Thursday, May 30, 2013

Who is supposed to fix this problem? Part 2

More from that New York Times article that inspired yesterday's post.
Dietrich Klusmann, a psychologist at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, has provided a glimpse into the bedrooms of longtime couples. His surveys, involving a total of almost 2,500 subjects, comprise one of the few systematic comparisons of female and male desire at progressive stages of committed relationships. He shows women and men in new relationships reporting, on average, more or less equal lust for each other. But for women who’ve been with their partners between one and four years, a dive begins — and continues, leaving male desire far higher. (Within this plunge, there is a notable pattern: over time, women who don’t live with their partners retain their desire much more than women who do.) 
It's that last paragraph parenthesis that jumps out at me. Similarly, some couples also report that changing to separate bedrooms improves the wife's sex drive.

No, I'm not suggesting that you move out of the house to save your marriage but notice how the moral psychology works. If you normally sleep in different places, it takes a commitment for one of you to walk to the other one's place. Or it takes an effort to entice the other to come to your place.

Let's go back to Linneah and her avoidance tactics from yesterday's post again. She'd go to bed early, concentrate on a book and then not respond to her husband's overtures until he gave up. One reason she can do that is because they are living together and sleeping in the same bed. If, OTOH, they are not always in the same bed together, she has to earn his attention. If she wants to be together with him then she has to show commitment and interest every single time, even if that only amounts to actually getting up and going to his place or inviting him to hers.

Let's look at Sheila from the first of this series again. Here is what she values about her marriage:
He's a good husband, and father. I like cooking with him and gossiping about the neighbours. He's my pal and I'd never want to lose that.
Well, how did poor Peter get to be that way?  He got to be that way by giving Sheila the things she said she wanted. She wanted him to be the father of her children and to be her pal so he became that. And she paid him back by losing interest in him sexually. And she did this years before she started having sex with another man. the actual affair, when it came, was merely the consummation of a betrayal that had actually taken place years before.

There is also evidence, by the way, that suggests that men who do a lot of the housework get less sex than men who don't. I hope you are beginning to see the pattern.If not, here is some more.
One theory holds that it’s a challenge for both sexes to maintain passion over the long-term because it’s threatening to desire the same person from whom we seek security and true understanding. It leaves us feeling too vulnerable. As Stephen A. Mitchell, one of the leaders of relational psychoanalysis, described it: “Sustaining desire for something important from someone important is the central danger of emotional life. What is so dangerous about desiring someone you have is that you can lose him or her.”
Remember all those feminist rants about men being afraid of commitment? What distinguishes those men is that they understand women better than women understand themselves.
Esther Perel, a couples therapist and author of “Mating in Captivity,” emphasizes a separateness at the heart of longstanding passion. “Many couples confuse love with merging,” she writes. “This mix-up is a bad omen for sex. To sustain élan toward the other, there must be a synapse to cross. Eroticism requires distance.” 
Exactly. And which partner to marriage—the man or thge woman—do you think is most likely to make the mistake of confusing love with merging? More to come tomorrow ...

1 comment:

  1. "He's a good husband, and father. I like cooking with him and gossiping about the neighbours. He's my pal and I'd never want to lose that."

    I think what you're describing is one of nature's cruel ironies, and/or maybe a casualty of civilization, the industrial revolution, Judeo-Christian tradtion, among other things. Some have argued that women are hard-wired to want this, the nesting instinct. Sex if fine, but you have to eat first. In the civilized world women look for a man who will be a good husband, i.e., provider, and a good father who will provide for the physical and emotional needs of their children. Given the choice between great sex with a ne'er do well and mediocre or no sex with a guy who will provide the necessities of living, I think most women choose the latter. So maybe adultery isn't such a bad thing after all, maybe its unavoidable.