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Caroline J. Simon, Ph.D.

Caroline J. Simon Ph.D.

How Ethics Can Help You Have a Better Sex Life

Lifelong marriage can be a psychologically healthy ideal.

I have recently recommended lifelong marriage as an aspiration (see Embodied Memory). But aiming at lifelong marriage can seem like a dangerously unrealistic ideal (see The Case Against Marriage).

Used foolishly, ideals oppress people. If we use ideals to flail ourselves or bludgeon others, we risk becoming depressed or callous. Granted. Yet used wisely, ideals can keep us moving in the right direction. They can serve as compass points in charting the course of our lives.

Photo by Jason Lengstorf

To the extent that we excuse our lack of virtue as being "only human," we are likely to slide into character traits that are very far from ideal. Taking a virtue seriously as an ideal can help us admit when we are nowhere near there yet and motivate us to resolve to become better. We can be more truthful with ourselves about ourselves. And we can be duly grateful and admiring when we meet those who are closer to approximating the ideal than we are.

One reason that I'm a fan of marriage and not at all a fan of casual sex is that marriage is a far better context for developing virtues than casual or temporizing sexual relationships are. It takes neither courage nor determination to say, "Let's stay together as long as neither of us has a better option" (See Friends with Benefits). My in-laws' 60-year marriage was not literally ideal, but it was pretty darn good.

Are there times when marriages become so unhealthy that an exit strategy would be recommended by any competent mental health provider? Sure. But to scare people off from aiming at commitment and high ideals in their sex lives because marriages often fail is like warning people to avoid the weight room because severe injuries can happen.