(Then Comes Marriage, Part 3)

“The difference between sex and love

is that sex relieves tension, and love causes it.”

— Woody Allen

A series on marriage that remains in the living room while dodging the bedroom is like a concert without music — It’s missing a pretty key ingredient.

The music of marital intimacy is exactly that: music.

The song of all songs…”

As any musician knows, proper tuning is a necessary prerequisite for the ensuing melody. A guitar or piano can be played with absolute mastery and, nonetheless, sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, if the strings are out of tune.

The same holds true for the music of intimacy. Without a comprehensive psycho-emotional tuning, we’re doomed to replay the bedroom blues on heavy rotation. The nature of this particular tune-up is what I’d like to explore.

If you’re a pervert and find yourself overly excited— hold your horses.

More shall be revealed.

If you’re a prude and find yourself overly offended — hold your horses.

More shall be revealed.

But first, a word from our sponsors…


It’s 7AM.

Do you know where your toothbrush is?

TV couples seem to rise and shine with impeccably fresh breath and sparkling oral hygiene.

They wake up face-to-face.

Immersed in a heart-to-heart.

Which soon becomes a mouth-to-mouth.

Do they hide toothpaste underneath their pillows and sneak swigs of Listerine at the crack of dawn?

How do they seamlessly pick up in the groggy AM right where they left off in the steamy PM?

In real life, spouses usually need Crest, and coffee, and couples counseling before they can even acknowledge one another’s existence.

Now, if Television mornings are a stretch, television evenings an over-stretch. 

Case in point…

In TV Land, it always seems to be the wife initiating the intimacy, while the husband is too stressed, too tired, or too distracted to give his not-so-secret admirer the tender love and care she so desperately craves.

Does this scene even remotely resemble your nightly routine?

I didn’t think so.

The typical saga of modern marriage stars an exhausted wife, an excited husband, and a degrading duel which rarely fails to leave the wedlock in a deadlock.

Sometimes a wife will pretend to snooze,

before Prince Charming summons his muse.

And sometimes a husband will pretend to sneeze,

before Sleeping Beauty can rest at ease.

One way, or another—

The bedroom blues will deal its hand,

in countless homes across the land.

(I know, I’m getting a bit carried away with the whole rhyming thing.)

Groundhogs Night repeats itself, over and over again, as each side refuses to budge, culminating in a cold war which carries over from a hard day’s night into a harder night’s day.

Television’s morning glory is real life’s morning gory

As we’ll soon see, the deeper root of this chronic dispute is a surprisingly profound one.

But first, a word from some perverts…


Tonight’s pervert panel includes three celebrity guests: Sigmund Freud, Jack Nicholson, and Woody Allen. These three misfits are notoriously crude and lewd and epically un-prude— but, they are also quite shrewd.

1. Perverto Numero Uno: Sigmund Freud

Freud once remarked that our greatest challenge is to lust where we love, and love where we lust.

The astronomical explosion of an entire illicit underworld certainly seems to underscore the size and scope of this challenge. If people could simply keep their lust and their love in a single lane, the Playboy Bunny would be out of a job.

But why is it so challenging?

Don’t we naturally lust where we love and love where we lust?

Are we not hormonally wired to do just that?

2. Perverto Numero Dos: Jack Nicholson

Renowned actor/philanderer, Jack Nicholson, was once asked why a celebrity icon of his stature would willingly pay for a lifetime supply of prostitutes. Does the ladies’ man of all ladies’ men really have to pay for his ladies?

His response:

“I don’t pay them to come.

I pay them to leave.”

Jack may not have realized it, but he was on to something. To better understand the nature of this “something,” we’ll need to first unlock the mystery of monogamy.

3. Perverto Numero Tres: Woody Allen

“The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension, and love causes it.”

If sex is all relief, and love is all grief, why are we so enamored and enchanted by love?

Is love just a sublimated ploy to justify our lustful shenanigans? Or is there more to love than fussy feuds, feeble bickering, tiresome tensions, and soul-sucking contentions?


Our guide for these perplexities is Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who boldly and unabashedly confronts these touchy topics head-on.

It may seem unorthodox to speak so frankly about sexuality, but a cursory glance through the Talmud reveals a refreshingly comfortable approach to what our “politically correct” society outwardly vilifies, and inwardly fetishizes.

In his essay, “The Redemption of Sexual Life,” we’re introduced to three distinct modes of intimacy:

  1. Instinctual
  2. Exploitative
  3. Redemptive

Instinctual Sexuality is purely biological. There is nothing personal or emotional about it. All animals instinctually procreate. Eat. Sleep. Mate. Repeat.

Exploitative Sexuality is selfish and ego-driven. We seek to dominate, subjugate, and objectify. We unconsciously embark on this sexual conquest for the sole sake of ego inflation and validation. It’s all about me. Our insignificant other is merely an object. An ornament. A puppet. A dehumanized tool.

Redemptive Sexuality is the optimal union of two loving partners.

The other is not used or objectified.

The other is valued, cherished, elevated, and adored.

It is here that sexuality finds redemption.

It is here that love becomes sacred.

Love is the tuning.

Intimacy is the tune.

We need one to compliment the other.

But the tuning must precede the tune.

Without the tension of love, there is no redemptive release.

We cannot copulate on margin.

Love unlocks and uplifts the sparks of our lust.

It is the key to emancipating and amplifying the sweet melody of intimacy.

Even Jack Nicholson knew that there’s no such thing as complimentary conjugation. The ladies’ man didn’t pay his ladies to come. He paid them to leave. He paid for the shallow convenience of loveless lust. He paid to enjoy the tune without the strenuous strains of tuning.

No risk.

No vulnerability.

No strings attached.

This was Freud’s insight.

The tension of love and the release of lust are eternally intertwined in a Yin/Yang dance. The key to lust is redeeming it with love. And the flames of love are then refueled by lust. Our challenge is to continually climb the ladder of love rather than looking for cheap shortcuts to satisfy our lust.

Which brings us back to Woody Allen:

“The difference between sex and love

is that sex relieves tension, and love causes it.”

This may have been a shameless plug for loveless sex. But it’s actually a profound formulation for their complimentary coexistence. The finely-tuned tension of love redeems the melodic release of sex. They are not mutually exclusive, independent ventures. They are mutually dependent, inextricably intertwined links in a divine chain.

Our great challenge is to lust where we love, and love where we lust.

In an overindulgent, hyper-sexual world of unhinged gratification and systematic objectification, the fragile sanctuary of marriage finds itself in the eye of a perilous storm. The blinding ethos of Madison Avenue and Ashley Madison converge to convolute our minds and pollute our hearts. We live in a self-serving age of exploitative sexuality. The refined realm of redemptive sexuality is a foreign language.

Love is an endangered species.

Empathy a forgotten art.

Easier, sleazier artificial sweeteners provide a shallow sense of short-term release from our growing sense of loneliness and alienation. But lust without love is a dubious shortcut— leaving in its wake an aftertaste of guilt, shame, and harrowing pangs of inner emptiness.

There are no shortcuts through the wilderness of love. But if we’re willing to harness our strings and fine tune our hearts, the melody of marital intimacy begins to naturally uplift the landscape of its individual members. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

We’re Locked in.

Emotionally aligned.

We’re in sync.

And in tune.

The instruments are good to go —

There’s a rhythm. There’s a flow.

Each one takes the others’ cue,

There’s no more “I,” and no more “you.”

Partners blending hand in hand —

The music starts to play the band.