The Disconnect

Here’s something I picked up from the Christian Nymphos in an interview Cinnamonsticks did with Shannon Etheridge:

*

Christian Nymphos: What are the most significant things that you see competing
with young people growing up with a healthy sexual understanding?*

Shannon Ethridge: Most teens think that if they are ever going to have good hot
sex, they’d better do it now when they are single, because once they get married
they probably won’t see much action. Where do they get that notion? From tons
of things they see in the media (frigid wives, frustrated husbands), but mainly
from their own parents’ relationship. Over 90% of teens say they don’t want a
relationship like the one their parents have, and most that I talk to insist
that their parents don’t even have sex. I usually laugh and ask, “How do you
think you got here if your parents don’t have sex?” Then they’ll acknowledge,
“Well, my parents must have had sex before, but based on how they treat each
other, I can’t imagine that they do anymore.” This is a sad report card, and a
wake up call for us parents.

To me, this perfectly captures a problem with marriage in modern times, and especially within Christian homes. There is a real disconnect between what we say we want for our kids and and what they are actually seeing from us. I can hear the song and dance espoused by church people everywhere about sex is a beautiful and wonderful thing within the committed relationship of marriage. True love is worth waiting for and yadda, yadda, yadda. Sex within marriage is WONDERFUL and WORTH WAITING FOR!

I’m sorry kids, but that is SO not true. It is a lie. It is such a blatant lie that it really and truly undermines every other thing that comes out of the church door. It makes the church a caricature of itself. Are church people really that stupid or are they deliberately just being deceptive? Because I am not seeing it in either quality or quantity. I see the potential for something much richer, but it does not seem to be playing out in real life. Or perhaps I am not old enough (and have not suffered enough) to see it realized. Of course, I’m talking about a genuine sense of trust and intimacy with regards to sexual relations.

So now I’m thinking about Proverbs chapter 7

6 For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
7 and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
8 passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9 in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.

10 And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
11 She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
20 he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”

21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23 till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.

Okay, I’m having a problem here. If I just look at verses 13-18 alone and omit everything else– You know what? I would kind of like that sort of attention! Seriously, who would not want to be sought eagerly and be offered the best seat in the house and be invited to take our fill of love till morning? I think what makes the guy foolish is that he only hears that part and ignores the rest. But that is the siren call that lures men away. Women are under the grossly mistaken impression that when a guy is viewing porn, he is looking at a body and she has to compete for that perfect body. Those women could not be more mistaken. It is the portrayal of availability and eagerness that makes the women of prOn more attractive. A nice body doesn’t hurt, for sure. But I know guys who are married to some pretty nice looking women who have struggled with porn. The struggle didn’t exist because of their wife’s looks, it was more her attitude of unavailability. Prostitutes make the bulk of their money from married guys who are not getting certain things done at home. And a lot of these porn/prostitute consumers are Christian married men.

On our end of it, we have to struggle with the attitude of our own entitlement. Our own selfishness. This is really where I am. There has been sex here (very little), but it has been bad sex because there has been so little intimacy around it. On FTN’s Quality Sex Metric (FQSM) I scored like a 4.5 or something. It was about as low as a couple could possibly have while being naked together. Arwyn was not really into it and my own realization of that did not help matters. The lack of eagerness, the lack of responsiveness to my touch, the lack of her initiating anything resembling intimacy….it has added up to a giant FAIL around here. The therapist has been 0% help here. We have not been meeting too regularly due to childcare and scheduling issues. And when we do meet, it does not seem to be very productive. I do notice that for a Tuesday night session, Arwyn will often be somewhat receptive on a Sunday or Monday night so there is a sort of accountability factor there. But she isn’t really into sex as a recreational activity. She never really has been although I think I was fooled into thinking it was early on.

So I am in a state of not being particularly festive. I have zero interest in going to a prostitute because what I really want is a relationship. I really want sex to be part of that relationship. Why am I being led to think that that is asking too much? And what of all the kids growing up in this sort of climate? There really isn’t a good way to talk about sex (or relationships) with them without being hypocritical about the mess that we live in. That I live in.

By not wanting sex with me, Arwyn might be living more authentically than I am. Why should I want intimacy with someone who seems to find me so unattractive? It’s not just about the sex. Stand back a minute while I noodle this out…

I say I want intimacy, which I define as knowing and being known. But it is also about being valued and having my values valued in a reciprocal fashion. I’m not exactly all sure about what that sort of reciprocity would look like exactly, since the person with the lowest desire for intimacy ultimately controls it. And that person is not me. In a sense it seems as though that the only people who are going to get as much intimacy as they want are the people who have the least need and desire for it. Such an odd and unfair economy. Arwyn exhibits very little desire for intimacy from me, or at least the sort of desire I want and need. She likes my time and my acts of service, but giving those does not translate into filling any of my intimate needs. Right or wrong, sex is a big part of that marital reciprocal expectation. If asking for more intimate acts are so far removed from Arwyn’s core values, she will never make any meaningful changes in that direction and it is unfair of me to ask her to make such an accommodation. All such sex would translate into mercy sex or pity sex or guilt sex, which it seems to be the most consistent part of the sexual diet. Ar least the diet consisting of two people. A one-person diet enables me to get along, but that might be part of the problem, too. I’m getting along miserably instead of being angry and confrontational. Geez, what kind of choice it THAT?!?!

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8 Responses to The Disconnect

  1. Rosie says:

    Digger, you are to be commended for the efforts you’ve made. After all for a long time you were urged to get counseling. You’ve done that. We could nag and say – “but you’re not going often enough, Arwyn is not taking it seriously.” We could also point out that the counselor cannot deal with the intimacy problem if they are not made aware of that the problem exist to the degree that it does exist. Sooo – you fought the good fight, you’ve run the race. Now what??

  2. Aphron says:

    Someone wrote:
    “Women marry men hoping they’ll change; men marry women hoping they don’t.”

    From my experience, sex was great, hot, frequent. With marriage and kids and work and living with someone, it has become the opposite. The conundrum is: how much should we expect someone to change? I, personally, resent being asked to change.

    I don’t have the answer. I keep reading your blog hoping you do.

  3. Cat says:

    Aphron took the words right out of my mouth because I honestly do keep reading hoping you will find the answer. On it’s face a God fearing man a God fearing woman, two people working on their marriage, 2 beautiful children, why the intimacy isn’t there is the most confusing thing to me. Who wants to live day in and day out without intimacy, without physical attention? And why does Arwyn seem ok with it? I swear I wish I had the answer.

  4. Tom Allen says:

    Digger, we were able to work things out because the both of us had an interest in keeping the marriage together. It took, however, me actually leaving the house and living elsewhere for a year to get across the point that I was serious. She had to come to grips with what it would be like to be a single mother, and to not have me around to help with cooking, chores, groceries, etc. And even after I moved back, things weren’t right. It took me discovering and pointing out to her that *she* had the problem initiating and maintaining intimacy in our relationship; something that even the Christian-based therapist had missed.

    It’s sad to say, but some people can’t take a hint with a wink and a nudge – they need to be hit over the head with a 2×4. Apparently Arwyn has that problem. She may even be using her religious beliefs as a shield – an excuse to not let down her emotional barriers to intimacy.

    More pragmatically, you may have to do something drastic in order to make her take you seriously. If your professed religious beliefs make her feel secure that you would not cheat or ask for divorce, then you ought to think about lying re-stating them in terms of your own need for intimacy. Consider: most women, Christian or not, will not stay with a husband who is a severe alcoholic, or who has some other issues that prevent intimacy and affect the relationship. There’s no shame in it.

    So why do you feel compelled to let her drive the bus?

  5. FTN says:

    Over 90% of teens don’t want a relationship like their parents have? And they insist their parents don’t even have sex?

    How awful. I’m curious where the 90% statistic is from, because I’m really hoping it’s an exaggeration.

    So how explicit are you in describing the problem to the therapist? And the lack of any real progress?

  6. diggerjones says:

    Well, I was looking at YOU for some answers, Aphron! And Cat, you often have good insights that occasionally help me think things out. It really is something a lot of people are dealing with, and human sexual behavior is so complex, we’ll never figure it all out. But this has always been my Mt. Everest! And it sucks.

    I get what you’re saying Tom, and am seriously considering making such a move. But I need to expand my agenda to include dealing with my own issues. I might just kick Arwyn off therapy or fire the guy we have. Because I really do need to move on (in a matter of speaking) in order to put an end to the suffering…or at least treat the cause of it.

    Which, FTN, is part of the problem. The sex therapist doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned about the sex, and most often it isn’t even discussed! He wants to get into stereotypes (Mars/Venus) or family systems theory which is barely a step above Freudian psychoanalysis or the reflective communication, which is exactly the opposite of what got me to call him in the first place!

    The statistic Etheridge gives, I think, comes from a survey done by Family Circle magazine. But I’m not at all surprised as the U.S, currently has a culture that wants to shelter kids from sex in a family context while at the same time push it right at them through marketing campaigns. It’s a rather schizoid attitude that Church culture amplifies and twists even more. And if a teens read our blogs, what would they think? Married sex is an endangered and frail beast. The truth is the truth: if you really want sex, get it now because you’ll have plenty of time for involuntary celibacy once you are married. Until the reality of marriage becomes sex positive, the message will always stink of hypocrisy, and even our flaky public education system doesn’t produce kids THAT stupid to buy into such a flagrant lie.

  7. Cat says:

    You know I wonder if leaving would have the same affect for you as it did for Tom. I am inclined to think Arwyn would be relieved to have the pressure off. Especially if she is the avoider she seems to be from what I have read here. There is nothing quite like avoiding sex. It’s almost as bad for the avoider and is it is for the avoidee. Every night wondering if it’s going to come up. Will there be some confrontation she doesn’t want to have. And also just not having that much interest in sex in the 1st place. If she is feeling “what’s all the fuss” I doubt you leaving would have a negative affect for her.

    You are right it is complicated, very complicated. I guess the best move would probably be to boot Arwyn from the therapy for awhile and find a new therapist.

  8. diggerjones says:

    Well, finding a new therapist wouldn’t be a bad idea, Cat, and I might have a look around but I’m not optimistic that many are around here. We are stick sort of out in the sticks, especially with regards to those types of services.

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