Thursday, May 21, 2009

I think too much...

I was sitting in the bathroom last night and noticed the book "Kosher Sex" sitting next to the toilet. It had been left there by my wife some time ago. Casually, I flipped it open and landed on p. 222 and started reading...

"The Talmud declares that no one sins unless gripped by a spirit of madness. This statement simply states the obvious: that if the average person were to think through all the consequences of their transgression, they would never do it. We sin because we just don't think. Like all sins, the delights of adultery don't really exist. Sure, for a few moments or even weeks the pleasure is there. But compared to the infinite misery that this is all leading to, there will be scarce memories of pleasure. Once your life begins to self-destruct and your spouse abandons you, you will wish that you kept your pants on.

"Let's say you go ahead with the affair. You continue seeing your lover and develop real passion and excitement. You will then arrive at the point where you will have to make a choice between your spouse and your lover. Don't fool yourself into thinking the two can coexist. For they cannot. Every act of love with your illicit lover is a stab in the heart of your other half.

"Whatever energy you are putting into your affair is being depleted from your marriage. The real sin is not so much a sin of commission - doing something wrong - but, rather, it is a sin of omission - failing to do something right. There is no marriage on the planet that can survive the complete redirection of love and sexual focus that is involved in having an adulterous partner. Whatever interest you are showing your lover, you are not showing to your spouse. When the reason for this is found out, spouses will bring the rafters in the ceiling down rather than allow their humiliation to continue. In every act of adultery, we hurt ourselves, because to hurt one's spouse is, literally, to hurt oneself..."

-- Shmuley Boteach

My thoughts started spinning: Though my previous musings- eternal and ad nausea - of having a boyfriend, a bromance, an affectionate friend have never crossed into the desires for a sexual partner (though some may argue I'm naive enough to think that line will never be crossed), the message here is still strong. It is a sin of omission, not commission. I may never do something "wrong", but I may fail to do something "right". And my interests, as long as they are focused on my wanttabe boyfriend or bromance (for whatever understandable reason why - especially in a mixed-oriented marriage) cannot be focused at the same time on my spouse. And to hurt her is literally to hurt myself.

Maybe I think too much...


Original Mohomie said...

With all of the voices I hear shouting their need for self-fulfillment, this kind of perspective is rarely heard. Thanks for the reminder, even if I'm not sure how to apply it to my own life here and now. :-)

Samantha said...

Maybe I think too much...Or...maybe...sometimes...Our Father uses many different means to communicate with us...especially when he knows a beautiful daughter whom he dearly loves is in a position to be hurt, even if by a sin of omission...maybe...

Bror said...

Hmmmmm food for thought. I still like the idea of being in a relationship with someone who could be adulterous but wouldn't. How exciting. And I like that you think so much because it makes me think. Are you sure your wife didn't leave the book there on purpose. :)

Beck said...

ORIGINAL: I am sure how I'm supposed to apply this, but it isn't easy. As much as it may seem black-n-white, it isn't. But how I'm potentially hurting her is pretty clear. In my situation, it is clear. My heart knows it, though my desires often betray that knowledge.

I don't know how to apply it for you - but if it has reminded you of at least another point of view, then that is a good thing.

Thanks for commenting.

SAM: I thought you might zing something at me as a wake up call of some kind or a "well, it's about time, Beck!". I know He dearly loves her and if my thinking too much has kept me in check so be it. Whether it is directly related to His communications regarding me and what I'm potentially doing to my family, I don't know, but I appreciate the perspective to get me to think about that possibility.

Beck said...

BROR: I really do like the idea of being in a MOHO to MOHO relationship with "someone who could be adulterous but wouldn't". It is exciting. And, to a certain extent, it is very appropriate, needful and necessary in all regards and with all involved parties.

With regards to the book being left on purpose - I doubt it. It was just there. It's been there before floating around. No hints of it being there on purpose. No mention of it. But, if you believe Sam, and I'm considering her words carefully, then miracles and communications come to us in a variety of ways!

Kengo Biddles said...

I agree with the quote whole-heartedly. I showed it to my mom -- who went through this exact thing with my father who cheated on her...and she agrees too. Thanks for sharing the quote.

Anonymous said...

that was very good. but can it go too far: does every moment spent with anyone other than your spouse threaten the relationship. that's why some people feel trapped in a marriage. so where do you draw the line?

i have a good friend, presumably straight, who goes backpacking every summer with a male friend. this is no brokeback, just a chance to gain some perspective.

i asked him once to include me the next summer (he lives about 700 miles away so we only see each other every other year or so), he said sure, but hasn't ever brought it up. hmmmmm

Bravone said...

Wow, Awesome post. I think the book is spot on. It give me much to think about. Thanks.

Sean said...

I think that there is a point where it can become a sin. You reach this point when you let it obsess your life and let it be on your mind all the time. If you are not letting these dreams, hopes, and desires control your life, I personally don't believe it is a sin. Sure you may want something you can't have. The news is that is the way it is for everyone. Does that mean it is a sin to hope and want it? I think not, but with the caveat that it doesn't control your life and/or thoughts.

Ned said...

"...let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."

One of the reasons I like this Kahlil Gibran quotation so much is that the spaces in my togetherness with my wife have encouraged individual growth for both of us and that has been essential to the the resilience of our union.

I don't think marriage was intended to meet our every need, if so why would we need a Savior?

Why would we place any priority on children and extended family, friends, community, church, work, education, music, art, athletics, altruism and all the opportunities for growth and service that such varied textures bring to our lives?

Thanks for making me think, Beck! But did you make me think, too much?

Alan said...

I agree with Santorio. Many people in the LDS Church regard regard marriage with almost idolatrous reverence and thus think each spouse should expect to have all their emotional and psychological needs met solely by the other spouse, that looking outside the relationship for any of that is sinful or threatens to be so. That's both wrong and unhealthy.

Just for context, Shmuley Boteach has been called "Dr. Ruth with a yarmulke," "rabbi to the stars" (like Michael Jackson), and other such things. Here's what Slate's reviewer said about his book: "For all of Shmuley's iconoclastic reputation, Kosher Sex is a deeply traditional book, extolling monogamy, female modesty, and premarital sexual naiveté. Its basic thesis is that the contemporary fascination with sexual compatibility has led to what Shmuley terms a "crisis of intimacy," with too many people entering into matrimony as sexual experts scarred by previous relationships. Don't obsess over finding the perfect mate, he counsels, because that partner will in fact become perfect through the raising of a family, the establishment of a home, and yes, the transformative act of sex." Sounds like something any rock-ribbed heterosexual conservative Mormon would like.

Beck said...

KENGO: Okay, you agree (which I am struggling to embrace this quote in my situation) so how would you implement it in the spirit of a gay guy seeking gay-guy relationships while still being married. I still feel there is "another way". But, the quote makes me think.

SANTORIO: I totally feel this can be taken too far and we can become trapped. We need our space, our varied connections with others, our relationships which strengthen, not weaken our marriage.

BRAVONE: Well, don't think too much!

SEAN: Obsession is a good measuring stick as to whether a relationship is getting out of hand. But shunning all relationships is unhealthy as well. I like the idea of obsession being my guide. But, am I obsessing too much by blogging about it, thinking about it, acting on it? When one is in the middle of an obsession of the "idea" of such a relationship, is that a signal that one is needing to step back?

Beck said...

NED: I like your quote a lot. It all comes down to balance - not obsessing, as Sean said, but that goes both ways, as Santorio pointed out. As I "let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of (our) souls," I hope I don't get seasick... :)

ALAN said: They "think each spouse should expect to have all their emotional and psychological needs met solely by the other spouse, that looking outside the relationship for any of that is sinful or threatens to be so. That's both wrong and unhealthy."

Concur. I know of a sister in my ward who is afraid to move without the approval of her husband. I know of couples that pride themselves in not spending a night apart from each other. Neither of these sound very healthy to me.

I didn't say that Rabbi Shmuley was "recommended reading". Instead, as I stumbled across it (divinely so or not), I was saying it was an interesting quote that triggered thoughts within me as I read it in the context of my current desires for male friendships and their appropriateness within the broader context of my marriage.

Sean said...

To answer your question, I'd say yes.

Beck said...

SEAN: I didn't want you to say that... but I get what you're saying.

Sean said...

Do you want me to take it back? ;)

I noticed that there were two questions you asked and you might be confused with which one I was talking about. I was answering your last question in my last comment.

The question about you being too obsessed by blogging, thinking, etc. about everything, that's for you to decide. I can't tell you if you are or are not because I'm get inside your head and I don't know what you are thinking about all the time. I know that I become obsessed when whatever it is I'm obsessed about stops letting me function properly and I can't get it off my mind. Thus causing my relationships to wane and in my case grades to drop.

Philip said...

This is how I would have answered your post as a young man...

But what does the Talmud declare if you are gripped by a spirit of madness after you have thought it through and the consequences were too great so you decided never to do it.

What then?

It's not about making up one's mind because I decided what I wanted long ago and it was my wife.

It's not about thinking through all the consequences because my imagination is strong enough that even if the reality is far worse what I have imagined is bad enough to make me never want to inflict that kind of pain on my wife.

No, I thought all the consequences through and decided not to ever do it.

But whatever it is is driving me mad and I don't know why but I feel forced to revisit my decision over and over again even though each time I arrive at the same decision.

What kind of man am I that I would risk losing my wife and family for a little passion and excitement?

I didn't know back then what was going on but I know now.

I know that I confused want with need.

That I wanted the life I had with my wife but needed something I didn't know was missing that was so vital I couldn't live without it.

I wanted to be a good husband but needed male intimacy even though at the beginning I didn't even want it.

Actually, my need was stronger than that...I needed intimacy period because I only seem capable of strong intimacy with another man.

Having that need didn't mean I didn't love my wife. I now believe love and need for intimacy (including sexual intimacy) comes from two different parts of the brain.

So, while I was doing everything I could to do everything right by my wife, I had to make a greater and greater effort to overcome this need and what I did to myself to drive the yearning away almost destroyed me and my marriage.

But I didn't differentiate want fromd need and castigated myself for wanting something that would harm my wife and cost me my marriage.

And, instead of getting weaker, my yearning got stronger and stronger and I fought it more and more until eventually I thought I was going to go mad.

It was this yearning and struggle that forced me to revisit my decision over and over again.

Because I would get tired of fighting what seemed like a never ending battle.

What does the Talmud say about differentiating between want and need?

What does the Talmud say when the struggle to do everything right ends up making everything worse?

Here is how I can answer your post now...

I no longer have to revisit the decision over and over again because my need is no longer driving me mad.

Age has a lot to do with it. My sex drive is not on overdrive any more.

Over the years the need has gone from near madness to flooding over me like gay waves to the now occasional turbulence.

But the need is still there. It has gotten quieter so it is easier to deal with but it is still not easy.


Philip said...

And, of course, I forgot the most important things...

It is easier now not just because of my age but also because now I accept my homosexuality.

The irony is my marriage was almost destroyed by my fighting my sexuality and finally accepting my sexuality made it possible for me to stay in my marriage

But it just don't stop there.

I learned being gay was not just about sex. I learned it was about love and friendship and closeness and yeah, sexual closenesss is an important aspect of that closeness but there are also other ways to express closeness with another man.

So I improved my marriage by allowing myself to express my sexuality in ways that were non-threatening to my wife. Which means I stay monogamous but allow myself to to express my sexuality so I find comfort with who I am and find some closeness with other men.

Basically, I came to realize that homosexuality is about how you relate to others not just about sex - which means it is an orientation like heterosexuality.

In other words, I finally got it through my thick skull that homosexuality is not a choice.

So how does the Talmud define sexuality?


Ned said...

Wow Phillip we are on similar journeys. I am a better husband and father now that I have deep and abiding friendships with men. True, that most of them are with straight men and the temptation to cross boundaries is mine alone and the barrier is strong and unyielding.

But I also have had and do have freindships with SGA men which work within the bounds of my marriage and are, for me, a part of a seeking and finding balance, healing and integrity as a son, husband, father, grandfather, freind, brother and fellow traveler.

How does the gay freindship/straight friendship thing balance out for you?

Beck said...

SEAN: I like your definition of "obsession". This relationship need is certainly "on my mind", but I feel I can function a normal life at the same time - that it isn't so overwhelming that I stop living life along the way.

PHILIP: Your words ring so true to me. I am finidng healing and needs met as I accept that these feelings are what they are instead of denying them or suppressing them. And if, in the end, I can strengthen my marriage instead of weaken it by embracing these needs of what are not going away (and as far as I can tell - are not subsiding with age at all!!!!) all the better. Your perspective is like a breath of fresh air to my soul.

"...I learned being gay was not just about sex. I learned it was about love and friendship and closeness and yeah, sexual closenesss is an important aspect of that closeness but there are also other ways to express closeness with another man..." I LOVE THIS! I need to print it off and pin it on my bulletin board above my computer.

Thanks. Lots to think about... even if I think too much . :)

Philip said...

Ned: How does the gay friendship/straight friendship thing balance out for you?

All of my close friendships have been with other gay married men and a few have lasted years. My current friendship has been going on for almost ten years and as far as I can tell will last for the rest of our lives.

However, I have to say, even with being as open as I am about my sexuality, that there are still days that I just barely get by but overall it is like I said in a prior post - most of the times it is a lot easier but never easy.

I have never attempted a close friendship with a straight man because I thought it would be too frustrating. I have wondered if I'm not missing out on on some wonderful friendships.

Plus, especially now there is much more opportunity for me to make friends with someone straight than someone gay, much less someone gay and married, since I no longer venture into the gay community (except to blogs like this one).

And maybe it would be easier making friends with a straight guy because I have found making friends with gay guys has never come easy to me because I am kind of a serious guy and friendships mean a whole lot more to me than just about all the gay men I have met.

But then again that might not be because they are gay but because the way most men are, gay or straight.

So maybe I should give straight men a chance and find out one way or the other.


Philip said...

Beck: I need to print it off and pin it on my bulletin board above my computer.

Thank you for the compliment.


Beck said...

PHILIP: I have testified numerous times on this blog of the beauty and satisfaction and rewarding joy of friendships with straight guys - especially accepting guys who are open to affection and my need for it between us. It has been wonderful and I wish I had more...

Now, I'm finally have relationships with gay married men and I'm just beginning to see and feel the healing power and joy that comes with this type of friendship as well.

One is definitely "safer" than the other, but I'm finding both of great worth! And both with a hopeful end result of illogically and ironically strengthening my marriage.