Mary and Ken
Mary and Ken had been sweethearts forever. Not only that, they had literally been friends their entire life. They grew up next door to each other, went to the same schools and in a uniquely old fashioned way, had courted for many years before getting married. They were the same age and had been in the same classes at school except in high school where they chose different subjects for matric. Her parents had tried to send her to a different university in an attempt to break them up but she had insisted. “You really need to date some other boys” her mother had asserted. “It’s not healthy to just date one person. How do you know he is the one?” But she did know. He WAS the one and she wanted to be with him every moment she could. Because they were the same age though, she did mature earlier and so was always the one to initiate sex. She loved the closeness. She lived the intimacy. She loved the way it made her feel and also the power she seemed to have over him. He was so shy the first time she had essentially seduced him but got over that quickly. Secretly she wished that he would just come home one day, pick her up, take her to the bedroom, rip off her clothes and ravish her. Alas, the chances of that were very slim. Actually, she would settle for him initiating just once and then taking the leading role. She longed to be made love to for a change.
Next February, would be their 11th wedding anniversary and frankly, they were struggling. It was not that that they did not love each other, it was just that after 20 years and 2 kids later, they were jaded. Time seemed to have changed them both as well as allow them to get to know each other fully. They had spent so many glorious moments together. The first time they had made love as mere teenagers, the birth of the girls, the trips overseas, his steady journey up the corporate ladder with its increases and bonuses, Jeannie’s marks at school and Jamie’s ballet achievements to name but a few. Mary just missed him. She missed the courtship. She missed the intimacy. Ken was around but he wasn’t there. She couldn’t remember when last he had brought her flowers, or a Valentines gift or even opened the car door for her like he used to in the early days. While Ken had been her first. He was not her last. She was not sure how it happened or exactly when she had crossed the line. What she did know was that Thomas fulfilled many of the needs that Ken didn’t care to. They were in counselling but she had not confessed and was not intending to. When they had first chatted to the relationship coach, he had asked if both of them were committed to saving the marriage. He seemed relieved when they both answered YES. “I can assist you if you are both committed to making it work. If one of you has decided to move on it is extremely difficult. Even so, this generally takes months of work and can get quite expensive. Are you willing to do what it takes to make this work?” he asked. They were now 6 months into their sessions. It was really hard work and she had to admit, rather expensive. Why was life so unfair? Why could one person not simply fulfil all her needs? Why had things turned out so differently to what she had expected? Why had that feeling of being “in-love” dissipated, only to be replaced by feelings of despondency? On the other hand, how dare she be depressed when in reality she had everything? They both had well-paying jobs, the kids were well adjusted, they loved each other, were relatively healthy and they even got on with their respective in-laws! Had she been superstitious she would have feared been struck down for being so ungrateful.
The coach was very patient with them. She did not envy his job right now. Who would want to spend hours with 2 people squabbling all the time? The work was slow and laborious. Coach seemed to be letting them vent quite a lot. He said communication was what was really needed. “I guess any communication is better than nothing” she thought to herself. They both nodded in agreement when coach exposed them to the Yin Yang concept. “We sure are different” she mused. “And we have become more different and grown apart more and more over time”.
It was lovely when coach had asked them to remember, write down and then share what they loved about each other when they first met and started courting. He made them face each other, look into each other’s eyes, be fully present and share. Ken could not remember the last time he had looked at her this intensely. Something sparked deep down in him as he remembered how they met, how he had courted her and what attracted him to her. Mary shed a tear as he shared with her. They were so young and immature then and had never really expressed their love this directly. “I love you and I want to make this relationship work” they said to one another as per coach’s instruction. She believed him. Then they had to do the same exercise but share what they loved about each other now. This was more difficult. So much had happened over the past 20 years. They had both changed so much.
Coach had asked them so many questions. First they answered them in writing and then shared with each other. “What is your definition of love? What is your definition of marriage? Describe the perfect marriage. Describe the perfect spouse.” “My goodness,” thought Mary, “We should have done this years ago! I cannot believe how much I have learned about him today.”
“Coach” it was Ken speaking, “Why do marriages fail? We were so in love. We were infallible. What happened? Coach sat back in his chair preparing to answer this huge question. “Seriously, there are so many reasons,” he started. “Firstly there are different stages to a marriage and we need to manage each stage differently. When we fall in love there is generally a physical/sexual context to it. In my opinion, we often fall in lust first, through a chemical reaction to each other, and actually fall in love later. Many relationships fail when the couple fall out of lust back into reality and think they are falling out of love. I call this the courtship phase and jokingly call it the marketing phase. It’s when we show each other just how wonderful we can be when we are both trying our very very best 100 percent of the time!” he laughed. It was nice to have a light hearted moment. It seemed like ages since Ken had heard Mary’s guttural laugh. It was contagious and he wished she would do it more often. “What’s the next stage, coach?” he asked wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. “That would be the engagement/living together stage Ken. It’s generally easy going, congruent and lots of fun. It’s when you get to know each other and work through issues easily. Then comes the more problematic stage, the-getting-to-know-you-properly stage. This is when the first cracks start to appear. When you see each other’s good and bad sides. When the little idiosyncrasies start to bother you. You know all the clichés, toilet seat not put down, toilet roll not replaced, toothpaste squeezed from the middle not the back and so many more.” “What is it about men that they leave the toilet seat up Coach? Is it so hard to put it down after a pee?” “Men are nice and simple, Mary. When we get to the toilet, if the seat is down we simply put it up. If it’s up and we need it down, we put it down!”. “mmmmmm. Simple being the operative word,” thought Mary. “And anyway” added Ken, “if the toilet seat was meant to be down, why does it have a hinge?” Coach being male smiled. Mary didn’t. He moved on quickly, “This is the moment couples decide to stay or go. You have to get through this stage before you can move into what I call the True-Love-Stage. I sub-title this the Friendship-Stage. In my opinion, love is more like friendship than anything else. I love Scott Pecks definition of love, ‘when one expends energy for another’s personal growth’. To me, marriage is about taking someone you love on this incredible journey called LIFE. Pooling your resources and reaching out to create a more fulfilling existence while you grow together. I also love Dr. John Demartini’s definition; ‘Love occurs at the cusp of challenge and support’. You see we need both unconditional and tough love in every relationship.” “You mean marriage is not a fairy tale, coach?’ quipped Ken smiling. “Thank you Ken. No. Marriage is not for happiness alone. Marriage is for growth too.” “Ain’t that the truth!” agreed Mary shaking her head. “Well, at least I got you to agree on SOMETHING. Beam me up Scottie. My work here is done,” quipped coach and they all had a chuckle. “Thank God this is also fun,” thought Ken. He was not sure what to expect and had initially doubted anyone could help, but now he was enjoying it. “There is an interesting stage that I call, The-Tipping-Point. It happens between 20 and 30 years of marriage and is the point where you are in the habit of being married, you are comfortable with each other, any serious misdemeanours have been forgiven and one of you would really have to mess up badly to mess it up. Then finally, Growing-Old-Together, which in essence is what we are really trying to achieve with marriage.”
“The second answer to your million dollar question, Ken, is answered beautifully in Scott Peck’s brilliant book, “The road less travelled” “. Mary wrote that down and coach smiled. He loved anyone who was interested in personal development and specifically relating to marriage and relationships. He also loved the fact that she was willing to learn more at her age. “Scott Peck postulates that the phenomena of falling in love is actually a chemical reaction and a trick the universe plays on us to ensure we get naked, make love and fall pregnant. A brilliant mechanism to ensure the longevity of the human race. So falling in love is actually falling in chemistry or even falling in lust. Then when we fall out of chemical stage, we believe we are falling out of love. The chemistry stage relates to my Courtship-Phase and the falling out of chemistry relates to my Getting-to-know-you-properly stage. This is the moment you have to decide whether your roots have so entwined beneath the ground that it is impossible for you to ever part. The problem is that many people are actually addicted to the courtship phase, and for good reason. There are actually powerful chemicals that are released during this phase. Brain scans show similar activity in this phase as sugar, chocolate and cocaine activity do. Lets face it, that is a very exciting stage!” “Hey!” it was Mary, “hands off my chocolate. That is a sacred cow in this house. A girl has to have SOME pleasures after all!” [Oh my God, she thought, hoping she was not blushing. If only they knew about Thomas!]
“So Coach, why do couples stray sexually?” she asked innocently, noting the slight increase in her heartbeat. “My goodness” he replied, “You guys are certainly putting me through my paces! Once again, there are so many answers. None of them really acceptable or fully understandable. I would have to start with my good friend Dr. Demartini and his teachings on Axiology, the study of human values. As you know from the exercise when we did it, we all have a set of values. Things we love doing and things we hate doing. We essentially spend our lives trying to get more pleasure and less pain; to do more of what we love and less of what we hate. Now the key to a long lasting relationship is knowing what your partner values, knowing what value you add to your partner, knowing what your partner wants from life and from you – and constantly fulfilling those needs. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately it’s not. We grow over time. We change over time. What used to be important becomes trivial and vice versa. When we are in the courtship phase we just want to be together, touching, kissing and loving. Later on when we have a bond and two cars and the kids are in school and university, we want to be earning money and supporting the family. Our sex drives have changed, our lives have changed, we have changed. We become more focussed on ourselves and attaining more of what we love and start neglecting our partner. Then we add the fact that men peak sexually at 28ish and women in their 40’s (and whenever they are ovulating). It’s like a cosmic joke our maker has played on us. At 40 our wives are ready for the fun and games in bed and we really just want to watch the golf.” Coach silently observed both of their body language as they reacted to this but said nothing. He knew that there were rarely ever any fully innocent questions. “Dr. Shirley Glass postulates that marriage is about walls and windows” he continued. “The windows show the world that which is open to the world and the walls keep private that which should not be shared. In every case of infidelity that she researched she found that the person had made a friend of the opposite sex. Then over time, started sharing things that should have been kept sacred to the marriage. In other words, the walls became windows. The person kept the friendship secret from their spouse to protect them from jealousy and hurt. Before long, so many intimacies and secrets had been shared that the couple became emotionally intimate. Unlike their spouse, the friend is there for them. They are interested in them. They are fulfilling some need in them. And before you know it where in a physical relationship. The lesson for married couples here is that you need to realise immediately when you make a new friend, that there may be danger ahead. Stop it right in the beginning before you get attached. This is incredibly powerful and unbelievably difficult to resist, especially if you are a highly sexed person, or sexually unfulfilled at home or addicted to the courtship phase.”
“Coach, I relate very much to what you are saying. I know I am safe to share this, but I am the less sexual of the two of us. I know that Mary would love more intimacy and probably a bit more excitement in the bedroom. Is there a remedy?” “Ken, thank you for sharing that with me. It really takes courage to admit that to another man. Firstly, please be assured that you are absolutely normal and so is Mary. There is no right or wrong sexual drive. Some people want sex once a year and others every day. This is the way it is. This brings up an interesting topic. To me, marriage is a friendship and I believe the most important trait for a long lasting relationship is COMMITMENT. May I share a quick story?” “How about another coffee first coach?” asked Mary. “Sir, yes Sir!” he responded smiling, always willing to partake in his drug of choice. She handed him a cup of coffee, just the way he liked it, with fresh cream and no sugar without having to ask how he took it. It made him feel loved and appreciated. He was enjoying himself immensely. “This sure beats washing dishes at home” he commented, fully aware of his own hierarchy of values; with learning & teaching and assisting couples to improve their marriages at the top and washing dishes & shopping in busy malls right at the bottom. “Commitment,” he continued. “When Jax was pregnant, our midwife gave us instructions on preparing for breastfeeding. Apparently it’s not just like sucking your thumb. He got us to commit to seeing it through and not give up. He even gave us tips on preparing the nipples (which we stupidly ignored). It turns out that breastfeeding can be incredibly difficult. Victoria was born early and weighed in at only 2.2kg which meant her mouth was small and she could not latch properly. Jaxie Pie was in pain most of the time. She ended up going for laser therapy to heal her broken nipples. But she continued regardless. When she went to work, she expressed milk to take home for the Vixta. Commitment!” “Right coach. I am on the edge of my seat waiting to find out how Jacqui’s nipples are going to improve our sex life” squealed Mary, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks. “Marriage is also a commitment,” he replied once they had all stopped laughing. “and so is sex. Commitment means keeping on keeping on regardless of what life throws you. Through good times and bad, just like you vowed at your wedding. Sometimes that means you will spend money on things you don’t want to buy, because your partner has a right to spend some of the money. Sometimes that means you will support your partner when they have made a decision relating to the kids that you disagree with. Sometimes that means you will have sex simply because your partner has a physical need even though the cricket is on. Isn’t that what friends are for Ken? Lending a helping hand to a friend in need!” Ken just nodded and chuckled. Mary nodded in agreement. She certainly did have needs that she would prefer her husband to fulfil. To be honest, Thomas was a bit of a pain at times. “I read a book called ‘The sex diaries’ recently. A psychologist asked 200 couples of various ages and lengths of relationship to keep a sex diary and email her after each time they had sex. Interestingly enough, it turned out that most women had a decrease in sexual desire five years into their marriage and felt that sex was a bit of a chore. What was even more interesting though and the point I want to make is that most of them admitted that sex was a lot like going to gym. While they rarely really felt like going, when they were there it was nice and they felt good on the way home. They admitted that when they were having sex they loved it. So Ken, I imagine that if you could commit to working at this, you would probably find you actually enjoy it. And Mary, maybe you need to look at ways of bridging the gap between the TV room and the bedroom. Will you guys take 5 minutes right now to have a chat about this please? I want you to have a candid talk about how you can have a bit more sex without making Ken feel like a piece of meat. Ken, are there any secret fantasies that could entice you to be more intimate? And ‘NO’ Mary’s sister is not going to join you!!!” “Actually, there is something,” he replied blushing slightly. “I would love to blindfold Mary sometime.” “Oh my GOD!!!” exclaimed Mary. “I would LOVE that! Oh my GOODNESS! Yes please,” she squealed with delight, her eyes sparkling. “Why have you never asked?” “I don’t know. I am a bit shy and I did not know how to approach it and what if you thought I was a pervert or something?” “Oh my darling, my darling. I love you so much.” She had crossed the room and was on his lap. His face in her hands. Kissing his cheeks one after the other. “I would love you to blindfold me!” “Right,” said the coach clearing his throat. “I think that is my cue to leave. You love birds are making me blush!” Coach smiled all the way to the car and most of the way home. He was still amazed at how often open and honest communication broke down even the highest and thickest walls. Mary had given him a big hug and an even bigger thank you and coach had beamed. Words of affirmation and physical touch were his Love Languages. He smiled as he thought about most of his friends, prisoners to their bosses, chained to their computers, pretending to work at 4pm on a Friday afternoon so they didn’t get fired. “Nice way to make a living,” he complimented himself smugly.