Friday, July 1, 2011

Marriage, Sex, and Sacred Ground

My wife, Briana, came across an article in the New York Times called, "Married, With Infidelities."  The piece looks at the challenges inherent to monogamy and considers some "non-traditional" options to addressing an individual’s needs within the framework of a marriage.

I think one of the issues that isn't discussed in the greater scheme of relationships is that, to the mainstream public, there are two options - you can get married or you can break up.  The standard rule of thumb for adult dating is that if you aren't moving toward marriage after six months, you're wasting your time and should find someone else.

What if we had a banquet of choices to choose from?  Would we gather to celebrate a couple's "linking," knowing that it was a blending of finances and the creation of a romantic and sexual "home base" from which they could retreat to and explore the world from?  What if "partners" meant exactly that and you worked toward common goals, were romantically and sexually available to each other, but the commitment was to your goals and not to the relationship itself?  What if we brought back some of the older traditions, where the bonding was for a year and a day and after that time had elapsed, the couple had the option to reaffirm that bond for another year and a day, move on with no hard feelings, or embrace a deeper form of commitment together?

Our marriage works because both Bri and I make it OUR priority.  While we spend our moments apart working on our individual paths and dreams, when we come together, our focus is on supporting each other and our collective vision.  We made the commitment that it's not "my" way or "Bri's way" but "our" way.  When we don't agree on something, we both understand that the path we'll follow is where our collective vision meets - and we trust that the path we find together is a better representation of "us" than either of us could have found alone.

Marriage, in our world, "repays" that energy and devotion with love, support, trust, a person who constantly has your back, and the knowledge that any dream that is important to you is a dream that you aren't reaching for alone - even if the other person is the silent partner who takes over your share of the mundane tasks while you pursue your goals, cheers from the sidelines, our constantly and quietly encourages you when your own energy is running low.  It's not a situation where we ask, "What will you do for me if I do this for you?" but one where both people constantly give to the other.  It may seem strange to the outside world, but it works because you can't ever "run out" - of love, of time, of patience, of energy - because even when you're giving to your partner, your partner is giving to you.

The article is right in that you have to be willing to "whore" for each other in a monogamous relationship if you intend on sexually fulfilling each other within that framework.  When Bri and I decided to get married, we talked and agreed that in a monogamous relationship we were both willing to be responsible for each other's fantasies, desires, pleasure and fulfillment.  Because the very foundation of our marriage is communication, a commitment to our collective vision, and a willingness to put "us" and "you" ahead of "me,"  that commitment to fulfilling each other's sexual desires is frequently embraced but never exploited.  If one of us had a fantasy or desire that the other was truly uncomfortable with, it's not a situation where one person would simply "shut up and put out" or the other would go unfulfilled, but the fantasy/desire would literally disappear because the love for each other is so strong that fantasy/desire has no room to exist where it would create anything but joy. That kind of love requires tending and nurturing.  It's scary because you're wide open and vulnerable.  But with each new piece of you that's accepted by your partner, the depth of that love grows.  Sex turns into something where even "vanilla" leaves us both trembling and breathless - "double raspberry twist with toppings" is a kind of "WOW!!!" that erotica has never imagined.

That level of commitment takes immense amounts of work and communication - and a commitment to constantly refine one's own tools and approach to communication so that things are completely understood.   Marriage, in our world, is a sacred thing that requires sacrifice, commitment, and immense amount of work and devotion.  We take that word - sacred - very seriously and truly work to make our marriage exactly that.  Bri and I joke that many couples are "math" couples and we're a "village" couple....

Imagine that it was long ago and your village was completely destroyed by fire.  Math couples would weigh the cost of rebuilding and the time and commitment required to do so against the benefits of moving on and finding a new home is a very viable option.  Village couples say, "This is our home," and simply start rebuilding - more strong and beautiful than before.  No other option occurs to you.  Your village is sacred ground and nothing could ever replace your home.  It's a deep, innate commitment and understanding that sometimes seems out of place in our culture.

I think the challenges we face in our culture are that some hearts want to explore the world - which they should.  Others want to live in the big city and meet lots of people.  That's beautiful and perfect for them.  Our marriage is one where we want to plant together, to see the fruits of our labor reach harvest, to share in those joys together, and to plan next year's "crop" in a way that ideally speaks to "us," "Bri" and "me" in the framework of the relationship.

Our marriage isn't a piece of paper and a pair of rings.  It's a sacred commitment, as deep or deeper than that found in any religious order.  When Bri and I were married, we entered into a paradox.  For the marriage to work, we had to give ourselves to it completely; to have anything worth giving, we had to first nurture our own selves.  The more I can give to Bri, the more beauty she has to bring to the marriage and vice versa.  With both of us fully committed to and invested in what we create together, it isn't a scenario where you can ever give too much.  Your partner is always giving back to you, constantly expressing appreciation, and showing you endless amounts of love.  Maybe you have to shoulder the bulk of the weight for a stretch of the road; maybe you're partner has to do the same.  But you do so knowing that you're doing it for someone you love and someone who loves you just as deeply.  They give back to you - maybe not that day or even that week, but they will, simply because they love you and are committed to "we."  It's a sacred place where you and your partner multiply everything you give and you receive more love, beauty, encouragement, support, and pleasure in that sacred partnership than you could have ever found alone on mundane ground.

17 comments:

  1. Your words speak to people's souls, my love - most especially mine. Thank you! I love you, forever and a day. :)

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  2. Beautiful Jeffrey! Most definitely a "share"! :)<3

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  3. @Bri Shared vision, my love. You found the article... :)

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  4. You have beautifully described the type of relationship I have always wanted but have yet to find. Your words fan the flames of hope that one day, I too, will find that special someone who feels the same way.

    Blessings to you and Bri!!

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  5. @Raven I truly believe there are lost of us out there who feel this way. You'll find that person. :)

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  6. @Becky Thank you! It's a lot of work, but it is so worth it! :)

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  7. WOW Fantastic article one of the best I have ever seen written on the topic. Love to you and Bri both. So many of us can only hope to find what you have and then nurture it enough to make it last. :)

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  8. There was a book out in the 70s called "Open Marriage", where the married authors advocated the sort of non-traditional marriage you talked about at the beginning of your post. It's quite interesting to note that this couple ended up getting a divorce. Turned out the non-traditional way wasn't such a hot idea after all.

    My husband & I have been married for 42 years now, and he's still my best friend and the wind beneath my wings. Hasn't always been easy, but it's definitely been worth the hard work.

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  9. That sort of relationship isn't dependent on monogamy.

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  10. I'm with you, Jeffrey. Any loving relationship takes work. It's a two-way flow of energy and yes, it gives reward back in return. The physical and emotional intimacy when two people get that right is absolutely mind-blowing, no matter how adventurous or mundane the sex.

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  11. Paul: Totally agreed! When is the little one due? :)

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  12. About a week and a half. Though we've been told the baby's fully engaged so we're on constant labour-watch in the Shortt household!

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  13. @Paul That's so exciting!! I'll keep one eye on your blog for updates. :)

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  14. You'd be suprised how many people think it is- that once you start having more than one person around, the ability to have mind bogglingly awesome connection with someone goes away. Like you run out of love, or something weird like that. *shrug*

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