What's Sex Got To Do With It? Part One.

A while back I posted my thoughts regarding Sesame Street's decision to start addressing Big Bad Divorce.  I received some very interesting feedback..some of it I expected, some of it was a surprise.  One of the comments really stuck in my craw, in a good way.  It made me think, and think hard.  In fact, not a day has passed since that I haven't thought about it.  Sometimes for just a second it will flash in my mind, other times it draws me in and I dig deeper into what this person said and how it applies to my situation and my life.  I'm not always happy about what I find.

The person who made the comment is Becky, and she writes a tasty blog called Eating the Scenery which is about her quest to eat "real" food, and how she cut out grains and sugar.  When I finish up the 8 pack of Progresso Light Chicken Noodle soup in my cupboard I'm seriously considering hopping back on the no-grain train myself.  But that's not what we're here to discuss today.  Becky has always provided supportive, thought-provoking comments but the ones she left on the Sesame Street post were particularly so.

Here is a chunk of her first comment on that post:

It's elsewhere, too. Think about the movies, even "good" ones, where it's STANDARD PRACTICE for a girlfriend and boyfriend to live together but not be married. Same message: Living together but not being married is NO BIG DEAL. But it is. There are real-world consequences to sex outside of marriage that the movies never show.

Kids still need the live-in examples of parents and adults around them showing them the healthiest way to live.

I'm no religious zealot, but it seems a number of basic ground rules that worked for our generation/our parents have been morphed by the media, to our peril, into quaintly passe. It's the thin end of the permissive and "progressive" wedge. Not that I'd want to peg out in the other direction, but there are a few rules in life that, as you expressed in your last post, set off a chain of pain when broken.

She wrote this (I think) in response to the gist of my post which was:  I don't like how the Sesame Street-ification of Divorce makes it all look so normal and easy.  I don't like how our society, in general, has made it seem like divorce is a super easy, non-harmful way to get yourself out of a bad or boring or lousy marriage.  I don't like how easily my ex-husband slipped out of our lives and into a new one, and how hardly anybody batted an eye when he did it.  I think it's indicative of the breakdown of morals and ethics and values in our world.

And Becky agreed.  Then she threw me this morsel to gnaw on:

Jenny, I met my current, wonderful second husband in May, 18 years ago. We didn't even kiss until September, and I didn't meet the kids until October. He and I had both been pretty badly scarred by our first marriages, so we just spent lots of time doing a variety of things together, seeing how we felt.

We both agreed that sex belonged in marriage, so it wasn't even an issue. Many, many times through the years we have said to each other, "I'm so glad we waited!" Because the waiting was what helped build the respect, friendship, trust and love that, taken together, formed the strong foundation for a healthy physical relationship in a context of true commitment.

Reading your blog, I have come to respect many things about you and your outlook on life. I would encourage you, for the sake of yourself, your children, and our country, to take a strong position, in principle and practice, for the values you are beginning to realize are being not just trivialized, but vilified.

In the media-driven culture, many perverse and dysfunctional actions are accepted as "okay," and except for a few extreme exceptions, the only things allowed to be labled perverse and dysfunctional are traditional values and the people who hold them. That is just one of the many conversations Americans need to have with one another. We need nuclear families, kids need two parents and role models. We all need stability and accountability. Unhappy kids do stupid things, and often parents slack off into their own brand of la-la land, dismissing the true consequences of their parenting or lack thereof. 

This is what has been rattling around in that drafty, airy place I like to call my brain: 
I would encourage you, for the sake of yourself, your children, and our country, to take a strong position, in principle and practice, for the values you are beginning to realize are being not just trivialized, but vilified.

I think sex, or the lack of it, is what killed my marriage.  I think the fact that sex between my ex and I had become a quick, furtive act done in the dark with the door locked and one ear open listening for kids and pajamas left halfway on so if one of the aforementioned kids somehow walked in we could quickly cover up, led to him wanting more.  I think the fact that he found a willing partner, a woman who conveniently overlooked her lover's marital status (and her own) led to him not even trying to have sex with me, his wife, anymore.  I think the fact that he no longer seemed interested in me "that way" led to me feeling defensive and insecure and worried and quite frankly, absolutely unappealing.  I think all of these things led to the death of my marriage. 

There are two things I remember him saying regarding the sex:  The first was in the office of the pastor who tried to offer us some counseling.  We met with him once, a few weeks after Big Daddy left us the first time. I remember he showed up at the pastor's office wearing a new shirt, and he seemed a little put out about having to be there.  He kept looking at his watch while I tried to tell the pastor, through my sobs, what happened.  At one point the pastor looked at Big Daddy, and said, "What would you like to say about this?".  He sat there, in his new purple shirt and ring-less fingers tapping the table and said, "She gets undressed in the dark. It's not exciting to me anymore." 

That summed it up for him. It wasn't exciting anymore.

The second thing my ex-husband said regarding sex came out during a heated phone call between him and me.  Someone from his office had insinuated that perhaps there was Another Woman involved, and I called him to find out. He denied it, up and down and all around.  And then he said:

"I think you're the one who's been screwing around."  Listen..even in my flustered, desperate, scared state of mind, I found what he said to be hilarious. I laughed. Out loud.  I replied to him, "Like I have time to have sex with someone else!".  I can still hear his reply:

"Well you sure weren't having it with me!"

And that, folks, is why I think sex killed my marriage.  But what sex did to me, after my marriage died?  That may be even worse.

I have way too much to say about this, so I'm making it a two-parter.  Stay tuned.  

I'm going to leave you with a quote from a good man, a man we celebrate today:

There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. Interesting post! I'll be interested to see the 2nd half! (Also, are you aware of all the MLK infidelity rumors? Apparently he wasn't that great of a man to his wife!).

    1. MLK's personal life is no one's business and has no baring on his legacy or the contribution he made to the world.

    2. Nikki, you know I can't stand adulterers..and normally I judge them, big time. However, what they do when they're not cheating on their wives DOES matter. And you are right.. what MLK did as the human rights leader definitely overshadows what he did as the husband.

      It does make me sad, though. I will never, ever understand the male brain.

    3. Jenny, I know you know that men aren't the only ones that cheat right? I'd like to introduce you to my sister as proof of that. We all still love her just the same.

    4. Mommyof1, yes I know...but don't you think men are usually the culprits? I'd bet women fantasize about it, probably as often as men do, but actually do it? I'd say it's more a guy thing.

      And she's your sister..you love her, of course! I'd still love my brother if he did it.

  2. Yeah. The MLK infidelity is a downer.

  3. It sounds like you're doing a little bit of self-blaming for that bastard walking out on you. We would never have sex if we had to wait until we weren't at risk of kids barging in any time, pajamas half on. At least you had a lock on your door, LOL!
    I mean, sex can't always be hot and lingering and mind blowing, especially when you're in the thick of raising a bunch of kids, and you're both exhausted.
    And? I bet that purple dress shirt looked stupid.

    1. I miss that lock.

      And yes, he looked like a big stupid purple turd.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. What Anonyous said! I, too, detected some self-blaming. A realistic view of our role in a divorce helps us avoid another divorce. But you had a husband who took himself out of the game when he saw the other players were better than he. You and the kids know what love, duty, work, responsibility and commitment mean. He doesn't.

    A better man would have realized that his wife was his best friend, and that they'd be better off laughing about the kids-and-sex problem and finding creative ways around it. Your ex is and always has been, it seems, pretty darn narcissistic. It's always about him, hey.

    Sadly, even Bob Hope was famous for infidelities ... iconic types and "heroes" seem to go there startlingly often. Remember in Schindler's List, at the end, when we learned that the Jews have a saying: "If a man's virtues outweigh his vices, that man is a righteous man."

    I dunno, though! How were MLK's kids affected by his behavior? Is condemning your own kids to a warped emotional life worth whatever else you accomplish? Jackie Kennedy didn't think so. She said that if you bungle up raising your kids, it doesn't much matter what else you accomplish.

    That Becky is too wordy of a commenter. You must have hit a nerve there, or something. :)

    1. I love that wordy Becky!

      I agree with you about a couple of things: my ex being a narcissist (to some degree..he's not as awful as some I've heard about, but it really is all about him).

      I also agree about how your actions affect your kids, no matter if you're Joe Blow or the Leader of the Free World. Being a 'swell guy' doesn't give you a free pass to play hide the sausage with whomever you please.

  5. Wow! Fantastic! Can't wait for part two.

    1. I was going to devote a whole day to it this weekend. And then William said to me:

      "Hey..we should start watching 'Lost'!"


  6. Great post! I personally believe that it takes TWO people to ruin a marriage just as it takes two to make one. The issues in my marriage had nothing to do with infidelity or sex but I take my share of responsibility for the demise.

    I do believe families are sacred but unfortunately we can't always choose whether our kids have a two parent household or not. Even though I didn't wait for marriage to have sex, I applaud those who do. I'm celibate right now but I know I don't want to be married again so waiting until marriage for sex is probably out for me.

    1. I agree, M of 1. There are things I did wrong in my marriage and I own that. I could have been a better wife, just as he could have been a better husband. But for me the deal breaker is infidelity. There's no excuse. That's one thing I can't/won't take responsibility for...THAT is on him.

      I'm pissed at myself for a lot of things...but not waiting until marriage to do the deed is one of the biggies.

      Have you closed the door on marriage completely? Or did you leave it just a little bit open?

  7. hi, I'm currently going through a divorce due to my husbands infidelity... he began cheating on me when our children were 2 years and 4 months old. Now just about 2 years later we are finalizing the divorce. You could say lack of sex killed our marriage. however, I have realized part of the reason for the lack of sex was that I was also unhappy but didn't realize it. I got no affection, romance, etc. that would lead me to want to have sex. I mean, we had sex, just not as often or as excitingly as he would have liked. And I can admit I should have done more for him that way. But there were a lot of things he could have done for me too. I was not the only one making mistakes. But no matter what, there is nothing that justifies cheating. We should have talked, gotten therapy, etc. It's a catch 22 - I say "if only this... we could have saved our marriage", but then I now also realize what a piece of shit he is in general and think the marriage must have been doomed no matter what.

    I'm very interested in your part 2... maybe I can learn some things...

  8. Hi Jenny,

    I saw this on Yahoo news today, 7 reasons why men cheat.


    It was interesting,


  9. I can't wait for Part 2 either! And, I agree that you're blaming yourself too much for the big purple turd's loserly behavior, Jenny. How is it your fault that he CHOSE to cheat, when he could have made the polar opposite choice to be MORE kind, attentive, supportive, and loving to you, and MORE helpful with the children?? Maybe, just maybe, that would have made him seem more attractive and exciting to you...But, as Becky says, apparently the Big Purple Turd has always put his own wishes and needs far ahead of everyone else's. The more you tell us about him, the more it sounds like he never cared very much about anyone else anyway.
    As far as waiting for sex till marriage...I don't think that's always necessary for every couple, BUT I absolutely believe that people should NOT go any further than "first base" until, and unless, they are best friends and mutually very much in love. I know so many people who have brought sex into a relationship that was not on that kind of stable footing -- when they barely even knew each other. And you wouldn't believe how badly it messed them up emotionally. I have one friend who made that mistake over and over and over again, without seeming to learn how NOT to make it. ..even though she is almost our ages, I'm still not sure she's learned. (And no, I'm not using "my friend" as a protective euphemism for "myself" -- by the grace of God and some very reliable internal "radar," I never went to bed with, or even went out with more than once, any guy who I did not have those serious feelings about and who didn't have them towards me.)
    So I'm rambling here, but almost done! My points are these, Jenny: (1) STOP blaming yourself so much for the Big Purple Turd being such an ass hat, and (2) PLEASE DO NOT go to bed with anyone else who does not TRULY accept, cherish, and LOVE you just the way you are. You deserve so very much better!!

    1. Thanks JSC...I agree with you on pretty much every point here.

      That "friend" you speak of, could be me. I'm seeing that now, and hopefully it's not too late to make some changes. Like learn how to say NO. We shall see, huh?

      I'm not really blaming myself for who or what he is, but I do sometimes wonder "if only". If I had been more supportive, more adventurous, more whatever..maybe things would have been better for my marriage..and my kids. But that's water under the bridge, I suppose.

      And yes I'm totally taking your final bit of advice. Obviously the way I've been rolling hasn't done me any favors.

      Love ya!

  10. It's worth considering that a man who WOULD have sex with you outside of the commitment of marriage may not have the healthiest perspective about relationships, or about sex and its real-world consequences.

    Don't underestimate a good man's deeply-held and healthy convictions about living a disciplined life. Isn't it a good, disciplined, faithful man that we all want? We have to be a good woman to attract one. Not perfect, not never having made mistakes ... but good ... holding and living to a set of firm values. Wishy-washy values in a woman repel the kind of man who is determined to remain faithful to a faithful woman.

    Sex was intended for bonding and procreation. If you try to leverage it into "recreation" only, don't be surprised if you end up deeply hurt.

    1. I'm seeing that now, Becky. It's not hurt so much as it is emptiness. Unfulfilled empty Jenny.

      How's that for some morning cheer??

    2. Think of it as a new direction! A new map! A glorious new and enlightened quest! With improved odds on reaching the summit!

      We have to empty out the old sometimes before we can be filled with the new.

      When I decided that there would be no sex until marriage, I instantly narrowed the field of available men, what, to probably about 5% of those who were single? I'm a person of faith, and I know God doesn't operate on human statistics. What were the chances of meeting a good, unmarried man AT ALL when I was 38? I'd already been through a dozen or so slightly sleazy, troubled and unprincipled dudes, while sticking to my principles but not yet using the principles as a true filter. I decided to go for the principled approach and let the chips fall.

      A (solid and trusted, married) fellow I worked with was talking about such things with me and my officemate one day. I told him I thought that having principles like I did would doom me to singleness forever, as I was still thinking most men would be repelled by my principles. He said, "Don't think that. You WILL repel the men who aren't principled. But you'll attract the men who are." My experience later proved that correct.

  11. Don't you see that these are just his excuses? If he were devoted to his marriage and upset about the lack of sex, he could have discussed it with you, suggested counseling, etc. His "solution" was rather extreme and indicates that he wasn't very invested in the marriage to begin with. Also, I'm not sure what age all the kids were when this went down, but everyone goes through a sort of sex drought when they have a bunch of little kids and are feeling overwhelmed. That's a normal part of marriage, not a reason for divorce.

    1. S.C.- totally. You bring up a good point..as I conduct yet another autopsy on my marriage I have to go back to the beginning and wonder...was it doomed from the start? I think people are constantly changing. At the core we remain the same but the outer layers are always on the move. Things we see, hear, experience- they all make differences in who we are and how we react. Then sometimes I think that the Other Woman came along at just the right time..had she made herself available a year earlier or later, maybe he wouldn't have pursued it. Who knows.

      The youngest was four, the oldest was 10. When he left..I think the affair started way earlier than that.

  12. Ha! No Jenny, I didn't mean you at all. I was thinking of a friend I've known about as long as I've known you, though...but truly, you are a lot wiser than she is about relationships. Between this blog and your FB posts, it's obvious to me that you have a ton more insight than she does. Glad you are going to wait to share your whole self with someone who genuinely is good enough for you!! Love ya back!


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