“I do.” There are few words we say in our lives that carry more importance than a commitment of marriage. Yet, caught in the feel-good swirl of confetti, popping champagne corks and flying garters, few people realise the invisible, implicit commitment that underlies it. Patriarchy demands that our relationships are stagnant.
Patriarchy demands stagnant relationships for the jaw-droppingly simple reason that emotional growth will destroy it.
Before the big day, we agonise over our marriage vows. “For richer or poorer, for better or worse.” Little do we know what these words truly imply. We dream of an absurdly romantic relationship for the rest of our lives, failing to grasp that such a relationship can only exist under one very specific condition: zero emotional and sexual growth, i.e., stagnancy.
In Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá write that marriages are failing “under an unstoppable tide of swirling sexual frustration, libido-killing boredom, impulsive betrayal, dysfunction, confusion, and shame.”
Michael Picucci, author of The Journey Toward Complete Recovery, writes of “a deep psychic schism within almost everyone in our culture which prohibits enduring, loving relationships to form, which at the same time can remain sexually alive and growing”. Here again we encounter the spectre of stagnant relationships.
In Is there a hole at the heart of your relationship? I describe how we fear presenting our deepest emotional and sexual impulses to our significant other, precisely for fear of rocking the marriage boat and threatening the fantasy of ‘happy ever after’:
“In recent months I’ve been having the same conversation over and over with people who are involved in personal development, building emotional integrity and improving the quality of their relationships: there is a hole at the heart of their most significant relationship, their marriage.
So, what’s in this hole?
Our deepest and darkest emotional and sexual truths… the stuff we hardly dare think let alone speak. Things about our partner—or perhaps our in-laws—that trigger us, but we never dare mention for fear of rocking the boat. Desires for sexual experimentation that flit through our mind while we engage in the same dull, disengaged sex we always have.
The hole lies at the heart of emotional unavailability.”
Why patriarchy demands stagnant relationships
When I wrote this, I could perceive the hole. But I didn’t understand that patriarchal societies require that hole. Patriarchy can only exist when our relationships are stagnant.
The reason for this is jaw-droppingly simple.
Patriarchy is based on the pre-eminence of everything masculine—strength, intelligence, power. Feminine attributes—nurturing, wisdom, emotional intelligence, sexuality—gets suppressed and repressed, often forcefully. Over the six thousand years since the advent of patriarchy, we’ve learned that to survive we must sacrifice all notions of internal growth.
Saying “I do” is permitted only in the presence of a representative of the patriarchal establishment. We think we’re committing to a life of ever-growing love. We’re not. We’re pledging to uphold patriarchy. The notion of the happy, monogamous, lifelong couple is the fantasy we cling to, to make the unconscious horror of zero growth bearable.
Patriarchy demands stagnant relationships because emotional growth will destroy it.
As long ago as 1932, observing Hitler’s rise to power while living in Berlin, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich wrote: “Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology.” Unsurprisingly, Reich’s book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, was banned and he was forced to flee.
The great battle
Time has proven Reich correct.
After a century of feminism, the genie of emotional growth is out of the bottle. The great battle to overthrow patriarchy approaches a critical phase. Let me be very clear: this is an internal battle, decided by your own choice to grow the feminine side of your being.
On one side are those who choose emotional responsibility. To eliminate the hole at the heart of their relationships. To heal Michael Picucci’s “deep psychic schism,” what he terms the ‘sexual-spiritual split’. Those who choose to be, in Picucci’s words, “alive and growing.”
On the other are those who cling to emotional unavailability, stagnant relationships that look good from the outside, the flickering distractions of materialism.
This is a battle that everyone must take a side in.
How do you choose?
Photo by Michael H Hallett