Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Love, sex and too many channels and nothing’s on.…
When I started this blog I said I wanted it to be about human relationships. I really meant that broadly, from family to friends to co-workers to lovers and to all those relationships we have that don’t easily fit into a category. However, if I am really honest, love and sex are the things that fascinate me the most about the human condition. I don’t think I am not alone.
More and more I hear stories or simply know people who are in some kind of romantic partnership/relationship that isn’t exactly the fairy tale loving supportive totally monogamous cultural idea we have in our culture.
There are all kinds of open relationships and polyamorous relationships and each with many different rules/versions. There are long term monogamous relationships. There are long term relationships that either were always sexless or became sexless. There are non-romantic life partners, people who share a life, become family to one another, but sex isn’t part of the equation. There are relationships where one partner has sex with other people and the other partner has no idea. There are relationships where one or both parties have sex outside the relationship and have an arrangement without ever saying a word. There are relationships that stay together for the security and stability (“stay together for the kids” or “I don’t want to be alone” or “I can’t disrupt the family”) even though the parties involved don’t love each other. I could go on and on. There are people who have stopping loving their partners, but can’t bear the thought of being alone or the loss of security so they stay together.
I really work hard not let my prejudices and cultural baggage cause me to judge relationships that seem odd to me or that I would never be part because of my own personal likes and dislikes. I have always maintained that if people are open and honest with one another and no one is hurt, how people arrange their romantic life is no one’s business. Of course some of the configurations I describe above don’t involve being honest. That seems to present moral and ethical problems, and yet I have met people in these situations. Sometime their situations are just as dysfunctional and crazy as they seem to be and other times there are circumstances than make the morality much more complicated.
One trend I see, and I am not sure if I view it as psychologically healthy or not, is people no longer assuming, looking for and even trying to be, with one person for a lifetime. Some have more than one life partner. Others have split the functions of a relationship over several people, one for sex, one for romance, one for friendship, etc. I heard someone referred to as a secondary partner the other day. I thought to myself, would being a secondary partner be satisfying? Some people say it perfect for them, they keep their independence and have someone they like and respect in their lives. But what is like to choose to be with someone for whom you are always number two?
So, it is all the variation healthy? Are we as a society only beginning to explore the broad range of relationships and this is the beginning of that exploration? Or, thinking psychologically, have people just become more and more fragmented and healthy boundaries so rare that they have to spread their needs out over a broad range of people because the pain, the risk, the vulnerability of working on being more than one thing to another person is too much? Have people learned, in a rapidly changing world and sky high divorce rates that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket? Is it healthy to realize your partner can be all things or do we sell our relationship short by finding ways out rather than working hard on them? Do some people stay in unhealthy relationships far too long than they should?
It seems to me people give up on each other easily this days. If the sex isn’t good, open the relationship, if the relationship isn’t good but the sex is, stop thinking of your partner as a support one and turn to someone else for emotional support.
This isn’t primarily about sex for me, is about honestly, depth and intimacy, very hard tasks in any relationship. The health of a relationship isn’t based on the “sex rules” but good communication and an intimate connection. There are healthy monogamous relationships, healthy open ones and healthy polyamorous relationships and unhealthy versions of the each.
Relationships obviously have ebbs and flows, so I don’t believe in perfect ones, have we become a culture with so many options that we forget that there are people attached to those options? Is in the relationship equivalent of “so many channels and nothing’s on TV?”
The sad thing is people do too many things in relationship to stop the pain but not deal with hurt behind the pain. It is like putting Novocain on a big open wound, nothing gets better, but the pain goes away for awhile.
I have no answers here only lots and of lots of more questions. Do people give up on each other too easily? Do people stay in unhealthy relationship too long? Do people turn to others to avoid turning to one another when relationship get tough?