Love is for Others

A while ago someone married to a paraplegic for 16 years was doing an AskMeAnything on reddit and got asked the question “How’s the sex life?” No doubt the person who asked was trying to be humorous, but the man gave an answer anyway.

Somehow I knew this was going to be the first question…I’m not gonna lie. Sex is one of the big issues. I wish I was a better man, and could simply ignore that side of myself, but I’m not. I get as frustrated as anyone else, and working through that is difficult.

What followed was one of the best interactions I have seen concerning the difference of what real love is and what many people think of it is, someone else followed up and pressed the issue further;

Have you ever considered or had a discussion with your wife about making the physical aspect of your relationship open? You both have needs, and I respect your patience and efforts to be a good husband. However, I feel that on a level of need you may benefit from having an agreement with your wife about a sexually open relationship while maintaining an otherwise monogamous one.

This suggestion hurts my soul every time I read it. I do not know if this person genuinely believed this idea was a good one or he was just wondering out loud what the man thought about it. What it really says, is “love should be about you getting everything you want and if you are missing anything then you should go get it elsewhere.” Sure, redefine the way a relationship works to fulfill your needs. You deserve it. You’re entitled to it.

The married man answered;

I’ve had others ask this question before, but lets be serious here.

My wife already deals with feelings of inadequacy because of the things she can’t provide for me physically. She knows I love her anyway, but she can’t help feeling like she’s somehow less than a “real” wife.

Were I to go elsewhere for sex, romping around with some able-bodied lady, even if it was done with her knowledge and nominal permission, any sense of security that she has in me, in us, would be gone. That kind of damage is irreparable.

An “open relationship” would signify only that my physical needs are more important than her emotional ones. And that just isn’t true.


Yes I know, sex is not love. I think that love is greater than sex, but they are connected in ways and I think that is another way of looking at what is being misrepresented here. When this man opens himself to questions about his marriage and someone asks him about sex, he doesn’t try to disconnect the two like the second questioner does because the married man knows they are intertwined. He knows asking him “How’s the sex life?” is in part asking him “How’s the marriage life?”. I doubt his answer would probably be any different if the question was changed. The man understands that to go outside of his marriage for sex, or for anything, would render his marriage pointless. Whatever benefits he would receive from outside his marriage are worth nothing to him if his marriage or wife suffers.

I believe that our biggest need is love, but love is a funny thing because in order to do it correctly one must put another’s needs before their own. That is so hard to do sometimes. Being a selfish 22-year-old, my innate desire is not to put another’s wants or needs before my own. My brain says that the most efficient way to enjoy the benefits of life is to have all my needs met without doing any work. But because I love her, I make any of her needs more important than all of mine.  Well, I try to.  I fail a lot, but that is another story.  The point is we cannot fulfill our own need for love, we must love something beyond ourselves if we want it to be real.

One last person made a snide comment;

So it’s essentially a one-way deal, where she gets here psychological needs met, and you don’t. Got it. But then, I guess you made that decision when you got married. Oh well.

The man responded;

Not really, no. It is called love. It is letting the needs of someone else supersced your own. I’m rather sorry you feel the way you do. You’re missing out in the long run.

Easter 2012

For this year’s Easter post I’ll leave you with a quotation from a recent book I read.

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

My previous Easter posts if you’re interested.