Emotionally healthy men and women almost always share their lives with lovers whose happiness is crucial to their own fulfillment -- even if they failed to understand the reciprocal nature of mutual satisfaction while they were young. In our youthful years we may be so filled with such intense sexual desires that we forget it really does take two to tango successfully for any length of time. If either lover feels deprived, the music soon loses its ability to charm us. As we learn to love a person deeply, we want both to be personally satisfied -- while also becoming a pleasing lover. Our sexual pleasure remains second rate unless the lover becomes a full partner in the intimacy. Of course, some neurotic persons use sex in a power play for ego benefits that have little to do with love. We insist -- all psychospiritually healthy women and men want to please the sweetheart with whom they share physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy. Anything less is selfishness -- is prima facia evidence that one is still an emotional adolescent, grasping what he or she can in a short term relationship. Sexual selfishness and the potential for abuse that follows is always the result of one's serious emotional and spiritual failures.
Despite the universal need for loving relationships, one marriage out of two fails, with a major cause of divorce being serious sexual disappointment caused by some form of narcissism -- satiation or some kind of neurotic power struggle within the relationship. Many of the marriages which survive are such emotional and sexual disasters that the partners are left with a terrible sense of disappointment about the entire affair. Actually, comparatively few men and women actually remain lovers for life with the joy that a sound relationship guarantees. It is obvious that many couples have not mastered the attitudes, activities and relationships needed to make love permanent. We, Roberta and Jard, realize that we have done pretty well -- we are still sharing our love for one other and enjoying our erotic intimacy after half a century of love and marriage. We have thought much about all this and have come to the delightful conclusion -- We are not yet through! Despite all odds and some glaring mistakes along the way, we have managed to remain lovers because we understand some key factors about relationships:
To begin with:
WOMEN AND MEN REALLY NEED EACH OTHER FOR LOVE TO PROSPER.
SEXUAL AROUSAL AND PLEASURE IS A NORMAL STATE FOR LOVERS.
SATISACTION INCREASES EXPONENTIALLY AS WE MATURE TOGETHER.
These are attainable ideals that unfortunately, because of narcissism and nihilism, can be crippled enough to destry relationships. However, since the need for love and intimacy does not end with conflict and unhappiness -- even after separation and divorce, most persons with failed marriages usually seek someone new with whom to share romance. We have learned how vital it is to have a loving partner who cares deeply about us; who eagerly and joyfully joins their body, mind and spirit to our own. Unfortunately, some people continue looking for a perfect partner rather than learning how to become a better lover. Nevertheless, most second marriages succeed well enough to be held together. Couples, the second time around, usually have more realistic expectations and attitudes -- can abandon the youthful selfishness that comes between themselves and their lovers, and accept the partial loaf of a sound relationship if not a grand romance..
Actually, many marriages fail because the institutions that are supposed to help men and women live together without too much conflict, fail at their tasks. For example, many people tell us that the church must accept a full share of the responsibility for the failure of many relationships. Its emphasis on archaic rules, the condemnation of spontaneous sexuality made possible through birth control, and reluctance to accept lovemaking as a spiritual relationship in and of itself, long after science has separated sex from child bearing, has been crippling to a great many marriages. Too many reactionary clergymen have simply not come to grips with the realities of life and love since neurotic medieval myths and superstitions about sexuality were accepted as basic religious morality.
Even today in most fundamental and orthodox religious denominations, morality is connected almost entirely to sexuality. In much of the right wing church you can engage in virtually any kind of racism or sexism -- condemning minorities and manipulating women -- so long as you profess to have been born again and do not commit adultery with your neighbor's child or spouse. Or at least, don't get caught committing adultery! We find such practices not only a simplistic view of spirituality but really a mockery of faith, hope and love within the Judao/Christian and the Islamic traditions.
Our educational institutions have done just as poorly, for they occasionally teach sexual mechanics and techniques while ignoring the need for spiritual love which is vital to keeping a relationship alive and well, filled with sexual satisfaction and make the sweethearts mutually supportive over the years. Few of the sex classes we see go beyond simply teaching how to be sexually effective, how as James said, to insert tab A into slot B. Now, with most of the emphasis on how to have a glorious orgasm (or half a dozen of them), it's as though love, acceptance and mutual support have become sexual taboos. Not enough attention is paid to those things that make intimacy satisfying throughout life, to keep one's relationship permanent. The vast majority of sexual self-help books have failed to make this vital point clear since they are often based on several distorted assumptions about life and love. Usually missing from such books is the understanding that human are always subjective beings with deep spiritual needs that must be satisfied or else life turns sour. Life must become meaningful rather than just successful if we hope to live with satisfaction. Our needs and motivates go beyond the physical and psychological levels of personality to the philosophical. As a result, many books that don't consider the psychospiritual aspects of life fail to help the users all that much.
Our book, LOVERS FOR LIFE is based on the principle of honest partnership and mutual acceptance. We simply cannot find lasting satisfaction except by being truthful. It is also based on the belief that we all need to live with spiritual values, positive attitudes, high expectations, mature beliefs and responsible choices. Of course, few couples begin this way -- we must learn how to survive together while we mature as real persons. The myth that men and women are so different that misunderstanding and conflict are inevitable is just that -- a myth. Conflicts arise when we relate as lovers from the immature or neurotic needs of adolescence, when we fail to understand personality patterns, when we are pushed from our comfort zones, and when we behave in selfish ways that cause resentment. Then lovers become adversaries who are struggling to win power, prestige pleasure and possessions without regard for the other person's needs. Dissatisfying lovemaking virtually always occurs because one or both of the lovers behave narcissistically.
Because sexuality and love-making is so compelling in and of itself -- so important to normal, well adjusted women and men, we sometimes fail to realize that consistent sexual satisfaction is always the result of having a mutually supportive relationship rather than the cause of a good marriage. Because of the prominence of the pleasure principle, many people still put that cart before the horse. Many and many a person in counselling tells us that they cannot understand why they are having so many problems when the sex is still good. Of course it is -- it is the only thing still holding them together -- with so many other problems both are determined to make something work well. We find that fearful women who remain with brutal, battering men often engage in wild lovemaking with their cruel abusers, doing everything the men want, trying to make something, anything, satisfying in the relationship. But it isn't a mutual connection -- such a man is very much the tyrant she is frantically trying to please in the only way she can share intimacy with him. This seldom lasts long when everything else good has collapsed. And unless a woman feels trapped, unable to take care of herself, with no one to turn to for deliverance, many women soon decide that sexual satisfaction purchased at such a price is too expensive in the scheme of life. They move on.
Others make the same mistake our sexually frustrated and often neurotic Victorian ancestors did as they tried hard to turn love into a sexless, platonic relationship. No one personifies this more clearly than Mother Lee and the Shaker sect of Christians who came out of England during the Victorian era. We understand why this happened and why groups like the Shakers became celibate; the men and women living within the same colonies but in separate dorms and never sharing sexual love. Sexual diseases were rampant in Victorian England and America at the time. About one person in five had a serious venereal disease at the time of our Civil War and there were no cures. The young Confederate general A P Hill contacted gonorrhea as a West Point cadet and suffered from it the rest of his life until he died in his late thirties. In addition, because they had no reliable birth control methods many wives were pregnant or nursing almost all the time. Married women were baby making machines and every major religious denomination in England and America in 1900 still insisted that birth control was a sin against God and humanity. It still in in the Roman Catholic church. Birth control was forbidden because primitive societies needed a constant flow of strong, young persons to do all the scut work needed to keep life running smoothly. Such churches still confuse social traditions with spirituality as they always have. As late as 1900, each childbirth was a trip down into the valley of the shadow of death for every woman. The childbirth death of great many women was an acceptable trade-off with the need for more workers for the farms and companies of the time. Childbed fever due to contaminated bed clothing was so virulent that most women had their wills written before giving birth.
Roberta's maternal grandfather, an undeniably devout Methodist preacher, had seven children with his first wife before she died after the final birth and then had twelve more kids with his second wife before she also died in childbirth. Women had no rights -- they could not refuse their randy husbands access to their bodies even if another pregnancy would be fatal. Their marriage dowry was given to their husbands, they could seldom work outside the home and if they did, the law required them to surrender their earnings to their husbands every payday. Actually, they were treated as brood mares as Abigail Smith Adams wrote and wrote again to her husband Samuel Adams when he was helping form the United States government. She urged him over and over to give women some civil rights but he was unable to persuade the southern contingent of politicians to treat women fairly. It took more than a hundred years for women to gain the vote and some simple rights to manage their own lives. With disease and death a common outcome of a sexual relationship, and with a complete loss of freedom from entering into a marriage, Roberta says she can certainly understand why Mother Lee founded her Shaker colonies. The arrangement was so women could care for themselves -- by themselves -- and with the celibate companionship of those men who were willing to treat them decently. Of course, Jard also understands why the Shakers prospered during that period and failed when women won some freedoms, learned to plan their babies and could avoid venereal disease through modern medicines. The lives of women became so much better during the 20th century that few needed to abandon marriage and children in order to become real persons. Thus the Shaker colonies vanished as society changed drastically.
Men and women who have lovingly committed their lives to each other have every physical, psychological and spiritual reason to develop deeply satisfying sexual relations as a positive aspect of life. Each of us needs a loving soul with whom to share the many responsibilities and rewards of life, to labor with during the day and to fill the nights with the magic of a passion that doesn't fade but becomes more mature and fulfilling as we enfold one another with kisses and caresses We believe that anyone who teaches otherwise, who wants to ration a couple's sexuality to conception, whether in the church or out, is emotionally crippled and wants others to suffer with him rather than mature in the physical aspects of love. The very concept of life-long celibacy and sexual deprivation is a wicked sociopath requirement laid on couples by medieval minded clergy who are trapped by their sexist theology. Which is why ninety percent of English speaking Catholic women of child bearing age defy their clergy to practice proscribed forms of birth control. And why almost seventy percent of Catholic priests from African, Asian and Latin American nations are rearing families with secret wives or with women with whom they are in permanent sexual relationships. To end this practice of love and affection would destroy the Catholic leadership of most nations south of the equator.
Fortunately, even a when person has been crippled and confused by religious, political or cultural myths about the role sexual relationships play in life, human resilience is so great that he or she can learn how to live a purposeful life, one leading to happiness and permanence in relationships. No one is doomed to unhappiness in a partnership unless he or she accepts someone's manipulation of himself. Ridding oneself of distorted symptoms and selfish behaviors can help pave the way toward maturity and fulfillment.
We, Roberta and Jard -- have lived together for almost half a century. We reared three kids and even our grandkids have kids now and we still love each other dearly. We would like to be able to report to you that we had a storybook romance and marriage: We would like to, but alas, we cannot. To start with, Roberta certainly did not get a Prince Charming in Jard. He is a stubborn, willful man who has gone through life doing precisely what he wanted to do. Of course, Roberta wasn't a Fairy Princess -- at times the sparks flew. They still do! But, we started life even, both having naive attitudes about living together. She assumed Jard would be like her father, and he thought Roberta would be like his mother. Don't all young couples make that mistake? We soon learned how wrong that was but above all we shared a strong religious faith that helped us!
At one time we were even like two veteran riflemen in combat. One soldier was from the Louisiana marsh country while the other was from the mountains of Colorado. They had little in common but survival, they didn't understand each other, and they would not have even known each other but for the fact that they were in the Army at the same time. However, they have saved each other's life so often that each has forgotten how to survive without the partner. One kicks in the door and the other throws in the grenade. Without a great deal of deliberation! We have even moved past that and now are fairly tolerant and understanding. The repeated grinding of two dominant personalities, although it created friction and sparks on many occasions, has abraded a pretty good fit to our marriage. Sexual pleasure and psychospiritual intimacy are still vital parts of our ivies, and we recommend them highly to everyone (although we realize that sexual satisfaction can exist only as a part of our total relationship). We are fortunate that we have kept our sexual relationship alive and satisfying -- despite the myth that sex is for the young. I suppose many in the reactionary church who would limit sex to conception and childbirth consider us a dirty old couple -- but you can imagine how little time we spend worrying about their neuroticism! Love is a constant source of rejuvenation for our life together.
In LOVERS FOR LIFE we have included projects and processes for your use. They have proved very valuable for us and for couples in our seminars. In the beginning, using them may make you feel as awkward as giving a speech or singing a solo for the first time. They will become familiar with use, however, and will help you develop a mutually supportive partnership that remains pleasurable and permanent. Use them well to strengthen you mutual concern and self-transcendence; for they are tools with which to build greater understanding. Even if boredom and desperation have set in, these methods have the power to revitalize a relationship and make it worth keeping -- even when you are not making love at the time. May God bless your attempts to grow toward happiness and fulfillment, for all of your life!
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE OUR VICTORIAN ANCESTORS WERE SO DETERMINED TO KEEP WOMEN SUBSERVIENT TO MEN -- EVEN TO THOSE WHO WERE ABUSIVE AND SOMETIMES MURDEROUS?
WHY DO YOU THINK MANY MEN STILL ASSUME THAT THEY OWN THE WOMEN IN THEIR LIVES -- THAT IF THEY CANNOT CONTROL A WOMAN, THEN NO OTHER MAN SHOULD LOVE HER?
SAMPLE PROJECT BASIC ASSUMPTIONS
Discuss with a friend or write a short paragraph or two or three sentences on what the following could mean to you.
MEN AND WOMEN REALLY DO NEED EACH OTHER FOR LOVE TO PROSPER.
SEXUAL PLEASURE AND SATISFACTION IS A SOUND ASPECT OF LOVE.
ONLY BY MATURING TOGETHER CAN LOVE BECOME DEEPLY FULFILLING.
We wish you the very best as you make your life meaningful and fill it with love.
Author Jard DeVille; Psychology Dept. Chair at Westminster College; Director of the Learning And Learning Disabilities Clinic with the University of Wisconsin, also taught in the Executive Development Program at the University of Arizona. He's published many psychology books, seminars and test instruments. He's considered by many to be America's foremost leadership scholar.
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