The New Millennial Marriage: Idealistic or Realistic?

Studies show that 45 to 55% of people will stray at some point in their marriage. Some marriages may appear monogamous on the surface, but have secret affairs. Some have affairs and recover, moving on to a more committed type of marriage. Some partners negotiate a more fluid type of monogamy with outside partners or sexual agreements that do not threaten their emotional monogamy. The integrity of the relationship is maintained through emotional commitment, not sexual exclusivity.

This passage excerpted from an article entitled The Future of Marriage by Tammy Nelson, PhD, in a Huffpost Divorce section is both a stark reality and a breath of fresh air. The reality gleaned from the cited statistic is that monogamy is hard pressed these days. Over half of marriages or more, depending upon whether the “some marriages” that “appear monogamous” are included in those statistics, involve cheating, straying, non-monogamy–pick a term that appears descriptive or indicting as you please. The hopeful part is the elasticity potential of marriage as a lasting institution–if the participants acknowledge the nature of marriage as a constant set of negotiable points, as a pact of two (most often the case nationally) with constituent parts of emotionality, physicality, mentality and spirituality, and that all of those constitutional needs are not met in one person.

In addition to a more fluid definition of marriage, the article also addresses a concomitant fluidity about divorce, which reflects current trends of “conscious uncoupling” and “divorcing with integrity,” what the doctor asserts is a possibility given the trend toward mediation and out of court options. She states that “Divorce can be heartbreaking, for both partners,” and so, implicitly, couples would want to seek more civil ways, less heartbreaking ways to divorce, she states.

Though Dr. Nelson may be right about the trends toward mediation and less combative ways of de-coupling, most probably due to financial considerations than the foresight to avoid heartbreaking battles, I am dubious of her prognostication about kinder, gentler divorces.

Having been a divorce lawyer for over two decades, I know divorce is devastating, whether the divorce is consensual or non-consensual. Divorce is like death, includes the same stages of shock, denial, anger and acceptance, in most cases. It IS a death of a relationship, a marriage, an expectation, a family, a future, and a life envisioned and lived. Facilitating hundreds of divorces in 24 years, I cannot deny there is heartbreak, but there is also hatred, fear, insurmountable loss, guilt, sense of failure, vengeance and often temporary insanity, among a host of other human emotions.

Divorces destroy men, women and children, a little or a lot. They often leave permanent scars. And it is not only because people do not know how to behave. It just may be due in part to the delusion of what marriage promises historically but not currently–a life-long betrothal of two, dipped in everlasting love and sacrifice. The probability of two people growing in the same direction with static needs is, well, hovering still at about 50%, which has been the steady first-time divorce rate for at least the last ten years of my practicing law.

The ideology of marriage is endorsed socially through media imagery, parental lore and financial incentives permeating the laws of the land (tax and insurance). Perhaps the broken promise of societal “norms” and the deception of popular television and magazine images are reasons for the incendiary explosion that divorce is oftentimes. Until that ideology changes, divorces will be experienced as they are–the death of a dream.

So, I agree with the doctor that there needs to be revisions to the myth of marriage; it needs adjusting to reflect the realities and trends she outlines in her article. Perhaps a revised marriage concept will lead to corresponding divorce expectations and thereby less destruction. But it’s not there yet.

The article is interesting; the following passages are particularly intriguing, even if perhaps a stretch:

In the future, in order to avoid this, marriage will be defined by shorter, more renewable contracts, in five year increments, or smaller two year contracts with options to renew. These agreements will be revisited at the end of their lease, and either renewed or ended, depending on how the requirements and expectations of the contract are being fulfilled. Both partners will make the decision to stay and renew or both will agree to move on. We renew our license every four years, why not renew our marriage contract?

In the future, gay marriage will have been legal for decades. More arrangements between couples will include open marriages with sexual agreements, polyamory will be more common and perhaps even polygamy will be visited in the legal system.

More of us will be bisexual, transexual and even more sexually androgonous than ever before. More babies will be born without clear gender identity and will not have surgery to assign a sex. We will judge less on sexual identity and more on how we treat one another

Since the majority of her predictions are based on a definition of marriage, she must be right about that definition or the conclusions she draws from those premises fail. Is she right about the five components of marriage?

The Name (Labeling) Game on a Throwback Thursday

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A facebook friend posted an article irresistibly intriguing about a wealthy, powerful Florida man, now deceased, who married two women and lived parallel lives, raising two families–the Cone and Carlson families–the children of which attended the same private school. Neither wife appeared to know of the other. The article about this apparent anomaly is brief and ends with the statement that the school’s baseball field is now named in the man’s (?) honor called the Carlson-Cone baseball field. That was the best part of the entire article for me, the irony. Was this town giving the dead guy a high five? Yeah man, you pulled it off. Let’s celebrate by honoring you with a dedicated space in the name of your bigamy. I love it.

This article has had me thinking for a couple of days into this labeling miasma I have created in my brain. So, this man would be considered a polygamist according to a relationship orientation and a bigamist according to a legal perspective. But what about his love for these two women, assuming that is the reason for his marrying and obtaining two wives (though he could be just a control freak and needed another woman and kids to own or a glutton for punishment or has way too much money and needed more tax write offs)? Is he polyamorous too? I am told it is human nature to label and not to fight it, so here I go.

Poking around the Internet, looking to tack the polyamory label to this Tampa polygamist, I found myself on encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com. Under the term polyamory, I found an explosion of labels to make my head spin and produce an urgent need to nap. We humans do love to catalog and diagram and chart and define–architects and archeologists all. I was amazed.

So as far as human relationships, there are the following:

Human sexuality and sexology
Sexual relationship
phenomena
Asexuality Bisexuality Casual relationship Casual sex Celibacy Committed relationship Free love Heterosexuality Homosexuality Involuntary celibacy One-night stand Polyamory Promiscuity Female promiscuity Romance (love) Sex life Sexual abstinence Sexual partner Single person
Sexual dynamics
Hermaphrodite Hypergamy Physical attractiveness Sexual attraction Sexual ethics

As to the taxonomy of gender identity, the encyclopedia offers this:

Gender and sexual identities
Gender identities
Gender
Male Female Androgyne Bigender Boi Cisgender Cross-dresser Genderqueer Girlfag and guydyke Intersex Pangender Transgender Trans man Trans woman Transexual Womyn
Third sex /
Third gender
Akava’ine Androgynos Bakla Bissu Burnesha Eunuch Fa’afafine Fakaleiti Femminiello Galli Hermaphrodite Hijra Kathoey Khanith Köçek Mahu Maknyah Mukhannathun Muxe Sworn virgin Takatāpui Third gender Transgender in China Transgender people in Singapore Transgender in film and television Transsexuality in Iran Travesti Tumtum Two-Spirit Winkte

Finally, sexual orientation is categorized thusly:

Sexual orientation
identities
Gender binary
Asexual Bisexual Heterosexual Homosexual
Non-binary
Ambiphilia, Androphilia, Gynephilia Pansexuality Polysexuality Third gender Two-Spirit
Other
Attraction to transgender people Banjee Bi-curious Ex-gay Ex-ex-gay Gay Heteroflexible Lesbian Kinsey scale Non-heterosexual Object sexuality Queer Questioning Pansexual Polyamorous Polysexual Romantic orientation Same gender loving

But wait, there’s more:

Bisexuality topics
Sexual identities
Bisexual Monosexual Pansexual Polysexual
History
Bisexual American history
Study
Innate bisexuality Journal of Bisexuality Kinsey scale Klein grid Human male sexuality
Attitudes
Biphobia Bisexual chic Bisexual erasure Lesbian until graduation
Bisexual community
American Institute of Bisexuality Bialogue BiCon (UK) BiFest BiNet USA Bisexual Resource Center Bisexual pride flag Bisexual Pride Day International Conference on Bisexuality New York Area Bisexual Network Bay Area Bisexual Network Transcending Boundaries Conference Media portrayals of bisexuality
Lists
Self-identified bisexual persons List of bisexuality-related organizations List of media portrayals of bisexuality
LGBT portal Sexuality portal
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) topics

Academic fields Discourse
LGBT topics in education Gender studies Lavender linguistics Lesbian feminism LGBT literature LGBT/Queer studies Queer theory Transfeminism

Community Culture
Anthems Bars Bisexual community Coming out Community center Drag king Drag queen Gay friendly Icons Lesbian utopia Literature Music Neighborhoods Organizations Periodicals Pride Pride parade Religious groups Rodeos Same-sex relationships Slang
List of slang
Slogans Sports Symbols Tourism
Category:LGBT culture

Gender identities Sexual identities
Gender identities
Male Female Androgyne Bigender Boi Cisgender Genderqueer Girlfag and guydyke Intersex Pangender Transgender Womyn
Third sex / Third gender
Akava’ine Eunuch Fa’afafine Fakaleiti Femminiello Hijra Kathoey Khanith Mahu Mukhannathun Muxe Bissu Two-Spirit Hermaphrodite
Sexual orientation identities
Sexual orientations
Asexual Bisexual Heterosexual Homosexual
Ex-gay Ex-ex-gay Pansexual Polyamorous Banjee Gay Lesbian Queer Same gender loving Non-heterosexual Object sexuality Questioning bi-curious heteroflexible
Related
Gender roles Human female sexuality Human male sexuality Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures

History
LGBT history
History of lesbianism LGBT history timeline Social movements History of Christianity and homosexuality History of same-sex unions Pederasty Category:LGBT history
LGBT pride flag
Pre-modern era
Adelphopoiesis Homosexuality in ancient Greece Homosexuality in ancient Rome Homosexuality in ancient Egypt Homosexuality in ancient Peru Homosexuality in medieval Europe
16th to 19th century
Mollies Urnings
20th century
Gay Liberation Homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust Inversion Sea queens Stonewall riots Festival of Light action White Night riots Queer theory
21st century
Same-sex marriage

Rights Legal issues
LGBT rights by country or territory
Africa Americas Asia Europe Oceania List of LGBT rights articles by region
LGBT rights topics
Adoption Civil unions and partnerships Hate crime laws Legal aspects of transsexualism Military service Parenting Same-sex marriage (Status Timeline) Socialism Sodomy laws United Nations/Yogyakarta Principles
LGBT rights movements
Gay Liberation LGBT rights groups LGBT rights activists

Sexual orientations – Medicine, science and sexology
Biology Birth order Demographics Environment Heterosexual–homosexual continuum Homosexuality and psychology Kinsey scale Klein Grid Mental roots Neuroscience Prenatal hormones Sexual orientation change efforts Sexual orientation identity Timeline of sexual orientation and medicine

Social attitudes Prejudice Violence
Social attitudes
Anti-LGBT slogans Heteronormativity Gay panic LGBT rights opposition LGBT stereotypes Religion and homosexuality Transgenderism and religion
Prejudice and discrimination
AIDS stigma Biphobia Genderism Heterosexism Homophobia Internalized homophobia Lesbophobia Non-binary discrimination Riddle scale SPLC-designated list of anti-gay U.S. hate groups Transphobia
Violence against LGBT people
Corrective rape Gay bashing History of violence in the UK History of violence in the US Significant acts of violence against LGBT people Trans bashing Unlawfully killed transgender people LGBT suicides

There appears to be an identity or an issue related to the loins and mind of every individual at any given moment in time. There are even ex ex gays. I don’t know. I couldn’t look them all up. Am I wrong to be frustrated with labels, to speak out against them? Are my compadres in the labeling game who tell me to relax, it’s human, the ones who know better? Clearly it is human to label. It is a compulsion, an obsession. We are taxonomists. We are analyzers of the world around us and to analyze is to break something down into its constituent parts in order to examine them. The term appears to be connotatively positive, somewhat synonymous to discovery and learning. However, to examine the parts of something is to destroy that something, dismantle it, break it down into parts from a whole constitution.

Perhaps that is my objection, the labeling of parts, and then carelessly taking a single part of a whole to represent a whole, reckless synecdoche. It hurts.

From a taxonomist’s point of view, Mr. Carlson-Cone cannot be classified as polyamorous. Polyamory, according to the encyclopedia, is based on consensual, ethical and transparent multi-loving:
Polyamory, often abbreviated as poly, is often described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.” The word is sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.
Did he love both women?

I guess we will never know. But I thank him for this delightful delving into the inspirational art form of the label. Now let’s pause here to play the name game on this “Throwback Thursday.”

The Science of Sex and Labeling

The medico-pychological health establishment and popular media mold our sexual proclivities and cabin our instincts. I’m convinced of it. Like Cicero, I have pushed the bolder of an idea that labels of gender-sex identification are arbitrary, prejudicial and crippling, that love is far too mult-faceted, complex and unexamined to be striated into gross categories of behaviors: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. If they have a function at all, it is to be descriptive of tendencies and not modes of prejudicial placement and exclusion. And like Cicero, the bolder comes down with excuses from friends and followers that human nature is thus. That may be so, but it is important to delve into how human nature is not so natural, that there are unconscious contributors that frame our nature, confining it to a few convenient options that order behaviors neatly and conveniently for reference, analysis and mating.

An article from askmen.com entitled “Exploring Female Sexual Fantasies” written by Dr. Victoria Zdrok gives men advice about dealing with women’s fantasies during sex. She advises men not to feel intimidated if your woman is fantasizing about Brad Pitt during sex or Angelina Jolie, for that matter, since “many women are naturally bi-curious and women are much more likely to have same-sex fantasies than men.” She further advises: “If you find out that your girlfriend or wife is having such fantasies, don’t worry about her being a lezzy — take advantage of the moment and suggest a threesome. But don’t be too eager; pretend that you are actually indulging her fantasy!”

Now, she’s a doctor so she should be good authority, right? Men and women should believe her and I am sure a publication like askmen.com with a wide readership (largely men, I would presume) features an article written by a doctor for legitimacy and persuasiveness. No matter that a quick google search reveals the doc as a Penthouse centerfold and her front page images are one of the following.

credit: corbisimages.com

Now, I am not suggesting that the good doctor is not authoritative or doesn’t know her stuff. I mean what man wouldn’t suggest a threesome upon discovering his woman has bi-curiosity and that most men lie and manipulate women into fulfilling men’s fantasies, right? What I am suggesting is that most readers would not question the source of the writing for legitimacy and take the advice from a doctor as a credible given.  They would take it as fact that many women are bi-curious and women more than men have same-sex fantasies. I am no sexpert and no doctor. However, my more than five decades on Earth have proven at least circumstantially otherwise. Try trolling on Craigslist in the personals ads for men seeking men in just about any city. They vastly outnumber the women seeking women section. If men are not fantasizing about men maybe it’s because they are having the sex with other men that the women are not with other women because women are busy being mere curious fantasizers too afraid to act or maybe they are not advertising their sexual behavior or getting hooked up through other means.

I am being ridiculously reductive, but I believe Dr. Zdrog is too. It’s not just Craigslist but my lived experience talking with and reading about men from a variety of sources that leads me to conclude that probably more men are curious and fantasize about sex with other men than this article suggests and more women are more than curious, but I would not dare make a bold statement about any of that in writing, not without affording the reader the benefit of my research and findings. No, I am not overlooking the fact that askmen is not supposed to be the Atlantic Monthly of scientific research.

The point is that we take our information fed to us without examination. Publications like askmen are in the business of making money by selling exciting and eye catching ideas (duh, right?), the more biased and incomplete–suggestive–the better. No one wants to get bogged down in reading a bunch of facts and studies. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Dr. Zdrog may be right or she may be writing more from her own experience as a bisexual and self-proclaimed sexpert Penthouse featurette (whatever all of those dynamics suggest). The magic is in being published. If she is published, she must be right. If she is a doctor, she must know. I mean I am sure my GP, my family’s all purpose doc for coldsores to leukemia, knows all about sex and fantasy, right? Men can believe the bold statements about women and bisexuality (and implicitly men not being as bisexual). Women can believe it. What effect does that assumed, unverified “fact” have on incurious readers’ sexual understanding about themselves and others? If I am bi curious, is it because I have been fed that curiosity or does it derive from MY natural inclinations?

Michel Foucault, Twentieth Century French philosopher, in his work entitled The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction“> theorized that sexuality has been controlled by the medical establishment throughout history by legitimizing or norming sexual behavior through science, something humans are cultivated to accept as authoritative. Doctors of medicine and psychology analyze human sexual behaviors and label them deviant or healthy, and those “facts” are disseminated into the population as the standard against which individuals measure their own normalcy.

Nothing new here about how much our thoughts about ourselves are not truly our own, but it bears reminding that critical thinking, among other practices, can set us free-er. Sex and relationships are far more complex and should be afforded the greatest respect and devotion of thought beyond the soundbites we are used to consuming. What attracted me to the definitions of bisexuality as a concept was the umbrella of its protectorate–all manner of relational behaviors– as well as its focus on human tendencies to separate and divide. We are pattern-makers as a species. We love the feel of a pattern. Patterns tickle our brains, and we are taught to recognize them from toddlerhood on. Maybe that is the human nature behind the science of labeling.

Love and Let Die

 

credit: corvalisadvocate.com

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
.  Mary Oliver

In the morning after a rain when the ocean settles into the sky, the horizon looks true,
not divided but a continuum–grey on grey–indecipherably terra-firmament.

My life appears so linear, me moving my mother and father along their journey, as they once held my hand and led my toddling feet, cajoling them forward and dragging them back, the push and pull of a daughter’s love full of fear and longing as they travel into the night even as my daughters, soft and loosely tethered to my heels, unwittingly come along for that treacherous trek of mortality. But the line is an illusion. Time is recursively experienced and what else is there but subjective moments of breath?

Heidegger notes: Temporalizing does not signify that ecstases come in a ‘succession’. The future is not later than having been, and having-been is not earlier than the Present. Temporality temporalizes itself as a future which makes present in a process of having been. (Being and Time 68: 401).

The past, present and future are always with us in lived experience. I am one (of many others) with an awareness and constitution of my past, my history, born to certain parents in a particular calendar time, history, and place, aware that I exist–live, breathe, do–in the moment known as now until the someday I cease to exist and so experience time not as an arrow shooting from birth to death but as a walking simultaneity of past, future and present I carry and am.

Like time, bodies are continuous, only unmindful minds make it not so–the mime of generations. We are and are not the infant or/nor the corpse but live suspended between the two, seemingly marching forward from birth and facing death, but really carrying our birth and death with us at all times.  Living with another human being is living with her patterns and hang ups developed from childhood, her fears of her own mortality and the actions and inabilities to love or trust or celebrate life due to her genetics, home life, experiences or attitude toward her own mortality.  She is reckless because she can be in her twenties with so much life ahead or she is cautious and more discerning with the people with whom she spends time given she may only have a good ten or twenty years of life left on Earth.  Death shapes her.

To clearly “see” ourselves poised for death sharpens our vision of what is real and true, who we are. Since I will die, I schedule my days full of stuff to do. Since I will die, I plan from the time I become aware of my impending death to go to school, get a career, a family–live a life in finite time. If I were immortal, would I choose to get up and go to work each day?

The realization that I am not, wearing my own death as a blanket across my face in order to make me see what I do in the unknown time allotted to me, who I am, is the experience of time that allows me to be my authentic self, roughly paraphrasing from Heidegger. We all know what it feels like to have a close call. The aftermath of that potentially fatal collision–near miss–shows us who we are, what we are made of, what we hope for, and what is important to us–truly, not lost in the doing-ness of the day. So how to keep death in front of our eyes?

Read a lot. Observe. Listen. Think. Feel. Try on faces, clothes, philosophies, scenarios, and lovers; test your instincts and learn. “Love who can love you the way you need and want to be loved,” I tell my daughters. The formula is simple. It only takes knowing who you are, letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Time as aggregation, an amassment of experience and burning, is the fullness of space opening up as the big bang deity of the universes spreads the creation of all we are and imagine unending.

The deep field experiment (http://youtu.be/LENqnjZGX0A) of the Hubble telescope reveals that the infinite is even more than we circumscribed previously. David Eagleman, in his informative and entertaining Youtube video on Possibilianism, remarks that the Hubble telescope identified over ten thousand galaxies in a pencil eraser sized spot in seemingly starless space viewed from Earth. Upon learning this, I was struck with how humans are unfathomably minuscule and particulate and endless as moving dust of eons innumerable.

Perspective. There is no time or reason to suffer needlessly at the hands of others in the finite or infinite. Each human is an ever burgeoning expanding and shrinking self in a moment. We are not either-or’s, especially not labels that predict behaviors merely for the sake of another’s comfort. I don’t have to identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual in order for someone to understand how to act with me, determine what interests or potential lies in me.

Gender is not merely anatomy. Sexuality is not merely the act. In the words of Robyn Ochs, bisexual activist, writer, professor:
“Sex is between your legs; gender is between your ears.” In real people, sex and gender do not always correspond…sex and gender each exist on a continuum; thus there are more than two sexes, and more than two genders.

This resonates with my lived experience thus far. We cannot know another by assuming we know, only intuit and strive and thrive, be brave and curious. Love is all we get in finite time. Judge not so unthinkingly.

Non-binary Believing Believer – the Bisexual Myth

credit: izquotes.com

Mono-sexism attributes partiality and vacillation to the bisexual.
S/he slides between normative heterosexuality and prohibitive homosexuality, claiming neither but able to inhabit each as opportunity and good fortune affords depending upon the social climate or sexuality growth or transition phase, according to the mono-sexist. These are behaviors generalized, speculated and thrust upon the ones who refuse the binary, those who are iconic and ironic, iconic in merely loving people not genders and ironic in being suspect for loving no one or neither, without partaking of either (Bisexual Imaginary).

From Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Non-binary believing believer

There is a world where people are people.
I know it exists.
They don’t have to define themselves on
race
gender
sexual orientation
politics
class
ethnicity
age
dis-ability
religion
nationality
Human is a panoply of factum
each one a case for infant-eye examination.
If we had to assess beings as that infant does
with no data upon which to shortcut rely such as
stereotypes
prejudices
biases
customs
traditions
patterns
norms
we too would sleep all day for the sheer exhaustion
of seeing, hearing and learning anew each one.
If my sexual identity miffs or mystifies
If I don’t act my age
If I look like someone’s ancestors–or don’t
If I defy the conformity to a certain race
If I appear an androgyne without need to choose
Who gives a fuck and why?
I want to know.
Because of habit, fear, and laziness
Because of insecure identity
Because of personal investment
Because of past injury and reward
Because of pictures painted in malleable minds
Because of enculturation and saturation and maturation
and a million other wherefores and therefores and somehows
I must be like you?
I must choose my identity and make it fit?
Or else
Social-suffer.
Why?