Culture

Deeply Religious Marriages Are Better Than Secularist Civil Unions

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Dear Helen,

Thank you so much for your provocative, engaging reply to my post challenging you on the issue of who is ultimately to blame for sexless marriages:

I have a few questions for you, Dave. What if the man does all of the things you suggest such as put her in the mood, goes through all of the rituals etc. you suggest and then ends up with nothing? Then what? The man should then continue in a sexless marriage? Bask in the glow of his “self-control” as he wonders where the sex went? According to you, he alone (the loser!) is to blame. It takes two to tango, if you blame him alone for their lack of sex, you see women as having no responsibility and no agency in sex. Isn’t this a little sexist?

In framing the question this way, you’re kind of understating the degree of our disagreement. What I advocate for in my post goes far deeper than just rituals and more foreplay. I put the philosophy embedded in Shmuley Boteach’s three books on Jewish mysticism and Biblical marriage on the table. It’s not that this is just some magic trick that will result in more sex, it’s that I’m advocating that both husband and wife together choose to embrace a religious attitude toward sex and marriage instead of being secularists.

A sexless marriage is not an actual problem — it’s just one outward symptom of a deeper disease. In focusing on fixing sexlessness in a marriage we miss the source of what’s driving it. In any marriage — apart from where physical illness prevents partners from performing — when either husband or wife all of a sudden isn’t interested in sex the reason is so obvious and simple it seems silly to point it out: something else exists that is more important to them than their marriage. They have found a new idol and their devotion to it will destroy their lives as a result. They are engaged in self-sacrifice in service to their new deity.

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This whole viral discussion got started because supposedly the wife was turning down the husband because she was too busy with her career and it was tiring her. In other words, she loves her job more than him. She has made her job the false god of her life and she is willing to let her marriage collapse and deteriorate as a result.

Both of these problems — her idolizing the job, and him idolizing orgasms to distract from the pain of being unloved — derive from each of them trying to fill their own innate spiritual emptiness with something that can never satisfy them like the depth of a religious practice that focuses all aspects of their being on worshiping a higher power.

Science backs me up on the link between happiness, marriages focused on creating children, and religiosity. Two of my all-time favorite stats, via Arthur C. Brooks:

The story on religion is much the same. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, conservatives who practice a faith outnumber religious liberals in America nearly four to one. And the link to happiness? You guessed it. Religious participants are nearly twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives as are secularists (43 percent to 23 percent). The differences don’t depend on education, race, sex or age; the happiness difference exists even when you account for income.

Whether religion and marriage should make people happy is a question you have to answer for yourself. But consider this: Fifty-two percent of married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids) are very happy — versus only 14 percent of single, secular, liberal people without kids.

Pray your way to more happiness and a better sex life? I know it’ll sound geeky and distasteful to a lot of your secular readers, but for more rational evidence I’d remind them of what David P. Goldman and P. David Hornik have written on: both fertility and happiness in Israel are very high, in spite of the rockets and global condemnation. Meanwhile we should feel sorry for some guy who has to keep a spreadsheet of his failures to seduce his own wife? Heh.

Thanks for the challenging ideas and best wishes to you and your family,

David

P.S. I think the Men’s Right’s movement’s slang is cute and funny. (And all the Alpha/Beta obsession is silly and an indication of the movement’s often neo-pagan tendencies.) By all means — White Knight it is. I’ll take the title. I’ve been called a Crusader for different reasons — both as an insult and a compliment — all my life. Nowadays I identify on Twitter as a “counterculture crusader” and promote mystical concepts that had their roots in the Knights Templar. And I’ll remind too that I am a Biblical Feminist in the style of my friend Susan L.M. Goldberg — I fall more into the “reclaim and restore feminism” camp rather than the “defeat all feminisms” camp. Cultural Knights are needed today as much as military knights were needed in the past, for the same reason — to crush barbarian cultists. And that’s what a lot of the sex-worshipping neo-pagan secularist misogynists trolling anonymously in some men’s rights movements comments sections often resemble. Note to Dr. Helen’s men’s rights enthusiast commenters (many of whom already hate me from past skirmishes): if you comment anonymously then don’t expect me to take it seriously when you insult my alleged inadequacy of masculinity. Man up and speak with your real name.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhRUe-gz690

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images via shutterstock / Algol / Valery Sidelnykov