WARNING: This post may very well garner some controversy, as some may find it incendiary and maybe even crude. Some may feel that I’m making generalizations. I accept that, because I truly believe that my experiences and the experiences of those I have discussed the issues with indicate that the problem is real, and nearly any generalization I make would not likely be completely inaccurate. So there, you’ve been warned.
Imagine that you marry the love of your life. You have typically been an extremely introverted, maybe even shy, individual, but you click with this person like never have with any other. You can talk to them for hours upon hours about scores of topics that interest you both with equal passion, and many more besides. You can tell them anything, any problem, any worry, any secret, and you know they care, and have your interest at heart. You also have an incredible sexual bond, as it is the ultimate expression of your love.
But then you discover that, in the setting in which you live, it’s not enough that this secure, lively relationship exists. It’s also expected that you share the most intimate details of it with everyone else, and other couples are expected to do the same. You are expected to give the details of what you and your spouse have recently done together, how you currently feel about each other, and even how your sex life is going.
But that doesn’t come easy to you. Telling people your personal, intimate thoughts and feelings has never come easily to you. Furthermore, there are several people living in your setting who are extremely extroverted, and are very good at talking about their marriages/love lives. What’s more, they ALWAYS seem to have upbeat, happy stories to relate regarding their lives. You get the sense that they never seem to NOT feel close to their spouse. This is hard for you to believe, for even though you always know in your head that your spouse loves you deeply, there are just some days in which you don’t FEEL that close. You feel discouraged, because you see people ooing and ahhing over that person, who just seems to have it all together. Sometimes, you have to go around a circle where people take turns spilling intimate details of what’s going on with their spouse, and everyone does it with such ease. The aforementioned individual goes right before you, and once again, they just have amazing experiences with their spouse to share with everyone, and you wonder HOW you will ever top that. It’s your turn now, but truth be told, even though you love your spouse, and you know they love you, nothing all that exciting has happened lately. Although they have before, the last few weeks have been a pretty “normal” phase. You can’t think of anything interesting to share, and you can just feel the vibe: people doubt that you’re much of a spouse. And your feeling of discouragement just gets worse and worse, knowing you probably will never measure up. And you try SO hard. Sometimes in meetings you actually give what you feel is a pretty good account. But that other person always reliably has something better to share. And everyone knows it. Sometimes you even get scolded for not saying enough, and you are reminded of what a model of spousal relationships that person is. But no matter how hard you try, you get the sense that you are viewed as a deficient spouse, because you are honest that you don’t always feel close to yours, and even when you do, you just plain suck at relating it to others. Because of this, you end up feeling further apart from your spouse, and gradually less and less competent. They continue to unconditionally love you and care for you, but eventually you fall into utter despair, and lack motivation to converse with your spouse because you don’t think you have what it takes. This causes even further quizzical looks from the other people, as you sense they truly believe something is wrong with you. The one who is viewed as exceptional starts asking you questions about your relationship with your spouse, and they ask you in a tone that borders on prosecutorial. Everyone ought to be like them, right? At any rate, you know YOU probably never will.
Change a few words, and I essentially just described American evangelicalism’s “it’s a relationship, not a religion” mantra.
You think about that.