Life after sex
In case you’re wondering, there is indeed life after sex. I used to not care if there was. When I was a boy, my biggest fear, heightened by the theologically questionable Left Behind series, was that the rapture was going to happen before I “got married”. Having just gotten married last winter, I guess I survived; I made it. I fulfilled my life’s purpose and the rapture can happen now…not!
Part of it is true; I did fulfill one of the greatest and definitely most beautiful purposes of my life by marrying my wife, but life does go on. Despite what society would have you believe, whether it is on TLC, Pinterest, or the ever-pressing Christian message, delivered particularly to Christian women, that it is much more desirable and acceptable to be married once you’ve crossed over the threshold of the ridiculously young age of, say, 25, a marriage does not automatically usher in an era of cuddly blankets and playful food fights while cooking dinner together in your newly Home- Outfitters-registered kitchen.
I don’t think I’m alone when I used “being married” as a benchmark for orienting my life goals. I used to think, “When I’m married…I’ll know how to cook really well,” or, “When I’m married…my relationship with God will be going so strong,” or, “By the time I’m married…my body will be chiseled like some Greek god.” It sounded good, but it meant that while I was still single I had to get off my unmarried butt and actually work on developing cooking skills, growing in my relationship with God, and honing my physical body. In the same way, a marriage (or any relationship) isn’t going to accomplish anything for you if you’re not already working on making changes.
Yes, the love of another is a profound life changer, but relationships do not automatically make your problems go away or heal all of your hurts. Gender generalization alert—men, you still need to have self-control and I don’t mean just with your bodies. Even if you successfully remain behind strict boundaries of physical intimacy, you may still be perverting your emotional intimacy by allowing your time together to grow stagnant. It’s scary how much time can be spent physically together, but not productively getting anywhere in terms of growing or deepening your relationship. So please don’t let the hours and evenings with your lovely wife sneakily ebb past you by spending it with the television or videogames. Self-control becomes even more important in marriage because you are somebody else’s now; your desires and hers may not match up at times. And for women— having a husband is not going to vanquish all of your insecurities, albeit I imagine that he would/should have a huge role in that process.
A wedding does nothing to improve your life other than maybe living together with someone, which is nice if you’re lonely; but I think there are a lot of lonely people who are married as well. A marriage, in the fullest sense of what God meant it to be, over the course of many years, is what brings change—causing happiness through further self-actualization, not self-fulfillment.
Let me approach this through an analogy—inspired by my background in biology and conversations with my wife, who is a trauma therapist. The human body is amazingly adept at responding to traumatic events. If you experience a somatic trauma, like a car accident, your body produces hundreds of biochemical reactions to protect you from the actual pain— increased endorphin levels or even muscles taking on additional roles to compensate for bones out of place. Similarly, if you experience a psychological trauma, your brain is great at storing that away so that you can be “protected” from what you witnessed or were victim of.
So your body and your mind both have mechanisms, often interconnected, that attempt to return you to your most normal and functional state. In the short-term this is great, but the root of the issue hasn’t healed and will eventually cause problems in the long-term. Similarly, relationships can remain in this “passable” rut when we “settle” or “get used to it,” which I think are the most terrifying ways a relationship can be characterized.
A marriage has to fight its natural gravity towards stagnancy—pushing against our internal misconceptions and the grossly inaccurate stereotypes presented around us. Like a budding flower breaching its way through the frozen earth after a long hibernation, it takes effort—it takes a lifetime.
When my grade 10 students found out I was getting married, one boy told me, “Oh man! I’d never do that! Marriage is for life!” But here’s the distinction: yes, it is for a lifetime, but it is also meant to be for a lifetime—meaning God didn’t just create marriage with a permanent plateau somewhere along the way that you hit and think, “Hmm…I’ve arrived.” That said, it does not take a lifetime to build a marriage of lack-luster communication and stagnant habits; invest in habits that nurture personal growth now, so that you are used to fighting against gravity when in marriage.
Admittedly, I would rather that the rapture doesn’t happen yet, not because I’m scared, but because I found something in life to look forward to that’s better than just sex.