Sunday, January 15, 2012

Relationships (Part 2) - A Brief Reflection on ‘Sexual Compatibility’

One of the main objections [1] I hear to the Christian practice of postponing sexual connection until after the couple forges a public, lifelong, covenant through the exchange of vows is that you lose the opportunity to test ‘sexual compatibility.’

Let me be frank. I think this objection is goofy.

The frequency and quality of sex after a decade of marriage - in the vast majority of cases - has very little to do with anything that you could discover in early sexual encounters. The long term quality of the sexual connection is contingent on the quality of the friendship after it has been subjected to the eventual and inevitable full disclosure of crazy [2] on both sides.

The biologization[3] of sex (i.e. the standard campus narrative where it is simultaneously no big deal, yet something no one can live without) generates the myth that it is primarily a physical transaction. But decades into a relationship, the quality of sex is a function of how much you still like[4] your partner (and how much they like you). This is not something you will learn in the serotonin[5] soaked early sexual encounters. Your best chance at identifying long term ‘sexual compatibility’ is the sober enterprise of character assessment[6]…which is undermined, not aided by pre-vow physical intimacy.

This post was written while listening to the Jon Forman[7] station on Pandora

[1] This started as a footnote to footnote [2] of the previous post. If you are keeping score at home, this text is the footnote to a footnote to a footnote of a post that began its life as a footnote in the talk manuscript.
[2] Keller argues (I think rightly) that many people come to hate their partner, not because of what they learn about their partner, but because of what they are forced to face about themselves: “the conflict that marriage creates is not conflict with your spouse but with yourself…you cannot run from yourself…in the past if someone revealed your flaws, you could always leave -marriage isn’t hard because it is hard to live with someone else, its hard because it is difficult to face your true self”
[3] Credit – Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. I always feel like citing this text is flirting with Goodwin’s Law…but its not my fault that really clear ethical thinking happens on death row in a Nazi prison.  And to not cite one of my 'top 5 favorite books of all time' is a bit much to ask in deference to oblique complience with a goofy-if-helpful internet law.
[4] Not just some abstract fuzzy idea of ‘love’ but actual, concrete, cultivated, sustained affection.
[5] Actually, I think dopamine is the bigger player…but serotonin alliterated, so the writer won over the scientist…but the scientist got to file a dissenting brief in the footnote. Yes, I am aware that I might have a serious problem.
[6] e.g. Is this someone who will consistently own their faults and forgive mine…because that is someone you will still like after a decade of marriage and the craziness carnival of kids and/or career.
[7] I am in a bit of a musical rut. Feel free to leave band recommendations in the comments.


Dave Everson said...

Stanford, regarding your musical rut, try diving into the Blues. On Spotify or some similar service, look up B.B. King, then go right to related artists, and start playing the guys whose names feel familiar but you're not sure why. Or failing that, pick a guy whose photo is black and white and go from there. Especially if his name is Robert Johnson. Then move forward in time.

Also, don't die without falling in love with Susan Tedeschi.

You with us said...

I like to refer to the talk you gave a year or two ago about indicators like "willingness to do the thing" etc.

BTW, serotonin soaked is a great phrase. I can see why you went with it.