In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.
We disparage marriage and monogamy even as we develop increasingly unrealistic (read: selfish) standards for it.
Stan’s mom: Stanley, you know you’re the most important thing to me, right?
Stan: If that’s true, then get back together with Dad, for me!
Stan’s mom: Stanley, you have to understand how divorce works. When I say you’re the most important thing to me, what I mean is you’re the most important thing after me and my happiness and my new romances.
I don’t necessarily advocate taking marriage advice from South Park, but this satire of the divorce mentality is particularly spot-on.
The first problem with the “try before you buy” approach is that it reduces sex to physical mechanics. The title of a well-known book, Sex Begins in the Kitchen, makes a great point: A critical part of our sexual fulfillment has nothing to do with what goes on in the bedroom, a truth women understand better than men.
Simply put, the power of sex and the effectiveness of a good sex life are not to be found merely in mechanics, but are primarily—though not entirely—relational. A good relationship can be improved by better mechanics, but good technique can’t build a sound partnership. Ironically, “good” sex can actually be a danger sign. Some of the most unhealthy relationships are accompanied by tremendous sexual intensity. The cycle of conflict, then reconciliation, which is characteristic of unstable unions, can really launch the libido. That’s why making up is so sweet.
Later in life, though, this emotional seesaw gets old. The eroticism dissipates, but the fighting and distancing remain. The very pattern that stimulated passion ends up ruining the marriage. Conversely, qualities that make for a healthy marriage—respect, self-control, kindness, charity, sensitivity, patience—do not lend themselves to sexual intensity at the outset. In the long run, however, these virtues stabilize the relationship and contribute to a satisfying sex life.
Is your sweetheart patient, sensitive, self-sacrificial, understanding, kind, and concerned about your particular needs? Those qualities make the real difference in the long run, and you can discover them without jumping into the sack together to test the machinery.
I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.
Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.
Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.
Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.
Where are you?
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?
I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?
Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?
If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.
Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.
An image burned into their brains.
Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?
I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?
You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?
That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.
I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.
Was it worth it?
One of the older fears about pornography that has not been borne out has been the fear that widespread pornography would create a sexually enflamed male populace. But what has happened is that porn has actually dampened sexual interest in real women, serving many men as a cheap substitute. When it comes to real people, and real lives, and real beds, it turns out that restraint and prudence are erotic.
Of course the older arguments in favor of porn tried to assert that since sex was natural and healthy, it follows that this porn interest represented something open and fresh after generations of previous repression. Now that we started letting it all hang out, all our hang ups would disappear and what a lovely time it would be too.
But the reality has started to set in, and pastors and counselors are starting to notice. The presenting symptom for husbands with a secret porn problem is often a radically decreased libido for real time sex. If a husband is routinely going without for stretches of time that would render a faithful and normal husband cross-eyed, then porn may well be at the root of it. The “porn is sex and sex is natural” meme has run its course. There is nothing natural about this. Porn provides the kind of sex life that someone living in a Matrix pod could enjoy.
Excerpts from Paul David Tripp’s What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage: