Saturday, November 20, 2010


one of the interesting starting points for thinking about why our monogamy, our marriage-model, is sickly is one whereby we consider contemporary courtship. courtship tends to proceed along a couple of fairly distinct phases: the fledgling phase of initial contact and engagement, the transitional phase wherein the twosome become "invested," and the final phase, monogamy, wherein the couple play out an ersatz marriage. in the beginning, the generosity and care, the compassion and selflessness of a fledgling relationship is a marvel to behold. we can recognize in these giddy beginnings something precious. generally speaking, the mindsets and concomitant interpersonal dynamics of first and second dates, of that period of time when the future is still a deep nocturnal mystery and anything can happen, of the precipice overlooking sheer possibility, are the lovers in us at their best. we feel privileged to be in the company of this other person of whom we are bedazzled. we make no demands, do not feel we own rights with respect to their time, attention, body, or affection. we do not feel that this beautiful being with whom we are hoping to begin a love affair is accountable to us in any way. we make few assumptions and harbor few expectations. can you imagine a second date where one of the would be lovers demands to know why a call wasn't returned or else demands to know who their date spent the previous several days with and in what capacity? when we first begin the ritual of courtship we lay no claims; the other person is their own person and, beholden to none, can do anything they so desire. that they choose, out of endless other options, to offer their time, attention, affection, etc. is a source of great joy and pride. as the fledgling phase begins to slip into the transitional phase, however, this all begins to change. instead of the other being cherished for who they are in their singular uniqueness, they begin to be measured against implicit and explicit criteria. each person's process of evaluating the other is just one in an extensive series of actions that are consequent upon a critical shift from other-interest to self-interest. the full effect of this shift is realized in the final phase of courtship: monogamy. mutual agreement to be beholden, to be accountable, to be limited, to be possessed, etc. is the mature expression of the shift from other-oriented (e.g. reveling in the undeserved affections of another) to self-oriented (e.g. reciprocal imposition of limits). the question for me is this: why does the first phase give way to the second and third? why can we not retain what is valuable, what is beautiful, in the ways in which we initially engage one another even as our relationships deepen?

No comments: