Is Unconditional Love the Enemy of Lust? No, Sweatpants Are.

What Women Really Think
June 28 2013 1:40 PM

Is Unconditional Love the Enemy of Lust? No, Sweatpants Are.

Earlier this week, we asked readers to write in telling us if they think unconditional love actually kills desire. Many responded. We’re publishing some of those responses Friday.

From: Sarah

Advertisement

Last year I watched the film Take This Waltz by myself and found it incredibly sad and unsettling. One of its central themes is the question of unconditional love versus lust. In the end, lust wins out and then is revealed to have its own shortcomings. Part of what troubled me was seeing the on-screen married couple as an exaggerated version of my own marriage. There's a lot of friendship in their relationship, as in ours, and they're very playful with each other, but in a way that often times takes on more sibling than lover characteristics.

I was uncomfortable with the two options being pitted against each other so starkly because it's too depressing to see them as natural enemies. Everyone wants both, so I'd really rather not believe that we're all doomed to lives where we're choosing which kind of emptiness we'd rather experience, as the central character in the movie discovered she'd done. It may be wishful thinking and a desire to avoid that sort of fatalist thinking that makes me believe that people can have both.

The problem with unconditional love, as I see it in my own life, is that it makes us lazy. My husband no longer holds his farts in my presence, and I've been known to sport some very unflattering sweatpants around the house in winter. Neither of these things make it any easier for us to regard each other as lustworthy sexual objects. It's as if we've both been hired to a job that we can't be fired from, so our work has gotten sloppy. As far as I can tell, this happens to almost everyone. Or at least the concept is so pervasive (appearing as a central theme in pretty much every couple-based sitcom I can think of) as to be considered a foregone conclusion. 

Of course, there is an upside. When I was puking all night with food poisoning, I didn't have to worry about it being extremely unsexy or about how much of a total mess I looked. It wasn't lust that meant my husband would run to 7-Eleven at any hour for ginger ale and stay by my side in the emergency room until noon the next day with no sleep. As terrible as that experience was, it made us feel even closer to each other because it was an affirmation of our unconditional love. 

But marathon vomiting wasn't a conscious choice that I had made. In the instances where we are making active decisions, I think we have to take responsibility for the dimming or death of lust if we choose the lazy option. Knowing and appreciating that your partner has unconditional love for you doesn't necessarily mean abusing that knowledge. Keep a lacy teddy in the drawer next to the ratty sweats. Don't carpet bomb the room your wife is reading in, and try to smell nice, generally. Refuse the idea that being completely accepted by someone means you don't have to try anymore, that a life of unconditional love means living without lust. It's such a (hopefully untrue) bummer.

Previously in this series:

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 2:44 PM Where Do I Start With Mystery Science Theater 3000?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.