Lust and marriage: loving one, lusting after another
A friend of a friend is turning 40 and all she wants to mark the ending of her 30s is sex with someone other than her husband.
I’m told this woman doesn’t want to leave her husband – he’s a top bloke. But what she’s seeking is a feeling she hasn’t felt for a decade – that pulse-quickening, heart-thumping, deeply elemental, electric jolt called lust.
“I get it,” says my friend. “She’s only ever slept with two men and she’s coming to terms with the fact she’ll never experience sex with someone new ever again.”
When I was told this story, I should have tucked it away in that part of my brain marked ‘NFU’ (not for use), because when I began this column, I promised my husband I’d never write about sex. “Good luck with that,” he said, showing his usual prescience that if I talk about it, I’m probably going to write about it.
Now, I’m no sexpert, but I’d hazard a guess that lust is something a lot of people in long-term relationships think about. Especially if they’ve just watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona or – in the case of a gay friend – Brokeback Mountain. (“Monogamy suddenly feels deeply underwhelming,” he muttered as it ended.)
Even if you have a bells-and-whistles sex life, I reckon most people wouldn’t mind a hit of phenylethylamine (PEA) – the naturally occurring chemical that courses through your veins when you massively fancy someone new. (Except maybe Trudie Styler, who’s more likely to prefer a good book after all these years with her tantric-sex obsessed hubby.)
You can spot someone high on PEA. Shane Warne and Liz Hurley are mainlining the stuff (which is possibly why neither appears to be eating much), and by the look of recent pics, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are proof that the effects wear off after five years.
Last year, writer Christa D’Souza revealed in British Vogue that rather than jewellery, a party or a new dress for her 50th birthday, what she’d really like from her partner is a “pink ticket” to have sex with someone else.
“Yes, that’s right,” she wrote, “a one-off, one-night-only, last-chance saloon shag with someone other than the person I love and cherish and sincerely plan on spending the rest of my life with – which I do.”
The thought that she’d never do “it” again with someone else made feel her sad and panicky, she said, adding that she didn’t want to go to her deathbed and “find that of all the things I wish I’d done, my biggest regret is that I didn’t have more sex.”
So, what to do? Some would say don’t get into a long-term relationship in the first place, because the banality and slog of work, laundry, meals, housework and caring for children is guaranteed to wring out any passion.
Others, such as Cristina Nehring in her book A Vindication of Love, argue that our lifestyles - underpinned by materialism, cynicism and feminism - have stripped love of its potency, devaluing it to something “with AA batteries and [sold] over the counter”.
And then there’s popular culture, which has given us ridiculous expectations about the sort of sex we should be enjoying.
Me? Sure I can see the conundrum. But, ultimately, lust is like the tantalising, spoon-snapping sweetness of the torched sugar on a crème brûlée. Delicious, certainly, but nothing compared to the deeper, soul-satisfying silkiness of what lies beneath.
Not keen on custard? Don’t worry, PEA is also found in chocolate.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network
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