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Polygamy Vs. Consensual Non-Monogamy: Is There A Difference?

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When it came to dissecting the absurdities of language, nobody did it better than George Carlin. Beyond being one of the funniest comedians of all time, Carlin could break down certain concepts in a way that was as insightful as it was hilarious. His brilliant analysis of what he called “soft language” is more relevant now than it was when he was still performing.

Given the rise of outrage culture, I often wish George were still alive today so that he could tear the absurdities down, as only he could. We can only imagine how he would’ve tackled issues like fake news, alternative facts, and toxic masculinity. At the very least, his legacy of attacking soft language lives on.

In his book, “Parental Advisory,” Carlin defined soft language as terminology people use to help them avoid unpleasant truths. It helps fat people feel better about being “morbidly obese.” It helps poor people feel better about being “economically disadvantaged.” It helps drug addicts feel better about being “substances abusers.”

The face of a man who didn’t buy such bullshit.

Whatever the case, no matter how many colorful words people utilize, the underlying theme is the same. There are certain aspects of reality that bother some people, so they decide to re-frame it in a way that feels less serious and more palatable. It’s rarely overt. There’s rarely an official announcement or anything. Most of the time, it’s just a trend that people forget is absurd.

This leads me to the emerging concept of “consensual non-monogamy.” It’s kind of what it sounds like. It’s a form of a non-monogamous relationship in which both partners grant one another permission to seek sexual or romantic entanglements with others. Sometimes it involves certain rules and boundaries that are openly negotiated. The key is that there is consent and understanding at all levels.

This is not a new idea. If it sounds a lot like polyamory, an idea I’ve touched on before, that’s because it is for the most part. It’s a non-monogamous relationship that people pursue for any number of reasons. It’s actually one of humanity’s oldest forms of relationships and some even argue that it’s more natural than monogamy.

I’m not going to argue how natural or unnatural such practices are, but I think this latest manifestation of soft language requires scrutiny. Like every other kind of soft language, these sorts of linguistic quirks don’t evolve randomly. There’s often a method behind the absurdity and while I’m not as brilliant as Carlin, I have a pretty good idea of why it’s happening.

In terms of definitions, there isn’t that much difference between polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. Logistically, though, there are a few complexities that differentiate the two practices. They’re minor, but relevant to the extent that inspired soft language.

While there hasn’t been much research into consensual non-monogamous couples, the little we do have paints a fairly comprehensive narrative. In these relationships, there is a “primary” partner who holds the role of spouse/lover. This is the partner with which they love and seek to share their lives with. They’re the ones whose names are on emergency contact forms, loan applications, and wills.

Beyond the primary partner are all the girlfriends/boyfriends with which the sexy stuff occurs. The extent and motives behind these encounters are communicated and understood with the primary partner. Every couple is different so the boundaries vary. Some couples have to be together when they’re getting sexy with others. Some are okay with it happening more randomly.

If that sounds a lot like polyamory, then congratulations. You’re starting to understand how George Carlin thought. While polyamory has its own dictionary definition, it’s connotations are not the same as consensual non-monogamy. What people think of when they hear the word “polyamory” conjures different mental images than a term like consensual non-monogamy.

Polyamory, for better or for worse, is one of those terms that has a certain level of linguistic baggage. It’s less associated with the free-spirited couples who get their own reality show and more with outdated traditions associated with polygamous marriages. Think “Big Love” rather than “Friends With Benefits.”

Now, I know I’ll upset those in the polyamorous community for just hinting at that association. For that, I apologize. I know most who identify as polyamorous or consensual non-monogamous don’t like being associated with the kinds of practices that are often associated with horrific crimes. That gets to the heart of where this soft language comes from.

Even if the principles are the same, those sexy free-spirited couples have a valid incentive to set themselves apart from polyamory. It doesn’t matter the disturbing practices of extreme religious cults are only a small subset of polyamorous relationships. They’re distressing enough for most reasonable people.

I dare you to find something more creepy.

As a result, a less broad term emerges. Consensual non-monogamy may have a few extra syllables, but it feels more technical and official. It’s harder to apply to the more distressing aspects of polyamory because it emphasizes consent, a concept that has only become more heated in recent years.

You can’t have child marriages or even arranged marriages of any kind under consensual non-monogamy. It would undermine the whole “consensual” part of the term. In that context, it’s understandable that this kind of term would emerge. There’s nothing in the definition of polyamory that weeds out those negative associations. Rather than actually confront it, soft language acts as a filter.

Given the frequency with which the negative aspects of polygamy still occur, it’s hard to blame those who practice consensual non-monogamy for wanting to set themselves apart. As those relationships become increasingly acceptable, there will be an increasing desire to frame it in a particular way and “consensual non-monogamy” checks all the right boxes.

It emphasizes consent.

It implies choice and personal freedom.

It’s technical, but doesn’t completely undercut the sex appeal.

Even if the definitions aren’t that different, consensual non-monogamy still does just enough to set itself apart from polyamory. In terms of soft language, it adds some critical, but necessary complications to something that is still subject to plenty of taboos. In a perfect world, such a differentiation wouldn’t be necessary. Sadly, that’s not the kind of world we live in.

Sadly, indeed.

I like to think even Carlin would understand that some amount of soft language is necessary. Whether you call it consensual non-monogamy or polyamory, how we think about these ideas are going to affect our attitudes towards it. If consensual non-monogamous couples don’t want to be associated with crackpot religious cults, then they have every right to set themselves apart.

That said, it’s also entirely possible that more soft language will emerge as consensual non-monogamy becomes more mainstream. Love, sex, and relationships are complicated and human beings are uniquely talented at complicating things. Years from now, we may not call it consensual non-monogamy. We may use something along the lines of “mutually non-binding romantic intimacy relationship agreements.”

At that point, hopefully someone will have picked up on the absurdities. George Carlin may no longer be with us, but that doesn’t mean we should tolerate more bullshit in a world that already has too much of it.

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The (Unequal) Gender Politics Of Divorce

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There are a handful of words that evoke a special kind of dread. I’m not just talking about racial slurs, crushing insults, or George Carlin’s famous seven dirty words. There’s one word that evokes dread that transcends race, gender, and political affiliation. That word is divorce. I’ll give everyone a moment to stop cringing.

I can personally attest to the impact of that word. I have many close friends, relatives, and family members who have gone through divorce. I’ve seen, first-hand, how devastating it can be to individuals and their family. It can be every bit as devastating on children as well. While there is certainly a benefit for spouses and children who escape an abusive relationship, there can still be lasting scars.

Most people agree that divorce is a pretty traumatic experience. It is very much the antithesis of the love, connection, and intimacy we seek in others. It is against everything I generally write about on this website. However, divorce is a significant part of our society.

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that the old “half of all marriages end in divorce” saying is not in line with the data. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate in 2015 was 16.9 divorces per 1,000 marriages. That actually represents a significant decline since the 1980 when the divorce rate was nearly 23 per 1,000 marriages.

Whatever the rate is, the effects of divorce are still devastating and heartbreaking. Those effects also get lost in a lot of doom-saying surrounding marriage and the state of the family, which is often led by religious zealots and reactionary pundits. Beyond even the tragic and painful stories surrounding divorce, there is another element to it that often goes overlooked.

Unfortunately, it has to do with gender disparities and I’ve learned in the course of writing about this topic, this often brings out some heated debates. I expect that to hold true more than usual on this issue because it’s already so emotionally charged. On top of that, there’s plenty of data to show that when it comes to marriage and divorce, men and women are not on the same page.

The first major indicator of that disparity is shown in who does the proposing. Even in today’s more progressive climate, men are still the ones who propose 90 percent of the time. Despite the many running jokes about men being afraid to commit, they’re still the ones who pop the question. While more and more women are starting to propose, this gap is still significant.

The second indicator, which I’m sure is going to inflame ongoing gender conflicts, has to do with who initiates divorce. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 80 percent of divorces are initiated by women. Again, that’s not a trivial gap. That implies there’s a major disconnect at work and it’s not getting better, even as more people remain single.

The reasons for women initiating divorce are many. I don’t want to get too deep into them, but there are many conflicting narratives. There are those who see marriage as a tool of patriarchal oppression and divorce is tool of liberation. On the other side are those who claim marriage is just an institutional tool that women use to exploit men for resources with divorce being the oversized sledge hammer.

With the added complication of no fault divorce, alimony laws, and child support, there are more legal mechanisms than ever to rub salt in the wound that is divorce. It’s not enough for a relationship to end and for romance to fade. Involving lawyers and lawmakers adds multiple layers of heartbreak and frustration to the mix.

This is where the gender divide can get especially hostile. On top of the disparity in who proposes and who divorces, there’s also a significant divide in how these laws affect each gender. Even though women have gained much more economic independence over the years, 97 percent of the ex-spouses who receive alimony after a divorce are women.

Add the ease of no-fault divorce into the mix and there’s a painful incentive for women to initiate divorce. If the choice is staying in a boring marriage or leaving with some money without having to prove any wrongdoing, then who could blame someone for taking that option? It’s still heartbreaking and hurtful, but people are going to respond to incentives, regardless of gender.

It certainly hasn’t helped gender relations. Many unabashed misogynists will cite how many women receive alimony and use that to claim that all women are manipulative psychopaths who only see men as a wallet or a sperm bank. Those kinds of generalizations are crude, but when you can cite real-world cases of unapologetic gold digging among women, it’s easy to see where that hatred comes from.

Personally, I don’t believe that hatred is justified. Most men don’t see women with that kind of hostility. In principle, alimony exists to protect women who would otherwise be in poverty after divorce. That is reasonable and well-intentioned. In practice, though, it’s a legal tool that can be abused and further foster hateful attitudes.

The data for who gets primary custody of children is just as striking. According to Census data, 82 percent of mothers get custody after divorce. That same set of data also notes that this stat hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years. That, in my opinion, is the most frustrating aspect of this issue.

Despite all the other changes and trends we’ve seen in recent years with feminism, men’s rights activism, and evolving trends in marriage, there hasn’t been much change in the overall narrative. Even as feminists bemoan patriarchal oppression and men’s rights activities protest gender-driven injustice, the rhetoric rarely translates into meaningful change.

I understand that some relationships are just doomed from the start. I also understand that the nature of romance is changing in accord with culture, society, and law. However, the lack of change in the fundamentals of how we pursue marriage and manage divorce is confusing and even a little infuriating.

Women seek, and have gained, a great deal of rights and protections in pursuing their own path within a more egalitarian society. At the same time, they still hold onto traditions surrounding relationships. They still expect the man to propose and to support her in the event of divorce. I doubt that’s out of malice. This is just what we, as a society, consider normal.

At the same time, men are pursuing their own brand of rights and protections within this society. Issues like father’s rights and reforms to family courts all have a place in pursuing a more equitable system. Even so, men still expect women to play a certain role within a relationship while assuming too much about their own role.

It’s an untenable situation. Society is guiding the genders in one direction while they’re pulling towards another. The old narrative surrounding divorce is just not compatible with the one that’s emerging. The situation today is very different than it was in 1908. Laws, culture, and even the economy are changing the factors that guide divorce. The only thing that doesn’t change is the pain of a broken relationship.

As it stands, men and women both seem to want more equality in the tragic realm of divorce. However, they each seem to have very different ideas of what constitutes “equality.” The narrative, as it stands, is built around men pursuing women and women deciding when that pursuit is over. Anything that deviates from that is seen as abnormal or absurd.

Every relationship is different. Every individual is different. There are probably some women out there who divorce out of blind hatred and there are men who marry women they have no intention of loving for the rest of their lives. There are plenty of vindictive people out there and divorce is a weapon that needs no sharpening.

The late, great Robin Williams once said that “Divorce is like ripping a man’s genitals out through his wallet.”

Feminist, Gloria Steinem, once said “You become a semi-non person when you get married. The surest way to be alone is to get married.”

These attitudes nicely reflect the current gender divide when it comes to divorce. Until that gap is narrowed, the heartbreak and hatred inspired by divorce will only get worse. Men and women have enough reasons to clash with one another. Divorce just makes it worse by giving that animosity legal powers.

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Daily Sexy Musing: Stormy Night Passion

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What goes into setting up a sexy mood? The answer varies from person to person. I don’t doubt for a second that a setting I might find sexy would be a huge turn-off for others. I happen to think candle-lit comic book stores are an intimate setting. I imagine I’m in the minority in feeling that way.

However, I believe that some sexy settings have a more universal appeal. One such setting involves stormy nights. I’m not just talking about rainy days or a light drizzle at sunset. I’m talking about the kind of storms that roll in late at night and bring plenty of thunder with it.

For some, it can be scary, especially if you have pets or kids. Then again, it’s not unusual for our brains to misinterpret fear for something sexy. I can easily imagine our hunter/gatherer ancestors huddling together on a stormy night, trying to stay warm. I don’t think it would take much for that sort of scenario to get sexy.

Howling winds, pouring rain, and flashy lightning is one of nature’s most basic spectacles. It’s only fitting that such a special could trigger some of our most basic instincts as well, including the sexy ones. With that in mind, I hope this Daily Sexy Musing gives you and your lover something to contemplate the next time you’re at home on a stormy night. Enjoy!

The rain pours harder.

The wind howls faster.

The lightning flashes brighter.

The thunder echoes louder.

In the darkest hours of the night, we find ourselves in the center of a storm. There is no peaceful quiet under the night sky. Nature is at its most volatile, reminding us we are under its whim and at its mercy. Within that chaos, we huddle together closer.

Only four walls and a roof protect us from such harsh elements. A few inches of material stand between us and nature’s wrath. We can do nothing to temper it. Our only hope is to wait it out. Under darkened skies, however, hope clashes with other feelings.

Out of fear, we huddle closer.

Seeking comfort, we embrace.

Feeling restless, we offer support.

From support, we evoke another reaction.

Nature won’t let us rest. If night affords us no serenity, then why should we offer ours? The world bellows with primal forces. Why not tap into our own? Together, behind these walls, and surrounded by danger, the heavens are daring us to start a storm of our own.

We answer the call.

We shed our clothes.

We slip under the covers.

We unleash a torrent of passion.

Harder and harder, faster and faster, we make our own commotion in the latest hours of the night. Like the winds and rain outside, we are neither gentle nor peaceful. We dare to be loud and reckless, not caring what peace we may shatter. Our love is a product of nature, but our lust is the storm that helped forge it. This time, we let the storm rage.

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Daily Sexy Musing: Toned Muscles

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We resist working out, but we’re hopelessly attracted to fit, sexy bodies. It’s ironic, but understandable. A fit, toned body takes work and not everyone is willing to put in that work. I’ve admitted before that I did not put in that work for a good chunk of my life. I’ve since come to appreciate the added sex appeal of fit, toned muscles on my body and others.

I’m no male model, but I’m not afraid to flex a little in front of a mirror. It’s not just that toned muscles look good. They reflect the work, sacrifices, and dedication that people put into forging them. Building muscle and losing weight is hard. There’s a reason why it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. However, it’s work that’s worth doing.

The fruits of that labor often show in intimate moments. Whether it’s a tender embrace or full-blown foreplay, toned muscles definitely add something to our collective sex appeal. In our own bodies and that of our lovers, toned muscles are a sign that we’re willing to put in the work so that they want to see us naked. That kind of commitment perfectly complements the best kinds of love.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to get fit beyond a certain point. The human body is a beautiful, but flawed system and many struggle to manage theirs for reasons that aren’t entirely their fault. It’s for that very reason, though, that toned muscles carry an extra level of sex appeal and this Daily Sexy Musing is just one way of highlighting that. Enjoy!

It takes sweat.

It takes strain.

It takes sacrifice.

In the end, it’s all worth it when I shed my clothes and show you the fruits of my labor. Your reaction is proof that I did something right and for the best possible reasons. From the soft purr in your voice to the glean in your eyes, I can tell you like what you see. I also sense you seek to do more than just watch.

I move in closer.

I welcome your touch.

I guide your hand around my hard, toned muscles.

I let your reaction speak for itself.

Your smile widens and so does mine. Briefly, I forget about the hours of lifting, sprinting, and grunting through constant fatigue. The meals I had to skip and the food I had to eat become a distant memory. Your touch and the desire in your gaze reminds me of the goals I’d laid out. Some were for me, but others were for us.

To be wanted is challenging enough, but to be desired on such a strong, intimate level takes hard work and grit. I had to push myself to be someone you wanted to want. I put in the work to give you something to touch, taste, and crave on a primal level. To you, my beauty is my gift to you and I want you to cherish it.

With every graze of your fingers, I feel your affection.

With every caress of your hand, I sense your arousal.

With every kiss of your lips, I exercise a new set of muscles.

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Daily Sexy Musing: Learning About You

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There are a great many ways to be intimate with someone. Not all of them involve nudity and rubbing body parts together. While that can be fun, as I’ve explored in both novels and sexy short stories, there’s something to be said about the intimacy we feel when we learn about someone.

I know this because I met my first girlfriend online. While we had plenty of face-to-face moments together, some of our most intimate experiences occurred while we were learning about one another. Sharing your hopes, dreams, and sorrows with someone requires some level of intimacy. When done right, it can feel every bit as powerful as a kiss.

Some people may scoff at the idea of sharing intimacy through a computer screen. While I understand that sentiment to some extent, I also think they’re understating the kind of connection people can forge, just by learning about each other. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at a coffee shop or over a cell phone. That kind of exchange can create some powerful bonds.

Like it or not, more and more people are finding their significant other over the internet. That figure is sure to grow as our connection to technology deepens. Regardless of the medium, learning about someone is a powerful act of intimacy. It helps forge the foundation on which other intimate acts are built. This Daily Sexy Musing is a celebration of that process, if only because it can be done fully clothed.

Who are you?

Who do you aspire to be?

What makes you so enchanting?

Why am I drawn to you?

Why are you drawn to me?

I’ve so many questions and a burning need for answers. Just seeing you sparked my curiosity, but talking to you has enriched my soul. I’ve yet to kiss, touch, or fantasize about you. My heart may influence me, but it’s curiosity that drives me.

Every word you say brings more revelation. With each insight comes more questions. I respond in kind, not seeking to fall in love or pursue my lust. In due time, those feelings soon find their way into each exchange. At first, they’re a distraction. Soon, they become a potent fuel to a growing fire.

I want to know you.

I want you to know me.

The more I know, the more I want to know.

The more you know, the more I can prove I’m worth loving.

There’s a blossoming passion between us. Through each intimate exchange, we become more than just two people talking. In you, I don’t just see a pretty face with a lot to say. I see a complete person, from the deepest scars on your psyche to the purest parts of your soul. Our strengths, our flaws, our goals, and our dreams lie bare and exposed.

Where some pull back, we venture further into one another. My world links with yours, feelings and sentiments entwined for the first time. It’s scary, but exciting. Even when the talking stops, the exchange continues. New questions emerge, but the answers become secondary. Just seeking them fuels that fiery passion.

By learning about you, I know what I feel.

By learning about me, you know what I see.

By learning about each other, we dare ask the intimate questions.

By learning about each other, we boldly seek intimate answers.

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Daily Sexy Musing: On Weddings

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I’ve always been a romantic at heart, but I haven’t always enjoyed weddings or the activities surrounding them. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but there is a context behind it. As a kid, I was not a fan of big parties that didn’t involve ball pits or arcade games. When it was just adults hanging out and drinking, I didn’t see much appeal. Weddings were just part of that.

As I got older, I came to appreciate them more and more. It’s not just because I could legally drink, either. I became more willing to put myself out there and even make a fool of myself in front of friends and family. I also learned to share in the sentiment that came with celebrating love. I was already a romantic. Wedding just helped formalize it.

I write this after having attended a joyous and successful wedding involving one of my aunts. After sharing this momentous occasion with her, my love of romance is more affirmed than ever. Weddings aren’t just expensive parties involving expensive dresses that will only ever be worn once. They reflect the time, energy, and commitment we make in celebrating love.

While marriage wasn’t always romantic, the institution has evolved in a way that makes love the primary catalyst and I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s worth celebrating and a wedding certainly achieves that. The one I just attended was a great example of how much fun that celebration could be.

Sitcoms and dark humor may still denigrate marriage and for understandable reasons, but I believe the good far outweighs the bad. This Daily Sexy Musing highlights and embraces the good. When done right, a wedding can be the epitome of love and all the sexiness it entails. Enjoy!

The music starts playing.

The bride starts walking.

The groom awaits her arrival.

The world watches as love is affirmed.

It’s a powerful moment, defining the evolution of an intimate bond. What began as attraction became infatuation. From that infatuation came an intimate connection, one that had to be nurtured and fueled. Passion was the first ingredient, but many others soon entered the mix. Now, the final product is ready.

Together, they stand at the altar.

Together, they proclaim he breadth of their love.

Together, they entwined their lives.

Words are exchanged and tears are shed. Friends, family, and loved ones of all kinds join in the moment. Regardless of place or circumstance, the language of love is universal. Not everyone appreciates its power, but none deny its impact. It drives us in so many endeavors. Only a select few make it to the ultimate goal.

In each other, they saw potential. A world of many passionate souls means a life of many pitfalls. We pine and agonize over the love we seek, taking chances and breaking hearts along the way. To find one another, turning possibilities into passions, is a struggle with many pains. However, the struggle is finally at an end.

Today, one journey has ended and another has begun. One set of promises has been kept. Another set have been made. In one moment, two wayward spirits are drawn together to forge a lasting link. Lives once adrift become united in their pursuits. Beyond the good times and through the bad, they take that special step.

The vows are exchanged.

The bond is sealed.

The kiss unfolds.

The union is complete.

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Beth And Jerry: The Ultimate Anti-Romance Love Story

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When it comes to telling a good love story, there are many ways to go about it. I’ve certainly learned that from the novels and short stories I’ve written. The nature of romance is constantly evolving. What constitutes quality romance today might seem strange or downright flawed by the standards of the past.

There are many examples of quality, well-developed romances in popular culture today, as well as a few that are downright toxic. However, there’s one particular love story that seems to break all the rules, yet still functions in its own eccentric way. Fittingly enough, that utterly unromantic love story plays out in “Rick and Morty,” a show often defined by its various eccentricities.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve talked about “Rick and Morty.” Like so many others, I’ve been anxiously awaiting news about the fourth season. Ever since the show was renewed for 70 episodes, details have been scares. There have been some occasional teases, but nothing of substance as of yet.

While waiting for those details, I think it’s worth revisiting an issue that has been evolving and devolving since the very first episode. That issue is the less-than-ideal relationship between Beth and Jerry Smith, the parents of Morty and his sister, Summer. Like everything else in the world of “Rick and Morty,” the relationship of Morty’s parents is subject to many issues, flaws, and mishaps.

In essence, the relationship between Jerry and Beth is the antithesis of romantic love. This isn’t a case of two people falling in love and facing challenges when kids enter the picture. It’s not even a case of two people not being in love initially, but falling in love over time as they raise a family. In fact, the most defining aspect of Beth and Jerry’s love story is the complete absence of traditional romance.

That lack of romance doesn’t just stem from the show’s over-arching themes surrounding nihilism and meaning. By nearly every measure, Beth and Jerry aren’t the least bit compatible. Beth, like her eccentric father, is a very smart and capable, as shown in more than one episode. She’s a skilled horse surgeon and can hold her own when wielding advanced sci-fi weapons.

In contrast, Jerry is a case study in mediocrity. He’s not a complete idiot, but he certainly walks a fine line between laughably inept and downright pathetic. He’s unemployed for a good chunk of the first three seasons and is so oblivious that he doesn’t even realize when he’s in a poorly-rendered simulation. At times, he can be a lovable loser, but most of the times, he’s just a loser.

How he and Beth ended up together is neither romantic, nor glamorous. It’s established in Season 1 that Jerry got Beth pregnant on their prom night in high school. The reason they stayed together was for the sake of their child, which isn’t saying much because they almost got an abortion. The only reason they didn’t was because they blew a tire on the way to the clinic.

That may sound dark, but it’s perfectly in line with how “Rick and Morty” handles serious issues like teen pregnancy and abortion. It doesn’t attempt to romanticize the situation, nor does it send the message that having the child and getting married was in any way rewarded. Their always at odds and arguing about everything. There’s rarely a sense that their marriage is loving, stable, or anything romantic.

At one point in Season 3, Rick calls Jerry out on how he ended up with Beth. Despite what he claims, it wasn’t an act of romance that brought him and Beth together. It was little more than pity.

Jerry, being so inept at everything, has little more going for him than pity. It’s the only real skill he has, but it was enough to get him an ill-fated prom date with Beth. Rick sums it up nicely in one of his many memorable speeches.

You act like prey but you’re a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims. It’s how you survive. I survive because I know everything, that snake survives because children wander off, and you survive because people think, “Oh, this poor piece of shit, he never gets a break. I can’t stand the deafening silent wails of his wilting soul. I guess I’ll hire him or marry him.”

This moment is revealing in that it reinforces how little romance was involved in the development of Beth and Jerry’s relationship. Their entire lives together are built around Beth feeling sorry for Jerry. Then, once she got pregnant and failed to get an abortion, circumstances did the rest.

It’s not romantic. It’s not tragic, either. They just ended up in a lousy situation and made the most of it. That’s not a love story. That’s basic survival for anyone who isn’t a super-genius with access to a portal gun.

That’s not to say there aren’t some moments of sincerity. Jerry, being the least capable member of the family, tends to remember fondly the early days of their relationship. He’s the only one who sees the relationship in a romantic context. The only time anyone else sees it, Beth included, is when they’re facing a crisis, be it an identity crisis or the end of the world.

When it comes to the day-to-day logistics of the relationship, it’s never that functional. Jerry can’t hold down a job or handle himself whenever he gets caught up in Rick and Morty’s adventures. Beth drowns herself in bottles of wine and episodes of “The Bachelor.” Even when they try to do something romantic, like a Titanic-themed get-away, it often fails spectacularly.

This dysfunction eventually culminates in the first episode of Season 3, “The Rickshank Redemption.” Jerry, in a rare moment of assertiveness, tells Beth that she has to choose between him or her father. In his unintelligent mind, he believes the romance they have will win out. He ends up being wrong. Beth chooses her father and Jerry gets kicked out of the house.

In most shows, that would be the end of a relationship that’s so inherently flawed. However, “Rick and Morty” isn’t most shows and not just because it has characters like Mr. Poopybutthole. In this world of infinite realities and bird people, even love stories devoid of romance find a way to gain meaning in a show steeped in nihilistic undertones.

That meaning emerges at the end of Season 3 in “The Rickchurian Mortydate” in which Beth has a chance to make another choice. This time, she’s at odds with her father, who had revealed some harsh truths about who she was as a kid and what it means to be smart. Unlike before, she chooses Jerry over Rick and he gets to move back in.

This, through the twisted logic of “Rick and Morty,” affirms Beth and Jerry as a genuine love story, but one that is still devoid of romance. Beth didn’t choose Jerry out of love. She chose him because she that’s what she wanted. That’s all there is to it. In a show where Rick once described love as “a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed,” that might be the greatest act of love anyone can offer.

It also mirrors the inherent value of having a choice. Episodes like “Pickle Rick” and “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” all emphasize the importance of choice, especially for those of near infinite capabilities. Both Rick and Beth are endowed and burdened with intelligence, abilities, and options. Their choices are, ultimately, the only actions that truly matter in a meaningless universe.

In the case of Beth and Jerry, the choice doesn’t have to involve romance. In fact, romance would only complicate things. Just choosing to be together, despite all the flaws in their relationship, is the only thing they need to make their love work. They’re together because they want to be together. That’s all there is to it and that’s all they need.

In that sense, Beth and Jerry’s story still qualifies as a love story, despite the utter lack of romance. It’s hard to say where their relationship will go in the coming seasons of “Rick and Morty.” Maybe it will develop some amount of romance. Maybe it’ll only become more flawed and less romantic, as the series progresses.

Whatever ends up happening, it still doesn’t matter, as is often the case in “Rick and Morty.” As long as Beth chooses Jerry and Jerry chooses Beth, their story will still be a love story in its own unique way. Regardless of whether love is real or just a chemical reaction in their brains, it’s still their choice and that’s as meaningful as love can get in a meaningless universe.

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