When I was in fifth grade my mom came home with 6 paperback books that were in a series and were cased in a small cardboard box that was intended to look like a small bookshelf or some such. A publishing company had sent the books as a promotion to her office and she brought them home to me without opening them up and looking at the books. They still had the plastic wrapping around the entire package. You couldn’t see the front cover of the books. That would have been a clue to the content. An important clue.
It was a HARLEQUIN PRESENTS series. The first ones published, numbers 1-6. (Yes, I’m that old.) My mom had no clue she had just given her 12 year old 6 romance novels and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to tell her.
I remember all the teachers and family members praising me for being so smart and wasn’t it great that I loved to read so much. I would just smile and agree that yes, I was very smart. My friends would say they just didn’t like to read like I did and I would simply say they hadn’t found the right type of books yet.
My amusement at this situation was almost equal to my amazement of the happenings written down between the pages of these books.
As I stated, this was the first of these series romances. The publishing departments had no idea they just launched something that would turn the publishing business upside down. They had no idea so they boxed those six books up and sent it with a postcard allowing you to sign up for a year subscription for $9.00 a month. They wanted to build up their consumer base. I remember it had a little red heart sticker you would take and stick on the postcard.
As a 12 year old, I didn’t give a thought to how that $9.00 was going to be paid. I just placed the heart sticker on the postcard and sent it in. I had those books delivered to my house for 6 months before my mom realized something fishy was going on.
I might be the only person you know that was grounded for clandestine reading.
The truth of the matter is that those first romances were very tame. They had a handful of writers in the beginning and their bios would be on the inside back cover. As a whole, they were typically middle aged women (or older) and each and every one of those books carried the same theme: Good girls were smart, kind, innocent and the men were strong, valiant, rich and fell madly in love at first site. The sex scenes were implied rather than scripted out and each and every heroine in those books was a virgin. Every. Single. One.
(*Those books no longer support that message and I would be horrified if a child was reading those series now. Even the series romances the publishers classify as tame are graphic and inappropriate for young minds.)
My 12 year old brain absorbed the following message: You have to be a virgin when you meet your true love and he has to be amazing like the men in the book.
That’s not the worst message to get absorbed into a 12 year old’s head.
So let’s fast-forward.
MarriageBefore I married my husband we had to have “the talk” from my preacher. Brother James did not hold back and he did not sugar coat this talk. It was horrifying on multiple levels.
It was damn good advice from a man who had seen it all.
He said married couples get divorced for 4 main reasons: Money, Sex, Children, and Extended family. He covered each topic, but spent a large part of the talk directed toward sex within a marriage. He said disagreements or dissatisfaction regarding sex from one or both parties was not an issue to ignore.
Basically he said it was time to ignore all the messages pummeled into your mind by the church your entire life and go immediately the other direction and make this a priority in your life. I obviously heard what he was saying, but I didn’t understand the message in any real way. I’m not sure you can just change directions that swiftly after a lifetime of training that sex is taboo.
So life happens and the 20 year olds that are childless, mortgage-less, sometimes job-less become 30 year olds with multiple children, a big mortgage, and multiple jobs to juggle. The wild and free become the tame and burdened.
Money, sex, children, and extended family issues are no longer a vague issue to tackle in the future as they are currently pummeling your marriage from all sides. If you don’t cling to each other you are going to crash and burn on the rocks.
I try my hardest to constantly be on guard and grow with things such as classes and lectures and books to assist you in keeping your marriage alive and thriving.
TED talkI recently watched a TED talk about Love that rocked my world. Rocked it. I had an Ah-Ha moment so big that I’m writing this despite my horror that I’m writing about a taboo topic with people that I might have to look in the eye sometime soon. God help me if my mom wants to discuss this particular blog post after she reads it.
So here goes.
(TED Talk: Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship)
I absorbed two main points from this 19 minute TED talk. Both were big realizations but the second idea that rocked my world.
The main premise of her talk is that you can have a highly intimate, loving marriage without desire. (This is bad, by the way.) The reason was because intimacy killed the desire. She argues that they are opposites of each other. After listening to her, I agree with her point.
Point 1: Care-taking, Maternal moments were a huge “off switch” to desire. An actual off switch. The chemicals that flood a woman’s brain when they are immersed in these moments make it physically impossible for you to reach the area of “desire” in your brain until you have turned the switch back to the “on” position. You can perform the act of sex in a loving and intimate way but you will not be able to reach the “zing” and “zest” of desire. Your spouse could do everything perfect and you still won’t attain “desire” until the switch is back to the “on” position. It is your job to turn that switch. Your spouse can’t do it for you.
switchThe talk wasn’t long enough for her to give suggestions on how to flip your switch but I’m thinking doing dishes, loading laundry, folding your husbands socks, tucking the children into bed moments before it’s GO TIME are more than a buzz kill, they are a chemical cocktail of disaster in your brain. Care-taking for your husband was in the same category as care-taking for the children. Those moments may lead to intimacy and love but they kill desire like a knife to the gut.
You are thinking this isn’t such a big deal, people have been saying you have to be “in the mood” for years and years. I agree, but the thought that you have a legitimate chemical hurdle to overcome and you need to approach that hurdle with intent and focus was a new concept for me.
Point 2: (This was the kicker for me) Intimacy is the antithesis of desire. A funeral for “zest.” This is a new concept for me as my entire life I have thought, have been trained to think, and I know most women think that the reason we sometimes aren’t feeling the “zest” is because we are not feeling loved in our marriage in those moments.
We thought wrong. No wonder I could never pin down any rhyme or reason as to when I’d be “on” or “off.” I’d chalk it down to life.
No one is arguing that feeling love and intimacy isn’t the bedrock of a good marriage. It is. You should work hard, fight for that intimacy and love. Yes, you still need to work hard to fulfill each others love language.
It’s just that those intimate moments with your spouse do not spark desire. They just don’t. They can create an actual barrier to the goal. Telling your husband that you need more quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation or whatever your love language may be will not create the “zing.” That’s not what floods your brain with the “zest” chemicals and makes it happen.
It won’t light the fire, set off the fireworks, or rev your engine. Intimacy is not the “on” switch.
What? Hold up, wait a minute. What? I was totally told that WAS the “on” switch my entire life. I’ve been reading illicit books since I was 12 years old that emphatically state that IS the “on” switch. Thousands of them. Thousands of trashy romance novels that all support that thought.
desireMore importantly, I’ve believed and I’ve been telling my husband that 100% was the “on” switch and the only “on” switch. We are just going to have to focus all our energy on pushing that one button. He was going to need to take out the trash more enthusiastically than ever before. I know it has never worked when we push that button, but maybe we just need to try harder at pushing that one button.
The nonexistent, works against your goal, big fat lie of the century button. We’ve been bamboozled.
Dear Hubby, you know how I’ve been telling you that taking out the trash and those long talks about my day discussing, in painstaking detail, all the care-taking I’ve done for the family was the magic ticket? Umm…turns out it’s the buzz kill you’ve always said it was. Turns out my “on” button is in another area entirely. I’m not exactly sure where it is either. Let’s find it together. How do you feel about leather chaps? (Just kidding…hopefully.)
I’m going to need a refund on my $9.00 commitment post-card I sent in when I was 12 years old.