I guess, like many children who were raised as Christians, I’ve always had a problem with sex. I didn’t even have actual sex with my girlfriend of three years from the age of 16 to 19 because it was one of the hard lines of Christian morality that I would not cross. All I did as a teenager was think about sex, but I knew I mustn’t act on the thoughts. I even felt super guilty when I masturbated.
When I met the woman who became my wife, she was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist her. I didn’t tell her until months in that I was deeply religious and had felt that all the sex we were having was a sin. She thought that was weird and kind of hurtful. Immediately after that conversation, we had the best sex we had ever had up to that point.
Two years into our relationship, I stopped believing in God. I derided any kind of belief in anything, even that the color of a t-shirt could be known, and prided myself on not being delusional. I began to internalize that life was a cruel joke.
Sometimes after that, my wife would want to have sex, but I wouldn’t feel like it. I would be too busy thinking about how I’m going to get myself out of this hell. I thought the answer was make more money so that everyone could leave me alone, so that I could stay home and brood and not have to do shit.
One of the few things I still enjoyed (with the other things being eating and doing drugs, mostly alcohol), was courtship: the parts leading up to sex that you were technically allowed to do as an evangelical. I assumed it was too late to court my wife, so I would court girls at work. Mostly they were girls I didn’t find attractive, so there was no danger of me getting caught up. Sometimes they were girls I found attractive, but who were used to the game and would play along with no interest in going any further.
But on two occasions, it seemed that I had found a soulmate.
The first girl did a lot of drugs, so we were able to forget about our problems and just live in the moment. Before anything happened sexually, she had some kind of breakdown and disappeared for a few days. In the time it took for her to re-establish connection, I seriously contemplated suicide one day and got fired from my job for blacking out at work and being creepy the next.
The second girl, this recent one, doesn’t drink, so instead of just checking out, we have long talks in which she challenges everything that I believe.
I had to ask myself, did I make a mistake getting married? At first I thought the answer was yes. Slowly, very slowly, I realized that I didn’t really love this girl. I loved the idea I had of her, and what my life could be like if I wasn’t bound by the only thing that kept me in the world of the living: my wife.
Why hadn’t I broken up with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, when I decided that life was meaningless and cruel? If nothing mattered, why couldn’t I just leave her and do drugs and listen to music and fuck the world?
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The courtship part is the romance part, the game playing part, the ‘I could still run away if this goes wrong’ part, the no total commitment part (see ‘I could still run away’), the ‘I’m still single’ part (see ‘I could still run away’), etc. It has more electricity than the long term relationship, however, even in the long term, there can be overwhelmingly electric moments that surpass that courtship phase, but it takes a lot of waiting time to realize them. I would think, a character that does drugs/booze and basically likes to check out of life doesn’t really do anyone they are in a realtionship with any favors because they just, well, aren’t really THERE.
It seems to me that this story begins like one not about Nihilism, but about about the fluidity of self-evaluation. Looking for someone or something to challenge how you see yourself now either by resestablishing old behaviours and beliefs or considering new ones. These both may leave you feeling more certain of who you are. Repetitive cycles, such as in working or married life rarely challenge such core values, so you forget that the status quo is not always optimal.
Sorry I’m back in therapy so get used to this kind of jabbering.
Thanks doc 🙂