Art of Woman

Marriage is a Miracle Cure!

The Canberra Times published an article from The Independent about the effect of marriage on cancer patients on Saturday 8 September 2012. Marriage is shown to improve the three year survival rate of cancer patients by threefold. “If marriage were a drug, it would be hailed as miracle cure.” says The Independent. Caner patients within a marriage had significantly greater chance of survival than single patients. The study followed 168 cancer patients over a decade of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Survival after three years was 33% for married patients compared to 10% survival after three years for single patients.

Married women cancer patients fared best with 46% increased survival while married men had 25% increased survival rate. Single men fared the worst with only 3% increased survival rate. So marriage is very beneficial.

I have often wondered why so many men (and some independent women) make such a fuss about getting married, as if they are being coerced or cajoled somehow. Marriage has suffered from a lot of disrespectful jokes and these affect people’s attitude and willingness to commit to marriage.

The study does not consider why marriage gives such a large benefit. Cancer treatment requires a lot of complex treatments, medicines and frequent trips to the doctor or clinic. The treatments and medical investigations often involve stressful and time consuming procedures. A spouse is a great asset to make sure that all appointments are attended, medicines taken as prescribed and complex procedures and followed correctly. I agree that social and practical support is an important factor in assisting ill people regain health.

While it was good to see an article that shows the benefits of marriage for a change, I would have liked a study that included the affection level of the marriage. I have a theory that marriage confers more benefits than simply the mechanics of appointments and medicines. Being in a significant relationship can give a spouse an extra reason to live. Being married can, quite literally, make life worth living.

Sex, Faith and Marriage, Sunday 22 August 2010

Last night on ABC TV Compass interviewed three couples from three faiths, Hindu, Muslim and Judaism. They were asked about their beliefs regarding sex.

The Jewish couple spoke about how menstruation impacts on their sex lives. Orthodox Jews do not have sex during a woman’s period, nor for seven days afterwards. The time of menstruation is significant in Jewish ritual and a woman learns that her body is sacred and that sex is sacred. The husband and wife do not sleep in the same bed during this time. Then, after 12 days without any contact with her husband the wife has a ritual bath called Mikvah and is blessed, cleansed and made ritually clean. She is then ready to return to the marriage bed and resume sexual relations. Often there is a sense of excitement as she returns home ready to greet her husband. Her desire has been rejuvenated.

There are many misconceptions surrounding Mikvah. It was wonderful to see how this ancient tradition is practiced in a modern society. Each women’s privacy was respected and hygiene was strictly controlled.
I loved the passionate way that the wife, Timmy described her experience of being in separate beds, “It makes you yearn to be with your partner.” Kalman describes the husband’s view, “That’s the time to rejuvenate. Because you are forced to instil a control, you are forced to draw close to each other emotionally, you talk to each other.” This periodic separation deepens the relationship!
I’m sure the monthly break in sexual demands is rejuvenating for both husband and wife. She is not pressured to be constantly available and he does not suffer as much rejection because the rejuvenation time is understood and he does not make needless advances.
Personally, I would find the 12 days without contact every month extremely difficult and I do not observe this practice. I do however take breaks on my own visiting friends and relatives and have done so throughout my marriage. When I return home from a break, we are excited to see each other, we are attentive to each other and our relationship is rejuvenated.
The Mikvah ritual is a refreshing contrast to today’s modern western culture which is over sexualised. Western culture puts a lot of sexual expectations on relationships. Men feel pressure to prove their manhood and women feel pressure to be constantly sexually attractive and to acquiesce to the lustful demands of their partners even when they feel no desire themselves.
One example of these attitudes is the book “365 nights: A Memoir of Intimacy” by Charla Muller, Berkley Publishing Group, 2008. ISBN: 9781741964240.

Charla Muller wanted to give her husband a memorable and significant gift for his 40th birthday. She decided to give him sex every night for one year, the “gift”.
It was an amazing effort. I agree that the “gift” was motivated by love for her husband, but it is also based on the assumption that a good wife is constantly sexually available.

This assumption makes a woman a sex object at the whim of a man’s lust even within marriage. This has the potential to become exploitative of women, meeting only the man’s needs without any consideration for the woman’s experience. Even Charla defines sex in terms of his ejaculation (P72). Unfortunately, many men loose respect for women once their lusts are satisfied. If the husband expects his wife to be constantly sexual availability then sex becomes the wife’s obligation and her refusal is taken as a rejection of his manhood. He may take any sexual rejection so badly that he becomes coercive or even violent as a result.

Charla admits that her husband felt rejected, writing, “I know you’re avoiding sex and it bums me out … I’m your husband for Pete’s sake, not some cheesy college guy looking to get lucky.” (P215) The assumption is that a wife should not refuse her husband.

Perhaps if Charla was permitted rejuvenation times, she would say yes more often. Instead, she puts in a marathon effort gives her body as a “gift”.

When a woman has no desire, sex becomes a chore, a performance or even a transaction. Charla tries to gloss over this aspect of her “gift” but it is clear that she has had enough during the last few weeks of the “gift”.

“Geez, do you think you could try a little bit more?” He said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He sighed. “Could you pretend you’re interested in this? I mean could you woo me a bit?”
Try? Woo? What does he think I’ve been doing the last eleven months of my life?
(P234-235)

It is clear that her husband has continuing expectations. A husband with the expectation that a good wife is constantly sexual availability is generally not very appreciative.

What Charla has done may have been good for her marriage, but it is a potentially dangerous precedent to use as an example to emulate. It sets up unrealistic expectations of marriage in men because many women will not be able to achieve this amount of sexual availability due to a whole range of justifiable reasons.

There does seem to be a gulf between men’s lusts and women’s capacity. As Charla writes, “Brad will want sex and will resent having to ask for it. I will not want to have sex after two babies and fifty-four workhour weeks and will resent having to have it.” (P243)

Charla describes women getting Doctor’s certificates as a way of extending postpartum sexual abstinence. (P75) Surely a ritual time out is better than this deception?

Judaism gives sexuality a structure that honours the needs of both men and women. The Mikvah looks like a peaceful place where women can be refreshed and recover their energies and the 12 days of abstinence makes the husbands more appreciative of the physical and sexual side of marriage after the 12th day finally arrives!

You can read another review of 365 Nights here and two radio interviews by Amy Freese of Designher Living on WSRadio.com - 03 and 04.