I recently read a thought provoking article titled Monogamy is Over. So is Polyamory written by blogger Jakarta Viny. Piggybacking on David Barasch's related article in Time Magazine spurred by the question Is Monogamy Over? Viny invites readers to consider what new term might inclusively capture relationships in this day and age. It's a good question to ponder and several suggested the term Relationship Anarchy. I must admit I like the term but I can’t help but think it conveys a level of sophistication and agency that I’m not convinced is completely faithful to the larger story or people’s lived experience.
How about "relationship mayhem"?
I don’t say this facetiously .. we are living in a time of unparalleled disconnection .. disconnection from the natural world (which facilitates its exploitation and reduces any real lived sense of obligation), disconnection from our history (we "own" land that was never ours to begin with and our forebears essentially oppressed others in order to hold title which is in full effect today), disconnection from our biology (cribs, playpens, strollers, pacifiers are modern inventions that interfere with the natural rhythm and bonding between mother and infant .. a very powerful relationship that sets the stage for primary relationships), disconnection from village and community (it takes a village to raise a child .. having a lot of people in your midst does not mean village or community which are mostly fiction in our time and place; cities are some of the loneliest places on this planet), disconnection from reality (our lifestyles are not in keeping with the natural and non-human world that sustains us .. we are mostly tethered and habituated to a system that is destructive and yet we can't fully extricate ourselves from it), disconnection from critical thinking (our education systems prepare children for the "system" and in order to accomplish that, critical thought is to be discouraged except for when it colludes with the system).
Certainly there’s more but I'll stop there. It's important to mention these things because no relationship exists independently of the environment in which it lives and breathes. By the time most of us reach the age where we begin to engage sexually and intimately with others, the impact of conditioning and enculturation is so insidious and profound, so thoroughly fused with our sense of personal identity that its workings are rarely recognizable to us and yet those of us born and raised within the western culture consider ourselves "free" .. we are "our own person" doing things “our way”.
Our freedom is an anomalous one. We are about as free as frogs in the proverbial cooking pot heating to slow boil. And in spite of our predicament, we need relationships, we need each other .. but we come to each other with our syndromes, with our silent PTSD, and we want to make a go of it and we want to find what works for us singularly under the guise of personal freedom and expression. But damn we keep bumping into the enormous poverty of what living without culture and without village and without elders and rites of passage does to a people. We don't know what it means to be adults with a shared understanding of obligation and stewardship .. ours is an adolescent uninitiated culture .. we are, as singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn articulated so well, lovers in a dangerous time.