“The concept of marriage is phantasmic” ~ Missy Jubilee
Phantasmic mythic, existing only in the imagination. Made-up, fictive, invented, delusional[i].
Missy’s latest film, LSD (standing for Love, Sex and Divorce), provides an incredible insight into what is truly important to this fabulous filmmaker. Through weaving words, she explores notions of identity, independence, curiosity, individuality and purpose. Through the graceful flow of her naked figure, we witness the serenity, confidence and inspiration these constructs provide for her. The dreamy backdrop not only instils a sense of calm in her contemplations but creates a chimeric context that cleverly reflects her view of marriage — being an institution that is far more hallucinatory than heavenly.
With this film, Missy illuminates and intensifies the growing disillusionment with the once sacred institution of marriage. People are walking away from marriage in increasing numbers, choosing either not to get married or simply formalising their union with registered relationships (as Missy says, for “tax purposes at least”). In the United States, by 2018, the share of people who never married reached an all-time high of 35 per cent. It is steadily creeping upward to match the number of married people, representing around 50 per cent of the population, down from over 80 per cent thirty years ago.[ii]. In Australia, the number of registered relationships has almost doubled in just three years, going from 12,000 to 20,000 registrations between 2016 and 2019[iii].
The growing movement away from marriage merely confirms what the wisest amongst us have known for a very long time. Back in the 1930s, Robert Briffault, in his book Sin and Sex, stated that:
“For a male and female to live continuously together is biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition.”
Simone de Beauvoir in 1949 wrote that:
“Marriage is immoral because it locks one’s future being into a definitive course of action. Commitment is a problem, not only because one may be mistaken, but also promising is a voluntary restriction on your freedom. To make a choice that commits your being for the rest of your life is absurd, because how can you commit a future self that will grow and change and may want something or someone else in the future?”
Over 20 years ago, psychology Professor David P. Barash published his belief that:
“Declaring that a man and a woman must meet each other’s needs in all respects, at once, for their whole life, is a monstrosity that necessarily gives rise to hypocrisy, hostility and unhappiness.”
And more recently, in 2006, Esther Perel stated that:
“despite the fact that monogamy is a ship sinking faster than anyone can bail it out, we continue to cling to the wreckage with absolute faith in its structural soundness.”
LSD, as a drug, is renowned for causing altered perceptions, delusions and delirium. In the same way, it can be said that our expectations and beliefs about marriage are well and truly out of touch with reality. We are handed many myths about marriage but invest very little effort in testing them for alignment with the truth.
For example, we tend to think that marriage and monogamy, more generally, are natural human traits. They are not. All of the physiological and neurological science shows that we are actually wired for a mixed coupling strategy — forming pair bonds where possible for child-rearing but taking every opportunity for extra-pair copulation. This provides genetic prevalence for men, and for women, it enables genetic variety and protection for their offspring. Our brains also have three separate relationship systems, one for sex drive, one for romantic love, and another for deep attachment. These three systems work independently and can come together in many different combinations. This means that if your spouse has sex with another and says it doesn’t mean anything, they could be telling the truth.
While marriage and less formal monogamy are not natural, they are normal, and the difference can be a source of distress and dilemma. As recognised by Gabor Mate, “much of what passes for normal in our society is neither healthy nor natural.” When there is a gap between natural and normal, there is bound to be tension and conflict within a person and between the partners. Much of the stress associated with modern relationships could be caused by trying to get humans to conform to an unnatural model of formalised, sexually-exclusive relationships. And there is no doubt that we are seeing this conflict being played out in the divorce courts and around arbitration tables across the globe.
“The institution of marriage is being threatened by people getting married.” ~ Missy Jubilee.
More than being normal, though, we also consider marriage as the gold moral standard for intimate relationships. It is seen to be right, just, and as such, enshrined in our laws which prohibit and even criminalise polygamy. Again, this approach is completely delusional and denies the reality of the continuing escalation in family and domestic violence. Marriage does nothing to dilute violence against women and children. More often than not, it is used as a façade to cover over-exploitation and mistreatment of the most vulnerable. Additionally, the cruel consequence of seeing marriage as moral is that marital status becomes a source of division, legitimacy and social worth. Equating marriage with morality is a surefire means of keeping communities divided.
One of the key reasons politicians give for standing by marriage is that it brings social stability. Each person has the opportunity to settle down, find a mate, and it reduces the heinous harm done by harems. I am unsure what those spouting this rubbish are smoking, but it has placed them on an alternate plane. With over half of marriages “failing”, growing numbers of single parents, family courts flailing under the demand, and crowds of children in counselling, I hardly see much solidity in today’s society. Those we think are wise are whacked to even think that the natural law of vibration does not apply in their constituencies. Everything changes. Everyone changes, and we need to grow up and face the reality that any relationship that ceases to change and grow eventually dies. While statesmen clammer around advocating for constancy, only conflict will result. Although perhaps it is through breeding division that they seek to conquer the growth of consciousness.
One of the most irrational invented ideas that we bring into our intimate relationships is that love and marriage are forever intertwined. This is a complete fallacy. First, humans began to marry for love only in the 17th Century. Before then, it was seen to be ludicrous to marry for love. No one would base such an important life decision on such a fickle and transient emotion. Marriage was a way for families to share wealth and for men to secure reproductive assets. There was no love expected in the conjugal chambers. Passion was found only within the parlours of paramours.
And while love is nowadays seen as the only legitimate reason for entering marriage, you would be trippin’ to think that love is the basis for every betrothal. This is because of the following insight from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
“there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
There are many reasons that one would choose to enter marriage. Still, suppose it is due to a fear of losing the one you love, being left alone, not being seen as normal, or disappointing your parents. In that case, your vows of fidelity are lacking in love and being driven by fright. Instead of feeling loved, it is likely that you will end up incredibly lonely.
“I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier.” ~ Missy Jubilee
Ultimately, marriage and monogamy are merely social constructs created by priests and politicians in a vain attempt to override human nature and create peaceful and proper societies. Given that it is not a natural state, a massive investment in propaganda is needed to maintain the idea that marriage is the best choice. This propaganda is found in the most surprising places, such as Disney Princess films.
It is likely that growing up, your impressionable minds were fed on a continuous feast of Disney films such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. These films set up the expectation that marriage is a magical endgame. Through wedlock, we become whole and worthy. They present the promise of one true love, the assurance that a partner will fix all our problems and that happily ever after with another is a real possibility.
Fast forward a few decades, though, and after a few failed relationships, we are forced to come to the harsh realisation that these childhood films were merely the stage upon which a host of adult disappointments were set. Maybe a prince did come but turned back into a grumpy fat toad with no desire or hope for future transformation. Perhaps our princess began by solving our problems but somehow then gained the power to proliferate them. Or possibly one true love did dance through the doorway, but six smaller ones waddled in behind in a slow and sneaky procession. As Missy so wisely says, while marriage can bring many joys, “it immediately multiplies distractions and complications.”
You would think that as we mature and gain more experience in the reality of relationships, we would shed these childish notions of love and become wiser about the ways of the world. Certainly faced with the crushing statistics around divorce, one would hope that we have a greater handle on the truth of twosomes. However, research has found that while most adults know the themes of finding true love and living happily ever after are unrealistic, they still trust them.
The vast majority (86 per cent of singles) still seek a committed life partner and believe it is possible to find a soul mate. An astounding 89 per cent of singles also believe you can stay married to the same person forever. Most adults believe that the fantasy endings we were brainwashed with as children are still possible for them, so they keep trying until they finally find their one true love. The only difference these days is in terminology. As grown-ups, we no longer use the term prince or princess — that is just so childish. We are adults now, and so we search for a soulmate. The nuance is in name only, for we continue the same deluded expectations about a soulmate as we did with Cinderella and Prince Charming.
And the proliferation of propaganda continues thanks to malevolent marketers, romance scammers and TikTok influencers. You can get someone to help you smell the right way to attract a spouse for just a small fee. Alternatively, for an investment of only $30, you can have a psychic use their divine powers to draw your forever friend. Pinterest is also awash with pictures of wedded bliss to help secure affiliate profits.
Ultimately though, the major beneficiary of these marriage myths are the divorce lawyers. When the fictions are shown to be false, it is the lawyers that validate our vision of the perfect marriage and assist us in punishing the partner that has prevented us from achieving it. They enable our expectations regarding soulmates and help chastise the person who wasted our time and money by not being one. They promote the priority of hedonistic happiness and encourage the pursuit of compensation when this is lost. While not the primary protagonists in the marriage saga, they are the profiteers that pillage the corpses when the battle between fantasy and reality has wrought its turmoil. And so, while, as a society, we may be waking up to the ruse, the firm will not let us exit the enchantment that easily!
“Whoever came up with the word soulmate…divorce lawyers should be paying that person dividends.” James Sexton, divorce lawyer, as shown in LSD.
It has only been just over two hundred years since one of literature’s great heroines, Elizabeth Bennet, turned the tables on the tradition of marrying primarily for social gain and declared that
“only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony.”
And it has only been fifty years since the meaning of marriage as a lifetime commitment was diluted with the introduction of no-fault divorce. Our marriages have changed radically in just a few generations but have not necessarily become more realistic. I am so curious to see how our relationships may continue to evolve over the next decades as more people begin to discuss how we have been duped into believing so many misnomers.
Like Missy, I also “know few things”, but I truly believe it is time for us to cast away the convictions that coupledom is correct and instead focus on creating conscious connections. For more than ever, the world needs love and care. It is arrogant and negligent for anyone to decide what forms these two gifts should take. We need to move away from manifesting myths and towards encouraging maturity. We need to drop the delusion and instead dedicate ourselves to developing the self-awareness required to enter relationships fully and freely. We must cease conjecture and instead concentrate on constructing the compassion needed to uncover the uncomfortable truths hiding in the shadows and let reality out of the labyrinth.
[ii] US Census and Community Survey
[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Marriages and Divorces 2020