In front of my beautiful campus is a reflecting pool and fountain. During the winter months, it is drained and covered. In the spring, it is filled with water and the fountain is reactivated. This reflecting pool serves as a haven for many of us. When the weather is good, we choose the route that will take us past it. We may stop to sit on stone benches, surrounded by pine trees and the smell of flowers, all against a backdrop of old stone buildings that carry the wisdom of ages.
Last week, I walked past the reflecting pool to discover that the fountain was off. A pipe had gotten clogged, so the water was turned off while we waited for the repair folks. The water sat, continuing to gather the discarded tree blossoms and occasional leaves and other matter that found their way to the pool. The pool sat, still. Our groundskeepers, busy with other work, were unable to spend time scooping out the dead matter. Doing nothing and just letting the pool sit and rot made the pool even worse. Stagnant, the pool became slimy and started to smell. The water was so cloudy that I could barely see the algae coating the bottom of the pool. For a couple days, I took a different route when I needed to cross campus. The reflecting pool no longer looked like a pool or a fountain. It resembled a dead pond.
Today was such a beautiful day that I wanted to take the longest way possible between buildings. I walked by the reflecting pool. The groundskeeper there told me that the repair folks were coming by to work on the clogged pipe and she needed to work on clearing out the rest of the pool in order for the unclogged pipe to work correctly. She said that if they’d been keeping it cleared out all last week instead of being distracted by other issues, it wouldn’t be as tough a job today. It took her a long time to get it cleared out, but it was worth it. Even with the fountain not running, it once again looked a little more like a pool more than a dead pond. When I walked by again later, the fountain was working and the water was just beginning to clear up. It wasn’t yet looking like a reflecting pool, but it was definitely on the way back to how it should be.
Marriages can grow stagnant as well. All it takes is one pipe clogged with the detritus of life to stop the circulation. A marriage may not grow slimy, but it can certainly accumulate matter that clouds the waters. Sitting stagnant and still, it may get to a point where it no longer resembles a marriage at all anymore. It is easy to lose hope when marriage looks more like a dead pond than a beautiful haven.
It is easy in the short term to do nothing. We have other things to do, other obligations. Sometimes, a couple just stops trying anything. They turn the fountain off. Other times, they may decide to hold a moratorium on sex while they try to address other issues. They wait for the pipe to be unclogged without working on the rest of the marriage and clearing out all the detritus that led to a clogged pipe in the first place.
Waiting until other problems are addressed to work on sexual interactions may make sense in theory, but in most cases, I think it is not a good idea. Waiting and waiting for other repairs to be done does NOT make it easier to be sexual with each other. The longer you go between encounters, the more difficult it becomes to remember how to kiss, how to touch, how to relax enough to let yourself experience anything sexual at all.
If you are waiting—for other things to be fixed, for perfect conditions, for the right mood—stop. You are allowing your marriage to become stagnant and resemble something other than a marriage. Get started clearing out the junk and figure out a way to be sexual, even if it feels awkward and stilted. Make your marriage look like a marriage.
Image adapted from morguefile.com