In conversation with a male friend the other day, the subject of infidelity came up and he was wondering out loud why some men leap from marriage to marriage. He had recently dumped a man who might have been his mentor when he found out that he is a serial-marrier.
The guy is in his early 40s and on his fourth marriage. Apparently something happens around baby number two and he starts dating someone who he then leaves his current wife for. His most recent and longest lasting wife has one child and the joke is that she dare not conceive the second one, as he or she will be the kiss of death.
I was laughing uproariously at the telling of this tale when my friend asked me a serious question: Why bother getting married in the first place. When I finally calmed my mirth, I said, "Not all marriages are created equal." I also pointed out that my friend wants what is colloquially called a peer marriage, which sees two partners come together to create a union-based on mutual support, celebration and growth. These marriages are the hardest to create and maintain because they are so emotionally demanding.
A passing glance of this serial-marrier shows a man with limited emotional maturity and intelligence. I would guess that it is not the second child that is the kiss of death, rather the onset of quotidian annoyances and reality. Meals with friends and family… household duties, taking kids to school, date nights – it all becomes mundane after a while.
Arguably the first three years of any relationship are the honeymoon phase, especially if they are peppered with the illicitness of being an affair, breaking up a marriage, then creating a new marriage and finally having a new child with the brand spanking new wife. Reality then sets in – a wailing infant who won’t let you sleep; bills from previous children; weight gain; sagging breasts …and the excitement wanes. The new wife now sounds a lot like the previous three and the tools that it might have taken to sort issues out with wife number one are still lacking in the relationship with wife number four. Conflict resolution within a relationship demands honesty (not brutal but rather kind honesty), taking responsibility for ones actions and the willingness to listen to your partner compassionately and forgive them.
All these seem like a waste of time if at the back of a man’s (or woman’s) mind, he is clear that he can start again with another person; or if he is simply attached to the exhilaration of new love.
Serial-marriers do not have to take a strong look at themselves or their actions, in fact moving on anesthetises and distracts them from ever having to do so. They are much like a drunk who may suffer some remorse in the middle of his hangover but can sedate himself from all those feelings of shame and embarrassment once he picks up another drink.