The State of Marriage

The State of Marriage


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


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.