Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Marriage, Porn, Romance, and Partnership

My wife and I had a long argument about Romance novels today. Not like a fight, we rarely fight.  There was no name calling, just a lot of relatively healthy debate about what romance novels say.  I had to step out of it for a minute and ask myself what bothered me so much about it.

It’s the stereotypical female complaint about a man’s pornography.  It makes me feel inadequate. I’ll never be that rich, that mysterious, that or that romantic.  I don’t mind her reading them, I just don’t like to have it really brought to my attention. Which, of course, is how she feels about pornography.   We realized after much thought and arguing, that the real issue is the feelings of inadequacy, not the object of them.  So we talked about that some more.

Inadequate to what?  Well, to meet every possible need, of course.  This is a complicated topic.  I love my wife, desperately.  Sometimes I do wish that I could have sex with other women.  I don’t want the enormous baggage which that would bring, I don’t really want to sleep with them, I want to sleep with them is some magic universe where everything I want is somehow right and good for everyone.  Sometimes, she wants to be swept into a romance.  That doesn’t mean she really wants to deal with the non-communication, control issues, drama, and complexity. She want’s to, for a bit, live in a magic universe where everything she likes is right and good for everyone.

Neither one of us, being real, can ever meet the real, and acceptable need for the fantastic.  Sometimes I wish I could be a Jedi.  Sometimes she wishes she could be Kaylee Frye.  That’s OK and we have to accept the fact that we can never meet all of the persons needs.

And then we talked some more and asked “Why do feel we have to meet each other’s needs in the first place?”  In no other relationship to deeply concern myself with meeting the other persons needs.  Why in this spousal relationship do we feel this way?

Culture.  The world view expressed by most modern media, songs, movies, etc, is a mix of judeochristian humanist values, taking, I’m afraid, the weaknesses of both world views, and few of the strengths.  Combined with growing up in the church, we’d come to believe in our hearts that it was our job to meet the other person’s needs.

This wasn’t something we had considered intellectually until today, so if you asked me if I believed it, I might have said no, but our expectations of others often reveal what we really believe.   I was hurt that a fictional character was meeting a need for fiction, because I believed it was my job to meet every possible need my wife had.   How silly.

We realized that a lot of what we have joking called the “blessing of godlessness” in our lives since we started walking out an atheist worldview, has come from a non-cognitive dropping of this I meet your needs you meet mine theory of marriage. 

And now, we drop it purposely.  We are partners, not in meeting the other persons needs, but partnering to help them meet their own needs.  In retrospect, it seems impossible we ever considered anything else.  Of course, I can’t possible meet all my wife’s needs.  She’ can’t possibly meet mine.  No one person could ever meet all of someone else’s needs, and to attempt so would be sick. 

The freedom this brings in delightful.  We don’t have to feel guilt for not meeting the other persons needs.

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December 4, 2008 - Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Well put.

    Comment by notreallyalice | December 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thank you.

    Comment by truthwalker | December 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. This is something you often bring up in your blogs…you had a view of life that your upbringing and the church instilled you that was wrong. Perhaps I viewed some of these things as you have and managed to outgrow or learn to view them differently, but why should our general view of things been so different? Was it individual perception? My husband and I have often discussed the fact that we don’t meet each other’s needs and (in the conversation I am specifically thinking of) we each need friends other then just our spouse. I disagree with you about the porn and some romance novels being necessary to meet needs, but that isn’t the point of everything else I’ve said.

    Comment by CC | December 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. First, I didn’t say this teaching came from the church. I said this teaching primarily came from a poor mix of the worst of humanism and a vague judeo-christian whateverness that Hollywood pumps out, and that these expectations were then filtered through the church.

    When I refer to the church, I am not literally referring to the church I grew up in, but the over all ethos of US evangelical/fundamentalist brand of Christianity. An enormous amount of it is individual perception.

    Which doesn’t bother me, because I am not attacking the universal teachings of Christianity. I think a child could read the Bible and get the idea that it is wrong to kill people and take their stuff (though God told the early Jews to do so) and right to be merciful (though God told the early Jews not be.) My point is never to say that following Christ is wrong. With few reasonable exceptions, one would rarely harm oneself or others by following the ethics that Christ taught. My point is the pervading culture of the narrow Evangafundy group that I experienced.

    There are people who can hear the teaching “The husband is to be to his wife as Christ is to the Church.” and merely take the teaching to mean that they should feel deep affection for and be deeply committed to their wife.

    That’s not a bad application. But if one digs very deeply into this Christ/Church relationship, than any personal failing in the wife is ultimately the husbands responsibility since, he, like Christ, has the responsibility of redeeming his wife.

    Biblical or not, the perception of a Christian in his peers eyes is based his or her needs. From this springs the dramatic Pacific Garden Mission style conversions where a person stops using alcohol, drugs, or illicit sex once they either get saved, or get serious about God. As they mature, their need for “bad” things decreases and their need for “good” things increases.

    Thus, if I am trying to model Christ to the Church in my relationship with my wife, her wishing to read romance novels represents a personal failure of ministry on my part. Her “bad” needs are a direct result of me not meeting her “good” needs in some way. Just as my desire to sin is a result of me having an insufficient relationship with Christ, so too is her desire to commit “relationship sin” a result of her having an insufficient relationship with me. However, since I am responsible for the spiritual direction of the whole family (as Christ is head, and responsible for the Church) the paralleling lack of intimacy rests on the head, and not the body: me and not her. Therefore, any unmet need she has, is my responsibility.

    Finally, I never said porn or romance novels are necessary to meet needs. I said there is a need for the fantastic, which we cannot meet for each other. Right now, Becky is reading a silly romance (not a bodice ripper, by the way, this is of the more Jane Austin variety). The comparison to porn was about how women aren’t real women in porn, they are woman acting the stereotypical part of men, and men aren’t really men in romances, but men acting the stereotypical part of women.

    Comment by truthwalker | December 9, 2008 | Reply


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