Semi-Happily Ever After!

 A new book reveals some surprising changes in American marriages 

By Susan Toepfer •
Marriage Confidential Book Cover

In Marriage Confidential (Harper), Pamela Haag, PhD, takes a fresh look at the state of our legal unions. “We have more marriage freedom, choice and latitude than ever before,” Haag writes, and yet many of us end up feeling “melancholy” or only “semi-happy” in our marriages. Hoping to “jog our thinking out of the familiar rut of Divorce or Sticking It Out,” she identifies nearly 20 new types of 21st-century bonds, including the following:

1. Screen Saver Marriage
Perhaps the most common type of union Haag discovered, this one features spouses who are half alert and half asleep—in other words, happy enough and habituated to each other.

2. Happily Down-Mobile
Ditching the American dream of acquisition, these couples marry, combine incomes, then dump the big jobs and big houses. What they win: simpler lives and more leisure.

3. The New Monogamists
Constituting what Haag believes may be as many as 20 percent of modern spouses, these are cheaters who consider themselves ethical. In their version of commitment—“ethical non-­monogamy” or “free love 2.0”—they are emotionally true to one person while feeling free to seek out sexual affairs.
 

First Published May 24, 2011

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Joy Davidson05.26.2011

I'm unclear whether item #3 paraphrases Haag or is a figment of Toepfer's imagination. In any case, someone takes a shockingly glib and misinformed approach to the subject of "ethical non-monogamy" or what is often referred to as "polyamory." To suggest that these are forms of cheating is to reveal one's ignorance. In fact, what makes non-monogamy "ethical" is the very fact that it is founded upon precise agreements between two consenting, aware adults. This is the antithesis of "cheating." Cheating is, by definition, a betrayal of an agreement--in this case, one that requires sexual and romantic exclusivity. However, if partners do not make such an agreement, and if they, instead, make and abide by the terms of a different agreement, then they are being true to their contract and to each other. Again, hardly "cheating."
You might find it interesting to know that most consensually non-monogamous couples fashion agreements that stipulate the conditions and circumstances under which relationships with others are acceptable. Those agreements are often quite detailed and to various degrees, limiting. They are hardly expressions of "free love 2.0!" ,
Please, if you are going to present modern marital options, at least educate yourself on the subject rather than perpetuate stereotypes and inaccuracies.

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