For Guntur, Rama, Miftah, Daffa
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do: you’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream… Aurora and Phillip, singing to one another (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
There are many things to envy from Aurora, the ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Her curse, of course, is not one of them, but come on, who wouldn’t want to sleep and be woken up by a true love’s kiss? Who wouldn’t want to skip the goose-chase like “won’t someone be mad you’re spending time with me?” Who wouldn’t want to fast-forward the part where we seek every single hand we touch for fireworks; for sparks, fearing that there’s gonna be someone out there whose hands ignite ours like flames attracting moths, warmer than the ones we hold today? Who wouldn’t want to end up with ‘The One’? If only true love treats us as lovely it did Aurora and Phillip, perhaps the world would be without chaos, distrust, nor infidelity. A glance, a kiss, a marriage, and an ever-after; that’s the world Aurora lived in, and the one we’re trying so hard to recreate.
But have you ever questioned why we must ultimately end up with someone, moreover ‘The One’? And since we are not blessed with Aurora’s great sense of judgement about strangers that we cannot tell soulmates from our dreams, then we need a lot of people’s insights regarding our partners. We need their objective judgements, whether or not our to-be partners are really the one best suited for us. With that framework, I guess we can confirm that it’s true what people say: when you marry someone, you marry their family, their relatives, their friends, their penny, and their problems. Marriage is supposed to be an exclusive relationship of some sort, unless stated otherwise 1 Stritof, S. (2019). The Definition of Marriage. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/definition-of-marriage-2303011 . But in building, maintaining, and even (God forbid) ending this ‘exclusive’ relationship, we inherently need to involve a lot of people. Our friends and or family could be the reason we’re now together with our significant other, but they can also be the reason we separate later on.
If that’s the case, why marry at all? Do you marry because of the soulmate sentiment you’re told to seek growing up? Or do you marry because someone wants you to? Moreover, why must we involve other people in our relationships anyway?
The Dawn of Monogamy
We recognize this kind of exclusive relationship as monogamy: one partner for the rest of eternity2 Funk, & Wagnalls. (1962). Britannica World Language Dictionary. . It was not always like that, you see, some groups or communities used to give no attention on whose child was born from whose sperm and ended up raising the child together. In fact, some indigenous communities still practice this concept known as “plural paternity”3 Ryan, C., & Jetha, C. (n.d.). Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. HarperCollins. where they believe that all sexually active women are a little pregnant. Over time, semen accumulates in the womb, a fetus is formed, further acts of intercourse follow, and additional semen causes the fetus to grow more. The child born then becomes the tribe’s child, or the community’s child. The end result was okay, but as soon as mankind found the concept of ‘inheritance’, which actually made a whole lot of sense in surviving and procreating, they felt conflicted on whom to pass their fortunes to4 Stritof, S. (2019). How Long Has the Institution of Marriage Existed For? . It’s safe to say that eventually, our ancestors found it easier to group people not only based on their geographical and tribal origins, but also their blood5 Vox. (2018). Monogamy, explained. ; their lineage. Henceforth, a woman is to stay loyal to one man, so we may know whose womb bears whose seed, and to whom our fortune may be passed on to. The concept of marriage then evolved, somehow Pompeii found marriage useful not only in tying a man and a woman together, but also two nations6 Haley, B. S. P. (2017). The Five Wives of Pompey. 32(1), 49–59. . A marriage was to serve as the means of power. In this era, marriage became not only a tool of passing down our genes or inheritance, but also a political tool.
For a long time marriage was all about tying families together, protecting bloodlines, economics benefit, and alliances. In order to achieve that goal, we weren’t actually required to stay with one partner. In fact, if we are to talk about the traditional form of marriage, polygamy is the form of marriage we’re looking for7 Love And Marriage: A History That Challenges The Notion Of ‘Traditional Marriage.’ (2014). . But we’re not going to talk about that. The point is, marriage was created not for it to be ‘the union of two souls’. Even though there has been evidence that love in poetry can be traced back to Ancient Egypt as old as 1000 B.C8 Turner, B. S., & Giddens, A. (1993). The Transformation of Intimacy. Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 44, p. 728. https://doi.org/10.2307/591434 , the concept of ‘romance’ only became popular during the Renaissance, taking the form of play, sonnet, songs, and other forms of art9 Looney, D. (1996). Compromising the Classics. Wayne State University Press. . People started to see the beauty in it, if life was to be lived with heartfelt passion, serenades, songs, and arts, as should courting ladies and, eventually, marriage be. Then during the French Revolution in the late 18th to 19th century, the idea of romance developed and ‘love’ started to become the primary reason to get married. Prior to that, the Greek thought lovesickness as a type of insanity, as did the French described ‘love’ during the Middle Ages as the ‘derangement of the mind’ because people often became rather delusional and or irrational while in love10 Shehan, C. L. (2016). The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of family studies. Chichester, West Sussex, UK ; Malden, MA, USA : John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016. . But, during the Renaissance up until the end of French Revolution, people thrived on the idea that you can voluntarily tie yourself down with someone because you feel some sort of a ‘bond’ with them. To make more sense of this abstract feeling, there was another concept we later know as soulmates.
Happily Ever After
There are several reasons monogamy feels problematic, the first one is because of the existence of ‘soulmate’ as a concept upon which we base our journey of romantic love. While the idea of soulmates is only recently popular, Plato has already conceptualized soulmates in his book, Symposium, albeit it probably was not a very popular concept at the time. We know the saying as said by Plato, quoting the poet Aristophanes, that the humans we know today are not whole: we are halves of a whole. We were created with four arms, four legs, two genitals, and two faces. But the Gods wanted to punish us for our ‘pride and hubris’ that they separated us into halves, condemning us into the tedious search of our other half. When finally the day comes we are to look into their eyes again, and they look into ours,” the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy,” Aristophanes said11 Gold, E. (2018). The Myth of Soulmates. . Sounds tragically romantic, doesn’t it?
Regardless of whether the myth is true or not, mankind today strives on the idea that soulmates exist: that there is someone out there specifically engineered to complete us. In retrospect, we spend our lives trying to find ‘The One’. The novels, the songs, the movies gladly provide us with an abundance of reference on how ‘The One’ is supposed to arrive, how they’re supposed to look like, and how life’s supposed to go afterwards. Raymond Knee called this the ‘Destiny Belief.’ People with this sort of belief seek for the person they are destined to be with, and often ask ‘can I do (find) better?’ as opposed to the questions those with Growth Belief usually ask, such as ‘how can I be a better partner?’12 Knee, C. R. (1998). Implicit Theories of Relationships: Assessment and Prediction of Romantic Relationship Initiation, Coping, and Longevity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 360–370. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1240 . According to his research, people with Destiny Belief in a relationship tend to look for that person instead of cultivating existing relationships. The romanticization of sparks, butterflies, and fireworks as complementary properties of soulmate induces insecurity within us given two scenarios: 1) when we feel none of them while being together with our partner, or worse 2) when we feel them hitting us stronger while being with someone else.
The insecurity, thus, decreases our motivation to make our relationships work. Instead, we seek for more similarity, intimacy, and need-fulfillment a partner can bring and induce13 Boyce, J. A.-M. (2001). In Search of a Soulmate: Variables that Characterize Soulmate Relationships. . We then place plus points and gold stars to those who can better deliver the emotional and sexual intimacy that affords both of us a sense of personal fulfillment14 H. Elizabeth Peters, C. M. K. D. (n.d.). Marriage and Family Perspectives and Complexities. . A soulmate, within that framework, is someone with the most stars and the sparkiest set of hands. We start to question if a new player is our soulmate because we feel more ‘connection’ to them than we do with our partner, opening rooms for something taboo I should probably not talk about: infidelity. A marriage is only as good as never happening if it somehow found an end with infidelity in the equation. Infidelity has been ranked as the second most common factor of divorce, usually in the form of extramarital sex15 Shaw, G. (2019). These are the 11 most common reasons people get divorced, ranked. . All of the people testifying for the survey, as directly quoted, had been involved with PREP, a “prevention and relationship enhancement program” which focused on teaching couples communication and conflict resolution skills. So it’s not like they haven’t been educated enough on the importance of communication, or how to communicate, they just simply felt ‘insecure’, or neglected. Like their relationship has lost its touch, or in its official term their relationship is going through a dissolution16 Springer, S. (2012). The Fallacy of the Soul Mate (Part I). .
Such dissolution may come from insecurities triggered by significant trauma17 Springer, S. (2012). The Fallacy of the Soul Mate (Part I). , and if not tended to may lead to severe results for the marriage, the worst being divorce. People who build their relationships on the basis of the soulmate belief tend to view divorce as “inevitable and necessary” if a marriage does not meet their needs 18 H. Elizabeth Peters, C. M. K. D. (n.d.). Marriage and Family Perspectives and Complexities. . If we are to seek someone who has the most connection with us as a being, we may find it difficult to stop; simply because people are very diverse and where at one point you feel best connected with someone, at another you may find such connection with someone else. Before the media became such a fan for romance and fairy tales massively glorify the notion of ‘soulmate’, people were more aware that marriage was constructed of many different importances, not only for passion and or individual fulfillment 19 H. Elizabeth Peters, C. M. K. D. (n.d.). Marriage and Family Perspectives and Complexities. . The concept that married couples are supposed to treat each other with affection has been going on for quite some time, but for love to be the primary reason is relatively new, as it was only popular in the late 20th century America20 Coontz, S. (2005). Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage,. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 67, pp. 1350–1351. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2005.00221_3.x , at the same time divorce rate was going up from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women, partly due to the change in the ideas of a good marriage.21 Wilcox, W. B. (2009). The Evolution of Divorce. Retrieved from https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce .
There has never been any conclusive research on the existence of soulmate22 Van Edwards, V. (2017). The Science of Soulmates. , and people keep on saying that it’s not something you can prove, just like love you know it’s there when you feel it. But the thing is science has proven the way love works: how our brain chemicals react when we claim to be ‘in love’23 Wu, K. (2017). Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship. , but a mystical bond that ties people together… it’s something that’s supposed to be related with our heart, right? And scientists have been trying to prove that somehow, this kind of connection indeed exists or perhaps it can affect the way our hearts work. But they haven’t been able to; it does not directly contribute to the health of an individual’s heart, nor to their health in general–the bond24 Raparelli, V., Romiti, G. F., & Basili, S. (2019). Marital status and cardiovascular disease: Can a soulmate prevent a “broken heart”? Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, (xxxx), 9–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2019.06.007 . What does contribute is when a partner really tends to their sick significant other, and love may work its charm there, yes, but what exists within that partnership is more than just love: it’s empathy, it’s selflessness, helpfulness, all the attributes of a decent human being. Staying through minor and or major inconveniences and working things out are the attributes of those with Growth Belief, as Knee said. You’re supposed to love your soulmate even before being with them, right? And if you’re in a relationship with someone you love from the very first place, you’re more likely to stay with them through ups and downs, and be more satisfied with your relationship. Badgujar C. O found out that there is no difference on the level of ‘love’ between couples who marry for love, and those ‘stuck’ in an arranged marriage. Be it the level of their passionate love, or marital love25 O, B. C. (2014). A Comparative Study of Love , Trust and Marital Adjustment among Love Marriages and Arranged Marriages. 1–25. . Meaning that love is something you can nurture, so is relationship.
I would say that the notion of soulmate is beautiful, yes, but as they say: beauty is pain. And for us to give in to the notion is us rendering ourselves into a never-ending journey of second-guessing the hand we hold today. In the end monogamy will always be in a state of jeopardy if people still believe in the notion of soulmate as an end goal or primary reason of getting married. Because comes in someone with bigger fireworks and hotter flame, what once was an orange fire will now be another cube of tasteless ice: cold, and not exciting. As if marriage is all about excitement and flames and sparks and fulfillment.
Relation and Validation
The second and final reason addressed in this article as to why monogamy is a flawed concept is due to the number of people actually involved in it. As humans, we’re essentially scared of something binding; something that may compromise and or limit our sense of personal freedom26 Carter, S., & Sokol, J. (1993). He’s Scared, She’s Scared: Understanding the Hidden Fears That Sabotage Your Relationships. . In short, people in general are scared of commitment. But at the same time, as the psychologist Jordan Peterson27 The Real Reason for Marriage – Prof. Jordan Peterson. (2017). said, we’re also scared of the possibility that someone may leave us, that when a flaw comes up, they’ll pack their things and turn the other way. A world without marriage is a world where whenever we do something wrong, we’ll have the option of not admitting to it, and just leave things scattered around. So, monogamous marriage came in as the ‘ultimate solution’ to tying down one person to another, one family with another. Who likes sharing anyway? That’s actually another reason why people implement monogamy: because we are possessive about what’s ours. Our idea of relationships, as the columnist Yolisa Mkele wrote28 NAGEL, A., PLATT, J., MKELE, Y., & DAWJEE, H. M. (2019). Is a monogamous relationship realistic in the modern world? Retrieved from https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/health-and-sex/2019-02-10-is-a-monogamous-relationship-realistic-in-the-modern-world/ , intensely revolves around the idea of possession. Which makes sense. Otherwise, why would we feel the need to claim someone? To put a ‘title’ on our relationship with them, if not to make it official and exclusive?
But then, what’s so wrong with this picture?
How many of you seek the opinion of others before setting your mind on someone? How many of you have ever discontinued a relationship because your parents gave no blessing, or your friends thought they’re not good enough for you? In quite a lot of Wattpad novels, or other romance novels, there will be one recurring scene where the mother/father/sister/bestfriend will be like “Don’t do it, don’t be with him. He’ll break your heart, he’s a bad boy!” and the lead female character will go, “But he’s not like that; he’s different.” Now you can sit back and watch as it unravels the male lead, the ‘bad boy’, actually breaking her heart by being ‘not-so-different’ from the stigma he’s carrying around. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks, After by Anna Todd, Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover, the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day, This Man Series by Jodi Ellen Malpas, even Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, you name it. The point is, in these works and many movies of the same theme, the mother/father/sister/bestfriend or anyone standing against the relationship are seen as the rational actor of the story, because a person in love has the tendency to be feelings-driven; meaning they are more likely to listen to their hearts than their minds. So in a marriage, or to marry, must you listen to the rational actors, or follow your heart instead? Again, it depends on the answer of the question: who do you marry for?
If monogamy was supposed to be an exclusive one-on-one relationship, then why do you have to involve so many people in creating it? Right from the dawn of monogamy itself, people treat monogamous marriage as an ‘alliance’, meaning that instead of only tying the two souls together, they were in it for the protection it offered their families, the economic benefit, and it facilitated the sharing of resources29 H. Elizabeth Peters, C. M. K. D. (n.d.). Marriage and Family Perspectives and Complexities. . So of course, the whole family had to pitch in to see if the bride/groom to be was really the best one for the continuity of their lineage. It translates into modern marriages, where people have already known the concept of marrying for love instead of riches, and yet we still seek the validation of people even just to date someone. What is worse is the fact that people actually feel the need to make their opinions heard. Traditions and norms aside, can a marriage really be exclusive? Our need for validation is rooted deeply in Maslow’s theory of motivation, his Hierarchy of Needs, that love /belonging and esteem are two vital needs in a human’s life30 Zalani, C. (n.d.). The psychology behind seeking validation (and Why YOU need it?). . Given that, we are indeed prone to seek the ‘yes’ and the ‘go’ and the ‘that’s right’ from others.
Marrying as a Group
If you have watched the movie Marriage Story (2019), you’ll come to notice that the entirety of the movie is not about the marriage itself, rather the story of their divorce, their separation. At one point Charlie and Nicole agreed on separating peacefully, but the moment Nicole involved a lawyer in their divorce process, everything became a lot less peaceful for the couple. Outside of the court they’re actually fine with one another, but inside the court Charlie is accusing Nicole of being an alcoholic (through his lawyer of course), Nicole is accusing Charlie of being neglectful (again, through a lawyer), and the catfight went on until Nicole and Charlie came into conclusion that both of them screwed up and they needed to do their part to make sure Henry, their only son, doesn’t get impacted. That’s another thing about marriage: even your separation can never fully be about you and your partner. There’s always going to be the igniter of fire, and there’s always going to be the collateral. In this case, the lawyers and Henry played their parts, respectively, well in showing what it’s actually like to be either in a marriage.
It’s ironic, if not sad, the fact that a marriage can never fully belong to the couple: it is a shared institution, not a private-owned one. If it’s not your parents, then it’s going to be also about your therapist, your child, or your friends. As aforementioned, it’s perfectly common and actually rational for us to seek second opinions, third opinions, informations, and do a background check on our to-be partners, because we do not have Aurora’s great sense of judgement. And the thing is, it’s not only the fact that people want to give their opinions, but we also want to process them, especially those of a close relation with us. A proper depiction on how we process this is through the hypodermic needle theory, in which it paints the receiver of message as defenseless audiences and the information serves as a magical bullet31 Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. SAGE Reference. , all because the modern mass-society individual was lonely, vulnerable, and easily manipulated. Carter and Sokol in their book, He’s Scared, She’s Scared also explained human being’s tendency to fear the feeling of loneliness, a sense of incompleteness, and alienation related to their failure of securing a partner32 Carter, S., & Sokol, J. (1993). He’s Scared, She’s Scared: Understanding the Hidden Fears That Sabotage Your Relationships. . The point is people tend to absorb the opinion of others because they strive on the idea that each of us needs information, companionship, and most of all: validation from others. We are, after all, defenseless audiences.
While that may explain why we absorb the opinion or information regarding our relationships or partners, I am more interested as to why people feel the need to assert them; why Signora Capulet thought she had the right to enforce a relationship between Paris and her precious Juliet when the precious Signorina obviously had her heart set on Romeo. But perhaps the previous explanation on how marriage was at first created to establish a good economics alliance, stable division of power between the families, and to protect bloodlines did it: that Juliet’s intention in eloping with Romeo was simply misplaced because the term ‘individualistic marriage’ as opposed to the traditional institutional marriage33 H. Elizabeth Peters, C. M. K. D. (n.d.). Marriage and Family Perspectives and Complexities. known at the time was simply frowned upon. We can consider ourselves lucky, perhaps, that we live in a time where we can marry for love, even though the act of seeking opinions has not stopped just yet. At the end of the day we do only want what’s best for our relationship, and we’d also like to ensure our fate later on by marrying the right person. But in doing so, we fail to exert monogamous marriage/relationship for what it’s supposed to be: a tying relationship between two people, two being the big word here. Then perhaps it’s safe to say we don’t marry single: we marry as a group.
The Tale of Separation
The thread that ties the two reasons above on why monogamy is a flawed concept is this concept: divorce. The ultimate failure in a marriage, and this concept in itself actually cancels out the use of monogamy, or marriage at all; not as a means of procreation, but as a relationship, as a bond. Peterson in his speech also satirically referred to divorce as a ‘way out’ from such a binding relationship34 The Real Reason for Marriage – Prof. Jordan Peterson. (2017). . There is a very bad stigma on divorce that makes doing it such a shame, accompanied with the belief of soulmate, it results in the powerful notion that there is something terribly wrong with those who cannot find and or keep ‘The One’35 Gadoua, S. P. (2016). Shame On You for Getting a Divorce! . Other than that, the horror of divorce haunting us even before our marriage urges us to find as much as possible about our partner to avoid inconveniences that may lead into divorce.
In the book Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, Astro Teller and Danielle Teller classified those that shame couples at the end of their marriage into seven different categories of cows based on their belief on why a marriage should not be ended and why it’s okay for them to shame the separating actors for doing so36 Teller, A., & Teller, D. (2014). Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage. Diversion Books. . They urge us to take a more empathetic look on people’s marriage end. Divorce is intrinsically hard. I mean, imagine separating with someone you thought you can rely on for the rest of your married life, but our cultural belief and attitudes make it even harder than it needs to be37 The inconvenient truth about love — and divorce. (2016). . The notion of divorce does not only affect the way we view marriage ends, but also the way we view marriage before it even starts. We plant in ourselves, letting it root deeply that we are better than those who find an end of their marriage in divorce, leading us into believing that we will always be in control of our relationships. At the end it lets us foretell the endings of our relationships, and how they are supposed to go. Tragic, given the nature of humans itself, which is not static. The idea of soulmate tightly latches itself on the idea that mankind is static; that we do not change38 Wilcox, W. B. (2009). The Evolution of Divorce. Retrieved from https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce , and when we do change, can we still blame the ‘soulmate bond’ for treating us badly?
If people say that marriage is an institution, then it must be a very big, complex institution constructed from many different materials. There are several concepts we have talked about in great length within this article that eventually can tie up the two reasons on why monogamy is flawed: soulmate, exclusivity, and divorce. First of all monogamy will never find a happily ever after the way it promised us it could if we do not stop seeking for ‘The One’. The concept of soulmate itself has been awfully constructed from the very first place: that we all have someone perfectly crafted to fit all the blemishes, all the rugged lines and all the jagged cuts. Moreover, the concept of soulmate brought two very problematic byproducts, the first one being the never-ending search of the one which induces insecurity within a relationship and paving the way to infidelity, and the second one being the stigma following divorce. Second of all monogamy is a gimmick after all, there can never be only two people within a relationship: you don’t marry single, as aforementioned. Lastly, divorce perhaps is a way out of the binding relationship, and at the same time it cancels all points of marriage.At the end of the day, it all comes down to our own perception of marriage: how it’s supposed to happen, why it’s supposed to happen, and how to sustain it. It wouldn’t hurt to be less of an ass by not putting additional emotional cost on those at the verge of divorce. We may believe in ‘meant to be’, but what we must remember is that ‘forever’ is not the only measure of time.
Editor : Rama Vandika Daniswara, Muhammad Daffa Nurfauzan
Illustrator : Muhammad Daffa Nurfauzan
Referensi [ + ]
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|2.||↵||Funk, & Wagnalls. (1962). Britannica World Language Dictionary.|
|3.||↵||Ryan, C., & Jetha, C. (n.d.). Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. HarperCollins.|
|4.||↵||Stritof, S. (2019). How Long Has the Institution of Marriage Existed For?|
|5.||↵||Vox. (2018). Monogamy, explained.|
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|7.||↵||Love And Marriage: A History That Challenges The Notion Of ‘Traditional Marriage.’ (2014).|
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|27, 34.||↵||The Real Reason for Marriage – Prof. Jordan Peterson. (2017).|
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|37.||↵||The inconvenient truth about love — and divorce. (2016).|