Musings on Marriage

Musings on Marriage

By Reza Ganjavi 

I was inspired to write this article after reading a news item: "Adultery no longer a crime in India". And wrote it in one pass in a few minutes.

When going outside marriage was decriminalized in South Korea a few years ago, the sale of condoms went through the roof. Now it's decriminalized in India. I heard today that even in Switzerland which appears conservative, many people have relationships outside marriage. I’ve heard that in France it's normal to have an affair. In other places where it's punished as a crime it still happens. There's a rise in other forms of relating as well than the traditional marriage. Which doesn’t mean promiscuity (being indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners). It’s extremely important to be very careful, in many ways, including health, and energetically.

I guess only about 25% of marriages are "successful" (the rest either end up in divorce or are marred in destructive emotions like jealousy, possessiveness, conflict, or boredom, or being together because it economically makes sense, etc.). Yet it's still touted by traditions as THE ticket to happiness. 50% is the official divorce rate, though I heard in some places in California it’s over 70%, and of the remaining 50%, I guess half are not a “success” whatever that means (living peacefully, with love, without conflict, without coercion, power games, sense of superiority, without psychological images – and if these things come up, having a learning mind to work them out, etc., etc. (I don’t want to define what a healthy relationship is here). This provides a good framework for raising happy children.

Tying this back to the phenomenon some like to ignore but is a reality (going outside marriage), it seems that a healthy relationship may even allow for that. I’ve seen good marriages get destroyed because a party decides to experience someone else – if the framework wasn’t so darn strict, that marriage and many more, could have been saved – if it’s even worth saving.

I respect families, and people who are willing to invest their lives into making a family. We need good families who bring up good children who make a good world. But I’m not a big fan of marriage – and though I see friends’ kids whom I adore, I do not regret not having gotten married. It’s not my cup of tea (so far – maybe someday – maybe not). Since I was a child I heard from married relatives, not to become a “donkey” and marry – a joke that as a kid I knew was more sincere than a joke.

Of course, this requires being “complete” on your own. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need someone else, as a life-long husband or wife, and then exclusively, someone that owns us, in order to be happy. But it’s also possible to be alone (all one) and not lonely, and self-sufficient and complete – which doesn’t mean you don’t have relationship. To be is to be related. Life is relationship.

Traditions only think about reproduction – it’s the animalistic conditioning that dictates the values of traditions: get married, have kids – sustain the species. And the institution is also defined and shaped, by men (historically) to the disadvantage of women (modern laws have caught up), and in some cultures, in such a way as to cover up the man’s psychological insecurity and possessiveness (desire to own the woman and make sure she doesn’t go with another) and weakness (men are sexually weaker than women).

These animalistic sentiments have their roots in the primitive parts of the brain we share with lizards and other animals. Evolutionary Psychology sheds a lot of light into these topics, e.g., man’s jealousy is because he doesn’t want to economically support another man’s genes, and woman’s jealousy is because she doesn’t want the father of her kids to spend his economics on another woman’s offspring (long story).

Point is, when we realize the inherited habits (conditionings) that shape our behavior and sentiments, we can be free from them – and be more than animals – and related as humans, as angels, in freedom, love, beauty – artistically – where contact is sacred like life itself, and has NOTHING to do what commercialism has made of sexuality, etc.

The topic is somewhat taboo because it’s thought to threaten the foundation of marriage but it absolutely doesn’t have to. Many people are finding more creative ways of relating – from open relationships to enjoyment and enrichment without the other person knowing which can work.

Some Northern Europeans (and of course some French) seem to be more liberal in their outlook and values. I know German families for example, where they knowingly go outside marriage but it’s done in a positive way with quality in mind. For me, quality is everything.

Switzerland is supposed to be more conservative but I’ve heard there are a lot of extra-marital relationships there too. I know in some very strict countries, where going outside marriage is punishable by death, people still do it.

There are marriages that are not impacted in any negative way when a person experiments with another person outside marriage because love is not exclusive and a person in marriage finds that s/he can "love" someone else too and this doesn't impact the existing relationship. We’ve been trained to think that you can only love one person at a time – and if you want to love someone else you need to “dump” the first one - or break the marriage. Life is not black and white. Binary thinking is very limited and unfair to what life has to offer. 

I know as a fact that love is not exclusive. Love is a universal powerful force which has NOTHING to do with jealousy, possessiveness, sexuality, and other things that are associated with love. Some holy books define love as God and vice versa. But my idea of “love” seems so contrary to the Germanic use of the word – in German love for people is limited to a husband, wife, child, parent – so I’m told. So if you feel love for someone and you say it, it can be interpreted as you mean exclusive love and a green light to get stumped with jealousy, expectation, and all that nonsense that’s associated with (poor) “love”.

Sexuality is also part of life, and can be approached holistically – but it’s mind-boggling how fragmentary it’s become in today’s world. Think about pornography for example. The entire topic seems so shallow, so “un-holistic”. Holding someone’s hand can be the ultimate “spiritual orgasm” to quote Miles Davis. This is a big topic and out of scope – it requires opening of many topics such as role of pleasure, image-making, happiness, unhappiness – and on the other hand, beauty, sensations, perception, dialogue, holistic contact, etc. – and the spiritual aspects that include healing and love.

Psychological insecurity which gives rise to neurosis needs to be understood and thereby uprooted. Nothing is secure in life. Security only comes when you don't seek it.



It's not surprising given the dictates of the institution only hold up 50% of the time, and of the rest, 50% are marred by debilitating things like jealousy, possessiveness, and defunct ideas about love as being like an old shoe that you throw away. Love is a universal force and essence of all things, ever fresh, ever new, and free -- it can't be put into a box. Many families fall apart because people who find an interest in someone else think they have to break up their current relationship to experience another, but many areas realize it doesn’t have to be that way.

At the core of this is responsibility – to oneself – living a healthy and clean life – and psychologically, to respect others by not making images of them – to be whole in oneself – the whole theme of “art of living” – and all that makes a rich life such a blessing to live.