The Disposable Marriage


Nowadays, most of us have a lot of everything. When something gets used up we throw it away. This simple act has a philosophy of life that comes with it. If something stops working, throw it away, and get another.

At one time, when there was less for more people, throwing something away when it stopped working was unheard of. Making it work was the objective.

Get where I’m going with this? Have we started thinking about people in the same way? Take for example the contemporary marriage. If it stops working, is it more likely to get discarded? Should the same rules apply for people as they do for the plastic cups we use and dispose of everyday?

Considering that huge 50 to 60% divorce rate we are currently dealing with, is it safe to say we are in the era of disposable marriages? At least moving in that direction. Let’s play it out and see where it takes us.

Let’s assume that disposability is the theme of the day. When a love relationship stops working, get rid of it and find something better or new. The biggest problem with this is the significant and progressive drop in “intimacy” that would occur in the population.

Much of adulthood intimacy is generated as a consequence of ironing out difficulties between two people who matter enough to each other to try. They are willing to tough it out so that they can learn from their mistakes, grow as individuals, and get to a better place in their relationship.

Being able to negotiate and mutually work out a thriving love relationship when you fall in love with someone is the great hope. It is only then that you will be able to experience the “deeper” forms of love available to us human beings. It would be more than tragic if we as a people lost this inherent ability and potential in our love lives. If we lost the attainable experience of intimate love.

I think the problem is the hurt and pain that can occur when two people fall in love and then piss each other off. The mood swing involved in dealing with this kind of mixed emotion can be quite overwhelming to say the least. The “trick” is to stay in it long enough for compromise and negotiation to reach an agreement, without running away first.

Of course there are many ways to run away and most of them involve getting frustrated, angry, and stubborn, and not necessarily in that order. Building our tolerance for the discomforts of love for the greater purpose of deepening love over time is a wonderful project to share with another human being.

Remembering what an old friend said to me once when I asked him what he meant by saying that being in love is the truest form of freedom. He said, because you have finally found true love, you are now freed of the need to keep looking for it.

Since then I have broadened my understanding of love to encompass the feelings we can have toward ourselves and another. Whether it is setting ourselves free by being our own unique creative selves in the world, or recognizing and sharing love with another unique creative self, either way, this kind of depth requires time, devotion, and a willingness to tolerate the tough spots. That’s not disposable.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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