Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sex and Marriage

The whole Christopher Lee situation was bizarre, and basically, it seems like either 1. he has done way worse stuff that he doesn't want to come out or 2. he's not really an ambitious guy and is not enough of a sociopath to think that power is more important than family. If the second, I actually like him a lot better. Look at people like Edwards, Gingrich and Vitter, so ambitious, so lacking in empathy and the ability to connect with others that they plow on through their lives regardless of the consequences for the people unfortunate enough to be related to them.

That said, I liked this post on Balloon Juice talking about sex and marriage:

Any regular Dan Savage reader/listener knows that one of his most common caller/writer is one part of a married couple who’s sexually frustrated. Usually there are children involved. Often, this person knew that they were sexually incompatible when they married, but was hoping things would change. Usually, their marriage is under a sexual death penalty: if there’s an affair, there’s a divorce.

This kind of call or letter is pretty boring because there’s really no solution accepted by mainstream society. Most of these marriages would be a hell of a lot better if the sexually unsatisfied partner had a discreet affair, but that puts the other partner in a socially untenable situation. “Open marriage” is something for dirty hippies or sleazy swingers, not an upstanding member of society. And, since the first stop for marital therapy is often a pastor or priest, it’s very unlikely that the open option will even be broached.

So, instead of negotiating an outlet, these marriages move on to a badly executed affair, tears, recriminations and, usually, divorce. The cheated-on member of the pair has the moral and legal high ground, they’re under intense social pressure to make the cheater pay, and by the time the cheating happens, the cheater’s resentment over their lack of satisfaction has probably already poisoned the well.

I often shock people when I say that adultery is not a dealbreaker in my marriage, and I think mistermix has explained why. It's not that I support "open marriages" per se. It's that I'd see adultery as a symptom of a problem that is not necessarily the problem of an inherently bad marriage. Obviously, adultery has potentially other bad consequences, especially these days (STDs, lack of privacy, effects on the children if the adultery is made public).

But I agree with mistermix that we spend a whole lot of time judging people for what they do in their marriages and making it impossible for their marriages to work, because for public figures, the public itself becomes a fourth "person" in the marriage (after the two spouses and the children, if any). But whereas children *do* have an investment in their parents' marriage, the public doesn't.


Doug said...

What's Amy P gonna say about this?

Wendy said...

I do not know. Maybe we will find out.

Btw, I turned off comment moderation to make it easier to have a conversation.

Amy P said...

I agree that the role of the public does make it difficult/impossible for a political couple to patch things up and move on, which is very unfortunate. On the other hand, I get the feeling that political marriages are very different than non-political marriages, just as Hollywood marriages are very different from non-Hollywood marriages. In the Hollywood case, they're so different that it almost seems a mistake to use the same word to describe the two.

In addition, there may be a distinction between the one-slip adulterer (who turns up in the advice columns a lot wondering whether to tell his/her spouse) and the habitual, bulk-rate industrial-grade adulterer. If my husband strayed and he were type 1, it would definitely be my duty to try to forgive him, but I don't think I'd feel the need to try very hard if he were type 2 (not that it's immediately clear which one you're dealing with). Of course, back in real life, I'd need to remind my husband of assignations with his mistress in order for him to get to them on time.

Wendy said...

The thing to know about Hollywood is that actors are profoundly insecure people, which I'm sure affects marriages a lot. Maybe it is similar to politics in that being an object of attention from the public turns the public into a third person in any relationship.

Re "serial" adultery, there's also people who are polyamorous and I guess there are people like Erika Berger from the Larsson books--married but steadily involved in other sexual affairs. Just because I can't imagine it doesn't mean it might not work for others. I guess that's where I'm going with this--people do what works for them, and the thing I'd really hate about adultery is if other people knew about it.

Amy P said...

I don't know anything about polyamory (except that it ought to be either polyphilia or multiamory), but I suspect that having no attention span whatsoever is a complicating factor.

Amy P said...

Robert Stacy McCain says, "Honestly, some people go into politics for the same reason teenage boys learn to play guitar."

sean said...

Amy P: What about hypersensitive? Sociology?