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Marriage is no longer a necessary economic contract between men and women that includes such things as childrearing and

inheritance. Women are now more economically and socially independent The difference between now and centuries ago is that, more frequently, romantic motives, encouraged by society's obsession with "love conquers all," a fantasy popularized by the media, now accounts for why most of us marry. As Americans, we are hardly, psychologically speaking, living in the land of the free and brave. In fact, we are a deeply repressed, fear-based society, full of prejudice and terrified of our own and other peoples' individuality and differences. As such, we create and maintain institutions, such as public schools, churches, and political parties, with seemingly noble missions, but which actually have hidden agendas that enforce conformity. Marriage is one of those systems. Marriage creates a bond based on mutual dependency that can be just as suffocating to our individuality and creativity, as it can be comforting. We over-invest in the idea that someone else can help us sustain our happiness and stop relying on ourselves. Despite common wisdom the longer a marriage lasts the less dynamic the relationship becomes. Communication and roles become ritualized into a few simple patterns. Sex has often become rote as have the rules of engagement. Even the anger that gets expressed is a cover-up for the deeper feelings of hurt and disappointment that, if expressed, might force spouses to stop blaming and take personal responsibility for their own unhappiness. It's the rare couple who approaches the daily problems of life with freshness and creativity. Most often we are engaged in an emotional tug-of-war over our individual needs. And while, at times, there may be a sense of comfort and security in these patterns, we limit our experiences, short-circuit our feelings and deaden passion. Within the vortex of marriage, we tend to gravitate into a state of psychological laziness and stop challenging ourselves to grow as individuals. Marriage often heightens a sense of self-alienation and fear because spouses grow so dependent on being wedded. The marriage corrupts itself, with, all too typically, one spouse being consumed with addressing the needs of the other, to the detriment of both. More often, however, the connection between sex and love doesn't last and becomes ritualized, diminishes and even stops. Couples delude themselves into thinking sex is less important than the social interests, personal values and friendship they share. Sex is a life-affirming, often healing, force. It should be a high priority. Serial relationships and casual encounters constantly create new and unexpected challenges calling on us to reach more deeply in order to navigate the demands of different experiences. Every relationship with its particular intimacies and requisite ending, will enable or force us to develop all the different aspects of our identities. Our capacity to handle the vicissitudes of life is enriched by our openness and we develop a sense of individual strength and power in mastering such challenges. Unfortunately, many people see the world as dangerous and so they hide in marriages and settle because the fear of being alone is so overwhelming. Nothing in life is permanent. Yet with marriage, we expect ourselves to defy the laws of nature. We stay in marriages longer than we should. Why? Because we fear loss. As humans, we form intense attachments and the loss of an intimate relationship is so profoundly sad and disturbing that we cannot bear to even allow ourselves to consider its endings. Wouldn't it be more meaningful if when entering a relationship, we accept the truth that it's going to end some day. Then we can attach with fewer expectations and value and learn from what is real during our time together rather than holding on to a fantasy of what should happen in the future. After about seven years most relationships have run their course. Is the world so treacherous that we must hold on to each other, often with gritted teeth, to face the inevitable pitfalls that life brings? When will we understand that life is deepened and enriched not only by every loving experience, but by every loss. We must open our arms and equally embrace the good with the bad and accept that relationships have a cycle of beginning and ending.