"The Future of Marriage" and its widening possibilities
Tammy Nelson, author of The New Monogamy, rejoins the ongoing discussion about whether marriage is collapsing or changing or both. She says that people who get married will increasingly assume that they can define marriage their own way, and she starts by describing open marriages and polyamory as options for some.
The Future of Marriage
...In the way we think of and define "marriage," there has never been a more intrinsic and foundational change happening than right now. Our structural definition of the legal, emotional, and sexual act of committed partnership is on the cusp of something totally new.
...Marriage is still defined by being married to one person, unless of course, you are a Mormon. [Actually, in 1890 the mainstream LDS Church shifted its polygamy doctrine from this world into the afterlife]. But you can also stretch the definition to include things like polyamory. Polyamory means "poly, many" and "amorous, love" which translates to being in a relationship where you can love more than one person at the same time.
More polyamorous couples are living in openly agreed-to multiple partner relationships in this country than can fill the island of Manhattan. [That would be more than 1.6 million people; I'd like to know the basis for that estimate.] And that is only the people that openly identify as 'poly.' Some have this arrangement but do not care to call themselves 'poly' or check off the box when researchers come around to ask who the other partner is that's sleeping in the guest room. Although polygamy is not legal in the U.S. (polygamy means to marry more than one person at the same time), polyamory is a lifestyle where couples choose to be in loving and committed relationships with more than one person, sometimes living all together in one home.
The rest of the ways in which she says marriage is changing are
– The acceptance of same-sex marriage
– The awareness that we may not be marrying for a lifetime
– New, less catastrophic alternatives to traditional divorce
– "Marriage no longer being a guarantee of sexual fidelity." (She says "studies show that 45 to 55% of people will stray at some point in their marriage," but in reality, studies of infidelity rates disagree with each other wildly.) "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."
She predicts that in the future, marriage will be definable "by shorter, more renewable contracts, in five year increments, or smaller two year contracts with options to renew." And,
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.
More families will live in village-like arrangements where expanded child care covers our offspring's needs and more of us contribute to the workplace based on our skills, interests and aptitudes....
In the future, couples will have monogamy agreements that are defined early in their relationship and revisited often, in open, honest conversations that include their desires and fantasies, and are renewed with new visions of their relationship on a regular basis. Sex will be seen not as a threat to the relationship but as a way to maintain the individual's health and well being, and will not become compulsive or split off outside the marriage, since shame around it will have decreased....
...Couples no longer need to marry to have children, to pass on their property or to have sex. In one hundred years, marriage may not even exist.
But we will always want a primary partner....
Read on (Dec. 4, 2014).
This comes just after a much-talked-about New York Times article, The Divorce Surge Is Over, But the Myth Lives On (Dec. 2). It notes that the divorce rate has been declining for 20 years after never quite reaching the much-talked-about 50% rate. The Week published a criticism of the article: Sorry, New York Times: The state of marriage in America is not good (Dec. 4). It points out that recent improvements in the quality and duration of marriages are limited to the educated middle and upper classes; for others, family stability is getting worse. And the declining divorce rate is offset by the fact that fewer marriages happen at all; marriage-like cohabiting relationships, often now with kids, go through their "divorces" off the books.
Update: New NYT article: The Real Reason Richer People Marry" (Dec. 6)."