I have a tough time rolling with the punches, the ups and downs of life. When there are downs, my world seems dark and hopeless, and I temporarily forget to think about all of the positives and good things.
My marriage has been through some interesting and tortuous paths. It’s been one of the most challenging occupations of my life. And I feel like we still are so far from getting this right. Sometimes I despair that we will never get it right. Which, sort of is what life is… do we every truly “get it right?” Don’t we just keep trying?
We have fun… but not really.
We respect each other… but not always.
We talk… but not well.
We have similar values… but extremely different wants.
We say we love each other… but we’re not living that, or showing that.
We’re grateful for all of our blessings… but still feel incomplete.
We don’t say mean things to each other… but we do by action or inaction.
We’ve heard a sermon series on relationships and marriage. Lots of reminders, lots of facts on marrieds (citing heavily from a 2016 TIME article I’ve mentioned before). Statistically people who have remained married more than a few decades report that their marriage is the best thing in their life. There are all sorts of career, emotional, mental and health benefits to being married, with most actually accruing to the males. The pastor was pointing out the “one-flesh” intention of marriage, God’s intentions and design for marriage, and the inadvisability to have multiple sex partners.
The concept of becoming “one flesh” or “united” in marriage is the crucial glue for a relationship between a man and a woman. It was suggested that when creating Adam, God acknowledged a “design deficiency” in that HIS creation was not complete, it was not enough; man needed woman. Further, statistically happy couples are those who have sex weekly. Those who have it monthly or even less, are unhappy. Which goes back to another saying that has hit home for me:
Sex is ten percent of a good relationship, and ninety percent of a bad one.
Another blogger has written very eloquently on this topic. I’m not sure if the above is his original saying, but this is what he does say, very well:
“Without showing and expressing love in a way their partner can understand, the space between couples grows too great for intimacy to bridge. That makes it increasingly difficult to rekindle the sexual spark that helps keep a healthy relationship going during difficult times. Even though every other thing couples do together is more important and more necessary to shared survival than sex, none of those things are as intimate. That intimacy and the understanding that comes with it is why sex is ten percent of a good relationship, and ninety percent of a bad one.”
This is exactly where we are. And for some reason my attempts to explain this to him don’t seem to get through.
There are times where I realize that being married is better than the alternative, at least in my case (and we both probably believe this). I had many lonely years in my 20s. It was depressing to think perhaps I’d never have a special someone in my life to share things with and grow old together. I dreamed of love, passion, romance and “completing each other.” I waited until 34 to finally meet someone who seemed like a good partner, and who was willing to choose me. He is a GOOD guy. And of course when we first meet our partners, we are starry-eyed, hopeful, maybe even a bit delusional. A certain amount of tarnish is to be expected.
Recently we found ourselves heading into our retirement years, empty nest years, “us” years, with renewed commitment and hopes for a better future together. The REALLY bad times supposedly were water under the bridge, we made new commitments to try harder to make our marriage better. We worked on being the spouse we needed to be for the other, stepping up and learning to speak the other’s love language. It seemed to be better, for a while. We were pretty happy and hopeful for the future.
In the past several months I feel like an invisible landslide has hit us, and I am scrabbling not to lose my footing as this happy path erodes. We are steadily moving back to “roommate mode” or as the blogger aptly says, “business partnership.” Affection is almost gone again. Intimacy and passion are not even a thought (first on his part, and increasingly on my part). He’s clearly unhappy. I’m unhappy. Efforts to communicate haven’t helped. In such an environment, the next things to go are respect, patience, and kindness. The blogger confirms this:
“However, if a couple does not have a healthy sex life, intimacy lurks beneath the surface of their entire relationship. Like an act of infidelity it demands an apology while begging forgiveness. Arguments spiral out of control as unmet needs ignite otherwise meaningless disagreements.”
As we head into this stomach-flipping major descent on our marital roller coaster ride, things begin to seem dark and hopeless for me. It’s all I can do to tick off the positives, of which there are many. Yet I understand a little better my hopelessness. Despite “all of the good things” that might convince me to remain in a marriage, it’s that little thing called sex that seems to negate all the good.
If someone were to ask me what the best thing in my life was, my immediate answer would not be “my marriage.” It’s up there… but not the best.
And right now, all I can do is just pray and hope for some answers, control my responses of hurt and anger, and try not to detach too much.