- Could it be that a Story of Romance is dissuading and drawing apart couples with an amazing potential of happiness together?
- If so, have we said “well, he/she just wasn’t right for me” in the past about some people who were super right and super great matches for us?
- And have we walked away from amazing happiness prematurely by saying “I’m just not feeling it (enough) anymore”? What if the enduring presence of hyper-sexual arousal is not a particularly good litmus test for a relationship’s worth and value?
- And what if, by not recognizing this, individuals are rushing head-long into other relationships (marked by enough hyper-sexual arousal) that offer less chance of lasting happiness (and in some cases, significant heartbreak)?
- No matter where our relationship stands today, is it possible, as Scott Peck first proposed, that true love often takes place only after the strong hyper-sexual arousal begins to fade? If people could realize this, could they legitimately begin to enjoy and practice this kind of true(r) love in many circumstances, including when feelings subside, rather than running away?
- Is it possible that all these dynamics also mess with married couples as well – leading many of them to likewise give up on and abort something beautiful because of “not feeling it anymore?”
How do we answer these questions these questions (if they get asked at all)?
NO way…Are you crazy? Doesn’t apply to me…None of this makes sense.
Why? Because one way of thinking about romance, love, affection, beauty, commitment and sexuality has become so dominant that it “renders other options unthinkable.”
Something precious hijacked. Romance is a beautiful thing. And something to be cherished, relished and treasured. That’s something virtually everyone agrees upon.
And that’s what makes it sad when it dies a miserable and brutal death, whether quickly or prolonged.
When we find it or experience it…romance offers a transcendence that rivals religious euphoria. As Carlos Almarán writes about his lover, “You were the reason for my existence; to adore you for me was religion…a love…that gave light to my life…without your love I will not live.”
No wonder we want to hold onto this! And when it goes awry, we’ve got immediate explanations that we take for granted:
- “He/she must not have been the right one…”
- “You’ve got to do what makes you happy…”
After conducting many interviews and reviewing the literature on romance, I reached another conclusion: That beautiful, amazing couples who could experience brilliant love together…were being pushed apart, pulled apart, dragged apart, by a Story of Romance that is deformed and lethal to lasting love.
Fighting for love. If that’s true, then it’s either amazingly good news OR amazingly painful news…depending on where you are in relation to a potentially precious relationship. For those still holding on hope that there’s something worth fighting for in a current relationship, this can bolster and support you in navigating the incredible interplay of emotions mindfully (I’m considering re-titling a future edition of my write-up: “A Mindful Way Through Heartbreaking Romance”).
For others who have already aborted relationships that may, in fact, have led to miraculous happiness in the future, this thesis may also offer some reassuring closure or, at the very least, some postmortem insight on why and how something so beautiful turned so terribly “wrong” (trust me, like most previous bachelors, I’m an expert at that).
You can read the entire case for this in my second book, available for download here for free (since I chose to retain copyright for myself): Once Upon a Time…He Wasn’t Feeling It Anymore: What’s Killing Romance in America – and What to Do about It (2013, Swansea Press). If you’d like a hardcopy, you can pick one up on Amazon.
You can also read more related material on (an older) website NotFeelingIt.org and are VERY-high-budget short clip dramatizing the challenge:
(Note: the couple who turned in the Oscar winning performance in this video, have provided an even more brilliant performance in real life with the loyalty, commitment and love they have lived out. That has expanded exponentially this year as Tyler fights to recover from a brain tumor, with the constant, grueling support from his sweetheart Rebecca. If you have means to provide support to helping their beautiful family while Tyler is unable to work, please read more about their situation here and see if you can contribute).
Mindfully married. Once we get married, so many expect things to shift dramatically. As silly as it is to expect we can leave behind all sorts of habits of mind and heart overnight, many of us are really surprised to see heartbreak start to emerge out of our dream.
What would it mean to be able to recognize the role this Same Toxic Story might play in giving rise to this heartbreak? Even unawares, assumptions about “how a husband/wife is supposed to act…” or “how love is supposed to be” in marriage, can wreak havoc.
In hopes of a partnership with other couples interested in mindfulness, my wife and I are still getting started a project to explore the unexpected grief of surprising marriage pain…in a mindful way.
So far, we’ve posted three things in…oh, 3 years (pretty respectable pace).
- Living the Newlywed…Nightmare?
- “That’s Just The Way Marriage Is…
- Three Music Videos For Worn-Out-Couples Looking For A Little Hope…
If there are other individuals or couples interested in writing about mindfulness and its applications to marriage challenges, reach out to me at the contact form here!
The “controversial” harm of pornography. The first thing I ever wrote on porn was a reflection comparing the ritualistic aspects of porn use to elements of ancient Babylonian competitors to Christianity (e.g., watching people have sex in groves). See: The New Church in Town (Porn as Quasi-Religion)
I’ve grown increasingly tired of the strident (and uber-sophisticated sounding) voices declaring that people like me are naïve to think porn is really a central problem. As the argument goes, if we just had better sex education, this would really take care of itself…right?? See: How to Downplay the Harms of Pornography, in 4 Simple Steps (also posted on Gary Wilson’s fantastic blog, “Your Brain on Porn”)
Because it’s so darn fun to write about porn, these five articles are coming out in 2018:
- Looking for a Purpose? Join the Movement Fighting-those-Fighting the Porn Industry!
- Husband on Porn, Wife on Prozac
- How the “Utah Watches the Most Porn” Story Became Widely Accepted Contrary to Most Evidence (and More Plausible Explanations)
- Is it Bad to Feel Bad? The Well-Intentioned, Expansive, and Overdone War on Shame
- The Reckless and Alarming Naivete of those Denying the Reality of Pornography Addiction
Collective accountability for aggression. By no way is my proposal to question our broader Story of Love an argument for putting up with crap in a relationship. A man I adore and respect, President James Faust, once spoke of marriage that has turned into “a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship which is destructive of a person’s dignity as a human being” – later emphasizing that a marriage involving abuse is no longer “sacred” or worth fighting for.
When instances of abuse happen around us, too often we expect the criminal justice system to be able to solve it: “let’s just call the police!” The reality is, however, as I learned with Dr. Nicole Allen, that will never be enough to eradicate family violence. In graduate school, with her support, I wrote and participated in two papers on the crucial role of accountability for domestic violence:
- Allen, N. E., Watt, K. & Hess, J. Z. (2008). A qualitative study of the activities and outcomes of domestic violence coordinating councils. American Journal of Community Psychology 41(1-2), 63-73.
- Hess, J.Z., Allen, N.E., & Todd, N.R. (2011). Interpreting community accountability: Citizen views of responding to domestic violence (or not). Qualitative Report, 16(4), 1096-1123.
In the latter paper, we interviewed citizens and found an enormous variety of excuses at why they could not do something about instances of abuse they knew about in their own life. My interest broadened in seeing (and mourning) how our country allowed a bloodbath in Syria using many of the same excuses we heard in citizen accounts about domestic violence incidents. I couldn’t help but write something: One Day Americans Will Weep About This: A Lament for Syria
Like many Americans, I lamented the normalization of sexual violence happening right before our eyes during the Trump election: Is It Time To Talk (More) About Sexual Micro-Aggression?
Even while growing, welcome attention and accountability is now being given to more obvious and overt aggression, I’ve been struck at how hesitant people are to acknowledge one deeper explanation for it – aka, “What leads otherwise respectable, kind men to act out sexually in abusive ways?” (See Pornography section).
The beauty of human-to-human affection. I started with a comment about how romance is something to be cherished, relished and treasured. But does that include all kinds of romance?
I would say it includes all kinds of affection and attraction across all differences – encompassing the beauty of human to human attraction period. My dear friend Ty Mansfield writes eloquently about how he believes some kind of edifying, sweet attraction and affection within genders will be a part of heavenly life in the future (if not the erotic kind).
I’ve written extensively about how to have a more productive conversation about same-sex attraction (between the religious conservative and gay communities), including this article: What role does romantic attraction play in identity?
In the absence of that conversation, a particular Story of Identity-and-Romance-and-Sex-and-God gets adopted by people – and lived out in the rest of their life.
Why would this matter – and why would I care? I’ve had many sweet, tender, warm, loving interactions with many friends, including brothers in my faith community. One of these friends – who had shared such deep connections with us all – recently embraced the prevailing Story and did what everyone told him he should: “accepting who he really is” and pursue the “fullest expression” of his true attraction.
Subsequently, this friend has cut himself off from virtually everyone who once held him dear. I marvel at how the deep, beautiful male-to-male intimacy he had found in his faith community was abandoned so quickly…
Is that what is necessary to attain a “fullness” of same-sex intimacy?
I say no.
More than that, I say: if you want deep, whole-souled intimacy man-to-man, and woman-to-woman, you will find it in communities of faith. Yes, that’s something you can find with those Crazy and Adorable Mormons (like me)!
That friend of mine has lost sweet connection he so craved. It’s his choice whether he receives it again one day. I hope he reconsiders.