In a new study titled “The Suffocation of Marriage,” authors argue that outsourcing key elements of the relationship — like sex — could be beneficial.
“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 thinks that’s adequate,” co-author Eli Finkel, of the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Illinois, told The Daily Telegraph. “So you could say, that’s one of the needs I am going to fulfill elsewhere. I don’t recommend cheating, but an openly consensual non-monogamous relationship, that may very well be functional.”
The study also found that while the average American marriages are doing less well than in years past, the few that are succeeding are doing really well. The researchers attribute that to a change in expectations of marriage.
“In 1800, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous,” Finkel said in a press release. “That isn’t to say that people didn’t want love from their marriage; it just wasn’t the point of marriage. In contemporary marriages, Americans look to their marriage to help them ‘find themselves’ and to pursue careers and other activities that facilitate the expression of their core self.”
Adultery isn’t the only way to save a marriage, the researchers noted. The team developed a 21-minute writing exercise that helps couples look at conflict from a more objective point of view.
“In general, if you want your marriage to help you achieve self-expression and personal growth, it’s crucial to invest sufficient time and energy in the marriage,” Finkel said. “If you know that the time and energy aren’t available, then it makes sense to adjust your expectations accordingly to minimize disappointment.”