Until Death Do Us Part?

June 17, 2011 at 7:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why is it that a man or woman must take just one partner until death parts them? Oh, I know that many religions say so, and we have been ruled by religion for a long time. But I am not saying that couples shouldn’t stick together. Indeed, for some people, it works very well. However, observation and my own experience lead me to wonder whether we are naturally programmed to mate for life.

People’s needs change as they move through different stages of their lives. Children need to be cared for and nurtured. Adolescents need to experiment, to push the boundaries, taste the world and learn its limitations. Young adults need action, romance and sex. Parents need to develop their work and life skills, to nurture their offspring, and to have sex when they aren’t too tired. Middle-aged and older adults need support, and to see their genetic line continue– and sex, and to set up some security for retirement. Old folks need security, companionship and relaxation.

Can one person provide all of these needs to one partner right throughout life? Yes, there are some who can, as we sometimes see in happy, long-lasting marriages. But there are also many marriages that have been long-lasting only because either partner, or both, cannot leave. The reason could be religious, cultural, emotional, fear of the unknown, lack of the means to support oneself, or any other reason that prevents escape.

We all know that people change as they get older and gain more experience of life; that is, if they actually learn from their experience. But people change at different rates and for different reasons.

Once a couple has moved into another phase of life, they may find that what originally kept them together is no longer there. They may find someone else who will provide what the original partner can no longer provide. In the past, this has caused much heartache, and much emotional harm, because the original couple was expected to remain together, to “make the best of it”.

Many people say a couple should remain together for their children’s sake. If the couple have a mature relationship, then I would encourage that. We often see people break up when their children are grown. But if either feels trapped, or is in need of something the other cannot provide, then the marriage can become loveless, perhaps bitter or abusive. These relationships are destructive; not only for them, but also for the children. I have seen many physically and emotionally damaged children of couples who stayed together “for the children’s sake”.

I have also seen committed relationships that last only as long as the partners see them to be positive; that may be ten, twenty, thirty years. Then, once one or other realises that a big hole has developed that they cannot fill, they move on and find the one with whom they can fill it.

The partner who makes children with you in the heat of passion may not make a good support person or parent. The one you produce and raise children with may not be the one you want to spend your middle or declining years with. You, or the one with whom you once shared interests, beliefs, and attraction, may have changed completely, so that you no longer have much, or anything in common.

So why not move on? Why should a couple be forced to maintain a  relationship that is quite likely to become destructive to both of them? Why not give each other the chance to become content instead of frustrated; happy instead of embittered; independent instead of dependent?

The laws in Western nations today allow relationships to be terminated. The extent to which people take up that freedom demonstrates something important. If we were meant to mate for life, then why do such a huge percentage of relationships break up?

Why don’t we accept that marriage for life is an ideal; that it is often not realistic? Why don’t we get the most out of a relationship, without abusing it, and once it is no longer something of value, leave it. As long as we acknowledge and respect each other’s rights and responsibilities from past relationships, we are surely making happier people and a happier society.

© Linda Visman 17th June 2011

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