- Mon, 12/19/2011 - 04:00
- 2 Comments about Why don't relationships work anymore?
Dear Queer Radical,
My grandparents have been married for 63-years and I wish I had the same type of relationship. Why does it seem like lifelong partnerships are impossible in our generation? Why don’t relationships work anymore?
Dreamy and Despairing
Sometimes our grandparents have things we never will: hope for a pension, a lifelong job and a steady relationship. Social expectations dictate that without those things we fail.
Guess what: Just like the economy, the world of relationships is subject to historical shifts. The perceived value of lifelong marriage is deteriorating and for good reasons.
Your notion of relationships working presumes that to be successful they must last: through thick and thin, sickness and health, till death do us part.
At what expense?
Your grandparents grew up in an era when the law permitted husbands to beat their wives. It was an era of rape: Women were legally obliged to have sex within marriage even when they didn’t want to.
Feminists organized and fought these laws and social assumptions, and in many cases won. While these horrors hardly have vanished in practice, their general social acceptability has declined.
While the religious right laments the death of the family and argues that nearly all levels of violence can be worked on, tolerating rape and abuse within a relationship does not indicate that it is successful. Rather, it suggests that the relationship is destructive. Divorce, separation and breakups are reasonable solutions when violence enters the picture.
Of course people leave relationships for less brutal reasons: jealousy, boredom, irritation and sexual disinterest. After trying and failing to fix these problems, they realize the best solution to their pain is to cut ties from the source.
Old school thinking: Isn’t it always better to stick it out, to work on things and to find ways to compromise, so that the relationship can work?
New school thinking: No.
Sacrificing one’s self to the other may still be considered romantic, but it is hardly a sign of a working relationship; it is a sign of codependency.
Abandoning a sinking ship can be a highly functional strategy for avoiding drowning. After all, isn’t it better to swim apart than to sink with the ship together?
So what’s a dreamer like you to do? Date, romance, enjoy yourself: stay in touch with the present and enjoy things in the here and now. Love passionately.
And if-and-when it comes time to split, do so with grace. Sometimes breaking up is the best thing to do.
With eternal, unconditional love,