Love, Sex, and Marriage
By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)
Love, Sex, and Marriage
- By S. M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)
What is love? Now-a-days, as always perhaps, boys are often heard saying to girls “I love you.” At that girls feel utterly confused about the meaning of the word ‘love’. No doubt that they feel elated and thrilled by the words “I love you,” but that is because these words at best convey a PROPOSAL and not necessarily some TRUTH hidden inside. It confuses a girl the most when she hears the words “ I love you” from a boy who has seen her for the first time. No acquaintance, no commitment, still there is the utterance “I love you.” The girl who has experienced cheating from so-called boy friends or received such proposals a number of times, doubts whether the utterance is the expression of a real FEELING or a superficial INTENTION.
Therefore we are going to investigate the issue with an unbiased attitude. If love is what is usually meant by the cliché “I love you,” then why does the reality take a U-turn after marriage or even after some illegal dating? Does the word “love” have any special meaning or significance in the male-female nexus? Is the love of a mother for her child different from the love of a wife for her husband? We must look into the matter from a fresh angle of view.
What is NOT Love?
The definition of love is not love. So it is no use attempting to define love in any language. Rather, we can try to identify events that represent moments of love. And the best way of doing so would be to say which events do NOT represent love.
Suppose I see a beautiful girl. She is so beautiful that I feel spell-bound and find it hard to manage myself without wanting to possess her. Is that love?
Surely that is a LIKING - A CHOICE, A FASCINATION - but not necessarily love. I do not say that choosing something or somebody is good or bad. What I am insisting on is that a choice is an IDENTIFICATION based on some PURPOSE and hence involves personal gain. Therefore it is not necessarily love.
Is love an instinctive urge to GET something? For example, a boy may like any girl as far as his physical desire is considered. Is that love?
Love is universal. Let us assume that it is. Likewise, LUST or physical desire for sex is also universal. Does this similarity, then, mean that love and the desire for sex are the same thing? Let us not look for an answer first. Just let us try to perceive the urgency of the question.
ANY man may feel sexual desire for ANY girl – whether he is prepared to satisfy his desire in that way is a different thing, and there is no doubt that such a desire is universal. Now, can we say only on the basis of this attraction that any man loves any girl or woman?
Any man may want to HAVE SEX with any girl or woman, but will any man want to MARRY any girl or woman? As far as sex desire is considered, the desire seems to be universal but such desire narrows down too much when the question of the desire for marriage crops up. If having sex is the only intention, then nobody seems to choose or limit the alternatives, but if marriage is the intention, then there is a lot of consideration and limiting of choices.
Because both love and lust seem to be universal, a girl will hardly believe that a boy loves her only because he has told her so a number of times. That is why a girl likes to hear the words “I love you” again and again. She needs to.
I need my wife to satisfy my thirst for sex. Is that love? Definitely not. Am I to blame for having the desire to be with her to satisfy that purpose, then? No, I am not. Actually, it is not that a ‘should’ or ‘not should’ needs to be associated with sex in this connection. We simply say that sex does not necessarily mean love.
On the other hand, love, though a universal feeling, or attitude, has to be reduced to some specific RELATIONAL ATTITUDES if it has to be related to man-woman relationship. That is why I am free to LOVE another person’s wife because I must love a FRIEND or a SISTER, but I cannot claim any sexual relationship with her. Because love unifies, it may tend to unify me and any woman on the PHYSICAL AS WELL AS MENTAL LEVEL, but if I claim to have true love for her, I cannot have sexual relationship with her until I have married her with her own consent in the proper way. This means that love entitles a man and a woman to be physically united only when it has been translated into self-compensating bilateral RELATIONSHIPS.
Let us try to go deeper into the nature of the problem. Unless we can clearly distinguish love from sex urge, we may not understand the fact at all. Those who are loving have loved – simply loved all the time – but that has not helped us to intellectually understand the nature of love as distinct from the nature of any other one-pointed desire.
I like a girl - or some girls - so much that I am prepared to sacrifice anything for them. Is that love? In a sense, yes. That is love because my mind is concentrated on something and is prepared to SACRIFICE something else for that. So, that is love. But, however, that is love of my OWN DESIRES, not of the girl or girls.
Here I think we have got a starting point. Love is the desire to be united, when the desire gets concentrated so much that it tends to break all barriers. Sacrifice is the means of breaking such barriers.
Now let us try to get familiar with the definition by using it to explain some selected phenomena. Suppose I see a bird in a shop and like it very much. I get it by sacrificing some money. That is my liking for the bird - my choice, my fascination. But is that my love for the bird? Probably not. Certainly that is my love for myself, of my bird-loving desire. My choice of or liking for something is surely my love for my own choices. So that is also love, but not love for that thing. It is only love for myself. And so it is selfishness.
If, on the other hand, I purchased the bird by sacrificing an amount of money and then felt that it would feel better in the open sky rather than in the cage and let it free, then I could be said to have loved it. When there is love for something or somebody, there is SACRIFICE of self-interest or personal desires or choices. But again, we must move carefully.
A mother – in fact any mother – loves her son, as we think so. The son asks her for some money, and being a mother, she gives it to him. The son spends this money on gambling and thus wastes his time rather than studying and going to school. The mother knows about it. She forbids her son to gamble but at the same time cannot help but give him the money whenever he asks for it. Her mother heart is too soft to say no to her son. Is that love on the part of the mother for the son?
The mother does not feel good if she does not have the opportunity to satisfy the demands of her son. She is caught in the mechanical tendency of instinct. That is love, no doubt, but NOT LOVE FOR THE SON; rather, it is only love for HER OWN INSTINCT. The mother in this case is caught in her conditioning as a mother. But love is freedom, so it cannot arise out of a conditioning.
Love in Emotions:
If I do not love you, and on the contrary I love myself, I happen to hate you or envy you; so hatred or envy is a form of love.
If I love wealth too much, then I am greedy. So greed is love for wealth.
In this way we can see that every mental attitude is love transformed or distorted in some way. So we have discovered a very precious truth: There is nothing except love. And it is for this reason that there is reason to doubt when somebody says, “I love you”. There is love even in the statement itself, but it is very difficult to know WHO IT IS FOR.
So love is not the main point; rather what should be the most important issue is what the TARGET of one’s love is. Is the individual identifying their love with the correct person or thing or idea?
So we see that in the assertion “I love you” there is love, not necessarily for the “you” but for the “I” that is uttering the sentence. But is that the love we want to mean when we speak out the sentence? Most of the time we only love OURSELVES. And that is why what we call love may seem to be so to ourselves but not to others.
Thus it is evident that men generally love women because of the natural instinct, which does not guarantee that there is personal care for somebody in such love. And hence a woman has reasons to doubt if a man says that he loves her. She finds it difficult to feel how he loves her as a particular person. Unless she has the conviction that he loves her AS A SPECIAL PERSON as against all others, she feels the love is of not much use to her. But can somebody be loved specially without building a special relationship with him or her?
Now we have discovered another very important point: LOVE AS A UNIVERSAL PHENOMENON is one thing and LOVE AS A WAY OF BUILDING PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS is another. For the time being we will confine our focus to the relationship between a man and a woman, which includes physical relationship too.
If a man likes any specific aspect of a woman’s beauty or characteristic, the woman feels compensated for. Such choice on the part of the man gives her gratification. Suppose I like the eyes of my wife very specially. My liking is enough for her as a reward. She feels grateful to me simply because I like her eyes. But she clearly feels that that liking of mine may not be my love for her; rather, it may be, and actually is, a feeling of mine resulting from the fact that her eyes are a possession of mine for which I should be prepared to sacrifice something – maybe a word of praise if not anything else – if I say that I love her. If she feels that she has beautiful eyes, then she has reasons to feel and to have the confidence that anybody will like those eyes and praise them. So my liking in this case cannot go by the name of love. If she feels that she has something valuable and even if I pay her for that, she will not feel that that attitude of mine to her possession or uniqueness is love. On the contrary, the situation may turn out in the opposite direction. She may feel that I am not giving her the right price and hence she is suffering an opportunity cost.
My wife is beautiful or loyal to me. That is why I consider her a precious gift for me. Does it mean that I love her? Maybe I think I love her. But how can I say that I love her if she does not feel so? Even if she feels that I love her, what is the proof that I love her?
Love and liking are not the same thing. Everybody values what he or she likes. That establishes a give-and-take relationship, which is bound to collapse when there is nothing to give or take or there is no person with the ability to take. Then that will mark the end of the relationship. Love never ends, only relationships do. However, if the relationships are founded on love, they do not collapse. Then what is love?
We are in a catch. And we cannot possibly get out of it if we do not know the relationship between LIKING and LOVE. Either we must trace the origin of liking in love or see why liking and choices exist. Also, we need to see how pleasure is related to liking in one’s life.
Love for the Specific and the General:
Liking refers to the instinctive urge to CLASSIFY and CHOOSE. Thus it refers to the compulsive drive to GET. Whereas love refers to the inner urge to GIVE someone HIS or HER DUE. Actually, as far as love is concerned, there is no ‘someone’, rather, there are the all. If I ‘love’ my own son too much by giving him everything he wants, then a time will soon come when he will blame me for my having given him the opportunity to go astray. Love does not mean just giving something to somebody; it means giving somebody his or her due. It is in this sense that if I love only one person in the world, I have already loved all others. Giving somebody his or her due ensures giving others their dues as well.
Loving means helping to grow up. It means giving as much as taking. If a child stays away from its mother and does not let her have the opportunity to give it care and affection, then the mother will feel deprived and will think that the child does not love her. Love means giving opportunities to give as well. Giving includes taking.
Love is nature, but because it works through instinct, it may happen to be a biased state of the mind, too personalized and self-centered.
Suppose my wife loves me. She says, and wants me to believe and feel, that she loves me very much. So she always wants me to stay with her, enclosed within the four walls, cut off from my parents and brothers and sisters and other relatives. She takes care of me more than my mother did or would. She gives me everything that a man could ever expect from a woman. Now, can I say that she loves me? Can I? In recent times many women are seen to ‘love’ their husbands in this way. They are thirsty for a very small, nuclear family, with all passions revolving around their petty desires and likings and disliking. Is that love?
Let us see. Please do not conclude hastily. From her own point of view, what she is giving is really love. But then we must also admit that that is her OWN WAY of imparting love. Love as a psychological phenomenon is neither to blame nor to be praised. That is because it is always there in everybody’s heart. So what matters is HOW one wants it expressed. If the way my wife takes care of me is to be called love, then she does not love ME. I have my parents whom I must love my own way or whom I must give an opportunity to love me in their own way. Likewise, I have my relatives. I have relationships with all of them. My personality is the sum of all such relationships. If she claims that she loves me, then we must judge that love by the manner in which she values my relationships with others. If she does not include my TOTAL personality, she does not love ME. She only loves her OWN CONCEPT of me, her OWN DREAM and EXPECTATION of me.
Or let us take another issue. Suppose I have 10,000 Dollars. I love my wife so much that I have decided to give her all the money. And that I do. She feels happy for the time being. She feels valued, acknowledged, cherished, and elated. She kisses me on the forehead one hundred times a day. She is doing what she is expected to. But from my part, can I assume that I have loved her the way that will make her really happy?
We must examine the consequences before rushing to any conclusion. After a few days she finds that I have loved her in all the ways possible. She feels important. But my parents and relatives had also some rights to the 10,000 dollars that I have given her. Because I have already given all to her, they are deprived. Now they envy her. They consider her alien. They posses a negative attitude toward her as much as I have possessed a positive attitude toward her. So they give her as much hatred as I have loved her. Now she receives condemnation and indifference from them. My love for her is nullified by their hatred toward her. Now she has only the money and a husband whose relatives do not like her. Thus, by giving her whatever I had, I have failed to give her a good environment, a society, recognition, a friendly background. Now she is only an abstract picture on a wrong background. Have I really loved her? After all, LOVING SOMEBODY INVOLVES PUTTING HIM OR HER IN THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE. So love does not mean giving something. It means sacrifice. And sacrifice is more than giving.
Love and Sex:
Now let us move into the discussion of love in relation to sex. For the time being suppose that we are not aware of marriage, which may be a way of building relationship to validate or justify sex. And in this case also we are going to have recourse to examples and analysis to explore the issue. Suppose a girl says that she loves me and likes me. I also like her. She does not have any physical relationship with any other man. She is sort of devoted to me. I am pleased by her exclusive passion for me and also grow a strong fascination for her. She wants to have physical relationship with me and so I want to marry her. Surprisingly, SHE DOES NOT WANT TO MARRY ME. NOR DOES SHE WANT TO HAVE CHILDREN. What she wants is just to have physical relationship, nothing more. She wants to have PLEASURE. She wants to enjoy my body, reputation, and personality. Can I say that she loves me? Suppose that she is even prepared to forgo the pleasure of building relationships with others. And so she is undergoing suffering for me in a sense. Now, can I call it love?
Dear reader. Please do not rush to any conclusion first. It is true that she need not be bound to agree to my request of having children. She is not even bound to marry me. So I may not blame her only because she does not comply with some of my requests or opinions or values. Rather, I should feel proud of myself because she feels attracted to me. However, does she love me?
Please do listen. My urge for sex has a PROMISE in it. It is a commitment to mankind. It is through my sex urge that whatever is latent in me is going to be expressed. I also must contribute something to mankind. My ethnic traits, my personality, my genetic makeup, my experience, aptitude, knowledge, values, etc. want to get expressed and prorogated through my offspring. Even when I am old and about to die, I need to rest assured that I am not going to end forever, that I also have created some waves that will keep moving on the huge sea of creation even when I am no more. Mankind owes from me something that I may not hide or keep hidden. Through my pleasures something constructive should come out. MY PLEASURES SHOULD NOT GO IN VAIN. They must be creative. Therefore I need to have children. I cannot remain buried in the grave of the past when I am dead; rather, my children should carry me along into the distant future and as long as my progeny has something to contribute to the world, I will not be extinct. In that sense IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE MY ENJOYMENT MEANINGFUL. I must have children.
But she wants me to enjoy and grow tried and old. She wants me to waste my energy in the guise of enjoyment and then sit helpless. She does not have any COMMITMENT to my family, to my existence, to my blood stream. She does not want to see me creative. Nor does she herself want to create something valuable. So, I admit that she loves my body, my personality or social face, my wealth etc., but does she love ME? She only loves me in the PAST and not in the FUTURE. She does not want to love me when I am no more. She does not consider me VALUABLE. She does not consider me a complete, continuous personality. She only wants to buy me as a commodity. Therefore I am not going to have sex with her. I cannot have sex with a girl who is not even aware of the possibility that lies in my sex urge. I cannot have sex with a girl who does not even pay attention to the good news that the pleasure in the blood brings.
I am not saying that I need to plan having children every time I have sex. Rather, what I am going to say is that sex is not an instrument of mere bodily pleasure; it is a promise, a commitment to create, a gateway to creativity. I do not have the right to enjoy the pleasure of something alone depriving mankind of its real promise. Having sex is a way of serving the entire mankind. That is why it is apparently gratifying and gives pleasure. And do I have the right to enjoy the fruit of a tree without doing something to keep the tree alive? A girl who does not feel that I am the entire MANKIND does not deserve my sex.
So we see that sex is an activity that connects the past, present, and future of a person. It keeps the past alive through progeny in the future and gratifies the present with pleasure. That is why it should be considered a responsibility, not an instrument of pleasure. The sex which is only for pleasure, therefore, is not love. We love sex but that does not mean that sex is love. However, if sex is taken as a responsibility and promising possession, then sex and love have no difference.
Obviously, sex for pleasure cannot be the basis of relationship. That is why marriage is more than sex for pleasure. If marriage is to be linked with sex exclusively, then it must be said that it is sex for love, which has a commitment to the PAST, PRESENT, and the FUTURE as a whole. It involves COMMITMENT and SACRIFICE. Because sex for love is to help make future generation possible, sex in marriage must be exclusively selective. Both the spouses must be so committed to one another that neither of them can have extra-marital sex and thus dissipate his/her real worth. They got united to save the value preserved in them. And undoubtedly this is one kind of sacrifice, a great sacrifice. In fact, commitment always involves sacrifice.
Now we can conclude that there is true love in a happy marriage, and nowhere else. All else is fascination or infatuation, devoid of any commitment. Love as a psychological state is always there in each of our activities. We may love fishing, gambling, killing, helping, earning, learning and so forth. Love may be universal but love in any of these forms does not unify all. Any man may like to have sex with any woman and vice versa, but that is not love. Sex for pleasure only unifies two bodies for a few seconds, not even the minds. Because sex urge is universal like love, love and sex have happened to be confused through the reference of pleasure. If sex gave us bitter experience instead of pleasure, I hardly think anybody but a few would call it love.
There is actually nothing except love, no escape from love. Every liking or disliking is a form of love, maybe distorted. Therefore, love is not the point that is important as far as man-woman relationship is considered – it is simply always there in the heart – rather, what counts is how we want it expressed, and how we want it to establish relationships among us.
My fascination for girls or women is my liking, not love. If we must call it love, then we must also qualify the word ‘love’ with another word and say that it is ‘physical love’. But such a term, which is coined only to satisfy short-term goals, should be avoided. Liking or choice drives us toward action. It is not to be branded as right or wrong as long as it is natural and lawful.
When I like something I do not look at myself; rather, I look at my own liking. I do not even feel the need to look at myself because I feel I have the “myself” as given and beyond modification. But when I really like and choose something in light of my own past, present, and future, from which mankind is not excluded, then only my liking and choice become love. While likes, dislikes, or choices are one-shot approaches of desires, love is a continuous discovery of the self. Therefore, as far as male-female relationship is concerned, there is love in marriage. Marriage is love. There can be no love in adultery.
When Sex Means Love:
So there is a way of getting immense pleasure from sex. Just imagine for a second that you are no more in the world but still the world exists with all its grandeur. From somewhere – we do not know where – you look at the world and see that your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren… are representing you in the world. Some of them still value your values and some of them do not. They constitute a great part of mankind and so you are not meaningless, uprooted, and unimportant. If you let your imagination drift five hundred years ahead, you will see that a majority of the community of a certain region belongs to your family. Maybe some of them are scattered around the globe, perhaps in the sky too. Because all of them are not like you, rather some or many of them are of diverse qualities, they not only represent your personality and genetic makeup, but they really represent the entire mankind too. So even if you are not alive physically, you exist through them with all your promise, commitment, and possibility.
Now descend from the pinnacle of your imagination. Stand in front of your wife (or wives). Look at her into the eyes. Just feel that it is through her warm participation that you are going to multiply yourself through the unknown future. So she is very close to your heart. Her name is forever written on the history of your family tree. She is the gateway through which you are going to make the adventurous journey to the unknown future. She is part of what you are in the continuous plane of existence of life on earth. What you consider your children or progeny will get expressed through them.
So, see how personally you should take her! How close you should get to her! How much you should care for her! How important she is to you! Why should she be outside or away from you? And why should you be away from her? You both should be inside each other. Then give her a big hug. Love begins here. This is love.
Even if you are old and so is your wife, try this technique between yourselves. The entire past will seem meaningful to you. So there can be no wastage of life or time or passions. True love repairs all anomalies. And if this article does you any good, then pray for the poor author.
[From the author’s book “Love, Sex, and Marriage”, translated by the author.]