Last month, readers of The Guardian’s Family section were treated to a special on lifelong monogamy, or, more accurately, the futility of attempting it.
Sociologists lined up to argue that if we are not embracing partners one minute, then nipping out for furious extra-marital the next, we are delusional or masochistic.
Philosopher Alain de Botton was quoted, depressingly, as saying: ‘That a couple should be willing to watch their lives go by from within the cage of marriage without acting on outside sexual impulses is a miracle of civilisation.’
We learned that homo sapiens is one of a handful of mammal species out of 4,000 that bother with monogamy. And Open University academic Meg Barker popped up to say that if we can love two children equally, we should be able to do the same for spouses and mistresses.
Fear not, however. The Guardian mustered some journalistic balance by interviewing a happily monogomous couple. Their secret? Having sex every day for a year. How exhausting!
The Guardian loves to wring its hands about ‘broken Britain’ – the tragedy of fatherless delinquents, deceit in public life, the plight of solitude in old age – and yet the paper delights at the task of compiling learned and persuasive cases for deceiving your family and sparing no thought for the consequences.
If Him Indoors comes home tomorrow and says he has three kids with the lady from the Greggs pasty counter, I won’t care much how many academics he cites in his defence.
‘How interesting that Bonobo monkeys do it,’ I’ll say.
‘But pasties will be all you can afford for a very long time.’
I don’t suggest that romance and familiarity are always easy bedfellows. But as my father once said: ‘I suppose that if I left your mother, I would very soon be having the same problems with someone else, and that makes me feel rather tired.’
As our communities fragment, we rely on life partners for too much – companionship, security, even end-of-life care – and this can kill passion. But if we need and trust the old dear so much, shouldn’t we try not to hack them off?