The Case Against Monogamy


Dr. Melfi and Tony 

In his therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi, Tony Soprano usually ends up back in the same familiar places: his problems and issues tend to repeat themselves over and over and Dr. Melfi is always bringing him back to things from season one like the ducks, Tony’s mother, his rage… 

Or how about my personal favorite, Gilmore Girls.  For seven seasons, Lorelei faces the same problems over and over: her fear of commitment, her need to let Rory make her own decisions and mistakes, her lack of trust for her parents, her need to be in control of her own life…

Television reassures me that I am normal: we all have sticking points and recurring problems that, despite our best efforts, aren’t so easily solved.  The older I get the more I realize that when a solution doesn’t work, it wasn’t the right solution.  I used to think that if the solution didn’t work, I wasn’t trying hard enough.  Getting older’s good for that.

That doesn’t mean that when I recognize a solution isn’t working I know how to find a new one.  My same old silly issues surface and resurface and resurface again.  And on an even more mundane level, the same day-to-day life grumbles seem to dip below the waterline only to bob back up like corks.

Sometimes, when a solution eludes you, the next best thing is a little good old fashioned complaining.

The trouble I find lately is this: when you’re in a long-term committed relationship, you start to realize that you’ve voiced the same complaints before.  What you’re saying is nothing new.  Sometimes even worse than that is knowing that even if you do voice old complaints, what your significant other says isn’t likely to be something new, either.  No new pity.  No new advice. 

It seems to me that we either need to find new significant others or new problems.  And as I illustrate above, an awful lot of us struggle to find new problems, so… thus my post title.

And yet of course I’m only kidding about that.  I’d pick new problems – or even the same old problems over and over and over again – if it meant I’d get to keep my same old hub.  I mean, my young hub.  Wink, wink.

With the bar exam and biting my tongue and all, I think I forgot that sometimes, it feels awfully good to complain, even if you know you’ve said the exact words before and even if you know exactly what the person on the business end of your gripes is going to say in reply. 

Maybe the best we can hope for without giving up on monogamy altogether is this: that our complaints aren’t about our significant others and that those significant others don’t start to complain that we’re becoming a broken record.  They listen, they validate, and then they launch into their own familiar complaints, worn and bare as your grandparents’ sheets. 

After all, Tony Soprano and Lorelei Gilmore wouldn’t be consistent characters without their consistent issues.  We wouldn’t like their shows and wouldn’t relate to them if with each problem they simply found a solution.  If these characters turned every obstacle into an opportunity for true and profound personal growth, we’d probably all be gagging and coughing and turning the channel.  Right?


2 Responses to “The Case Against Monogamy”

  1. 1 Toni

    This is so true. I find the same thing when I read back through old journals. It seems time passes but not much really changes. Still, some things change eventually and so I keep going. :)

  2. That’s why I rely on my network of friends and even on my blog when I need any new insight. But there are some of my issues that I can only discuss with Aaron, and it’s so true that we go back to the same old conversations.

    It’s true for arguments, too. The issues that bother Aaron and I end up becoming the same arguments over and over. It’s to the point that we know what the other person will say if the argument starts, which at least makes it easier to end: “Yes, you feel like you’re going to be stuck in this dead end job forever, but you know that once we meet certain goals you can quit. Now can we have dinner, please?”

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