October 10, 1972

Friends (Quakers) traditionally believe in monogamy as the best form of marriage. -- Pacific Yearly Meeting, 1972

Marriage as an institution exists for two primary reasons. The first is to provide a stable environment for children, at least for their first seven years. The second is to provide the grown-ups with a stable relationship. The first is slightly prior to the second, since although most people probably marry with the second primarily in mind, many would not continue the relationship were it not for the responsibility of children.

Monogamous marriage has probably attained the prevalence it has, not because of its success in attaining these obJectives, but because of itS simpliCity; there are only two people involved and among whom decisions have to be made. One-parent families might appear to be a simpler structure but they are more likely to either fail in meeting these objectives, because of the lack of a stable relationship for the parent and the consequent effects on the children, or to transpose themselves into other monogamous situations. Despite the fact that there are obviously many successful marriages I think it is evident that two-parent families have . often failed to provide a good environment for the children and have also often failed to provide fulfilling relationships for the adults.

So-called "stem" families are more complex structures with more adults and children, and more complicated processes for decision-making if they are not actually autocratic. The presence of more adults however has the effect of creating a more stable environment for children, since the care can be shared, and the absence of one parent, or trauma of one parent, is usually offset by the presence or non-trauma of another adult.

I   find it difficult to believe that formalized marr1age is a necessary institution for the achievement of stable relationships between adults, any more than friends can be assured by taking vows to permanent friendship. The intimacy of sex makes it more difficult to find a stable sexual relationship without some sense of commitment from the other, and we as Friends (or as people) should be concerned with how to bring about this sense of commitment; but as Friends we should also be dubious about the institution of any institution to bring about any end.

I   also find it difficult to believe that monogamous sexual habits are at all required to achieve stable and fulfilling relationships. To me it seems almost a revealed truth that if you have any deep relationship with another person, sex is one of the ways in which you can express'that relationship. I hope that as Friends we do not deny the existence of exogamous feelings in ourselves; the question is, are these feelings to be repressed and suppressed, are they to be endured and overcome, or are there ways in which these our normal feelings can be expressed joyously and openly?

Thus I would urge Friends not to commit ourselves so completely to monogamy as the only or best form of marriage. Let us be open, accepting and even experimental in our approach to achieving the two great objectives I stated at first: to create stable environments for our children and for ourselves.

(originally published under the name of John Fitz)