Rethinking Marriage: Breaking Socially Acceptable Boundaries

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Imagine a person trying to draw water from a well using a bucket. You would expect her to use a bucket, but lo, hers is riddled with holes. She becomes familiar with failure after three tries. What does she do? She changes her game.

She tries pulling up the bucket faster, so that less water would leak out. Not having strong enough biceps to do so, she constructs a pulley system that would do the job for her. With pride, she stands admiring her work. Now, she’s able to collect more water per pull, than she was accustomed to, but still with the old, holey bucket.

You can easily see the flaw in this woman’s operations.

You can easily see the flaw in this woman’s operations. All she needed to do was get a new bucket. Right? We don’t need to discredit the woman’s hard work in constructing the pulley system. But the pulley system coupled with a new bucket would have made getting water much easier. Unfortunately, sometimes we become so accustomed to our old tools that we fail to see our need for an upgrade.

I created this story to show that, perhaps, we need to upgrade our concept of marriage. It has slipped into our common language that marriage, and, by extension, the family, is the building block of our society.

You hear this preached from all quarters, and all come, bearing divorce and common law statistics in hand like Bibles, and not forgetting the anecdotal evidences of their adulterous neighbours. Divorce. Shacking up. Coveting others. These are all seen as being in direct opposition to traditional marriage i.e., one man to one woman. It is society’s moving away from this ideal, they say, that has led to our moral decline.

How have we responded to this problem thus far? Like the woman in my story, we have built structures around marriage and the family to get us the water we need. We’ve preached more, offered reactionary sermons, and held expensive workshops importing the best minds on the subject of marriage salvation. What has it gotten us? Rising divorce rates. I say nothing to discredit the work of these men and women. However, I humbly suggest that we consider getting a new marriage bucket.

Many of us have felt guilty at some time or the other for having feelings that are quite natural, whether natural to humanity or only to our individual configurations. Wasn’t there a time when you liked Suzie and Marsha at the same time?

Wasn’t there a time when you liked Suzie and Marsha at the same time?

But our accepted concept of love is usually binary. If you love Suzie ‘in that way’ – ‘truly’ love – you cannot simultaneously love Marsha. Who makes this stuff up? There is nothing in loving Suzie’s personality that hinders you from falling in love with Marsha’s company. I am not saying this is true for everyone, but it is true for some people. However large or small this number of people is, I see no reason for their desires to be stunted for the satisfaction of an invisible ideal whose foundations we have forgotten.

Still, human nature can be scary for the faint of heart to face.

Another less socially acceptable phenomenon is being sexually attracted to persons of the same sex, or more interestingly, both sexes. The world is slowly becoming accustomed to this notion in the public sphere. While some prefer to believe this marks the beginning of the end of all things, a significant portion of the world’s population is happy that they can finally be without being a problem.

Old bucket

In the old bucket system, men and women, already adorned with unholy desires, were expected to dust them under the rug, and fit into the box of strict monogamy and fidelity. What we have found happening, though, is not the death of desires, but clandestine seeking for the fulfilment of these desires. Sneaking around, men on the ‘down-low’, and women groping their female friends in the name of ‘play’ are all commonplace.

My argument is not against these actions, you know. Mine is against the surrounding culture that forces these actions underground to become smelly with secrecy. My argument is against a culture that does not create a comfortable space for persons to be open about their desires, however strange they may seem. A wife would come home to find the mistress saddled to her husband and feel betrayed. A husband would open his wife’s draw to get her a towel and happen across a dildo. Now he feels inadequate. All of these things are unnecessary problems that can be avoided, if we are willing to change our buckets.

New Bucket
The new bucket is a pragmatic one. It is built on what works and not how things should be First of all, you must acknowledge that our humanity is often too complicated a thing to be placed into a box. You must also admit that each relationship, and each individual, is unique.

I once asked a series of my female friends whether they were ever sexually attracted to another girl before. I made sure to ask my self-identified heterosexual friends. To my (happy) surprise, the majority of them said yes. Some were a bit embarrassed to admit it; others said it between taking sips of grapefruit juice. Either way, a similar majority responded with a vehement “HELL no!” to my follow up question – would you ever act on those feelings?

In the system I propose, a couple would create an atmosphere where they do not feel ashamed to admit these feelings. To take it a step further, the proposed new bucket suggests that partners in relationships be open to go beyond what is currently socially (and publicly) acceptable by acting on those feelings, if only a few times.

Live a little, try new things, and let your devils come out to play. If you don’t like that expression, try ‘let your inner selves become your outer selves’ or ‘wear your heart on your sleeves’. You don’t need to be this way for the world, but certainly for yourself and your significant other. You’d be amazed how this can work to bring people closer together.

If what I have written is too much for you to handle, or you are just not interested, that is also your choice. You do not have to do anything, if you don’t want to. But why not talk about the particular boundaries of your relationship – in a spirit of openness, willingness and fun – and see what strange, beautiful love emerges?

Kwame Weekes

Ever met a guy who knew exactly what he was about? Well, Kwame Weekes is not that guy. The only thing he is sure of is that he loves to read, think and share his insights by any means necessary, writing being one of them.

11 Comments

  1. Brendon J. O'Brien

    August 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    ‘Letting your devils come out to play’…Imma borrow this line for something…lol

  2. Lisa Heidi N

    August 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    REDICULOUS

  3. Suelea Hastick

    August 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    It’s an interesting concept, but most people simply are not responsible enough to even try this new concept. I once knew a couple who tried to have an “open” marriage. The idea was introduced by the husband and the wife agreed. However, things went south when, after his having 2 or 3 casual liaisons, he realised his wife was actually “dating” only one other person. See, she agreed to this for his fulfillment, but she just wasn’t interested in playing the field. He divorced her and of course repudiated her for it.

  4. Runako Ozzie Osborne

    August 6, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    If found a dildo in my wife’s draw I would get angry that she didn’t show me when she bought it…nothing is wrong with adding a little spice in the bedroom I am all for little kinky additions in the sack. Anyhow the author had some interesting concepts and although I am not suggesting he need it but he should read Cindy M. Meston’s “Why Women Have Sex” trust me it’s a good read.

  5. OUTLISH Magazine

    August 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Lisa Heidi N Suelea Hastick That’s one of those things that are tricky to navigate. Runako Ozzie Osborne I will tell him about the book.

  6. Mr_Trini_douen

    August 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Very important article and one that I’d
    hope is a gateway to much more discussion and education on this very sensitive
    topic (target those under age 21 though, anyone older is almost completely a
    wasting of energy that might leave you burnt out).

     

    To ride on your analogies, among the
    elephants in the room is that the bucket or the old tool simply does not work
    for everyone and historically never did 
    (regardless of how many times people want to argue about the older
    generations who stayed married longer were more committed). However, while so
    many people flaunt or disregard the rules of the tool, there is still very
    little willingness to examining the rule – far, far less of upgrading – because
    most have been trained to accept that there is only one proper, legitimate
    rule.

     

    The oft-spoken argument that the increasing
    divorce rate, extramarital affairs and the so-called breakdown of the nuclear
    family are the reasons for our moral decline is absolute rubbish. But it’s
    believed and repeated because it’s and easy answer; most Trinis don’t read or
    seriously question certain established narratives, so let’s go with the path of
    least resistance.

     

    Now it’s not that these things are not
    contributing factors, but they are more correctly indicators of deeper issues.
    These issues are the other elephants in the room: the inadequacy and fallacy of
    exclusive monogamy as a universal model, the primacy of the nuclear family
    (which is embedded in ideas of male-dominant values, interests and
    authoritarianism) and one-dimensional ideas of love and intimacy.

     

    Researchers like Dr Lynn Atwater, Cheikh
    Anta Diop and Marilyn French said it best when they point out that in terms of
    intimacy we are using a set of rules that were conceptualised well over 3000
    years ago for conditions that were completely and radically different to what
    they are today. As such, they are now (and I’d argue on the historical evidence,
    even back then) they are unrealistic and inappropriate for the realities of
    contemporary social interactions, travel and human consciousness. The idea of
    the One, the “Soulmate” who embodies ALL of the qualities you are looking for
    in a mate or spouse is a relatively recent idea and one of the most toxic as
    well.

     

    The fact that that man who is with Suzie but
    also holds deep feelings for Marsha, or had some sort of intimate interactions
    with her (and likewise, Simone’s feelings for and interactions with Simon and
    Mark) is perfectly natural, normal and not necessarily immoral or takes away
    the feelings s/he has for the principal partner/spouse. But the guilt culture
    that’s the vehicle for religious teachings and ideas reinforced by rom-coms and
    novels, is a deeply embedded beast. We have got to confront this and we must
    fight hard to bring about a cultural environment in which different forms of
    intimate interactions – INCLUDING monogamy – among informed, consenting people
    can be explored as they are now, but without the bogus ideas of sin and guilt.
    Instead, it must be on the basis of what suits the personality and reality of the
    person.

    Corey 

  7. Corey Gks

    August 9, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Very important article and one that I’d hope is a gateway to much more discussion and education on this very sensitive topic (target those under age 21 though, anyone older is almost completely a wasting of energy that might leave you burnt out).

    To ride on your analogies, among the elephants in the room is that the bucket or the old tool simply does not work for everyone and historically never did (regardless of how many times people want to argue about the older generations who stayed married longer were more committed). However, while so many people flaunt or disregard the rules of the tool, there is still very little willingness to examining the rule – far, far less of upgrading – because most have been trained to accept that there is only one proper, legitimate rule.

    The oft-spoken argument that the increasing divorce rate, extramarital affairs and the so-called breakdown of the nuclear family are the reasons for our moral decline is absolute rubbish. But it’s believed and repeated because it’s and easy answer; most Trinis don’t read or seriously question certain established narratives, so let’s go with the path of least resistance.

    Now it’s not that these things are not contributing factors, but they are more correctly indicators of deeper issues. These issues are the other elephants in the room: the inadequacy and fallacy of exclusive monogamy as a universal model, the primacy of the nuclear family (which is embedded in ideas of male-dominant values, interests and authoritarianism) and one-dimensional ideas of love and intimacy.

    Researchers like Dr Lynn Atwater, Cheikh Anta Diop and Marilyn French said it best when they point out that in terms of intimacy we are using a set of rules that were conceptualised well over 3000 years ago for conditions that were completely and radically different to what
    they are today. As such, they are now (and I’d argue on the historical evidence, even back then) they are unrealistic and inappropriate for the realities of contemporary social interactions, travel and human consciousness. The idea of the One, the “Soulmate” who embodies ALL of the qualities you are looking for in a mate or spouse is a relatively recent idea and one of the most toxic as well.

    The fact that that man who is with Suzie but also holds deep feelings for Marsha, or had some sort of intimate interactions with her (and likewise, Simone’s feelings for and interactions with Simon and Mark) is perfectly natural, normal and not necessarily immoral or takes away the feelings s/he has for the principal partner/spouse. But the guilt culture that’s the vehicle for religious teachings and ideas reinforced by rom-coms and novels, is a deeply embedded beast. We have got to confront this and we must fight hard to bring about a cultural environment in which different forms of intimate interactions – INCLUDING monogamy – among informed, consenting people can be explored as they are now, but without the bogus ideas of sin and guilt. Instead, it must be on the basis of what suits the personality and reality of the person.

  8. Joshua Moodoo

    August 12, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Wish I saw articles like this in local Newspapers. Nice job :)

  9. Kwame Weekes

    August 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you all for your comments. Note that my proposal is not meant to be the messiah of marriage. When it comes to human interaction, there will always be complications as a result of our increasingly hard-to-navigate social landscapes. What is needed – and what I propose – is more progressive thinking that acknowledges our limitations, weaknesses, desires even, and works with them as opposed to against them. This way we move forward – not backward – and we assess and adress further problems as they arise.

    Divorce will always be an option and I believe that we should work toward removing the taboo surrounding it. Ending a relationship/marriage is sometimes the best thing to do; at least, it is often better than proloning it.

    @Corey, you said it well. We are not in a place where we are beginning to recognise the failures of marriage but millenia-old systems of guilt are holding us back from doing anything about it. Things are changing, though, and we can smile about that.

  10. Cate

    August 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Great article. I think the reason so many people either get divorced or never marry at all is because the traditional system of marriage just isn’t practical for our modern lives. We definitely need a new bucket.

  11. Groundation Grenada

    August 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    thank you so much for this. we need more open dialogue around the necessity of personally crafting relationships that work for you, whether polyamorous, monogamous or whatever. 

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