Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Anatomy of a Failing Marriage

Be thankful for the little things. Amanda Kling is not the writer’s real name. Considering how she presents herself in her article about her failing marriage, we can be happy that she did not do it more damage by naming herself and her husband.

Let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that good marriages very often contain good sex. And yet, that does not mean that a bad marriage can be cured by more, better sex. Especially, when one spouse approaches the problem in purely mechanical fashion.

Somehow Kling got the idea that she could solve all of her marital problems by having an orgasm while engaged in coitus.

It feels rather Freudian, and it feels rather twentieth century. Who still thinks this way?

Kling originally registered a problem when she noticed that her husband’s male gaze was no longer directed at her. He did not lust after her with his eyes. He did not seem to see her as a sexual being. The result: she no longer felt that she existed for him as a sexual being. It had a decidedly deleterious effect on their sex life.

In Kling’s words:

I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those women who needs to feel men’s stares as a form of personal validation, so once my husband stopped really looking at me, I stopped feeling validated by him, and consequently stopped feeling so madly in love with him. And when the love stopped, the sex stopped, and then he really had no reason to look at me anymore.

But, why did this happen? Enquiring minds want to know.

Did it have anything to do with the fact that Amanda Kling had compromised her conjugal intimacy by regaling her girlfriends with graphic descriptions of her sex life?

She does not think that that was the problem.

To her mind the problem was that she had presented herself as a certain persona, a “Samantha” in Sex and the City terms, and therefore could not confide in her girlfriends without compromising her persona.

If she had her wits about her, Kling would have noticed that “Samantha” was not the marrying kind. Women  may choose to be like Samantha, but that behavior is a marriage killer.

In Kling's words:

I wanted desperately to share my bedroom troubles with my close girlfriends, but I was always the woman in our circle who talked frankly about sexuality, in all its glorious, graphic details. How could I possibly maintain my status as the “Samantha” of our group, if I admitted that my sex life was absolute shit? If my friends realized I could only talk the talk, would they ever listen to my advice again? 

We do not know whether her husband was aware of the fact that she was exposing their sex life to the scrutiny of her closest friends. If he did, he might have felt that his sexual performance was being observed by a coterie of young women. He might have felt that his wife was being disloyal, and was betraying their intimacy. One doubts that this would have incited him to lust after his wife.

Somehow or other, people, beginning with Amanda Kling, do not seem to understand how much good character contributes to intimacy. You cannot sustain sexual desire for someone you cannot trust.

If Amanda told all to her girlfriends while not letting on to her husband, one cannot preclude the possibility that her own bad behavior made her feel less like a wife.  Did her own feelings, her way of presenting herself, dampen her husband’s ardor for anything but the most mechanical sex?

As it happened, one day Amanda screwed up her courage and told her best friend. Apparently, said woman had studied the same marriage manual and decided to sign them both up for a sex workshop.

Amanda explains:

I confessed the problems to my best friend, and just as a best friend should, she signed both of us up for The Art of Sex within 24 hours.

If that’s your definition of a best friend, whatever is your definition of a husband?

By Kling’s account, the sex workshop did what it was supposed to do, in a single class. It taught her a better way to fellate her husband and it also taught her to embarrass him “forcing” him to fill out a questionnaire about his sexual preferences and predilection.

Question: does such a survey make sex feel more mechanical or more intimate?

Just asking.

Then, when they got down and dirty, Amanda had an orgasm:

And so, after a night in class learning a few ways to spice up a blow job, after purchasing $400 worth of hypo-allergenic sex toys, after forcing my somewhat reserved British husband to complete a sex questionnaire about three-ways and nipple clamps to improve our communication skills, after putting all of these new, fun tools to use in bed, I orgasmed. And it wasn’t just any orgasm — it was the first orgasm I’d ever had during intercourse.

She had believed that this orgasm would solve all her marital problems. She went so far as to tell us that it was like reaching a:

…momentous, life-changing, life-long goal…. 

You really have to worry about people who have such limited goals in life.

Unfortunately, her husband didn’t notice. It’s bad enough when your husband does not see you as a sexual being in everyday life, but it’s a lot worse when he does not see you as a sexual being when he is having sex with you and when you are having an orgasm. For all we know, he was preoccupied with fantasies about three-ways and nipple clamps, but his performance was more mechanical than loving.

Eventually, she concluded that her problems were not susceptible to cure-by-orgasm:

I saw that while the sex was technically getting better, he still wasn’t looking at me. I had told myself over and over again that if I could fix this sexual problem, then the look and everything else that came with it would fall in line, but our problems were clearly much more complicated.

Unfortunately, Kling does not share very much about her marriage beyond her sex life. We are constrained in our analysis by the few details she chose to share.

First, it appears that she married a type, someone who fulfilled a checklist of criteria.

About their first meeting, Amanda says:

I think it’s because I grew up believing that the person I married would be my perfect match. Even if he wasn’t always able to read my mind, he would at least be able to read my body. And from the first time we met, my husband fit the bill better than anyone. We magically bumped into each other on vacation in Israel, both of us floating on the Dead Sea. He was one of only 150,000 British Jewish men that exist in the world, which means he sounded like Mr. Darcy, but told jokes like Jerry Seinfeld. This man had to be designed for me.

Then, the happy couple moved to New York, because she had gotten a job there. They decided to marry in order for him to receive a green card:

But then I got a job in New York, and we rushed into marriage to secure his green card. There was no proposal, no ring, no joyous phone calls to friends and family about this wonderful life event. Instead, it was the first time I realized my husband had doubts about me. 

We do not know whether the husband, with his new green card, ever found a job. Perhaps he had doubts about whether he could establish himself in New York. If that is the problem, Kling is oblivious to it.

We ourselves do not know enough about either of them to know whether this marriage was suffering from female-breadwinner syndrome.

Within two years, the love had drained out of the marriage. Effectively, he was no longer there. One would like to know whether he was sticking around because she was supporting him, or for another reason that had nothing to do with their sex life.

One suspects that Amanda Kling is correct in her observation, without, of course, being correct about the cure:

Two years in, he no longer seemed excited about discussing the future with me. If I brought up hypothetical future children or plans for a belated honeymoon, he acted awkward and terrified, as if I were bringing up these topics on our second date. The more I felt him slipping away, the more I tried to change my behavior to become his ideal woman again and restore our flawless relationship. Life became an exhausting series of one-sided compromises that eventually sent me running and screaming to The Art of Sex, desperate for some concrete solution.

If that’s where she goes looking for a solution, it’s no wonder that she still has a problem.


Sam L. said...

I've heard it's wise to get to know someone pretty well before you marry someone. Both of them didn't. Beyond that, deponent sayeth not.

Anonymous said...
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Dennis said...

One wonders what this woman would do if the husband, seems like, defined the totality of their marriage in just sexual gratification terms? Are there no other connections other than sex?
A marriage, in many ways, is a coming together of two people who believe that they have the requisites to meet the every day demands and challenges that a family will have to deal.
The husband may be going through a stressful time dealing with the challenges of getting a job, et al, that is something he wants to do. Her selfishness about her needs denotes one who would not have a clue. This attitude would lead inexorably to the feeling that she does not really care about the man other that what he can provide sexually and to boost her opinion of herself.
Her letter just oozes selfishness. What little she seems to like to think she care about him, is for her own gratification. One of the first things I learned when I was a young single man was to keep what happened in the bedroom in the bedroom. This is even more true once you get married. It is amazing how quickly this stuff makes its way back to the people we would like not to know about it. This is talking behind the back of the person one supposedly loves
Not to make to fine a point here but a marriage, relationship, is far more that just sex. Sex cannot hold a marriage or relationship together especially since there is such ready availability of "sex."
One hopes that she will finally get past the Princess stage of selfishness, but give NYC and the feminist tilt towards its "all about me" I seriously doubt it.