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The State of Marriage

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The State of Marriage

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Yesterday's USA Today "Life" section featured the topic of infidelity in marriage.  The article remarked on the rise of infidelity and the implications of this rise.  For one thing, Americans are beginning to face the reality that infidelity is not just about having sex. It's about "having a life"--in other words, having intimate, meaningful conversations and experiences.  Reporter Sharon Jayson interviewed experts who express concern that, while our ancestors expected too little from marriage, people today expect too much of marriage.  It seems we idealize marriage and form expectations of our spouse that no single person can fulfill.  So most (up to 80%, the experts say) decide to play around, committing various kinds of infidelity, sometimes at the cost of the marriage.

My mother once said, "One comfort of living plural marriage is that I always know who my husband is with when he's not with me.  And I know that she shares my values and my commitment to the family." During frequent periods of my father's unavailability (he was a doctor as well as a spiritual leader) my mother turned to her sisterwives for comfort and consolation, for fun and companionship.  She relied on them for back-up childcare and home care, and for general moral support.  When she wanted to prepare for a piano performance or if she was sick, or if she simply wanted to spend the week with her mother, the sisterwives took over for her.  Of course, the arrangement didn't lack jealousies and rivalries, resentments and frustrations.  In my experience, the bad often outweighed the good. But those who think plural marriage has nothing to recommend it may be stuck in idealization of monogamy-and that always exacts a price. 

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