As Good As It Gets
By: Sheana Ochoa
There have been numerous studies showing that human beings are not naturally monogamous animals. We don’t need anthropologists and sociologists to tell us this. And it isn’t just the astronomical divorce rate in the States that indicates people are not necessarily meant to mate for life. The only thing we know to be true is that nothing stays the same. People change, get sick, fall in love, leave in order to pursue a deferred dream, or simply bail out and disappear for a while. Our puritanical view of a life-long partnership is an idealistic vision particular to Americans, since it seems in most other countries infidelities are tolerated or forgiven more often or simply accepted. Here, it’s the ultimate betrayal and shattering of the illusion of love. Love and sex however, in the animal kingdom, of which we are a part, are great when they go together, but they seldom do.
The problem arises when people decide to have children, because the emotional collateral of a broken relationship or marriage affects children and their need for stability in order to grow into confident, healthy adults. In most cases, women end up raising the children from these itinerant unions because we are the nurturing ones, we bear the children, and there just seems to be an inherent responsibility for mothers to stay with them.
Knowing this and knowing I wanted a child, I circumvented the whole daddy scenario. I won’t be disingenuous. If I had met a man who was my best friend as well as my lover, I would have mated the traditional way, but that is not what happened. And so when choosing to have a child on my own, I did not have to consider asking an ex-boyfriend or a gay friend to knock me up. I didn’t want to tie my life to someone else, or risk any future paternity issues. So I opted for an anonymous donor.
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, investigates early human sexuality in hunter and gatherer societies, making the well-known argument that it wasn’t until sedentary, agricultural communities planted roots (forgive the pun) that humans became concerned with property and who would inherit it. Suddenly paternity became a matter of prosperity. Similarly, marriage was created as a way of uniting properties and increasing wealth. Women could not own property and were considered property themselves, along with the land they transferred from their family to their husband through the institution of marriage. It isn’t surprising that the Spanish word for wife, esposa, is also the word for handcuffs.
Actually, only within the last century have women been in a position to marry for love. And this notion of love has become inextricably tied to marriage and, by extension, monogamy. I am not proposing open marriages or relationships; I am simply stating the facts of human nature. Modern culture sees marriage dogmatically, not realistically. It’s not a bad thing to want to build a life with someone you love, to want to devote yourself to one person and create a family. This is the American Dream in a sense. But a dream it is indeed, and we need to remain cognizant of the latter part: creating a family. Because once a partner strays in our society, the marriage is doomed.
Perhaps the solution therefore is to go into a committed relationship or marriage as friends first and foremost. Friends treat each other respectfully, don’t expect perfection, allow failure, and work together when there are disagreements. And in the event that they go their separate ways, they have usually built years of tolerance for each other so that an amount of respect filters the severance. In this scenario, if children are involved in the separation, they can at least be dispensed of feeling at fault, used as pawns, forced to choose whose side they’re on, or any such other avoidable detrimental impositions. Sure, the family unit will be different, but it doesn’t have to become volatile or unstable.
I began dating after a two-year hiatus and all the issues of love and trust and marriage are coming into play. My number one priority is my son, but I have my own needs. What I’ve found is that following my heart instead of my head is a new thing. If I had followed my head I would never have had my son on my own. There were too many reasons not to. My heart will lead me to a relationship built from a friendship and I am finding, whether it is life-long or not, that is as good as it gets.
For more on how Sheana became a single mom, check out this article- We Wanted To Be Moms
[Illustration Credit: Jason Salazar]