you will both be much older and consist of a more palatable level of aroma, flavour, and character.
Sharon Ryan lives in St. Albert and teaches ethics for UCLA extension.