Americans becoming more socially isolated in recent years?
Maybe, Bill Clinton's biggest mistake was kowtowing to conservatives with white lies. He should have publicly embraced the concept of friendship and support outside one's primary relationship.
Friendship and support, at least.
Of course there is the worry of venereal disease with sexual relationships, but the line between friendship, support and eroticism can be blurry. Clinton could have handled his yearnings for contact, outside the primary relationship, in a better way, for sure, but said yearnings have validity.
Maybe he should have lead the nation into a dialog about these issues; including polyamory. Imagine, such a discussion starting from "The White House."
It was a missed opportunity, but I know it would have been political suicide.
Yes, we do have lots of workshops, seminars and therapists that provide contact outside the marriage.
It's a whole industry.
Massage workshops, retreats. Even things addressing sexual issues such as the "Body Electric" workshops, for instance.
These types of seminars serve an important function of breaking isolation, but some might criticize them as being "manufactured intimacy."
"Just pay your $480 fee and feel connected."
Now I read, there is a study, from Duke University, that says Americans have fewer friends outside of the family. They say American's circle of confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past few decades and the number of people who say they have no one to discuss important matters has more than doubled. This study also indicates that social ties are more family based than before.
Study is called, "Social isolation in America: changes in core discussion networks over two decades."
While I can't provide a detailed review of the study, I can present my own thinking, as inspired from these news items.
It seems like people are desperately clinging to their marriages and shrinking circles of "nuclear family" ties. It's almost like "clinging for dear life" as the world washes away around us. Increasing mobility means neighbors no longer know one another. Longer work hours, longer commutes means less time to nurture friendships outside of the primary relationship.
This trend is in the wrong direction. Most people need more than just the nuclear family.
Even the nuclear family, which is being held so tightly, is on shaky ground. It's influenced by the same mobility forces that brake up friendship networks.
Often it seems like people are loosing wide circles of friends and clinging more tightly to marriages and the marriages are becoming "war zones." Marriages are more apt to end in divorce, these days.
I fear that folks are getting their "variety" from something called "serial monogamy." That is going from one marriage to the next through life.
It's serial monogamy, for variety, rather than wide networks of friends, relatives and neighbors.
I also hear that the nuclear family is more isolated, these days, than in past history. In the past, extended families of grandparents, uncles and aunts provided support networks. Today, these broader "extended family networks" are more scattered.
The nuclear family is isolated and subject to what one could call "cabin fever." When one gets board and seeks variety, it often breaks up.
Serial monogamy leaves a painful trail of broken relationships in its path. It's a sad story.
Putting more energy into a diverse circle of friends is better than putting everything into one's marriage until cabin fever strikes.
Yes, a national dialog on the state of our relationships and the dynamic between "primary relationships" and "outside friends" would be healthy.
Former President Clinton was struggling with these issues along with just about everyone else.
There is a lot of rhetoric about trying to make marriage last. Most Americans seem to talk a lot, while not really living this value.
One can, at least, praise the Clintons for staying married. Through all the news of Clinton's extra marital escapades, that marriage has held together.
These days, people talk about fidelity, but don't practice it. As soon as a rough spot hits, like some extra marital affair, folks bail out.
At least the Clintons demonstrate that old fashioned value of staying together.
I remember someone calling a talk show accusing her husband of winking at another woman in the supermarket. He wasn't having affairs, just winking.
The talk show host had a good answer. She said, "your husband is only married, he's not dead." "He will have feelings."
Expectations can be real high these days. Even winking can become a problem. The bar is set so high that a slight hint of adversity can end things.
This situation must be caused by advertising. It's advertising that constantly pounds people with the message "you deserve better."
The nature of business and advertising raises expectations to unsustainable levels. At the same time, mobility and things like the Internet make "greener pastures only mouse clicks away."
Then there are lots of people, like me, who can live without partners. For single people, friendship networks take on an added importance.
Yes, I think it would be good for people to back off a bit from clinging so tightly to the marriage concept.
People should seek broader networks of community. Relax, "let go" a little and, ironically, even the institution of marriage might benefit.
I guess it was Hillary Clinton who coined the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I say, it takes a village, and more than just one's "nuclear family" to satisfy our needs.