How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘emotional initimacy’

Love, Oh Practically Perfect Love

Infatuation is when you think he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Connors. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger, and nothing like Robert Redford—but you’ll take him anyway.
—Judith Viorst, Redbook

In the best of all possible worlds, it would be ideal to find that a lover who was just right for you in terms of emotion and affection was also just right for you in terms of erotic fulfillment. Unfortunately, in real life, that’s often not the case. The man with overtly tender and affectionate concern for you, the emotional marathoner, may not make love with you at all or may do so very seldom or may not do so very well when he does. The swordsman, who is turned on and gives of himself freely in bed, may not have much love or even much affection once dressed and out of bed.

Many a maiden is still dreaming of the perfect prince who will one day come, who will make her come, and who will love her at all levels all at once. But later, many a woman realizes that love in the many forms she desires isn’t to be found all at once in the arms of any one man. She gives up on the perfect prince and begins to look around for a make-do prince instead . . . maybe a mere duke, or maybe a mere commoner. The road to love is a series of compromises from the fantasy of girlhood to the world-weary cynicism of old age. There is Mr. Right, but there is also Mr. Right Now, Mr. Right for Me at this Moment, etc. Fortunately, in affairs of the heart, even mistakes can be glorious.

Cover of "Mr. Right Now"

Writer Suzanne Jordan is correct when she asserts that “the perfect mate, despite what Cosmopolitan magazine says, doesn’t exist no matter how many of those tests you take.” However, Merle Shain is also correct in asserting that “some men are more perfect than others.” What’s needed is a new oxymoron: things don’t have to be perfect; they only have to be perfect enough. A lover who is perfect enough is just fine. Finding him is a much easier task than finding the absolutely perfect man of your fantasies.

Our technology is so proficient that we can get quite carried away with our expectations of what we need—or think we need. With an imposed sixty-five-mile speed limit, we still delight in buying a car that can cruise at a hundred miles per hour without effort. Almost every kitchen has an eight-speed blender when most cooks only need one marked Fast and Slow. Home audio systems can be so elaborate and powerful that only your dog can hear the differences, and the speakers can never be turned up more than one-tenth of their volume capacity. A camera used for family snapshots nevertheless is selected because it is capable of shooting at one-thousandth of a second. This kind of technological overkill produces products which are far more perfect than necessary. A camera shooting at one-five-hundredth of a second produces satisfactory pictures for half the price. The man who isn’t perfect but who’s perfect enough may well be the one to love you throughout a lovely love affair.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is widely quoted as reflecting philosophically: “If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not, you will also regret it.” The same applies to your decision of whether to picking a lover. If you take a lover, you may regret it; if you don’t take a lover, you may also regret it.

The question you need to consider is this, when you are an old lady of ninety-two, reflecting on the past decades, which will you regret the most: the sins you committed or the sins you omitted? In my conversations with old ladies, guarded as they are, they usually suggest regret for opportunities lost, for time wasted, for doors not opened, and for experiences not enjoyed.

The poet Robert Herrick gives timeless advice, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” He is speaking “to the virgins, to make much of time,” but he might well speak to other women too. It’s healthy to enjoy the men of the world while they are as eager to enjoy you. It’s healthy to experience as much as you can of what life has to offer. And the devil take the hindmost, whatever that is. The philosopher Bertrand Russell offers a sound conclusion, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” If you must love, love bravely.

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Flirtation: Attention without Intention

A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Why bother to have a lover who is not really a lover? Many reasons. There are, after all, a number of historical precedents.

Consider, for example, the good Queen Victoria, who was surely the epitome of all that is moral and proper. After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, she was distraught and sought consolation from one John Brown, who had been an attendant to her late husband. John Brown was made her personal servant; but as depicted in the movie Mrs. Brown, featuring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Brown obviously far exceeded that modest role. Their relationship was extremely close emotionally, and his privileges at Windsor Castle certainly reflected a great deal of trust and intimacy. Were they lovers? No one knows. There was speculation. There were rumors. If you can’t trust Queen Victoria, who can you trust?

In prior posts, I’ve talked as if  the new sexual freedoms women now have, magically transformed them into completely sexual creatures. Often, this is simply not the case. It may not be a case of moral guilt or psychological hang-ups as much as simply an absence of desire. Certainly, there can be an absence of desire for a particular man, someone whose body does not seem erotic even though he is lovable in many other ways. A woman may prefer not to have to bother with sex. If she doesn’t want to bother, such a turn of phrase reveals so much of her attitude that it’s probably just as well that she doesn’t.

The lover who is not reallya lover may be willing to be emotionally involved with a woman, yet unwilling to be physically involved with her, especially if she is married. To love her emotionally is acceptable, but to make love to her isn’t because that would be adultery. According to the Bible, a man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart. There can be, however, a curious kind of doublethink wherein having an affair of the heart, which technically is not consummated, does not count. It is not really adultery and is therefore acceptable. Some women committed to the ideal of premarital chastity may use much the same reasoning so that they may be sexually experienced while technically remaining virgins.

Cover of "Emotional Infidelity: How to Av...

Such an affair may evoke the same jealousy that a betrayed spouse feels when his mate is physically unfaithful. In actuality, such emotional infidelity may be harder for the spouse to accept than would a casual affair, which could be dismissed as an impulsive roll in the hay or a one-night stand.

Be that as it may, as long as the lovers can maintain that it didn’t happen, they have what seems to them an impeccable moral position. When confronted, they will even manage a little sanctimony and lament the kind of world in which simple platonic friendship is disallowed. They will even muster some righteous indignation at what from the outside seem to be perfectly well-founded suspicions.

Should you take a eunuch lover (see previous post), you need a husband of considerable trust and/or credulity in order to carry off what seems to be a flagrant disregard for convention. You then have the freedom to be quite open about your comings and goings with him. What is the husband to think? What are the neighbors to think? One obvious explanation is that the man in question is less than a real man and is a eunuch in his heart, if not in actuality.

A woman I know came home late to an angry husband who demanded to know where she had been. She confessed that she had been drinking at the Purple Cow, a local tavern.
“I don’t want you hanging out with men in bars,” he said.
“But I was with Freddy,” she said.
“Oh,” he said, “well, at least you could have called to tell me that you’d
be late.”

Being with Freddy didn’t count. Freddy was not a real man and so could not be threatening. Once Freddy knows how he is regarded, and he is not gay, then one wonders how it will make him feel. He is the kind of man with whom one’s wife is absolutely safe, not because he or she are so honorable, but because he is so—safe.

The decadent East has a treasury of erotic literature in which the roles of the potentate, harem girl, and the eunuch figure prominently. One theme of these tales is the delights which await the man who pretends to be a eunuch in order to get into the harem, but who is not, and is instead a fox among the chickens.

Another theme is the eunuch who is not totally a eunuch in that he is still capable of an erection and of some sexual feeling. Sexologists allow that this is possible if unlikely. The eunuch lover who is presented as such to the world in general and to the husband in particular has an especially provident game plan in that he can have all of the enjoyments with none of the penalties. He must learn two maxims which both he and his ladylove must say repeatedly, “Deny, deny, deny,” followed by “That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.”

The Eunuch Lover

There are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
—Matthew 19:12

In the old days in the decadent East, men with kingdoms and sheikdoms had the privilege of keeping harems. The potentate might have as many as up to a thousand wives, and to relieve himself of the burden and responsibility of supervising them all, he would employ eunuchs. The eunuchs involved were castrated when they were young and grew up in a kind of limbo between the male world and the female one. Being sexless, they were allowed to enter the harem and to have direct contact with the wives.

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

In some modern circumstances, some women elect to have what amounts to eunuch lovers: these men are not sexual partners, but they are more than just platonic friends in that their level of involvement is intense. What kind of men are eunuch lovers? Obviously, only in the most exceptional cases are they actually eunuchs although such might be the case
in our culture if you consider the aberrant situation of transsexuals who are midway in the process of their transformation. Eunuch lovers are often men who are homosexual and who can love a woman in the affectionate and emotional sense without feeling any physical passion for her. The woman gets whatever lovemaking she wants elsewhere. And so does he. And they continue a relationship on other levels. Women who are married to homosexual men are often by choice or by chance in the position of having intimate, affectionate, but asexual relationships.

Not all eunuch lovers, however, are homosexual. Some simply have a very low sex drive, so low that they might be more appropriately termed “asexual.” As one man described it to me, “If you think of a pilot light on a gas stove, my drive is like the pilot light, and everyone else seems to be like a big burner on high!”

In other instances, the eunuch lover is an ordinary man with presumably ordinary drives and desires, but he chooses not to express them with this particular woman. The woman in the affair may also be a practicing heterosexual but likewise chooses not to be physically involved with this particular man. These relationships are often marriages of convenience in which the couple derives benefits from one another apart from physical intimacy. For instance, the powerful politician who marries a vibrant, beautiful young wife may benefit from the attention she garners him on the campaign trail and at fund-raisers while she benefits from the social status and privileges bestowed on her as his wife. So they make an agreement. “We will love each other, we do love each other, we will act as lovers, but we will not physically be lovers.” While they are not lovers in the conventional sense of the word, they are perceived by most to be in a love relationship.

An Alternative: The Platonic Affair

Leisured society is full of people who spend a great part of their lives in flirtation and conceal nothing but the humiliating secret that they have never gone any further.
—George Bernard Shaw, Overruled

A couple may be obviously fond of each other. They may seek each other out and laugh at each other’s jokes and hold hands whenever they can. He may call her by a silly pet name, and she may respond “oh, you” in a suggestive and intimate voice. They may have many opportunities to have private time together and, presumably, every opportunity to have sex. And yet—they don’t.

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

Plato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Month after month, sometimes year after year, what appears to be a courtship, and a successful one at that, drags on and on and is neither consummated nor terminated. Such a wife has a lover in the affectionate and emotional and social sense of the word, but she remains inviolate. She has, in effect, a eunuch lover.

What they share is platonic love. As defined by author T. S. Winslow, platonic love is merely “love from the neck up.”

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