With Valentine’s Day around the corner, what better time to burst your bubble offer insights into some aspects of marriage, specifically sex and attraction. Over the past few weeks, readers have linked to some very interesting articles on marriage, which I am combining into one post for our general edification.

First up, Deepa linked to this article in the New York Times.

Takeaway: Apparently, the secret to a companionate marriage is quashing. The key is to be “appreciatively resigned” (to not having it all) rather than “bitterly resigned”.  While attitude is everything and all that, at some point, I think that one has to have enough blessings to count. Also, one must be willing and able to let go of the things that one does not have. If the things you have in marriage – stability, financial security, homecooked meals – are not things you prioritize/d highly, then, Houston you have a problem. Then again, I have the sneaking suspicion that not having these things might clarify the mind nicely on this issue, but how to find out without risking it all?

While I see myself as a quasher, though far from an appreciative one, on re-reading this piece, I realised that I also am a sneaker. This article (like many others) seems to focus on sexual sneaking rather than emotional or intellectual. I am an emotional and intellectual sneaker.

What I found refreshing about this article was the attitude to the “restorer” category. The journey of restoration of marriage (or in more common parlance, spicing up your marriage) ends at the appreciative quasher stage. Thus, one could save oneself the time and energy and skip this altogether, which is the point V has been making all along. (Quashing sounds quite similar to what one Hong Kong study called “accommodation”. Ah, I remember thinking, so V’s strategy is a strategy after all, though an imperfectly executed one tinged with resentment). This is not to say that I personally could skip the restorer stage. There’s a little bit of the drudge restorer in me as well. I need to figure out and fiddle with the nuts and bolts. Understanding may not bring change, but for me it’s a necessity.

On a side note, a couple of days ago, was chatting with colleague about her dilemma over whether to quit her job. The problem with our current job is that it’s super stable, the people are nice, low probability of getting fired at our level at least. This is a problem because it makes it hard to leave. Why would you want to leave? Because it’s not very intellectually stimulating or creative and salary increments are low.

I told her that if I didn’t have an escape route in the form of PhD or further on, moving back to India, I would probably start looking out elsewhere. However, I could also see how tempting it would be to wallow in complacency and stability, eschewing creative fulfillment. “It’s like marriage!” I suddenly burst out.

Curly pointed me to this link in the above article that I had missed on first reading:

My takeaway: It is very reassuring to hear that there are women who have no interest in sex post the birth of their children. Of course, I knew this, but seeing it in black and white about ‘women like me’ is always nice. It is even more reassuring to note that a woman who professes to be madly in love with her husband even after the birth of her children at one point felt like sawing his hand off when he touched her breast. If she can feel this way, it’s totally fine for me to, since I’m not even half as in love as she is. Normalcy restored, hurrah!

About why women lose interest in sex, I find her theory quite plausible. I never pegged myself as one whose ardour would shift from husband to child, but here I am. I recall a conversation with my mum where I accused her of loving our dog Zoya more than me. She looked fleetingly guilty and then instead of denying it, said: “But Zoya doesn’t argue that much.” Point taken. I was on the verge of marriage so I was not heavily scarred by this admission, plus I cheerfully assumed that there was enough of love left over for poor ol’ me once the long-eared one had claimed her quota. Now if I, flesh of my mother’s flesh and all that, can be demoted in favour of an admittedly cuter and unfailingly loving spaniel, I suppose it’s no surprise that husbands, especially when going through asshole phases, get demoted too.

On a side note, I don’t see why we get trapped in this zero-sum game attitude. If one loves ones husband more than one’s children, there’s no need for a study on whether those children grow up more healthy and successful than mothers who love their children more than their spouses. It is eminently possible that all children will grow up healthy and happy as long as there’s enough love to go around. Take it from one who was in competition with a spaniel.

H2 posted this New York Times article.

Takeaway: First, I smell something fishy here. As the article itself pointed out, correlation does not causation make. I feel it’s possible that women in non-traditional roles are more likely to have higher expectations of sexual fulfilment than women in traditional ones.

What I did find interesting was the part on sexual scripts, and difference and sexual attraction. I think there’s something to that. While I don’t buy that the only kind of difference that would trigger attraction is gender role play, I can accept that it’s the script we’ve been living for centuries. In my own case, however, I can see that there were more complicated factors affecting my desire than gender equal chores. Some of them did relate to personality changes that I endorse at the rational level, but find that they don’t turn me on at the sexual. Then add babies to the mix. Then add other life stressors. Voila.

The most troubling aspect of the piece was how it ended on a note that sought to preserve marriage in its monogamous form without exploring options such as sexually open marriages. While our desire may indeed evolve to keep in sync with new more egalitarian household dynamics (if indeed these dynamics are the key to our desire), a question that was not even asked was whether it is essential to insist on sexuality fidelity on marriage. Agreed, we cannot have it all, but is it really necessary to sacrifice sexual satisfaction at the altar of companionship?

Here is MinCat’s take on the piece and Salon’s takedown. An important point: “Equality does not equal sameness.”

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