What’s important in a marriage? For the non-married, guesses go something like this: kids, money, sex. When long-term couples don’t work out and outsiders assume simplistic reasons for the dissolution, they might bet that one, or all, of The Big 3 were to blame. Curiously, in the New York Times‘ latest musing on marriage, sex is neglected. What’s the deal? Who doesn’t want more sex in their newspaper? Stop teasing, Times.
“The Un-Divorced” looks into the phenomenon of couples who, though separated, never officially divorce, sometimes for decades. The first example goes like this:
John Frost and his wife had been unhappily married for much of their 25 years together when his company relocated him in 2000. So when he moved from Virginia to Knoxville, Tenn., he left her behind.
At first, it wasn’t clear what would happen next. Would she follow him? Or would they end up divorced?
The answer: neither. “After a few months,” Mr. Frost said, “we both realized we liked it this way.”
We get some more details on the couple — their taxes, their children — but a burning question remains: does John, 58, have sex in Tennessee? What about his wife back in Virginia? What about the few times a year when they see each other — are they intimate? Are we supposed to believe that once people have kids and get wrinkly they cease to have sexual appetites? Why so prude, New York Times? I thought they were supposed to ask the tough questions. And get answers!
Over the course of 2,000 words, we hear from many couples who have similar situations. But the subject of sexual agreements never comes up explicitly (no pun intended), and is pretty much only alluded to when one partner hopes to get remarried.
The closest we get to juicy details are in the case of celebrities, from Warren Buffet to Willem de Kooning and the founder of Rolling Stone.
Jann and Jane Wenner separated in 1995 after 28 years but are still married, despite Mr. Wenner’s romantic relationship with a man.
But nothing about the Everyday People in nontraditional relationships. There are “contractual links” like “taxes, pensions, Social Security and health care.” But no sex — none! And while it’s implied in the idea of “new relationships,” why doesn’t the issue warrant a specific probing?
To be sure, from a reporter’s standpoint it may be hard to get couples to speak of their sex lives in the New York Times. And yet, nearly all of the non-celebrity couples are afforded anonymity. Still, nada. For Times readers, it’s journalistic blue balls all around.
Why Divorce? Just Stay Separated [New York Times]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 31, 2010