Thanks--it was interesting to watch such a broadbrush documentary on the heels of an artistic vignette more or less on one aspect of the same topic--my wife & I watched "Brokeback Mountain" into the wee hours last night
For what it's worth this is my abbreviated initial reaction to the documentary:
Once the doc cut to the chase around minute 11, the topics of NRE + compersion surfaced briefly:
HE (Stef) after admitting he enjoyed her renewed vigor--"as long as she was happy I was happy for her." [interesting he's speaking in the past tense]
and of jealousy:
SHE (Samantha)--"It's easy for me to get my needs met from other people for certain things but it's still hard for me to look at him and say "Why the hell aren't I the only person [in his life]...'" [interesting she's speaking in the present tense]
From my own experience I wonder if the notion of "jealousy" she expresses, with which everyone is familiar, is an axiom of all relationships--whether any relationship is, on some level, all about us--and the ground over which all battles are fought.
Later in the doc, after Sam's extended vacation with an open couple (something early on Stef didn't seem to be looking forward to), there may be issues developing that the doc skips over, that underscore Sam's repeated comment that open marriage is hard, sometimes dangerous work and which underscore the seemingly implicit assumption that frank communication is absolutely vital, if limited by life experience and acquired interpersonal skills, if we are to continue to grow as individuals and as partners. It would be interesting to learn how Sam & Stef's open marriage works out.
Minute 13+, the apparent opinion among marrieds interviewed that monogonous marriage is a duty, if nothing else, a cultural institution & bastion of secular society, and as participants we buttress religious bureaucracy, the marriage industry and hence the economy-- the only factors in the post-modern world that may remain larger than ourselves, but nevertheless potentially echoing Sam's selfish sentiment, (minute 13:15+) "There's something within us that longs for this exclusive union" and "I think [marriage] means you're coming home and there's always someone there for you."
The doc seems to suggest that even though marriage in some countries has been modernized to deal with e.g. same sex couples, it's purpose is still to establish social monogamy as an (the only?) environment suitable for raising kids. In any case presumably the same dynamics of sexual monogamy responsible for widening fissures in a relationship continue to operate, whatever their root.
The doc tips the hat to the fact marrying for love was considered scandalous when it was more a means for 2 families to unite for their mutual profit, which can be extrapolated to communities bound by a common belief system (in this case, a religious community in Manitoba).
In regard to common law marriage, around minute 23 a young cohabitating female in Quebec, Canada, where common law relationships are increasingly popular, says that having kids is proof enough of love, whereas in my experience kids are more a 2 edged sword from a practical point of view--both putting pressure on a relationship and keeping it together, and less about love. On the decline in marriage in Quebec her perhaps more pragmatic partner suggests it's not just a revolt against the church but also simple financial math--alimony is required when a marriage breaks up in Quebec hence for men is "not a good deal", whereas child support (by law) is acceptable.
Interesting that (minute 26) the happy bride was looking for someone like her dad and her partner accepts that unquestioningly. In my case my partner was looking for someone the opposite of her dad. I suspect in either case dad's overarching presence is a red flag.
The doc glosses over biochemistry of relationships, introducing it as possible explanation of evidence that married couples live longer than singles (assuming that's true). Helen Fisher & Lucy Brown appear around minute 33. Helen Fisher rehashes her common themes (sex drive, romance & attachment), leaving mostly unstated the influence of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin on brain system plasticity, especially the limbic system, and hence the impact of distance on attachment, thus relationship longevity.
This (biochemical) aspect is of considerable interest to me at the moment as it pertains to the kind of brain chemistry required to balance art & life day-to-day, more academically the rise of dopamine receptor depletion with the Internet (especially Internet porn, perhaps behind the rising number of cases of ED in young men), the Coolidge effect and alternate (healing) forms of sexual relations (e.g. Karezza and open marriage as advocated by Alfred Noyes of the Oneida community, various non-western religions and mystical societies, and later modified to apply to monogamy by Alice Bunker Stockham).
Also regarding biochemistry, I'm curious what kind of permanent bias, if any, neurotransmitters & hormones can introduce into the developing brain as a result of relationships during adolescence (puberty to age 23, say), in particular in the "tween" brain (one take on it IMO by Nabokov in "Lolita", but also in my opinion at the root of most of what James Joyce and Kierkegaard wrote) and (more for entertainment value) whether "crystalization" of brain chemistry as suggested by pop psychologist Nancy Kalish exists & explains e.g. how old flames can reignite.
The documentary touches on serial monogamy toward the end. Serial monogamy is another topic of considerable interest to me, my working hypothesis being that one way or another it undercuts investment in subsequent relationships and hence reduces the level of commitment--much different topic than the debate about whether love is big enough in a non-monogamous relationship to accommodate more than one mate in the same way at the same time. Around minute 36 a female in an apparently monogamous 2nd marriage remarks "[why not]...skip the first marriage" and goes on to describe her current relationship, which reminds me perhaps of "Constructive disengagement" as defined by the Center for Progressive Development. The couple is "alone but together" in 2 apartments in the same house and the first thing that popped into my head was the relationship between Vivian & Shep in "Ya Ya Sisterhood". I wonder if this is characteristic of most "old" marriages.
I thought the conclusion (around minute 43:30) was kind of lame, essentially that the notion of marriage is changing from "working together" to "a means to achieve personal fulfillment". IMO far, far easier said than done.