What’s not complicated about marriage and family
Another happy-go-lucky Hollywood production is out about infidelity: ‘It’s Complicated’. It may even win the star of the movie an academy award.
I don’t want to rain on Merryl Streep’s parade, but what’s not complicated is fidelity to your partner and kids.
There are two simple rules – your marriage matters more than nearly everything else, and if you are a parent, be a parent.
It used to be that we (society) valued and promoted self-control, especially in the service of love and honour, as a positive virtue.
Now we see a certain sentimental approach to moral self-deception and failure.
Abandoning commitment and obligation to one’s passions or insecurities is treated by many commentators and writers with a generous tolerance that betrays, I suspect, a subconscious envy.
A recent French ‘expert’ has even reversed the norm, suggesting that men who give into the craving for multiple sexual partners are ‘natural’ and that men who remain faithful have a kind of addiction to duty!
Previously we accepted that there was a time before a final commitment when young men and women discovered themselves and made their mistakes.
We expected, however, that when two people made a public commitment to each other, they would honour that commitment. We certainly took the view that if you brought a young life into the world, you had an even greater obligation to shape your own life and behavioural boundaries around the challenge of providing security and well-being to that young person.
I am not suggesting that all marriages must continue simply because of the original vows. Domestic violence is a breach of the marriage commitment that releases the victim. And where a marriage has become soul-destroying, what is needed is a courageous honesty to communicate that the previous commitment can no longer be sustained and must be formally ended.
Such honesty should be complimented by an absolute commitment to not let the mistakes of the adults destroy the lives of the children involved. Here again, though, we seem far too willing to tolerate what many divorcing parents are willing to do to their kids.
When a person has ‘an affair’, he or she is involved in a lie and breach of trust. If that person can treat their partner and their kids in that way, we can make assumptions about how they might treat the commitments they make generally. It’s hard to imagine we would all like to live in a society (it certainly would not be a community) where betrayal of trust to those closest to you became the norm.
Let’s move back to trying to uphold the ideal of fidelity and commitment to family.
Perhaps we could promote a Buddhist logic: relationship suffering comes from craving, control and direction of craving is possible, such control comes from a commitment to ideals of love, self-regulation and self-improvement.
Marriage matters, parenting matters – the average person can be a good partner and a good parent, if they try – it’s not complicated.
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