The ultimate test to the quality of your relationship is how it ends.
Romantic love ends in a few years. Can be extended, can be transformed into something different – but not when the parties are just acting out what they’re supposed to. What comes after that is must-not-be-over, denial, lying to yourself, lying to your partner, pretense, assuming it’s only you – and the inevitable mutual resentment.
- You pay a huge price for not admitting when you are no (longer) in love. Time to treat it like that, be honest with ourselves, and arrange lives accordingly.
- When you fail to discuss it with your partner you make things worse. Sticking to the notion of lifelong monogamy despite the evidence makes people miserable, turns marriages into pits of mutual hatred, and children into marital weapons.
- Sticking to such a relationship is cowardice and deeply immoral – don’t blame it on the kids.
- And all this would not happen if you weren’t indoctrinated into The Program – the one-size-fit-all relationship path that so rarely works it is a sin to promote it at all.
Those who have never been in love in the first place
Some do it purely for The Program. They are the easiest to spot – unless it is yourself. The Program is so bad for everyone involved in it that it Stockholm syndromes them – and makes them push others into doing it to prove that it couldn’t have been done any other way. Remember, the entire existence of The Program stems from its own failure to make people happy and suit their individual needs and desires. (More about it here.)
This post has been adopted by a reader who asked me to discuss “why sex becomes such a chore and burden in marriage”. But that is a poorly defined problem. My view is that the problem started much earlier.
We have discussed how female libido is a miracle because it exists despite society. (And science.) Also, that good girls are reduced to fuck for approval – the only reason they ever do anything – because they are not allowed to try and learn their own preferences in sex. They only ever let it happen to them at the hands of The Prince – but once his approval is gained and the transaction is legally secured, dignified wifehood ensues and these “pure” and dutiful princesses get confused as to why they should keep performing nasty-nasty sex.
For these people sex is a thing to perform to secure legal relief from social disapproval. What should they do after getting the coveted marriage? Read it together with the declining female libido after making the commitment and you have a smoking gun for evidence. Yet, you still suspect a vis maior. Like it never happened to anyone before. (Please don’t give me that “feminism” has sorted this out – maybe in your neighbourhood. But even then…)
Having a child ASAP is the most common excuse for giving it up – just read mommy-blogs and cringe. The contrast between the deep and heartfelt description of their revulsion of sex – and the superficially added “but I love my husband” at the end of the posts is striking. And you can see the confusion of those who cannot blame it on a baby. There are countless complaints internet-wide how wives and mothers (love their husbands but) resent being fucked. Many even let it happen to them “for the sake of marriage”- a disgusting insult to the person they locked up with in it. These women feel sex to be demeaning. They claim to be “in love but…” And they do believe what they say about “deeper love” and “different kind of love”.
But it is not love. Definitely not the romantic kind. It is relief for not being single and having found someone (to start The Program already). It is relief and gratitude for someone running The Program with them. And it is dependence and the resulting desperation to keep him, a person they no longer desire but need to bring up children with. Of course you prefer to call it love. But it isn’t. Hence your reluctance to romance and sex.
The ultimate test to moral behaviour is whether you treat a person as an end in itself – or means to an end. (Don’t have to trust me, read Kant.) Treating them as a necessary accessory for your becoming a wife, martyr-mother, blameless-saint, and always-righteous is thus immoral. Treating a child as a means to trap or keep someone (or the marriage) is even more deplorable since it betrays three people – one of them completely blameless about this particular pile of shit.
Most mothers believe the rewards of watching their children grow up are worth the cost to their romantic relationships. Not hard to see the priorities here. Marriage first, husband last. That man is objectified, used and then tolerated for the comfort he delivers. The individuals in that relationship have no place in the top 10 priorities of the Sacred Lifelong Monogamy. It is not invented for people in it and it has no place for love.
And indeed, the traditional lifelong monogamy and forced togetherness inevitably leads to mutual resentment. In this framework it is rational to marry up. You spend your life in mutual resentment anyway – better do it with someone rich. If you swallow the dogma and plan to force yourself into a relationship forever, you better mitigate the predictable damage to your life satisfaction, and don’t prioritize love over marrying well. 7 years of love (at best) vs 70 years of mutual hatred – with a poor guy or with a rich one. Of course you would choose the latter.
But these are for people who had never been in love in the first place. There are others who were – but hit the 7-year mark and got frightened.
1. The romantic love phase
For those who actually start out as lovers this is the phase when love and sex go hand in hand. This is when women don’t just open their legs because he is eligible and coveted and totally approved by family (in your head) and envied by girlfriends (also in your head). If you don’t just cast men for the role but actually meet one you appreciate, sex is innate. And it says “I love you”. And it often ends around the 7-year-itch.
Sometimes even earlier.
But admitting it is so hard. Because he or she is still a good person. 7 years is legendary for being rough because this is when most relationships enter the second phase called…
2. Must Not Be Over phase
This is the phase when you are no longer in love. Once again, you are rational as hell because the hormones have run out and only the bare interest remains for your partner. But he or she is still a great person. A great catch, if you are running The Program. His or her income, genes, attitude would be awesome to keep. And you have very likely also formed some financial attachment that would be uncomfortable to break – so you tell yourself it’s not possible. At least you share the rent – and it feels inconceivable to pay the whole price alone again.
So instead of contemplating the uncomfortable – you try to change your mind about it. You look at her from the angle that used to work. You reminisce at the good old days – maybe even try to revisit them. You try to distract yourself and keep your doubts secret – because obviously, only you are having them. Your partner doesn’t show any sign of it. (Can you hear yourself?)
Your “different kind of love” is not love – it is an ever growing emotional, social, and financial dependence on the comfort the other one provides. Even though you just realized it no longer works emotionally. (But you may not find a better one… You noble beast, you…) It is also fear of the disapproval that would follow a breakup. (Sounds better to say that you want to spare his or her feelings.) And your “deeper love” is so deep you cannot find it anymore.
This is the moment when once-working couples try to hide their non-love by being extra sweet. They try to hide it even from themselves. The Program is looming big over their heads and they fear it (even though they claim to want it) so they pretend. Show must go on.
They propose, they get busy with the wedding craze. Weddings are great. They are a huge sunk cost that cement your commitment and they can take as much as a year of anticipation and organization. An entire year when breakup is unimaginable so it is safely fended off. Too bad that you remain the exact same person after you sign the contract.
And then the baby-project (that had never saved a relationship. Ever.) And then the burden of the baby that breaks even the best of couples – but makes exit even more unimaginable.
Mutual resentment ensues over things that are really unimportant because you are afraid to discuss the real problem. You think it’s your fault and the other one is not bored. She is doing the same. You both deny when asked because you feel guilty about your own freaking feelings.
You probably didn’t turn into an insufferable monster, yet your trapped partner will feel that your little, annoying habit makes their life unbearable. Tiny things that are genuinely irrelevant gain monstrous significance and your derive each other’s failure as a human being from them. But you still act as if this could go on forever. And not hurt everyone, including children.
This is when you cannot admit yourself that it feels better to leave the house in the morning than to return. You need a stress hormone meter to tell you that the biggest stress is around your loved ones, not at the workplace. Guilt mends what love couldn’t: It keeps the marriage together – but cannot bring love. So you remind yourself that this is love. And you call it “life”.
And the sex? It will transform into the above mentioned Demeaning Insult That Must Be Endured.
Phase 3: Mutual resentment, marital cold war, and a toxic life
This is where both lovers and clockwork people meet. At the phase when they start to hate the life they built before even thinking for themselves.
Women who never loved lack even the tiniest bit of self-reflection. They mindlessly and forcefully enter a Program that prescribes pretend-love forever but bulk at the other prescription of the Program – namely the bottomless sex. So suddenly you are an individual? That individuality and self-determination that was not worth pursuing when you were starting the Program in panic – that has now grown out? At which point did your thinking switch on? In the delivery room?
How are these women better than their husbands who make babies unthinkingly – then realize that they want to live some more? That is their little, incomplete self making an effort to apply himself – when it’s too late. He goes out to fuck others for the same reason you don’t want to fuck him. Because you both want to finally become an individual. Neither of you thought this through, neither of you wanted the other – or if so, it is over now. But you are too much of a coward to admit.
You objectified him as a marriage-accessory – now he is objectifying you as a sex-accessory. Regardless of your little, incomplete, non-formed self making the first, shy attempts at expressing that The Role hurts.
But instead of finally starting with honesty and damage control, many roll themselves even deeper into the mud and start marital warfare. It can take many forms. Two people locked up in mortal combat over who outlives the other and who gets digested by the guilt that became the currency that pushes them around. And because guilt and threat work on you they will multiply in these relationships – and in your life.
And when you look back at your hard-earned 50th anniversary, you will be strongly inclined only remember the last few years when you were finally relieved that you are not alone (since the hip replacement, or since your lover left you) and not the previous decade when only a dozen words were spoken between you, or the decade before when you were both beaten by child-rearing and mortgage. At 50 you will tell everyone how great you are. That is the payoff time – when you think that I’m impressed. Too bad nobody really cares and that your life before that was the price.
It is about the Marriage-That-Is-Bigger-Than-Us. So you perform the grudging sex and pretend-love to keep the Marriage intact – even at the expense of everyone in it.
The ultimate price: To the children
And they have the cheek to tell it’s for the children.
As one such child, let me tell you that it was not good. No, it’s an understatement. It was fucked up. I could hardly wait to get out of that house at 18 and never looked back. When I was young, I just begged them to divorce – but it was too costly. But they told me it was for me and made me feel guilty instead. So I had to swallow my fear and guilt and the the coldness they filled the house with. No shouting, no physical abuse. But I don’t want to meet those people again.
With hindsight, I would put it like this: you owe that child the best available option. Emphasis on the available. And when two loving parents living together is not available – then two hateful people cohabiting is not the next best option.
The ultimate test to the quality and realness of your relationship is, ironically, the breakup. It is whether you can say goodbye with a smile. Or at all. If you lied to yourself and to your partner from early on – chances are you won’t suddenly start being honest and accept the honesty of the partner. “What, you were in love with me until yesterday and suddenly you want a divorce?” You will act outraged even if you wanted a divorce, too. And even if you knew exactly that it has not been love for a long time. And that is supposed to be the person closest to you….
Some call the time spent together “wasted”. And it makes sense if they take the acceptable length of a relationship (forever, lol) from The Program (and family law). Calling a relationship a waste of time only makes sense in the framework of the dehumanizing Program. People try to apply the abstract and arbitrary expectations of marriage to actual love and life – and they are surprised that the two are incompatible. What have they done wrong?
Nothing, the scheme is unrealistic and we should have learned to handle the end of love more rationally and soberly. Especially since we are rational and sober by then. All those hysterics about “you are leaving me???” are what people are supposed to feel. Not what they actually do.
For the record, all these fake outrages, fake heartbreaks and hurt pride are unnecessary and can be done without. I am lucky to have been in a relationship where the parties just realized one day that they are just acting out the moves of what a relationship is supposed to be like, laughed at themselves, smiled, and decided to be friends. Best friends for life.
No bitter period of must-not-end, no sweating to “fix” what is over, no insulting calling each other “waste of my time”.
About “fixing” relationships
I know, I can hear righteous, holy grandmas spitting “easier to quit than to fix it” at you. I had grandmas too, don’t worry. But please notice that they have never actually fixed anything. They just didn’t leave. Because they didn’t dare to. It would have been a discomfort. Social and economic.
Instead they expected for things to improve by not changing a single thing. Because there is only one acceptable way of being together. Same house, same bed, they even claim to know the right amount of sex – I read a headline like that every day.
These people don’t even separate for a while to give each other time to think because they wouldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer. So they do whatever it takes but the answer must be ‘yes’. Honest to the bone, these folks…
Or maybe they tried once, maybe she expected their husbands back home with a smile (on one day out of 10000 days of marriage) who was not in the mood to fix things right now – and thus even more sulking ensued. Or maybe he tried once and took his wife to that babymaking holiday and the combination of gratitude and change of scenery lubricated her once again.
But they never tried to holiday alone, to be alone, to live alone, to find themselves again and to find out if they even miss each other anymore – or had grown apart.
People should be allowed to love again. And to have a new life when one has run its course. And even if they already have children, it is never late to start honesty and thinking. I promote you do it early – rather than late.
But I am not one of the righteous to write you off as dead once you made a mistake and push you to act out your duty for the rest of life. Because that would just be petty revenge – seeing you suffer. It is also dangerous. Even to the kids it supposedly serves. People should contemplate what’s the best available option for the kids – not forcing themselves to act out duty-love.
Honesty is a luxury among so many hateful, empty people who only run The Program (but look misleadingly alive in their 20s). It is also hard to achieve because there is almost no chance that two (increasingly resentful) people will start seeing the light and embrace honesty at the same time – and whoever goes first will be attacked by the one still running The Program.
But for those who manage some honesty, it is high time to recolonize the public conversation about the many possible ways to live and love. And arrange lives and sex lives accordingly. Marital advice to let yourself be fucked or get used to a sexless life are both wrong because they don’t address the problem itself. That love ends. And it’s nobody’s fault.
Now grow up already and make your own life.
This post had been adopted.