Long-Term Love: When Desire Meets Devotion

Picture: Lemuel Cantos

A little while back, Fairfax newspapers’ Good Weekend magazine asked this question: ‘Could infidelity save your marriage?’ The shock headline pointed to an excerpt from a new book by a controversial marriage therapist who suggests that a third person—either real or imagined—could re-boost flagging desire in a relationship.

Stories were included of couples who had decided to embrace, rather than fight, the temptation of an affair—either by talking about their feelings for other people, or by inviting the third person into the relationship. What I found interesting was that all the ‘open’ couples described in the article—those who allowed for sexual experimentation outside their marriage—admitted feeling intense pain and jealousy over their partner’s affairs. Might not this suggest that, deep down, the human being longs for a relationship of greater devotion and stability; a love that includes desire, but also devotion when desire naturally fluctuates?

During my final years living in Perth I got into a routine of doing laps at the local public pool three or four mornings a week. At 7am on a weekday the majority of clients at the Terry Tyzack Aquatic Centre in Inglewood are elderly. I’ll never forget the nice old dear who’d flash her big white dentures at me every morning before diving in to do four laps without taking a rest. Or the two Italian ladies who persisted in walking their laps in the fast lane while they loudly traded family stories.

I often got to witness the morning ritual of one particular couple, probably in their 80s. The lady would always be in the pool by the time I arrived—in the slow lane, paddling carefully with a kickboard. After the kickboard she’d slowly and methodically walk some laps. While this exercise routine was in progress, the woman’s husband would sit in a plastic chair by the side of the pool. He didn’t read the paper, or listen to a radio. He’d just watch her.

Finally, as wife completed her last lap, husband would get up from his chair and hobble to the side of the pool holding her towel and walking stick. The electric chairlift would bring her out of the water and he’d steady her as she swung out of the seat. Then they’d hobble along to the change rooms, she leaning on his arm while he walked bow-legged beside her.

For this couple all beauty and stamina had gone. All they had now was cellulite, fading eyesight, and back problems.

And each other.

We’re rapidly becoming a generation addicted to Eros. Research suggests that our teenagers have all seen pornography by the time they’re 15, and controversial marriage therapists advocate extra-marital affairs to maintain sexual thrill.

But that elderly man reflected Divine love to his wife—a love that acts in devotion when desire is gone. It’s my conviction that our relationships will flourish best when we do likewise; when the excitement of hot desire stays wedded to the long-term commitment of warm devotion.

Comments:

  • February 25, 2011
    Sue

    Couldn’t agree more, Sheridan. We’re also addicted to adrenalin… the rush of ‘new love’.

    reply
  • February 25, 2011
    steggz

    Great article Sheridan. Far too often we take the ‘easy way out’ in life. People aren’t willing to do the hard work sometimes and it’s really frustrating. Far too often people just make choices in their own interest and have no desire to even think of the consequences for others.

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    • February 26, 2011

      Perhaps the problem is that we’ve presented romance as this ‘perfectly satisfying’ thing. When have you last seen a movie celebrating a hard-won marriage relationship? A marriage that’s weathered storms and temptations? Where the couple grows deeply together through the inevitable pain that comes through simply living with – and therefore often disapointing – each other over time?

      reply
  • February 25, 2011
    Kath

    Nooooooooooooo!!!! I know people who are TRAPPED in the addiction of sex in the marriage relationship … the consequencs are horrific and disastrous. This is never what God intended when he created us for relationships, and therefore it takes us further away from God himself and results in our earthly relationships being destroyed. So sad that people would even advocate this as an option. So so sad

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    • February 26, 2011

      The couples I’ve met who have the most profoundly beautiful relationships have God at the centre, and place each other second after Him. They’re not immune to disagreements and arguments, but there is a depth and solidity to what they have that becomes richer each year. There’s a divine pattern there…

      reply
  • February 25, 2011
    Bron

    True love and commitment doesn’t go window shopping for something better. I think if we are looking for other people to spice up our marriage, then the problem is far deeper than just sexual. Let’s make a commitment for life… not just till we get bored!!!!

    reply
    • February 26, 2011

      ‘I think if we are looking for other people to spice up our marriage, then the problem is far deeper than just sexual.’ Excellent point Bron. The idea that an affair will solve a sagging relationship may be a scratch on the skin when a bone needs to be reset. It doesn’t reach deep into a couple’s spiritual/emotional core.

      reply
  • February 26, 2011
    Lauren

    I think there is NOOO circumstance where this is ok and where it has a happy ending! The danger is, the devil only shows us one side of the story. He shows you the shoulder to lean on, someone who understands you, someone who meets needs you aren’t having met. He DOES NOT show you the pain, the hurt, the broken hearts of you and thos earound you. DANGEROUS TERRITORY!!! In my humble opinion, if the grass looks greener on the other side, water your own lawn!

    Thanks for opening up such conversations Sheridan 🙂

    reply
  • August 29, 2013
    Anonymous

    Wow I just read this post from way back in January 2011… I so loved reading about that old couple at the pool. Profound. That’s beautiful, real, enduring love, the real thing! and a lovely encouragement for me in my marriage. Thanks for writing this awesome article Sheridan. I will now go pray, and consider this my morning devotion 🙂

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