I was channel surfing yesterday as I ran on the treadmill (basically the only time I watch TV, but since I do it a lot, I tend to watch a lot) and came across a show I’d never seen (a rarity). I watched about 15 minutes, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. A Night With My Ex. Well, first, the thought of a night with MY ex would not make for very good TV for many reasons, but I do get that every situation is different. This couple profiled certainly hit the reality TV goal of good voyeurism on a few different levels.
The couple was 28 (her) and 31, and had dated for four years before breaking up the year before, and they hadn’t seen each other since. Now they were forced to spend the night together in a neutral apartment. Here’s the back-story: they are Catholic, she was a virgin, he wasn’t. One night, he goes to a costume party and has a one night stand with a sexy Tinkerbell. The girlfriend finds out and breaks up with him immediately. He now regrets his infidelity and wants to ask her to marry him. She obviously isn’t over the hurt and is still angry. Especially because, she says, he pressured her into doing “so much outside of intercourse, including butt stuff.” (Ok, so she’s no wordsmith, but sweet, nonetheless.)
I feel her anger and betrayal, and I’m not letting the guy off the hook here, but this really got me thinking about the importance of intimacy and sex in a relationship. I know there are many sexless relationships, including marriages--“best friends” or “roommates” who may even have platonic physical connection, but little sexual interaction or passion. Does this ever work? Maybe at a time, or maybe for a while, or maybe it truly can work for some couples depending on the level of emotional intimacy and honesty they share. More often than not, however, I’ve seen it end badly, especially when the couple lacks open communication. In this case, I think it was the man who was not honest with himself about what he needed from this relationship.
I believe that abstinence in a monogamous relationship between two people who clearly loved each other, AND were in the middle of their most fertile and (arguably!) sexual years, is not sustainable. (And how much ire will I invoke if I even venture to say unnatural?) It’s like trying to keep the ocean from high tide or keeping your eyes open when you sneeze. And for what end? I completely understand the religious aspect and waiting until marriage, however, if that was the goal, what was holding them back from marriage? They had been dating for four years.
As I get older, I have come to understand the importance of physical intimacy in a relationship. For many years I discounted the physical aspects of a relationship as superficial and tried to convince myself that a real marriage and true connection should be far more cerebral. (In retrospect, I might attribute a large part of this way of thinking to a college boyfriend who idolized Thomas Merton and had seriously considered the monastery.)
I thought that emotional intimacy was far superior and didn’t accept that one could truly enhance the other. Now you would be hard pressed to convince me that physical and emotional intimacy are not interconnected, and at times completely inextricable. When you are with the right person (and this isn’t saying there is only one right person), sex is the ultimate expression of love. Plus, the more you have it, the more you want it, the better you get along, the more loving all of those moments of a relationship can be OUTSIDE of the bedroom.
I am not in any way putting down sex for the pleasure of sex, which is another situation entirely. What I’m talking about here is the place of sexual intimacy in a long term relationship. By all means, go get your freak on any way you like if it’s safe and between two consenting partners!
Perhaps these reality TV exes simply did not communicate fully about expectations or needs, and any problems could have been avoided if they had, but I know that in my 20’s I had a far different (and much more idealistic) view of how things “should be” than I do now. Being real with myself could have solved a lot. I can now see that I spent much of my life trying to fit various square pegs into round holes, and only in the last few years have I fully accepted that that will just never work.
Maybe this couple had to find out the hard way. Maybe they got past the bump and are now married, having amazing sex, and looking forward to a beautiful future together. I don’t know since I never watched the ending, but I think that’s where I’ll pretend they ended up.
Sex and its place in one’s life is a very personal decision affected by so many factors. The more we take the taboo out of the discussion, the more we can all enjoy what is right for us, and even allow ourselves to figure out what that is. The sooner, the better, as far as I am concerned.