Monogamy’s Bad Rap

“All happy couples are the same. Which is to say they are just boring.”   –Tolstoy

Dana Adam Shapiro’s new film, Monogamy, is more a study of break ups and divorce than it is of committed relationships. He became intrigued in the demise of relationships as he watched many of his contemporaries and close friends divorcing. He conducted over fifty interviews over two years that became the foundational research for his film, which added the intrigue of a private investigation to keep the plot moving.

Shapiro notes that, “All the people I interviewed are sort of flawed anti-heros–which is the part that Theo (his main character) plays in the movie.  They are not necessarily “good people”– they’re simply people trying to be good.”   More accurately, they are people who, after their relationship has ended, can bear witness to and articulate how badly they did. One interviewee said, “ I never once thought about my wife or my marriage first until it was over.” Another woman recounted not just the final affair that ended her marriage but the years of dishonesty and falsehood that lead up to it.

Tolstoy’s idea that making a marriage work or that they all work in the same way is ridiculous. Just as most breakups are different variations on the same theme and often stem from the failure of one or both partners to step up to their best selves, relationships that work and endure contains the same variations of opposite themes;  that both people in the relationship are actively engaged in becoming their best selves and committed to bringing that to their relationship.

Just as divorce is not a story of bad luck, lasting relationships are not the result of good luck. The truth is that there is no other context in life which offers the potential to create either the best or the worst of us.  Many people unwittingly become dedicated to the most negative aspect of their personalities and to the degree that they develop little insight, take these traits out on their relationship. Certainly, the interpersonal drama  that this anti-hero practices is enough to fill a life time of relationships. But just because it is common does not make it the story worth emulating.

Still even with the cultural myths of the near impossibility of enduring relationships we remain a people dedicated to searching for them.   There is no other culture in the world that seeks out romantic relationships at the pace that we do or make the choice to try again with such frequency.

Learning to love is a life-long pursuit and many of the people who leave relationships grow into the people they wish they were when they started.  Relationships and all of their pitfalls are still the most important and life-changing circumstances that define our life.  When it is all said and done, it is the only really meaningful markers we have to remember our lives. Who we loved, who loved us back and how we learned to be the best of ourselves is never a boring tale.

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Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra R6 years ago

The whole point is that marriage is a crucible. Gold is refined and dross burns. Whether there is a divorce or not is less important than how the experience of commitment changes people. Some are gold and marriage makes them wiser, more tolerant and kinder. Others become worse until they turn into real a. h...s.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

It takes work

Ralph YY
JustaHuman Here6 years ago

If all for you it is only sex, attraction and avoiding obstacles; and if you do not want to grow in life -

Forget monogamy.

Kelsey C.
Kelsey S6 years ago

I wish I could find a monogamous person again...

Jenna Brennan
Jennifer B6 years ago

All I know is that monogamy and true love IS real and IS possible. And those who say monogamy isnt natural have obviously never been in love and are simply thinking with their libido. I met the love of my life and have never since been tempted by another. It is possible and does happen.

The reason the divorce rate is so high is because people get married too quickly and often to the wrong person. And a large number of them simply stop trying to make it work. Marriage takes work. It takes loyalty and dedication. In this world of instant gratification people have stopped trying - they simply give up and move on. That is why the divorce rate is so high. It has nothing to do with monogamy being unnatural.

Lupe G.
Guadalupe G6 years ago

Agreed; not everything is as one person says...

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

The most important thing we need to take away from this article is the statement : "that both people in the relationship are actively engaged in becoming their best selves and committed to bringing that to their relationship."
Thanks for your article ....

Jamie M.
Jamie M.6 years ago

isn't natural for SOME. And those who are called to it...God bless them all.

Ken K.
Ken K6 years ago

Monogamy is a construct of Judeo-Christian, patriarchal society. It isn't natural. Pushing people who aren't designed for monogamy into this lifestyle by trying to convince them that it's the only right way to live is why the divorce rate and frequency of affairs are so high.