I have to admit, Friday’s comments took me a little by surprise, not just in the pathos of expressed sentiment, but in all the emails and Facebook messages from people wanting to know more intense details, and taking wild stabs at who might have posted what. And while I’m sure there are one or two on there that may not be entirely genuine (it is the internet, after all), let me just reiterate that you guys blow my mind with honesty and good writing.
Another surprise is that it has forced me to think defensively about marriage as an institution (disregarding for the moment the “having kids” question), because I really don’t want people coming away from this exercise thinking marriage ruins sex… and once that’s gone, the relationship will follow.
Sex remains – for all of us – an imperfect art. It’s that way while you’re a virgin, while you’re dating, while you’re falling in love, while you’re married, while you’re having kids, and while you’re growing older. Most of us have had boyfriends/girlfriends where the sex was terrific and ubiquitous, and it became our benchmark for erotic satisfaction once the relationship ended. But it ended, all the same.
Sex is a primal act that calls upon men’s most base nature. It’s actually worse than that: we need the parasympathetic hormones (“rest and digest”) to get an erection, but then we need the opposite sympathetic hormones (“fight or flight”) to ejaculate. Necessarily, we’re emotionally schizophrenic during sex, which is hard for us, because we’re already trying so hard to be decent people.
It was a much easier dance when we were in our twenties and got hard while walking through the bra department at Sears, but back then, the drug of sex simplified everything. In a marriage, however, there’s a lot to juggle.
We start each sexual encounter “making love”, but we can only have an orgasm when it shifts over to “fucking”, and then immediately we’re back to being in a bedroom with our lifelong compatriot. We go from being in an emotional jungle frenzy state to sudden domesticity. Married couples that have great sex do so by learning to solve this paradox.
I’ll throw something else in the mix: as men start to lose those old tomcat feelings you don’t understand, they also lose a swath of their identity. Who are we, if we aren’t ravenously titillated by the mere idea of schtupping everything in sight? Yes, it gave us years of endlessly stupid decisions made at the end of endlessly stupid nights, but the chase was divine.
I’m not going to speculate about what happens to a woman’s sexual identity when she goes from nubile teen to confident fellatrix to monogamous to pregnant to breastfeeding to exhausted (to name but one road she can be on), because it’s beyond my pay grade and many of the women in the comments section do a much better job. But the point of all this is simple:
SEX IS NOT A NO-BRAINER. FOR ANYBODY. AT ANY TIME. It is a delicate dance, and it’s easy to fuck up. And you don’t have to be married to ruin your sex life.
We’ll get to the “having kids” thing tomorrow, and I’d love to know your thoughts on Friday’s comments. But a few things stand out as true right off the bat:
• Lindsay’s brother is oddly correct: “as long as ya’ll are getting’ some, you can work everything else out.” (luckily, the opposite statement is NOT true)
• Neva also speaks wisely: “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
• Sex becoming less important does not mean you are settling, your heart is dying, you have lost all your passions, and you have ceased to mean anything. It just means that sex has become less important.
• Nobody is doing it right. At best, some people are doing it about 85% awesomely.
• There is a fundamental lack of communication between spouses/partners because we fear we’ll destroy them with the truth.
• Despite all the drawbacks, despite our inner damage, our hangups, our tame/savage bifurcation… even though it all looks so bleak from the cheap seats… most marriages are absolutely worth it and richly deserve a toast.