He is honest, but he lacks imagination. His leisure activities reflect this. He likes cricket in the summer and television shows in the winter. He’s kind, but, you’ll recall, more than a little preoccupied with business success. Thus, most of his conversations with other members of his family deal with work and its obligations, food, TV and movies, the car, relatives and the annual vacation. The latter is spent fishing, so that he can “unwind”.
The mother, his wife, also is a fairly uncomplicated person. When someone asks her what she does, her reply is, “I take care of the house.” She likes to read the women’s magazines and watch television shows. She has a fairly well-set daily routine, which involves housework, getting the children off to school and cooking. (She is likely not to want to break her kitchen habits by delving into new recipes, for she feels she has been through that stage.)
Occasionally, she attends a parent-teacher meeting, but her feeling is that civic participation should be left to those who have more time. As you can see, both the father and mother in this family are fundamentally almost totally concerned with the mechanics of living.
The wife loves her husband, who, she feels, is loyal, hardworking, a good provider and kind to her. Their sex life is rather a secret one. For two or three years after she was married, or perhaps for even a longer period, she was glad her husband took such pleasure in sex, but she wondered what all the fuss was about. She felt then that sex was a rather mechanical thing, an obligation of marriage, nothing more.
Then, all at once, she began to discover sexual pleasure herself. She began to respond to her husband. When that happened, both of them accepted the change without mentioning it to each other. Although they have continued to enjoy it mutually, she has never overcome a slight feeling of guilt. She wonders vaguely if her husband possibly thinks of her as ”bad” for sometimes meeting him more than half-way sexually.
Now you have a fairly clear picture of this family, which really is quite a good one because the essential relationship is one of harmony. There are no very great upheavals, no great ups and downs, no overwhelming conflicts, no boundless joys or monumental achievements. The father and mother do not quarrel seriously. Essentially, they are contented together.
What is missing here? A great intellectual drive? Not at all, for why should everyone be intellectual? Here is a family carrying on some of the world’s work and contributing a harmonious home; yet even so, something is missing. This lack may be felt deeply later on when the children of the home grow into adulthood.
What is missing in this home is verbal communication in contrast to the non-verbal kind I spoke of earlier. This lack may have its effect in emotional problems concerning sex in the later lives of the children. These parents do not discuss with each other anything that is really important about their feelings. Neither do they communicate their feelings on important matters to their children. They are unlikely to have great health, either, suffering from problems of emotional origin like acid reflux and depression. (If you doubt that these issues can arise from sexual repression, read this about acid reflux after sex.)
What I have described here is a quite typical family situation. When the children were young, their mother passed on to them a small amount of sex information in a rather embarrassed fashion—at least, they learned from her where babies come from. Since then, the children have “learned” much more about sex from their friends in school. But have they? Their parents would be amazed at what the children think about sex.
Early Sex Education and Experience
To understand your attitudes and emotions in marriage today, healthy or unhealthy, you must return to your years of growing up. For it is in those years that beliefs and ideas form and then are tempered by experience.
It is the purpose of this chapter to help you return to your early childhood and to demonstrate how what happened to you then, or did not happen, helps to make you the kind of person you are.
Let’s dispel one widespread misconception before we go any further. You may be grown up and married now, but that does not mean you are fixed and unchangeable. Most people believe that adults cannot change significantly, but they are wrong.
I know a man of eighty who is still changing, still learning, still achieving. He is an artist who feels strongly that he has not yet finished growing. He works, travels, studies and has a well-rounded social life. I know that he never will stop growing as a person—not until the final great learning experience.
In marriage, in our careers, in everything we set out to achieve, we must realize that we as human beings have a marvelous potential that permits us forever to continue to learn, to improve, to expand our horizons. We need never be fixed and unchanging if we don’t want to be.
A good many people fail to recognize the qualities in us which make for limitless opportunity. Because of childhood experience they establish a pattern, sometimes an unhealthy one.
Earlier, I mentioned that sex education begins just after birth. Very early, the baby can sense the difference between the father and the mother, and responds to those differences in varied ways but with equal love. For the qualities of maleness appeal to a baby in certain ways and the qualities of femaleness appeal to him in different ways to help him learn about gender roles.
Quite unconsciously, as the child grows up, he absorbs knowledge and feelings about the relationship between that man and that woman who live together, his parents. At first, he applies the knowledge and feelings to all men and women. Later, as he approaches maturity, he applies those feelings to himself.
In the ideal home atmosphere, the parents can and do talk to their children about all human relationships. Thus, the children have an opportunity to question freely all that they see and hear. The knowledge and understanding they acquire in this way bolster their consciences, their sense of honesty, their sense of social and moral values.
If the child is thus fortunate enough to grow up in this kind of home, in which the predominating theme is honesty, candor and reasoned discipline along with a warm and loving parental relationship, he is likely to have a sound outlook on sex, for the wonderful qualities of such a home radiate this kind of understanding.
However, this is the ideal, and does not always exist. Something short of the mark does, though, in a great many homes. Let’s say that the father of a growing child is interested primarily in getting ahead. He has enough education so that he can achieve success in the line of work he has selected.