Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Caught in the Courtship Loop, Part Two

Part One of this posting ends with a question: Is the ultimate happy-ever-after marriage an endless replay of courtship? An endless blissful loop, in other words, a la Groundhog Day?

That’s certainly the answer implied in the final chapter of my book, “Happy-Ever-Aftering Takes Work”: “Fumika Misato seems quite confident about the prospects for happy-ever-aftering. She tells wives: ‘This is a marriage in which your husband courts you till death does you part.’”

But that can’t be right—an endless loop, or freeze frame. Things don’t remain status quo for that long. They change, evolve, devolve, whatever. Here, just for the heck of it, are a few metaphysical quotes to that effect:

“Everything flows and nothing remains the same.”– Heraclitus

“Nothing can develop by staying one one level…Nothing in the world stays in the same place, or remains what it was; everything moves, everything is going somewhere, is changing, and inevitably either develops or weakens.”–G. I. Gurdjieff

“You define a thing by the direction it is going.”–James Paige

The real answer is that I don’t know the answer—what the ultimate condition of a courtship marriage is or can be. But my inclination is that happy-every-aftering is not an endless ground hog day of courtship, even though those elements are perpetuated. My sense is that the courtship marriage too, like any other relationship, needs to grow and deepen, or it will decline.

So, if it is to grow, in what way? I have written that passion need not ebb. And I believe it. But if you measure passion by testosterone levels, then I grant you that ebbing is pretty inevitable, given the sales trendlines for Viagra and Cialis et al (with similar products more quietly marketed for women).

“We used to do it all night, and now it takes us all night to do it,” goes the old joke, and it’s true enough. But…. There is a silver lining to this graying of passion. As Elise Sutton writes: “As a man ages, his sex drive diminishes as he loses testosterone. But as his physical sex drive may diminish, his mental desire for sex does not… You can now gain mental, emotional, social and spiritual fulfillment via serving a woman. That may mean doing chores for her, obeying her authority, pampering her and also sexually serving her.”

Wife worship, in other words, is not dependent on testosterone levels. Even with a diminished sexual drive, a romantically inflamed imagination, according to Ms. Sutton , can keep a man “devoted and committed to the woman in his life.” “And that,” she adds, “empowers the woman.”

So, in a wife worship marriage, an aging husband can feel as giddy and adoring as a honeymooner, even if the manifestations of that desire are less obvious.

Now I am old enough to have experienced this alternation of passion, so I can tell you that Elise Sutton is right. And I’m not alone in my testimony:

“After all these years of worshipping my wife,” a husband confides in a wife-led marriage forum, “she has gradually been elevated to almost Goddess status in my eyes. I find that our sexuality is more on a mental sphere than a physical one and I worship her in spirit and in the flesh.”

On a more mundane level, there is also a feeling of being “comfortable.” My love for my wife, as in any happy and long-enduring marriage, tends to become an ever-present thing. And yet, it does seem to progress. I experience a slow, incremental drawing-closer to her, a devotional pull that reminds me of the “tractor beam” that pulled Luke Skywalker and his Millenium Falcon friends inexorably toward the Death Star. Except, of course, you must picture, in place of that dark nexus of evil, a radiant and glorious and good She-goddess, into whose intoxicating orbit you are being drawn.

It’s like penetrative sex, don’t you know? She is the divine ovum, and you are the frenetic, lost spermatozoon, desperately seeking… well, let’s call it amalgamation. Sex as daily metaphor, with you becoming more and more a part of your wife, living within her orbit and aura.

As this intimacy grows and abides into later life, of course, a wife worship marriage is going to be preoccupied with the practicalities of any aging couple--launching the kids, financing college, securing retirement, paying off the mortgage, arranging adequate health care, staying well an, busy, etc. But even these exigencies can be tinted with an enduring honeymoon glow.