To a greater extent than we perhaps realise,
when it comes to what sort of relationships we are allowed to have,
our societies present us with a menu
with only a single option on it:
The Monogamous cohabiting Romantic Relationship
usually served up with a Side Order of Children.
To be considered remotely normal,
we are meant to develop overwhelming emotional and sexual feelings
for one very special person
who will then become a combination of our best friend,
sole sexual partner, co-parent,
business associate, therapist, travel companion, property co-manager,
生意伙伴 心理治疗师 旅伴 财产共有者
kindergarten teacher and soulmate，
and with whom we will live exclusively
in one house, in one bed,
for many decades，
in substantial harmony
and with an active tolerance for each other’s foibles
and ongoing desire for their evolving appearance,
till death do us part.
But what is striking,
for an arrangement supposed to be entirely normal,
is just how many people cannot abide by its rules.
At least half flunk completely,
and a substantial portion muddle along in quiet desperation.
At best, only around 15% of the population
ever admit to being totally satisfied
a thought-inducingly low figure
for a menu option vigorously claiming universal validity.
In our societies，
those who can’t get on with Romantic Monogamous Marriage
are quickly diagnosed as suffering from a variety of psychological disorders:
fear of intimacy, clinginess, sexual addiction, frigidity,
亲密恐惧 粘人 性瘾 性冷淡
boundary issues, self-sabotage, childhood trauma etc.
界线问题 自我糟践 童年创伤等等
We powerfully imply that someone might be psychologically ill
if they don’t want to keep having sex exclusively with the same partner,
or seek to spend every other weekend apart
or want to develop a close friendship elsewhere.
But there might be another reproach,
this one drawn from the pioneering work of advocates of gay rights,
namely that any taste or proclivity must by definition
be acceptable and non-pathological
except in so far as it might hurt an unwilling or unconsenting partner.
From this perspective,
while many ways of life might be different
to society’s presently preferred option,
it cannot be right to judge, correct, amend and seek to re-educate
但不应该去审判 纠正 修正和试图再教育
all those attracted to them.
With this in mind,
the menu of love that we should use starts to look very different.
Aside from Romantic Monogamy,
all kinds of alternative ways of living could be devised,
including (to kick-start a list) :
The Parenting Relationship
A union oriented first and foremost towards the well-being of children,
where parents are free to form unions with other parties,
once the welfare and security of off-spring are assured.
The Separate Spheres Relationship.
A union which understands
that no two people should ever be expected
to be in total proximity night after night
and respects the role of certain kinds of privacy
in contributing to emotional well-being and a robust sense of self.
The Yearly Renegotiated Relationship.
A union which is accepted by both parties
as having only a one-year assured lifespan,
after which it must be re-negotiated
but without any presumption that it will necessarily be so
or resentment if it is not
a source of insecurity with surprisingly fruitful
and even aphrodisiacal side-effects.
The Love or Sex Union.
A union which recognises
the difficulty of fusing love and sex in one couple
and makes the possibility of dividing the two
and seeking fulfilment from alternative sources:
non-tragic, unshameful and a bit predictable.
没有悲剧 不可耻 还有点可预见性
In love, we accept an absence of choice
that would be intolerable in other areas of life.
We consent to wearing as it were a uniform
that cannot possibly fit our varied shapes
and without daring to make even minor moves to assemble our own wardrobe.
All our collective energies go into creating astonishing varieties of
foods, machines and entertainments,
while the entity that dominates our lives– our relationships
continue in a format more or less unchanged for the last 250 years.
It would be a genuine liberation
if whenever a new couple came together,
it was assumed that they would almost certainly not go along
with the romantic monogamous template,
and the onus was therefore on them to discuss–
事先地 真诚地 不带羞辱地讨论出
up front, in good faith and without insult–
the arrangements that would ideally satisfy their natures.
Extra marks would be awarded for innovation and out-of-the-box schemes
while protestations of satisfaction at the standard model would raise a few eyebrows.
Once upon a time, male offspring of the European upper classes
had only two career options:
to join the army or to join the church.
was eventually dismissed as evident nonsense and eradicated,
and the average citizen of a developed country
now has at least 4,000 job options to choose from.
We should strive for a comparable expansion of our menus of love.
We are not so much bad at relationships,
as unable– presently– to understand our needs without shame,
to stick up politely for what makes us content,
and to invent practical arrangements
that could stand a chance of honouring our complex emotional realities.
To a greater extent than we perhaps realise,