by Reid Fitzsimons
(Warning: this article includes gender stereotypes, which might be viewed as microaggressive)
One day, 30 plus years ago, a guy I worked with (we were friendly if not exactly friends) kind of blurted out, “We do IT once a week, straight missionary, over in five minutes.” Obviously he needed to express some frustrations pertaining to this aspect of his marriage. Often marriage is described as a series of compromises, which is probably true in many cases, and doesn’t necessarily imply problems beyond resolution. In regards to intimacy, typically or perhaps stereotypically, the husband wants IT more frequently or adventurously while the wife is looking for more cuddling and romance. Neither is wrong, and within the foundational concept of marriage, compromise may well enhance the relationship for both. True compromise, however, requires working within a mutual framework.
Say a husband is a selfish ass who read one Penthouse Forum (is that still around?) too many, you know- “You might not believe it, but my wife caught me looking at the hot young divorcee who moved in next door. Instead of being angry she told me to go ahead, as long as she could watch!” He’s not thinking of trying to be more affectionate if maybe his wife would be willing to experiment with this or that. Rather he pictures himself as some swinging orgy guy, which inconveniently falls outside the bounds of marriage, even if he begins to convince himself otherwise. Compromise becomes coercion, though he still presents it as the former. “Come on honey, why can’t you be reasonable- if I’m satisfied I’ll be a better husband to you.” Perhaps the wife is strong and deftly disabuses him of his fantasy or tells him to get lost, but perhaps she is not. For some reason she is capable of submitting herself to humiliation: maybe being with him offers her a desired social standing, or she can’t overcome deep personal insecurities, or she has evolved some less-than-healthy concept of love. She’s grasping for anything to justify an acceptance of this situation she knows is wrong and unfair to her. If he says, “I may be having sex with a lot of different girls, but you’re the only one I truly love,” it is enough. It has to be enough, because it’s the best he’s going to give.
It is as if some cosmic political fate has given us these sad sacks known as the Republican leadership at this particular point in time. Hollywood itself could not have better cast John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to play the role of the weak and browbeaten wife who, in the best scenario, can only ignore her husband’s dalliances. More commonly her face is rubbed in them, but she is so far gone she clings to the thought she is being reasonable, she is compromising for the greater good of their marriage. Some inane or even dangerous piece of legislation is a fait accompli which the Republicans in reality enabled, but as long as they can, with the consent of their Democrat husband, engage in some procedural maneuvering that allows them to “go on record” against it, that is enough. And, of course, they couldn’t even conceive of a Government Shutdown. Then he would really stop loving them, and nothing could be worse than that.
Speaking of government shutdowns, during the several weeks of apocalypse in 1995-1996 my then 9 year-old son and I visited NY City. Our itinerary included Liberty Island, but the evil Republicans of the time disallowed this, so we had to visit other attractions. The emotional trauma was great; Oh the humanity!