TCW - Life, Style & Wellness

Getting a "Hall Pass" For Marital Betrayal a Bad Idea

couple statue med size, 2091704802_9efec36044.jpg

Photo: Flickr user victoriapeckham (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

"Hall Pass" may sound like an innocent teenage movie, but the comedy, about to open across the world, has as its center the idea that adults in committed relationships need breaks or a "hall pass" from each other.

In promoting the movie, Warner Brothers apparently commissioned a study on relationships and happiness among 2,000 British adults.  The results indicate that the discontent in our relationships is on fast-forward:  what used to be our relative bliss for seven years is now shortened to three years in what they term the "three year glitch." 

I'm unsure if this faster schedule of discontent is actually news.  In the last decade, my family law firm has seen some divorces begin so quickly after marriage that the newlyweds are actually arguing over unwrapped wedding gifts and the equitable division of place settings and patterned silver.  In fact, the issue of repaying parents for still unpaid wedding bills has come up more than once.  Ironically, it is sometimes those same parents who are paying for the divorce.

Some of these scenarios, were they not so sad, would make good comedies themselves.  The explanations for this societal phenomenon are easy to spot. Partners marrying later often spend more time on their careers than each other. If new relationships burn the brightest, many are already burned out by years of cohabitation before any official wedding date. If both parties in a relationship are too independent, there is no "we" on which to depend and no "us" on which to bond.

But, is the concept of a "hall pass," where committed partners are allowed to flirt and even cheat, really the answer?  Can we really experiment with short-term sexual and social freedom, then return to our partners unchanged with our commitments unchallenged?

I have seen lots of real-life endings to this scenario, and they are almost always unhappy.  Once a couple begins "seeing others," they are usually on the road to divorce court.  Betrayal, even on a short-term basis, has long-term consequences for everyone involved. The truth is, if you are unhappy enough to want a "hall pass" in the first place, you are actually on your way out the door of the relationship. Going to a marriage counselor together might be a far better choice than going out alone on a "hall pass."

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