Friday, August 10, 2007

Is it real, or is it lust?

Yesterday's readings from my class notes were on morality, specifically marriage. And interestingly, that afternoon my son dropped down at the table near me and asked, "How do you know if you're attracted to someone?" It was one of those really cool parenting moments.

So I launched into a description of qualities I was looking for in a partner, things like happiness, intelligence, openness, affection, etc. Then he clarified that what he meant was, how do you know if it's real or if it's lust? Which of course is an entirely different question!

This gave me pause. I started with an idea that's always meant a lot to me, related to the synonyms of God found in Christian Science (so many things tie back to those seven words). In Christian Science, God is Love and God is Mind. Mind and Love coexist in the same supreme entity and are inextricably linked. So real love to me, even on the human scene, needs to be intelligent. It needs to be rational, it needs to make sense.

I told my son you can choose to be attractedit's not something that you have no control over. Gone are the days where a mere physical spark will get my attention. I use rational criteria to decide if I want to pursue a relationship with someone. Do our lives blend? Do we share compatible values and aspirations? Does it make sense to team up given our life circumstances? If the circumstances don't make sense, I'm not one to pursue it even if I really like the guy. To me, there's no point in starting something I can't finish.

The Marriage chapter in Science and Health says this: "Kindred tastes, motives, and aspirations are necessary to the formation of a happy and permanent companionship" (p. 60). That sounds to me like there's an obligation to find out about those kindred tastes, motives and aspirations before we jump in.

Lust, then, might be what we feel on a physical level for someone before we've determined whether we're compatible in the emotional or life-goal realms. I think it's hard to lust after someone you really have gotten to know or care about. Sure, you may be crazy for them physically, but I wouldn't call that lust. Lust is about the unknown, about the taking, about the self gratification. Affection, even if it's hot, even if it's orgasmic, between two people who have formed a bond I think is in a different category than lust.

Frankly, I don't know that many people who are walking around feeling or indulging in what I would consider lust. Lust is flat-out sexual hunger with no redeeming features attached to it. Feeling a very strong attraction for someone you care about and are committed to is different, at least in my book.

Would love to hear from you all, especially you married folks. How does attraction fit in to your relationships?

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 8/10/2007 01:36:00 PM, Anonymous Dennis R. said...

I have been married for 33 years. To me, my wife is very beautiful and attractive. She always takes care of herself physically, and presents herself in the best possible light.

That being said, what is most important is the commitment. No one is attractive physically all the time. There are so called "bad hair days" There are times of illness and challenges. It is times like this that commitment comes in. I made the promise to love and cherish my wife, and I intend to keep it no matter what.

Attraction comes and goes with the cycles of life. Love is a decision and it does not depend on the physical side to sustain it. Even feelings have nothing to do with it. They can be up one day and down the next.

It is interesting that the more I am resolved to keep my promise to love my wife, the more attractive she becomes.

At 8/10/2007 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this post today. How great you have these sorts of conversations with your kids. It has been 22 years for Michael and me - today exactly! (Can you believe it? remember that day?? :)

I agree with you, "Affection ... is in a different category than lust." No connection at all. But affection certainly doesn't disipate, nor does attraction, at least they don't need to do so.

I'm also reminded of this sentence from Science and Health (57:15-18): "Beauty, wealth, or fame is incompetent to meet the demands of the affections, and should never weigh against the better claims of intellect, goodness, and virtue." The marginal heading there is "Affection's demands." It doesn't demand the physical or superficial (as Dennis says in his comment, those certainly come and go!), but those spiritual qualities that are lasting and that meet one another's needs. That sustains the relationship.

Certainly doesn't mean my heart doesn't typically skip a beat when I look at my husband sometimes, greet him at the door when he returns from work, hold his hand as we walk along. But it is a quiet contentment, not lusty or hot and heavy. Frankly, I think that would get tiring and dull. But joy and peace, ah! that is wonderful, and it gets you through those bumpy times.

So, 22 years and learning - but it's a fun journey!

At 8/11/2007 10:09:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

A friend of mine was taking a college class on marriage and families or something (her degree is in early childhood education or something along those lines), and she asked for my help with a survey she was supposed to do. One of the questions was, "What do you consider the perfect mate?"

My reply was that there's no such thing as the perfect mate, because humanly speaking, none of us is perfect, but the right mate should have the same qualities as a good road trip partner: Doesn't annoy you too much, doesn't smell too weird, and seems to be heading in roughly the same direction that you're going.

She laughed at my answer, but I really think it's true. You can't reasonably expect your spouse to make you blissfully, deliriously happy every minute of every day. But if he acts like a pretty good guy most of the time, and you can tolerate his quirks without wanting to murder him for them, and his life seems to be heading in roughly the same direction as yours, then you've probably got a solid enough foundation to construct a healthy marriage.

That's certainly been true for my marriage, anyway -- we recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary by watching our power meter turn backwards as the technician finished installing our grid-tied solar power system, which represents the fulfillment of a dream both of us have cherished since long before we met. I can't think of a better way to celebrate our marriage than by watching a shared dream come true!


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