I have been reading romance novels most of my life. And it started way before I discovered the Harlequin romances in the high school library.
I was in love with Gilbert Blythe in junior high.
Almanzo Wilder before that.
And the movie version of Prince Caspian just confirmed what I knew at age 10: I want to be a princess! Pick me! Pick me!
But there's a reason this stuff is called fiction. (Spoiler alert.)
IT'S NOT REAL.
We might wish, that in some perfect world, our knight in shining armor would come riding up and sweep us away from "all this." But in reality, he just pulled into the driveway in a dinged-up Honda that has 225,000 miles on it. People have been after him for computer support all day, somebody in Singapore is still not able to upload their files, the boss is back in town with a long list of what went wrong, there were no good snacks in the break room, and he just wants to sit down, watch the ball game and not talk to anybody for a while.
He might come into the house wishing to find Angelina Jolie, wearing a low-cut ball gown and having the kids singing a ballad in 6-part harmony. But he's going to find the dogs barking, homework all over the kitchen table, the kids needing a ride into Oak Cliff 10 minutes ago, the computer with the blue screen of death, and me in my sweats.
Reality bites. Pretty hard sometimes.
But underneath the surface stresses we can slap up for a Facebook status, the deep questions remain:
- Am I an OK person? Am I normal? Does anybody else understand how I feel? Or care?
- Am I worthy of love? If you really, really knew me, would you still love me?
- If I'm not perfectly beautiful/perfectly strong every day, will you still love me?
- If I told you the truth, could we still be OK together?
I think, in particular, when we start talking about sexual issues in marriage, a lot of us women would rather not go there.
But we are fighting a war for healthy sexuality. Let me remind you of the statistics:
- 67% of children admit to clearing their Internet history to hide their online activity
- 79% of accidental exposures to Internet porn among kids take place in the home
- 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in online porn
- 29% of working adults accessed explicit websites on work computers (Source: covenant eyes.com)
If we're going to help, we need to stop being Rapunzel in the tower, and start being Rosie the Riveter, building bombs in the factory.
One of the first books I read, after finding out about Andy's pornography use, was The Sexual Man by Dr. Archibald Hart. I wish he would write another book, now that the internet is such a part of our lives. But his research is incredibly valuable. Dr. Hart has worked for many years, both as a clinical psychotherapist, and as a seminary professor. For this book, he surveyed over 600 men: Christians, seminary students, clergy. The good guys, y'all. He was trying to determine what's normal for men who are trying hard to do the right thing. The subtitle is "Masculinity without guilt."
So I would read passages out loud to Andy, and say (possibly in an accusing tone), "Is this true?" And he would sheepishly say, "Well, yeah..."
Another great book on marriage is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. He's done a truly ridiculous amount of research, and he can tell within 5 minutes of meeting with a couple whether they will divorce or not. You'll have to read the book for his seven principles--and also for his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Fascinating stuff.
Here's one thing Gottman found:
"The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship. For men, the factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship."
Many of us are saying to our husbands, "There's this whole part of you that I don't want to know anything about. If you told me the truth, I couldn't handle it. So let's just pretend it doesn't exist."
He asks, "Could you love me if you knew?"
And we say, "No way. Keep it to yourself."
In our quest for comfort, we reject our husbands at a deep level.
What quality of friendship can we expect when we do that? Not a good one.
What impact will that have on our marriages? Not a good one.
Here's what I know. Prince Gilmanzo can take a hike into the sunset.
I just want my BFF.
And I want him, being who he is, not feeling like he has to hide stuff about himself and protect me from reality.
I'm a big girl now. I can deal with it.
So here's what I would say to other big girls.
- Read The Sexual Man. Learn, grow, accept.
- Read The Seven Principles. It's really positive and empowering for marriages.
- Get your shields up and your internet filtered. Covenant Eyes is our friend.
- If you need counseling, go! Even if you have to go alone.
- You might be scared, but you can still be strong.