News Sinead Moriarty

Sunday 21 September 2014

Jumping into bed with a stranger won't save your marriage

Published 26/02/2014 | 02:30

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New research suggests that "out sourcing" parts of a marriage could help save a struggling relationship

Living apart and allowing your partner to sleep with other people could be the key to a happy and successful marriage.

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It certainly gives 'outsourcing' a whole new meaning. Although I can't imagine too many spouses cooking up a big fry when their other half walks through the door after a night of passion with someone else. I would envisage more of a 'frying pan over the head' scenario.

However, new research by a team of psychologists at Nothwestern University in Illinois insists that the 'outsourcing' of certain areas of your marriage to other people could greatly enhance and save your marriage in the long run.

According to Eli Finkel of the department of psychology at Nothwestern, the problem with marriages these days is the unrealistic expectations of the spouses. He points out that marriage has changed radically over the centuries and that people now demand much more from a partner than ever before. You are now expected to have a keen insight into your partner's core essence and help them achieve their goals, while also being their lover and friend.

It's exhausting just thinking about it. Perhaps things weren't so bad in the old days when you were just expected to feed the chickens and milk the cows. Granted, you fell into bed physically exhausted every night and you didn't have much 'me time', but at least you weren't expected to bring your partner on a voyage of self-discovery and self-fulfilment while inspiring them creatively.

In the paper, titled 'The Suffocation of Marriage', Finkle explains that embarking on a non-monogamous relationship could be beneficial to some. "It may be that your spouse is a terrific source of social support and intellectual stimulation but you haven't had sex more than twice a year for the last five years and neither of you think that's adequate."

In cases like this, Finkle suggests that you look elsewhere to fulfil your sexual needs. "I don't recommend cheating, but an openly consensual non-monogamous relationship that may well be functional."

One of the central rationales for consensual non-monogamy is the belief that it is difficult for one partner to meet the whole gamut of a person's emotional needs. With the intellectual, emotional and spiritual demands on a spouse being so high, I can see why. No mere mortal could meet all of these needs.

You'd need an army of people to satisfy them.

Finkle points to diminishing sexual activity as a big problem in marriage. He notes that in most long-term relationship, the frequency with which a couple has sex declines over time and he says that in some situations romantic or sexual involvement with a new partner can serve to bolster passion within the marriage.

Much of the research on consensual non-monogamy is focused on gay men who are more likely to be in consensually non-monogamous relationships than heterosexuals or lesbians.

The studies found that generally gay men in these non-monogamous relationships felt greater closeness, love and satisfaction in their primary partnership compared to those in monogamous relationships.

But where is the proof that heterosexuals and lesbians will react the same way to their partners going offside?

Another suggested way to re-kindle a fading marriage is to live apart. Most married couples consider cohabitation the norm. But research shows that by living separately, couples have less responsibility for each other and that relieves a lot of pressure.

Apparently by living alone you are less needy emotionally and it can also preserve passion.

"Sexual and romantic passion frequently requires the bridging of a divide and all-encompassing marriages run the risk of eliminating this divide."

It all sounds very romantic but let's be serious here, maintaining one residence is financially challenging at the best of times. The notion of having two homes just to keep the fires of romance alive is hardly practical. And what about the kids? Who will look after them while you're busy dashing between addresses to jump into bed with your spouse?

Instead of moving out or jumping into bed with strangers, how about working on the marriage that you have? It seems worthwhile, not to mention cheaper financially, to try to rekindle the romance in your own relationship before renting an apartment and hopping into bed with someone you met in the lift.

Irish Independent

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