Today's Buddha's birthday here in Korea. I love Buddha.
As you know from last month, I have a huge spiritual crush on the guy and have quietly been missing my meditation time with him and myself. Hell, I even miss the bowing and fasting. That doesn't mean I don't dig Jesus. I do. I dig him a lot.
And just like with Christmas, we also get a day off of work to celebrate Buddha's birthday. I had originally planned to celebrate the day by going to temple, but I could not do such a thing with a clear conscience. Catholics certainly shouldn't care that I respect the guy, however, visiting a temple of another religion while on this project seemed to break one of my own rules. A pious follower of Christ wouldn't be visiting a Buddhist temple on such a day. That's a bit idolatrous for me.
On this day of rest away from lazy employees, ornery bosses and loud students, I am doing nothing but enjoying my bed. Being the wonderfully married married man that I am, I have the good fortune to have a tremendously sexy and voluptuous NE Asian wife. I'm not bragging, but I'm just happen to be luckier than you.
Only kidding. To each his own, right?
So, on this day of rest I plan on reading, writing, playing the guitar and, if all goes as planned, spending a solid amount of time in bed...with my wife. Is that wrong to write on such a forum? I don't think so. I'm a Catholic and the accepted idea is that Catholics are all about big families and marital love-making.
However, my wife and I are still young. We married young and don't plan on having babies for another four or five years. So without baby-making, we get to do it the old fashioned way --for lust. Is it wrong to lust after my wife?
Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. -CCC 2351
Yeah, maybe it says that, but it also goes on to say that "There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church" and that "Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence." I think we're safe on this front.
So, maybe this is the real question: How often can we do it and are there rules about how to do it?
I know how much we "do it" and am not really sure if it's above or below average, but I can say that television shows and movies have overplayed sex so much to the point that I feel like if I'm not doing it several times a day that I'm somewhat abnormal. It was the same in high school. Tons of kids were panicking about sex and claiming that they had already done it when the truth was that most of us were still virgins. My metric is way off.
The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation.
Details aside, being married is an absolute joy, but we never get to see those things from movies and television. For the very same reason that I started this post with something as tiny as sex, we must sift through the fluff and identify what it takes to have a successful marriage.
I've only been married for two years, but I wish someone had given me some advice before making the leap. Here is what I have learned.
1) Marriage is a partnership.
This is one of the most important things to grasp in your marriage. The sooner you understand that, the happier your first years will be. Even if you lived with your spouse before the wedding, things change the very next day. There's a concept in Korea called "jeong". It's essentially the bond that ties us to each other. I can have jeong with my wife just like I have with my dog, my friends and the local shopkeeper. Understanding this relationship and identifying our roles is crucial to a successful marriage. Say what you want about Korea, but these guys know about maintaining the structure of relationships (in theory at least).
However, partnership does not mean sharing everything 50:50. Try splitting housework this way and see what happens. One party complains that the other is not doing their share and the couple spends more time rationing chores and arguing than spending time together. Wasn't that the point of marriage, anyways? Partnership means sacrifice and compromise. You know the meaning of those words, sure, but can you put it into practice?
2) Sex is important, but affection is whats keeps you married.
Everyone enjoys sex, but people don't really need it that much. What they need is affection. Still, sex is, of course, the biggest display of affection that humans can engage in and it's a hell of a lot of fun. However, remembering all the other lesser forms of affection can really help your marriage. (Holding hands, massage feet and spooning are the big ones.) Kissing, for instance, is the first thing that a new couple will do and yet it's usually the first thing that disappears when a couples gets comfortable in the marriage. I know seeing old people kissing is gross, but it's not as gross as seeing a man with a mustache kissing. That's gross. Kidding aside, it's a shame that the intimacy of kissing is lost so easily. When that goes, sex can become very mechanical. Go back to middle school and work on your "Frenching".
3) Trust yourself first.
If you trust yourself then you will be able to trust your spouse. Far too many times in my life, I've found myself wasting time worrying about this. I know that I'm at a point where I can trust myself and along with that has come an incredible peace of mind. Life is too short to be consumed by jealousy and trust issues.
4) Don't underestimate the value of mutual-activities.
Man, I can't stress this enough. And it's not just having the same interests in common, either. That's easy to claim and even easier to bullshit. Doing activities together --regardless of whose idea it was-- is tremendously bonding. It works, but doing activities that you don't want to do but still doing them anyways is what marriage is all about. I used to love refusing to do things that I didn't like and it ended up with my wife and I doing nothing instead. That was a waste and we only have so many years together. Don't waste time planning the perfect day. Make your day perfect.
5) Trying to solve arguments immediately doesn't actually solve them.
This is my curse. I have been trained this way and breaking that habit is harder than you think. When I was a young boy, my mother and I would occasionally get into it. Within minutes, the remorse would build up inside and I would start writing a letter of apology. I couldn't stand having someone I cared about mad at me for any amount of time. Well, that was my mother and I was nine. With a wife, arguments are more serious and sometimes trying to solve them quickly backfires. Think about what was said, but don't try to win. Winning an argument with a spouse means losing it for the marriage. Give yourself some time and really think about their side. Again, arguing with reason and logic is always best, but this method usually delivers a pompous message that deepens the divide.
6) Don't do anything you wouldn't share with your spouse.
Jerry Seinfeld was having a conversation with George about whether or not it was okay for George to meet Marisa Tomei even though he was engaged to Susan. It's a classic episode. Jerry --in a moment of surprising monogamy-- offered this simple advice.
"Would you tell Susan? 'Cause if you can't tell Susan, then there's something wrong."
7) How do you measure yourself? It's probably not balanced with your spouse.
There are dozens of good quotes that I could post, but I think I'd like to give you one from Sidney Poitier from his fantastic book "The Measure of a Man".
"As I entered this world, I would leave behind the nurturing of my family and my home, but in another sense I would take their protection with me. The lessons I had learned, the feelings of groundedness and belonging that have been woven into my character there, would be my companions on the journey."
I measure myself by how well I provide for my family and the example I will set for my children. I might not be rich or poor right now, but at some point on this earth, I'll be both. That should not be allowed to change me.
8) Allowing for space is good, but only for the right reasons.
Giving your spouse some space to be with friends or family is great, but make sure you're doing it because you want to do give it to them. If you're offering space because you want it, then it's not right.
9) Everyone deserves a break.
Once we get married, our walls move in a bit and the world gets a little smaller. Every day that passes, we tighten the belt more and more. It's not a bad thing, but it can get to be too much from time to time. My wife sometimes wants to be alone at home with a nice book and a cool breeze. I give it to her. Besides, she has to endure the endless, dribbling of my monotone voice way too often anyways.
10) Understand honor. Honor that honor and honor your spouse with that honor.
I shouldn't have to explain this. Honor is something that is ingrained in humans and if you can't honor your spouse, then you don't deserve one.