Guest Post: A Marriage of Convenience. With Benefits.

{{I’ve asked Eliza R if she’d let us cross post her most recent Missionary Position essay with a few alterations.  She has most willingly obliged.}}

A little fact about me and my partner:  He and I really don’t have much in common.   Our interests, our styles, our work, the things we talk about, the things we like to do in our spare time….  we’re pretty different.

“Dating” as two sexually frustrated singles at BYU involved mostly making out in the car till 5am.

“Dating” as a married couple, well, it’s always a bit of a compromise as given our personal preferences, we wouldn’t  chose the same restaurants, movies, events, activities, topics to discuss, etc.

We have a few overlapping things: For example; we are both athletic, like to run/hike/bike etc…   But, ironically, the main thing we have in common: our offspring, tends to get in the way of us doing such things together.

Earlier in our marriage we went through a couple of rough spots, and in moments of rage/despair/loneliness I used to think “the only thing we have in common are a kid, and a sub-prime mortgage.”

I no longer have that same rage/despair/loneliness.  (And, we no longer have that sub-prime mortgage.)  We still have very little in common.  But, perhaps, we do have a better appreciation of each other’s space, separate interests and different needs.  Mostly, we are content to have our own lives with small areas that over lap, like doing the dishes, taking care of the kid, walking the dog, paying bills.

Also, we have a lot of sex.

At night we lay in bed together after a day of balancing our own lives with taking care of the joint stuff.  We lay together, with maybe a  bit of small talk about the kid, the bills, stuff coming up that we need to plan for.  We lay together, which inevitably leads to his hand on my abdomen, then stroking up to my breast, and then sex.   This happens almost every night.

I think our relationship is an odd mix of Marriage of Convenience and Friends With Benefits.

Sometimes I wonder if our separate-sphere union will eventually become unsatisfactory, or unsustainable….

I just had a heart-breaking conversation with a friend.  Her and her husband of many many years, her husband who is also her business partner, who shares so many of the same interests…  their marriage is falling apart and they have not touched each other in many many months.

I do not know exactly where I am going with this post… just been thinking a lot, lately,  about the nature of love, of partnership, of the weird social construct we call marriage.

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13 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad I’m not alone. However I am still in the rage/despair/loneliness stage. We also don’t have as much sex as you do. I can’t get freaky if there is no lovin for the rest of me. Not that we don’t have sex, it’s just not daily. All we have in common is a kid and a mortgage. Even the iTunes account is in his name. He has told me in no uncertain terms that if I decide not to go to church, our marriage is over. My testimony is struggling and I can’t even turn to my eternal companion because of his anger with my faltering. My brain, my emotions, my self–none of it is worth staying with? All that matters is that little card in my wallet with the temple spires on it. Apparently his love is full of conditions.

    • Eliza R. says:

      anonymous~ that is horrifying, as well as heart breaking.

      something that makes my own interesting union successful for both of us is our willingness to let each other have our own lives, purse our own interests. For me, that allowed me the freedom to safely question (and leave) the church.

      I sincerely hope you are able to find peace in (or out of) the situation.

    • Janna says:

      Admitted side note coming….

      Your use of the word “faltering” when it comes to your thoughts about the church is interesting, and is one that I see used a lot when people begin having ideas that are different from the Church’s cultural or doctrinal norms. Rather than considering yourself as “faltering,” perhaps you may consider alternative words such as “exploring,” “learning” or “investigating” other ways of being in the world.

      All too often, we see ourselves during these phases (and, in my case, my entire life it seems!) as weak. It does not help when those close to you contribute to that notion. Congratulations for seeking your own thoughts, perspectives, and path while in partnership with another person. I see that ability as anything but weak, but rather courageous and strong.

  2. AnonymousAlso says:

    He has told me in no uncertain terms that if I decide not to go to church, our marriage is over.

    Would that be a bad thing?

    • Anonymous says:

      We have a toddler and we both grew up in divorced families. I don’t know if I could cause my child that much heartache. I don’t expect him to agree with me about my questioning the church, I just hoped that I could count on my husband to be there for me when I needed strength.

  3. spunky says:

    This is very interesting! I have thought similarly about my own marriage sometimes…. although we don’t have children, our social interests vary widely. But he is my best friend. And I LOVE sex with him. I have friends who have been frustrated with a partner’s lack of enthusiasm for whatever they think their partner should love (and I have been there myself), but the longer I am married, the more grateful I am that he has his own thing sometimes so I can do my own thing. You lose a lot of personal space when you marry, and for me- having separate interests is a way to re-coop that and maintain sanity. I think its more than a good thing; I think it is a great thing. 🙂

  4. Azriel says:

    Do you want things to change?

    I was in a similar place in my marriage about 14 years into it (though the sex was not every night-that would exhaust me) and got some good help on figuring out how to change the dynamics and create more connections. The marriage is sooo much better now. It was work and much of it was solo, but it was worth it. So at least I can say that you don’t have to settle for it always being the way it is.

    My husband, like many, saw sex as a major connection between husband and wife, and it was his fall-back way of connecting in the absence of other ways of doing so. As for me, I’ve always enjoyed sex, but was not a major source for emotional connection, so I had a greater vested interest in working to make other ones. Perhaps your dynamic is similar.

    A side note, if things don’t change and near daily sex becomes the go-to connection in your marriage you may find unexpected challenges when menopause hits. Physical changes at that stage of life, even with all the hormone therapy, etc. available today to ameliorate vaginal atrophy and allow comfortable sexual intercourse, will make daily sex hard on your body. Getting to that age in a marriage where there are not other connecting points besides daily sex is not a place I’d like to be.

    • Eliza R. says:

      I am a bit more like spunky, in that I quite like our arrangement. It allows me a great deal of personal space and individual freedom. I highly value that.

      We are very good friends, very comfortable with each other. “Daily sex”: it isn’t *always* daily; but it is frequent and mutually pleasurable and I find sex as a way of connecting to work well for me and for us right now.

      What we have is a very convenient set up where our offspring is cared for, our financial resources are pooled most efficiently, and we enjoy frequent sexual release. We love and care for each other, deeply.

      We are both aware that the situation may change. That one or the other of us may no longer be satisfied with the separate sphere style of partnership. Hoping that our good friendship, and open communication will help us navigate whatever changes that will occur then.

      • Azriel says:

        Good to know that you like the arrangement and feel like your friendship and communication are good. That wasn’t clear to me on the first reading of the post.

        Thanks for clarifying.

  5. anony for this says:

    This is very interesting. I too don’t share a ton of interests with my spouse. Books, movies, music, politics, food, Mormonism — we are on different pages a lot of the time.

    And yet I like him so much. He’s smart and funny and interested in the world. I think my liking of him as a person will hopefully carry us through all those spaces in which we don’t deeply connect. I’ve been jealous in the past of couples who have shared so many more interests and attitudes than we do.

    But I like that perspective that you and Spunky bring — that this lack of overlap gives me space and personal freedom I might not otherwise have.

  6. anon for this says:

    Marriage is so complex! What works for one couple, doesn’t necessarily fulfill another. I do not take my marriage for granted. I invest in it. I make time for just my husband and me without our kids. I make time for myself, to do things that fulfill me.

    I have seen too many couples reach their forties and fifties and have nothing in common, staying together for the mortgage and grandkids and not much else. I keep in mind that someday my kids will be grown and on their own, and my husband will still be there, someone to depend on if I get sick. Someone I can be there for if he gets sick.

    Some years ago, I realized: “I am more than my marriage”. I had spent so much energy in trying to figure out if it was the right relationship for me, if we could make it – I realized that *I* would be okay, no matter what ended up happening.

  7. Eliza R. says:

    Azriel~ you’re welcome! I wrote the post in a navel gazing mood and so the fact that we are really good friends in spite of the fact that we have so little in common may not have come through as it should have.

    and two things from both “anons for now”:

    “my liking of him as a person will hopefully carry us through all those spaces in which we don’t deeply connect.”


    “I had spent so much energy in trying to figure out if it was the right relationship for me, if we could make it – I realized that *I* would be okay, no matter what ended up happening.”

    Yes. Exactly.

    This is what works for us, right now. And that is due, in large part, to the fact that both he and I are very laid back easy going personalities. It may not always work for us. And for some couples this would NEVER work. It’s just one of the peculiars of human relationships.

  8. Anonanonanon says:

    It sounds like what you have going works pretty well for you right now. But I’m curious about something. You mention feeling uncertain that it will always be this way and you wonder how things will work if you or your husband find your passion sparked by someone else at some point. Have you ever heard of the Coolidge effect? It’s a phenomenon that’s mostly been studied in animals, but observed in humans that shows frequent mating with one partner to be ultimately unsustainable or undesirable on a biological (survival) level which translates to trouble with monogamy.
    This is a good site to explain it.

    In the past, we’ve had our own troubles with trying to maintain high frequency and we’ve been frustrated with the lack of attentiveness and emotional connection that accompanies the refractory period and orgasm cycle, so we’ve tried the practice of Karezza with some success. Still sets us up for frequent intimacy and connection, but without climax and the problems that can come from that in a long term relationship.

    But I have to say, I enjoyed this style of sexual relationship more a while ago when I was less hormonally interested in sex that he was. Now I seem to be coming into my sexual peak, and sometimes a “gentle snuggle” isn’t enough for me. 😉

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