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Monday, October 1, 2007

Is Monogamy Naive?

Sister Rose and Brother Leroy are pillars of the church. They regularly attend services, hosts numerous church functions, frequently have dinners at their townhouse to welcome new members and visitors, and often volunteer for church ministries together. They have been together for over 15 years and have two handsome sons and an adopted daughter that they took in a few years ago. To the outsider, this couple seems to have the perfect family, the perfect ministry, and the perfect marriage. But not all is perfect in their picturesque town home. Leroy, like most men, chose to adopt a grass is greener philosophy. He threw his perfect family and ministry away to begin a life of philandering. The church was shocked, I was shocked, but most of all his wife and family were shocked! His wife has since moved to another church, Leroy has moved out of state and yet another family has been ripped apart. Yet another family has become a statistic.

Charles and Lindsay have been married for 12 years. Together they have two children a baby girl and a son that Lindsay has from a previous relationship. Lindsay was a good wife, she cooked and cleaned and worked tirelessly to keep their relationship together. One day, a few years after they were wed, Lindsay had a suspicion that Charles was being unfaithful. She confronted him and her worse nightmares were confirmed. Charles begged, cried, and pleaded for her to forgive him and insisted that he would never cheat again. Years later, having had a tumultuous relationship, Lindsay decided that she had had enough. “I’m getting a divorce,” she announced one day when I came over for a visit. Of all the things that they had been through Charles’s dishonesty combined with the agonizing memory of his adultery catapulted them into divorce court. Now, even before the papers have been finalized both Lindsay and Charles are seeing other people. And so another family bites the dust.

These are true stories; I just changed the names to protect the innocent, and the guilty. Unfortunately scenarios like the aforementioned ones are all too common. When it comes to our frail attempts at monogamy I remain a cynic. Infidelity is one of the most commonly cited causes of divorce. All of us are familiar with the most referenced statistic in the US: that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. That’s millions and millions of marriages! One can speculate that millions of these marriages came to termination because of extramarital affairs. The great wiki has this to say:

“Studies report that about 12-26% of married women and 15-43% of married men engage in extramarital sex. Although surveying large numbers of people helps to counteract the biases of convenience samples, the only way to get scientifically reliable estimates of extramarital sex is to use nationally representative samples. Three studies have used nationally representative samples. These studies have found that about 10-15% of women and 20-25% of men engage in extramarital sex.”

Given how casually we treat or marriages, should monogamy even be a reasonable expectation, particularly when we consider “girlfriend and boyfriend” relationships? In short, is monogamy dissipating so rapidly that to even believe in it and pursue it is practically naïve? In light of the social and political implications of monogamy, this is definitely a question worth exploring.

Undoubtedly monogamy is dying especially since cheating has become trendy. When we turn on the TV we see people boasting about there manipulations and how they “got over” on their unsuspecting partners. We watch relationships dissolve for entertainment on shows like “Cheaters” where cameras confirm acts of betrayal. In magazines and books we read about the devastating affects of affairs and the tawdry tales of celebrity infidelity. Cheating is the topic of reality television series and talk shows; it has spawned movies like “Unfaithful”, “Premonition” and “I think I Love My Wife.” Cheating has been romanticized in our music to the point that it is hard to turn on the radio without hearing a song that either praises or disparages cheating. Even t-shirts and bumper stickers bare slogans that support unfaithfulness. In short, cheating is popular! It is not only popular in the media we consume, but in our day-to-day relations. I dare any of us pretend that we don’t know someone who has either been caught cheating or someone who has perpetuated such a blow against his or her relationship. I personally know several cheaters and victims of cheating. To make matters worse, cheating isn’t looked down upon like it was in old days. In our postmodern society there is little if any social ostracism for cheating and in some enclaves it is considered acceptable.

Generally speaking women are more likely to be cheated on than to be cheaters. In an Essence article I recently read writer Taigi Smith, writes

“Many of us enter relationships instinctively looking for evidence of another woman. And if it seems that the likelihood of there being one is higher when dating Black men, it's because research shows it's true. A recent study conducted by University of Chicago sociologist and professor Edward Laumann suggests that Black men are more likely than White men to start sexual relationships with a new woman while maintaining physical relationships with old girlfriends, a practice Laumann calls concurrence or overlapping. [I call it cheating.] In fact, the relationship-overlapping period for White men lasted about ten days on average, while the overlap period for brothers spanned an average of 250 days, says Laumann, who published his findings in the book The Sexual Organization of the City. Almost 40 percent of the African American men Laumann surveyed admitted to maintaining long-term sexual relationships with at least two women, a practice he calls serial polygamy.”

In other words both black men and white men are guilty of maintaining sexual liaisons with multiple women! Even if one race has a longer duration of “overlapping” the bottom line is that men are cheating! I’d dare say that it is dangerous for any woman, particularly black women to have illusions of fidelity in a world that is so bent on immorality.

Yes, I just used the infamous “I”-word that can bring a postmodernist to his soapbox, but when you look at cheating in light of all the other deplorable things happening in our world, it all boils down to an absence of morality. The fact that we even have to pose questions like “is monogamy naive?” reveals evidence of our moral deterioration. In our postmodern society the line between right and wrong has become so blurred that there is little distinction between the two. Right and wrong have become a matter of personal preference and convenience. The pursuit of immorality has become our legal right. Dare you infringe on someone’s right to do wrong and that makes you a prude or a killjoy.

So what are the consequences of such a society? Cheating has become an epidemic, STD’s take the lives our thousands of people and hospitalize countless others, abortion are necessary, pornography is a multi billion dollar industry, marriage is view as outmoded and unnecessary and monogamy is practically naïve—mere wishful thinking of the unsophisticated idealist. That’s not just sad, it’s sick.

Is monogamy naïve? Well God didn’t think so. God believes in monogamy, otherwise he wouldn’t have made “thy shalt not commit adultery,” one of his sacred laws. He wouldn’t have gone through the trouble performing the first marriage between Adam and Eve. Instead he would have just given them multiple partners to choose from. Is monogamy naive? Perhaps not yet, but when we get to a point where monogamy fails to be a reasonable expectation all of our relationships and marriages are inevitably doomed--and consequently so is society at large.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When it comes down to it, it's a matter of whether a person understands what they have in a relationship with someone and value it. If you know and understand that you have a good thing with someone you won't be so inclined to mess that up, better yet "If it ain't broke why fix it?"

Your blog also didn't mention how often times the cheating itself stems from a lack of communication in the relationship.