Heather in the comments raises an issue that I've thought about in the past 24 hours (in the wake of the Sanford emails):
I've begun to wonder if human beings are meant for monogamy at all. We seem to screw it up far more than we should if it was truly our destiny. Kind of makes me a little depressed.
Heather and I are certainly not the first to wonder if humans were meant to be monogamous.
Biologically, the odds are certainly stacked against us. There are anout 5,000 species of mammals, including humans, and only 3 percent to 5 percent of those mammals are known to form lifelong, monogamous bonds. Ironically, the beaver is one such animal. (Please, no emails/comments about this. I'm feeling punchy this afternoon).
And obviously, man spreading his seed all over the place is biologically-ingrained from an evolutionary standpoint. (Translation: We're not pigs, ladies. It's in our DNA!) (Second thought: okay, some men are pigs, notwithstanding the whole DNA thing.) [UPDATE: The notion that "man must spread his seed" from an evolutionary standpoint is challenged — H/T Heather]
So monogamy seems to be a social construct, borne of Judeo-Christian tradition. In other cultures throughout history (and even in the present), men had wives and concubines. Ours? Not so much.
But the monogamy construct is so ingrained in our culture that to even attempt to move away from it amounts to more trouble than it is worth. On the other hand, as Heather points out, perhaps the attempt to adhere dogmatically to the concept of monogamy is a fool's errand.
Perhaps the folly isn't monogamy per se, but lifetime monogamy. Perhaps we were meant to be serial monogomists, i.e., staying faithful to a relationship until we no longer can. That's not to suggest that we should abandon our commitments at the first hint of strife, but rather, perhaps to acknowledge that – sad as it is – even the best relationships run their course sometimes.
Frankly, a 20+ year marriage (like what Sanford had) is a darn good run in this day and age, and perhaps we should celebrate its longevity rather than mourn (or mock) its demise. Even better, perhaps we could celebrate the new hope for new love that it affords both Sanfords (and really, is there anything better than the discovery of "new love"?)
Regardless of whether or not we are meant to be serial monogamists, it seems pretty irrefutable that that is what we are. And if you don't believe me, check out the divorce rates. So one could argue that we should not fight it. Maybe we should just lower our expectations of enjoying lifetime commitment, so we won't find ourselves constantly disappointed when we see divorces, or it happens to us. Perhaps we are correct to think of marriage as the "new dating". At least we're not deluding ourselves.
In any event, the family values people should shut the fuck up. Of that much, I am sure.