If Marrying Someone You Aren’t Attracted To Makes You A Unicorn, Unicorns Are Fairly Common Historically Speaking
I thought the piece Rod Dreher linked to about a gay Mormon man happily married to a woman very engaging. It behooves all of us – on whatever side of the various debates about marriage currently raging – to recognize the great variety of ways humans can make lives for themselves that work.
In that regard, I’d just like to point out that, inasmuch as what distinguishes this fellow is, primarily, that he is married to a woman to whom he is not sexually attracted, and that he is sexually attracted to other people (he doesn’t lack a libido), this doesn’t really distinguish him terribly much from the norm through human history. Most marriages in human history were arranged ones, in which neither party had the freedom to choose their partner. While I’m sure in many such marriages some degree of sexual compatibility is achieved, it’s very hard for me to believe that any significant number of such marriages were characterized by what we would recognize as “falling in love with” or even “having a crush on” or “having the hots for” somebody. That doesn’t mean such emotions were unknown, just that they weren’t particularly associated with marriage. The radicalism of modern Western marriage is the assertion that these feelings should have something to do with marriage – indeed, should have primacy over the far more traditional bases of marriage, namely property and eugenics.
I also want to call out one particular paragraph about the author’s sex life:
Here is the basic reality that I actually think many people could use a lesson in: sex is about more than just visual attraction and lust and it is about more than just passion and infatuation. I won’t get into the boring details of the research here, but basically when sex is done right, at its deepest level it is about intimacy. It is about one human being connecting with another human being they love.
I understand what he’s getting at here, and on a certain level I agree with it, but it’s telling that he lumps a grand word like “passion” in with weak ones “visual attraction” and “infatuation.” There are plenty of people who go through life without ever experiencing passion, or without ever experiencing it in a sexual context, and I don’t think anyone should make fun of them for it. But it’s not a small word, nor a small concept, nor a small matter to resign it to life’s dustbin. I talked about this subject once before in a mediation on “Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands,” and I should probably return to it in another post, but all I’ll say here is: he’s saying something here about what works for him and his wife, and why, and he shouldn’t assume that this is a universal for human beings, or that the particular compromise he chose – and all choices would be compromises, as he recognizes – is his compromise, for his life.
Society, of course, has no business encouraging the people to pursue passion, sexual or any other kind – the citizenry would be far more tranquil without it – but by the same token the people are unlikely to meekly obey society as it aims to discourage them.