Monogamy vs. infidelity

A link in Saturday’s post (to the excellent Marriages
Restored
site)
prompted one commenter to ask, "All this infidelity talk (your
first link
),
doesn’t it suggest that monogamy is not in man’s nature?" It’s a good question,
and also
leads one to ask, "Does marriage as an institution have any value at all?"
Nearly all men, even men committed to a single spouse, have experienced sexual
desire for more than one person. (I use the word "nearly" in a perfunctory
manner. It’s theoretically possible that a man at some point in human history
had sexual
desire for one and only one woman, but I’m not personally aware of any such
man’s existence.) Nearly all men are adulterers
at heart
. I think that’s one point on which everyone can agree.

But does it follow, then, that monogamy is not in man’s nature? It depends
on what you mean, I suppose. A literalist would say that anything that occurs
in nature is by definition natural. I’m not a zoologist, but I think there
are monogamous species in nature (especially among birds, but also among mammals),
and I know for a fact that there have been plenty of men who have
remained faithful to one woman for an entire lifetime. But I don’t think that’s
what
the question
is
getting at. In fact, the question "Is monogamy in man’s nature" is for the
most part rhetorical, with its real point being the implication that men in
general desire multiple sexual partners and ought to be able to fulfill that
desire without all the judgment and moralizing they would get from religious
types.

So why do I celebrate monogamy? Because monogamy is about more than sex, and
it is the only condition in which a man can be truly sexually satisfied. I
think a man must have an emotional, psychological, and (most importantly)
spiritual bond with a woman in order for the physical bond to have its full
impact. Without those in place, the benefit of sex is nothing more than physical
pleasure, which is over as soon as the act is finished. But with those bonds
in place, sex is the tactile, bodily expression of love, and the benefits
of that go well beyond the physical pleasure. However, the physical pleasure
of sex is so intense that it can overwhelm a relationship
that doesn’t
have the other bonds in place, and it can seriously distract a man (or woman,
for that matter) from whatever else is going on in his life. Physical pleasure
based on nothing more
substantial
than itself only leads to longing for more pleasure, and there’s nothing satisfying
about that. Promiscuity, a lifestyle based on pleasure, hinders creation
of the other more fundamental bonds and actually prevents sexual satisfaction.

That’s part of why I believe every man should devote himself to only one woman,
and do so for a lifetime. My other reasons are spiritual and basically boil
down to "Monogamy is what God always intended for us." But that’s for another
post
.

Marriage links for the week

Ben of Marriages Restored makes the point that a happy marriage is no
guarantee
against infidelity
, another reason we should always guard our hearts.

Scott has learned
a few things
about being a husband since marrying Lori.
He has also learned that not all his commenters have a sense of humor.

Spiritual intimacy must be initiated by the husband. Spiritual intimacy is
all about doing devotions together. Spiritual intimacy is about finding your
soul mate. Spiritual intimacy will make your relationship problem-free. Right?
Wrong on all
counts
, according to a Christianity Today article: "Myths about
spiritual intimacy that appear to promote closeness, in actuality may be driving
Christian husbands and wives away from each other."

His and Hers: Television

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

What is your favorite TV show ever?

Mrs. Happy’s response

There have been so many that I really enjoyed, it’s hard to pick one, but
I think my favorite current/recent TV show is Six Feet Under. It can
be dark and disturbing and depressing and gross and offensive, but it has real
emotion behind it and communicates honest feelings in a more compelling way
than anything else on television, even when the situations are unrealistic
and ridiculous. After I see a new episode, I can’t wait for the next week to
come. I guess it’s just sort of a visceral experience.

Curt’s response

I have to cheat a little here. Like my wife, I’ve had many favorite shows
over the years. Some of them I stopped liking after a while (don’t care so
much for The Cosby Show and Night Court anymore), and some
of them I still like (I can always watch The Dick Van Dyke Show and
The Simpsons). My favorite, though, has to be Firefly.
It incorporated two of my favorite genres: Sci-Fi
and
Western.
I said
I have to cheat a little because Firefly was cancelled before a season’s
worth of shows were aired, and I didn’t even watch it while it was airing.
Instead, I watched it on DVD. It showed immense promise, but the network (Fox,
whom I have not yet forgiven) never gave it the chance to grow. The
characters
(and actors) were amazing, the stories were enthralling, and I think it may
be the one series whose episodes I could watch back-to-back, first-to-last,
and not get bored.

A marriage bargain

Everybody Loves Raymond is a pretty funny show. Its portrayal of
marriage is
probably realistic for a couple that has three children and have been married
for 10–15 years, but sometimes it makes me cringe.
The comedy grows out of the couple’s conflicts with the kids, with the in-laws,
with
siblings,
and often with each other. The thing I don’t like about it is that Ray and
Debra seem to be
coasting in their marriage, more concerned with their own well being than with
each other’s. I don’t like how they take each other for granted. Mrs. Happy
thinks the show is hilarious, though, and I must admit that it offers a keen
and insightful sense of humor, so we watch it periodically. Monday night’s
episode
had
an exchange
in it I
actually
liked,
and could sort of relate to:

Ray: I don’t like it when you dress like that because the way you dress
is a reflection on me.
Debra: (angrily) What, like you own me?
Ray: No! Well, yes. I own you, and you own me. That’s what marriage is. Don’t
get mad at me just because you made a bad deal.

Heh. I sometimes tell people that I’m a good deal smarter than my wife, as
anyone can plainly see just judging by who each of us married.

What are the chances?

I’m not well versed in chaos theory. I just have this vague knowledge that one
small
action can leave a wide array of consequences in its wake. These consequences
tend to
be wholly unforeseeable at the time of the original action, so hindsight often
bestows upon them an
aura of the miraculous. I can look back at my own life and see how any small
difference would have led me in entirely different directions. If I had taken
the reporting job at the local newspaper rather than opting for a higher-paying
industrial job in a different city… If I had played soccer in high school rather
than being in the band… If I had answered that advertisement and sent a headshot
to
the
producers
of Walker Texas Ranger who were looking for an average-height teenage
boy…. When I see the twists and turns my life has taken over 32 years, I find
it amazing that I ended up in this chair in my attic, typing on my iMac words
that
will be read by people in five countries (that I know of)
on a blog dedicated to celebrating my union with one particular woman out of
about three billion on this planet.
The mind boggles.

And that’s only taking into account the past 32 years, and only my life. My
sister recently forwarded me an e-mail and photograph sent to her by our Uncle
Bob. The photo was taken some time (I’m guessing) in the 1920s. It is a picture
of my grandfather in the oil fields of west Texas. Here’s
what Uncle Bob said about it:

This is a photo of your grandfather (man on the left) and two
other men who were drilling an oil well [Click the image below to see
it in full. Trust me, it's pretty cool. –Curt]
. It was taken before he and your
grandmother were married. Story goes that there
was a
slow down
in
drilling
oil wells. The big boss came to dad and told him the work would be shut
down, but that he needed a man to look over the oil company’s interest.
Dad
asked him if another particular man was to be laid off to which his boss
said, "Yes." Dad said that since the other man had a wife and kids
to let
him have that job and he would go home (back to East Texas because they
were
in West Texas) and get married. So that is what happened. And YOU are
part
of the result of that decision!

So one small decision made it possible for my grandparents to
be married at exactly the right time to have five children, the fifth of which
was a total, unexpected accident of a baby boy about nine years (I think) after
the birth of my Uncle Bob. That accidental baby grew up to marry a woman at
exactly the
right
time to conceive two children—my sister and me. I’m sometimes amazed at the
circuitous route my life has taken, but there are thousands of years of circuitous
history leading up to that. So what are the chances that I would end up right
here, right now, doing what I’m doing? I think a mathematician would say the
probability is exactly one, since that’s what happened. A theologian would probably
agree, since God is in control. Me? I’m just glad to be here, and I thank God
that my grandfather was such a kind and thoughtful man.

Marriage links for the week

Doug at CoffeeSwirls writes about
the importance and practical application of
forgiveness
in
a
marriage
.

Ben of Marriages Restored discusses why it is important to him to continue
writing about the past
infidelity and emotional affairs
that have harmed his
own marriage.

Rey of Bible Archive examines what Paul meant when he wrote to the church
in Ephesus, "Husbands,
love your wives
as Christ loved the church."

Scott and Lori have been settling in to their new house in Scotland. Lori
is adjusting to a new husband as well as a new
country
, and she has learned
quite a bit
about both. I look forward to seeing what Scott has learned as
well.

His and Hers: Turning 30

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

How did you feel about turning 30?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Turning thirty has been bittersweet for me, as it seems to have caused everyone
around me (and me) to reflect on the brilliance and preciousness of my youth,
while simultaneously catapulting me into adulthood, where I will "finally
be taken seriously," and "become real." Sometimes I think
I’d rather be that care-free little girl with wispy hair in overalls
gazing into the camera than the responsible fine-haired woman in cargo pants
staring back at her. Then again, there are certainly benefits that come with
this age, and I can still be silly and playful… and cargo pants are cool!
I’m just a little homesick and longing for the security and comfort that
I enjoyed as a child without even realizing it. Now I enjoy a different (but
somehow similar) comfort and security with my happy husband, as he appreciates
me so unconditionally, even when I don’t act my age. And whenever I’m
with him, that’s when I am truly home.

Curt’s response

When I turned 30 (a little over two years ago), I felt pretty good about it.
So far, the only birthdays that have depressed me have been in doldrum years,
years
in
which
my life was
stuck and going nowhere. Thirty wasn’t like that for me. I looked back on the
last year of my life and saw that it was good, that I had grown in knowledge
and in physical health, and in favor with God and men. Since it was a nice
round number, I also looked back on the previous decade and saw how far I had
come from being a college flunk-out and bottom-rung-of-the-ladder worker at
a door factory at the age of 20. Yeah, 30 was good. I expect 40 to be even
better.

More on falling in love

Irene’s commenters are giving her a really hard time over her statements regarding
falling in love.
On Sept. 20, she wrote:

I’ve always been very careful in all my interactions with people of the
opposite sex.…I want to choose the person I fall in love with.

She received comments like "I don’t think love is that structured" and "I’ve
learned from experience that you can’t choose whom you are attracted to" and
"sometimes I get the vibe that you’re overly cautious."

So on Friday she revisited the theme and made a few more (I think) insightful
observations, including:

If…one can will to continue loving, then I think one can definitely
will to love in the first place. I’m praying that I’ll be able to continue
guarding my heart until I meet the man whom God says is for me to love. Then
I’ll let go and allow myself to "fall in love". And I pray I’ll
stay committed to remain "in love" with him till death do us part.

Now she has received comments like:

Love is a choice?
If you are talking about loving the poor and the needy, or that irritable
neighbour, friend, colleague, yes perhaps.
But of the more intimate, romantically inclined, share my life with you type?
I beg to differ.

Goodness, girl. You don’t control your heart. Your heart controls you. In
fact your heart is more you than you.

I think probably the commenters are misunderstanding Irene’s ideas about falling
in love. They speak as though she expects to flip a love-switch in her head
at some point and have that be that. I doubt that’s what she means.

Here’s
what I know to be true: As long as you’re in contact with other people, you’re
in
danger
of
falling
in
love.
You
have
to
guard your
heart
around
people you don’t want to develop romantic feelings for. I used to place
strict boundaries on my relationships with non-Christian women. Now I do the
same
thing for all women other than my wife. I’m not sure one can choose to
fall in love, but I do know that one can choose not to,
and I think that’s what Irene’s saying.

I’ve had several experiences that illustrate this. I wrote
last week
about
a time I accidentally experienced a barrage of romantic feelings for a girl
I didn’t want to love. In that same post, I wrote about how I fell in love
with Mrs. Happy (or you can check out our
love story
).

I had a girlfriend once that I thought was perfect for me. We dated,
and I fully intended to fall in love with her. I spent time with her. I shared
experiences with her. I did nice things for her. And I never developed any
real romantic
feelings for her. No matter how much I wanted butterflies in my stomach and
no matter how much I wanted to want to marry her, those feelings just never
came. We dated for six months and broke up.

Before that, I knew a girl I probably could have fallen in love with had I
allowed myself to. She was intelligent, fun, funny, and pretty, and she shared
many of my interests, having read and enjoyed many of the same books and watched
and enjoyed many of the same TV shows and movies as I. She even professed romantic
feelings for me (something that had never happened to me before). But she was
not a Christian, and her
core beliefs and moral outlook were fundamentally different
from mine.
So we hung out with a group of friends, but never dated or spent any significant
amount of time alone.

So here’s my conclusion. •You can allow feelings to develop, but you can’t
force them. •You can choose when and for whom to allow such development, but
you can’t control
who
will
develop
feelings
for
you.
•Feelings can knock you on your rear when you least expect it, so you
need to be always on your guard until you’re ready to allow them to grow. •You
can absolutely
choose
when and whom to marry, and you can choose to love and
serve
that person
for
the rest of your life.

Adventures in origami

I did not actually post anything on Wednesday, Oct. 6. I’m just posting this
on Thursday, Oct. 7 and dating it to make it look like I have kept up with
my posts. I was suffering from a severe case of the blahs yesterday and therefore
did nothing productive all day long. One thing I did do, though, was pursue
my
interest in origami. I made the modular star
pictured below (click on it to see a larger image). It is a three-dimesional,
20-point star. It contains 30 pieces of 6" by 6" paper, painstakingly folded
and assembled over the course of two hours and thirty minutes. My wife, the
artist in the family, told me she would never have the patience to do something
like
that. I was in a zone, though, and couldn’t stop once I started.