Remember the ‘take a sip’ scene from Sex and the City 2 where Charlotte and Miranda spill their secrets out over cosmopolitan? During a girls’ night out, where conversations usually centre around relationships, a friend of mine couldn’t help letting out her secret, not without a share of guilt: she was no longer sexually attracted to her husband. Ever since the birth of her child, the physical intimacy towards her husband took a nosedive, and she feared whether they are heading towards a listless marriage.
It isn’t unusual that the presence of a child gives marriage a different dimension. While it bolsters the bond between husband and wife, physical intimacy often takes a backseat owing to the stress and novel responsibilities associated with parenthood. Most women find it tough to manage work, home and family without ample support from their partners, ergo parenting also serves as a litmus test on how functional any relationship is.
However, in my friend’s case, the lack of physical attraction towards her spouse didn’t stem from any of the aforesaid reasons, for she felt attracted towards other men and even enjoyed harmless flirting. The sinful thoughts that occupied her mind, she termed as instinctual, and even joked it might have something to do with ensuring genetic diversity. Luckily for her, the popular myth of low libido associated with motherhood served as a perfect facade to hide her lukewarm response to husband without offending the latter’s feelings.
While such forthrightness might raise many conventional eyebrows, it’s food for thought from a non-judgemental, human interest vantage point.
It has been widely regarded that men have a propensity for promiscuous behaviour, while women look for security and stability in relationships. One may note that the early proponents of such theories were men, whose perspectives weren’t immune to the spirit of the times, that was rooted in patriarchy and gender bias. The hedonistic male and the loyal female imageries are so deep-rooted in our psyche that it creates an emotional blind spot which makes us shun any notion that lies beyond our credo.
Besides, matters pertaining to flesh, the basest emotions, stay discreet, and don’t make it to the living room discussions.
Such scandalous talks have to stay hush-hush, or else they will threaten the middle class values that form the bedrock of any society. Unscrupulous stories don’t elicit the same response of shock and disbelief when its characters constitute the upper or lower strata of the society, as opposed to the middle class—which takes great pride in its exaggerated sense of morality.
The dynamics of family changed much ever since women gained financial independence and control over their own bodies. When the notion of intimacy and happiness infiltrated the institutionalised version of marriage that had been prevalent for long, it paved way for more divorces. Nowadays, people refuse to sell their souls for acceptance in marriage.
Any thoughts that question the sanctitude of marriage, or any attempt at democratising that entity, are perceived as battering rams that could break open the castle walls of the family myth. In this case, my friend’s honest revelation goes against the popular belief that women don’t get bored with monogamy, as they are generally less interested in sex.
What if sexual apathy of wives has been wrongly interpreted in the popular culture? How will a man take it if confronted with the truth that his wife no more is interested in mating with him, but feels strongly for another man? That the problem isn’t her libido, but him? He would feel threatened. Moreover, any loving wife is less likely to hurt her man’s ego, and would conveniently cite other reasons for her indifference.
People live in denial and walk with their eyes wide shut when they fear the truth. The stories of infidelities—emotional or physical—we hear or read about, we laugh them off as first world issues or oddities. When nothing is being said, we like to assume everything is fine. In an ideal scenario, such things should be discussed without risking being judged, although it isn’t easy considering the complexities involved.
The answer to the pitfalls of conventional approach to marriage doesn’t lie in relationship anarchy, but making the institution more reciprocal while refraining from patriarchal pigeonholing. Monogamy thrived all these years for the stability it offered and the humankind isn’t going to dismantle the same anytime in the near future. There are exceptions, but relationship dilemmas aren’t simplistic to be resolved by replacing one individual with another.
If the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in marriage anymore, in accordance with the spirit of the age, that too has to change.