Beyond Pride #3: True Love
My essays from the last couple of days have discussed attraction to minors, and my fight to overcome that. I want to make clear that my situation now is markedly different than it was when I began this struggle twenty-five years ago. In my teenage years and early twenties, I was overwhelmed by the daily crush of emotions and desires. It threatened to consume me. I felt like I was barely hanging on and any hope of a “normal” life seemed beyond me.
Today, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman who has changed my life for the better in every way imaginable. Additionally, the fear and horror that once dominated my life are gone. In a very real way, I have been set free.
I know that requires some additional explanation. There are several questions that quickly spring to mind: 1) Given my desires, why would I marry a grown woman? 2) Is that marriage a satisfying relationship? 3) Now that I’m married, am I still attracted to minors?
These are all legitimate concerns, so I’m taking time today to answer them.
1. Given my attractions, why did I marry a grown woman?
The answer to this one is simple: I fell deeply, madly, insanely in love. I met Janelle while playing cards one night sixteen years ago. I had dropped by to visit some friends who lived in the same apartment complex I did, and she had stopped by to visit them as well. The four of us decided to play spades, and she and I wound up as partners.
She was eighteen, and thus well past the age I’m generally attracted to. However, she was witty, intelligent, and a good spades player; I had a ton of fun that night. She and I lost the game, but I had a blast doing so.
Over the next few years, I would meet up with her again several times since we shared numerous friends. Each time, I appreciated her company a little bit more. I liked her as a person, and I found, much to my surprise, that I was falling in love. Since I had practically no dating experience at this point, I had no idea how to handle myself. That would cause us plenty of problems once we did start seeing each other, but we made it through…and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The simple truth is that Janelle is an exception to my usual desires. I came to find her attractive not because she met some physical checklist, but instead because I loved HER. In my opinion, trying to force love to grow out of attraction is just a pale imitation of letting attraction grow out of love.
2. Is it a satisfying relationship?
Absolutely. I cannot stress this enough, but after almost eleven years of marriage, I am more in love with my wife today than I have ever been. I cannot imagine a better marriage, and I am grateful that God brought her into my life. We truly make life better for each other.
But I can hear the question ringing in your mind: is it sexually satisfying?
My initial response is that that is no one’s business but ours. That said, I understand that in a culture where sexual satisfaction has become the de facto means of judging happiness, to ignore the question entirely is to misunderstand the intent behind it.
So, I will not go into any detail, but I will state that we have a phenomenal relationship in all respects and leave it there. As I stated above, attraction follows love.
3. Now that I’m happily married, am I still attracted to minors?
This is complicated. It turns out that sexuality is not so simple as flipping a switch, and even a wonderful marriage doesn’t erase the basic nature of who we are.
My situation is not unlike that of an addict. I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or drugs, but I’ve known several people who were. Listening to their stories has been enlightening, because it is amazing how true they ring to my own experiences.
The journey is different for everyone, but in my case I’ve learned that beating an addiction is less like killing it and more like tying it up. No matter how hard you fight the temptation to return will always be there, whispering in the back of your mind, taunting you with that which you both love and hate. It’s like walking a tightrope, a realization that you want to give in to your addiction even in the midst of desperately wanting not to. It is understanding that giving in is death while the songs it sings are still alluring.
Eventually, if you are fortunate, years of resistance slowly allow that gnawing hunger to fade into the background and stops being the center of your world. It’s always there—always waiting—but when you see it now, it seems so weak and ineffectual that you wonder how it could have dominated you for so long. You could untie it, you could set it free to rule your life. You know you could walk that road again, but it would be your choice and not that of the beast that lures you. At that point, it’s not a matter of desire, but of control.
In short, I’m convinced that my attractions will never change. My wife is still the only adult woman who turns me on. I hear guys talk about beautiful actresses and models, but seeing those women does nothing; there’s just no desire there for me.
On the other hand, my attractions do not rule me. Every day isn’t torture trying to keep those thoughts out of my head. Where once my desires threatened to rule me, now I rule them, and the difference is profound.
To be honest, though, this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has a happy and successful marriage. Very few people marry the person who completely matches their physical ideal. Blonde instead of brunette. Perhaps taller than the ideal. Or heavier. Or thinner. Or a host of other small “imperfections”. Whatever it is, you understand that you can love your spouse without them meeting some impossible standard.
This is especially true as time passes. As we age, even the bits of perfection we managed to emulate start to fade. The hair gets gray, the gut gets bigger, and wrinkles line the face. Even if you somehow married your perfect mate, they cannot stay that way. Despite that, plenty of people stay together happily as the years pile on.
I’ve come to understand that attraction can be the enemy of happiness. I fell in love with Janelle because of who she was, not because of how she looked, and it means that I will always love her no matter how much her physical form changes. My joy is that she became truly gorgeous to me as I came to love her. Doing it the other way, seeking love because someone is attractive, can instead lead us to false conclusions about how much we truly connect with the other person.
Thus, the message today is two-fold. First, we all need to realize that attraction is only one aspect of creating a solid relationship; my own journey clearly illustrates why the physical attractiveness of someone should be suspect as a foundational aspect of any relationship. Put bluntly: don’t trust your physical instincts to guide you to a deep and abiding marriage.
My second point, however, is close to my heart. That is that anyone who is actively struggling with attraction to minors still has hope of a better life. I won’t lie: it’s not easy, and there will invariably be potholes, but one of the reasons I decided to come out of the basement is to proclaim a single, ringing truth: your sexuality doesn’t define your story…or your joy.