What if there was an alternative to the way most Americans define the way couples behave within a marriage?
After all, throughout history, the word “marriage” has been filled with implied meanings, while many couples never discuss what being married means to them before tying the knot.
“People are going into marriage with these unspoken agreements,” says therapist Susan Pease Gadoua. Along with the journalist Vicki Larson, Gadoua has just released the book “The New ‘I Do’: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels.”
“You want to talk with your partner about the marriage you want to have before you are even engaged,” says Larson.
We talked to Gadoua and Larson about some of the relationship models they say are realistic options for modern couples.
The Partnership Marriage
Not everyone wants — or is capable of sustaining — a relationship that’s built on what the French call “le grand passion.” “Not everyone is good at that,” Larson points out. “And I don’t think you have to be.” The authors liken a partnership marriage to two old friends who decide to get married because they enjoy each other’s company and because they simply want to be married.
Legal in three states, covenant marriages require couples to undergo premarital counseling before tying the knot and usually only allow divorce under limited circumstances (like domestic violence and abandonment) or after a long separation. Both say the chapter was hard to write. “I get very upset at this trend to make divorce harder,” says Larson. “But the people who chose [covenant marriages] went into it with open eyes.”
“When we think of nonmonogamy, we think of cheating,” says Larson. “But that’s not necessarily true.” She points out that one of the couples profiled in the book has a very successful open marriage. “Here is this couple and they have this happy, healthy relationship — and they are non-monogamous.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.