Several of my friends are going through big changes in their primary relationships—separation, divorce, fear, panic and loathing.

They’ve been together in one way or another from five to 29 years. One of them recently wrote, “I’m having trouble adjusting to the familiarity in five years of commitment [and] cannot imagine 16 years of marriage, though, sadomasochist that I am, I do hope to achieve such a success some day, and I have pity for the other person who makes the journey with me. If it is ‘J,’ I will be shocked, and we will both know we have suffered for it.”

What is wrong with this picture? Any number of things, I think, mostly that my friend thinks of sticking it out and suffering as somehow worthwhile achievements in and of themselves. Baloney.

When I was growing up it seemed to be common for married couples who obviously didn’t like each other to stay together for the children, I guess so the children could see firsthand how miserable marriage can actually make a person.

One of my best friend’s parents apparently settled for each other early on, causing her to swear off anything that doesn’t smell like bliss, and right away, too.

Another friend who for a while slept in his garage to get away from his wife told me, “My kids are gonna learn from me no matter what I do. They can learn to put up with anything, or they can learn that it’s never too late to be happy.” He opted for happiness and split, aiming for a sailboat and peace of mind. I expect he’ll get both.

I used to think of woman-man-children as a primary social unit, fundamental in some nearly biological way. Now I think the only reason marriage—as opposed to families—exists is because it’s useful to some people. Generally, things are much easier for a few if the masses value suffering. And obedience. And duty. And patriotism. Et cetera. Otherwise, laws are unnecessary. Why does anybody want the government involved in their love life? Do you?

You may think it sounds like I want things to be easy. I do. I recognize that understanding another person is often difficult, and sometimes a little discomfort can precede a lot of joy. But that doesn’t mean the discomfort caused the joy. Joy is always available, as is misery. The value of suffering and keeping a stiff upper lip and persistence in the face of great resistance are seriously overrated.

J’s partner went on, “I do love him. But I would like to love him from a greater distance. I like how Frida [Kahlo] and Diego [Rivera] arranged their living quarters—two separate houses connected by a walkway.” Diego and Frida were onto something.

I envision cabins on a piece of land, a kind of co-housing, I suppose. Partners and parents and friends can come together when they want to, and everybody will have somewhere else to go. If it takes a village to raise a child, somewhere in that village could be a better setup for all of us.

The line forms straight ahead.