Divorce means many crappy things but more than anything else it means goodbyes.
You say goodbye to the family you once had and the plans you once made and the future you thought you had and very often you also say goodbye to sex. Not always. And perhaps not forever. But for long enough, particularly if the divorce hits you later in your life and you are not a man. Men often have another partner waiting, even before the papers are signed, but for a woman of mature age the situation can be different.
The post-divorce sexual deprivation can be deeply depressing. It is not just the sex you miss. It is the physical closeness and not having to sleep alone. Although sleeping alone can be quite marvelous if you have slept in the same bed with a snorer since you were 25.
But still. One tends to mourn one's lost assets, no matter what they are.
In our sex obsessed society, sexless life seems like a terrible thing. It is definitely not cool. Continence was never an option for Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones. Maybe it should have been? Chasing partners certainly did not bring lasting contentment to either of them.
And yet, they kept on chasing. Why?
Is sex something we need?
Abraham Maslow considered sex as a physiological need. But many people live quite happily without sex. Some people even achieve greatness without it. Isaac Newton and Immanuel Kant both died virgins. They sublimated their libidos into science and philosophy, writing thick books that generations of University students have cursed ever since.
The happiest man in the world, Matthieu Ricard, lives as a Buddhist monk in Nepal. His happiness scores are out of this world. We know this because neuroscientists attached 256 sensors to his skull in the University of Wisconsin and found out that his level of gamma waves was through the roof. Meditation does that to a person.
Sex doesn't. It only gives you a fleeting moment of pleasure that leaves you wanting more. In addition to this, women tend to get attached to their sexual partners more than men, due to their higher release of oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone". This can lead to misery if the attachment is not reciprocal.
I see this happening all the time.
Although sex drive is vital for the survival of our species, many of us can live without ever giving in to the drive. We don't need sex. We want it. We tend to use "a need" and "a want" as synonyms. But they aren't. A need refers to something you cannot survive without and a want is something, that you can survive without, although you think you cannot.
According to Byron Katie, to believe that you need what you don't have is a definition of insanity. This statement used to drive me mad. What about starving babies in a refugee camp in Rwanda, I wanted ask her. The babies most certainly need food and really fast at that. Even though I still haven´t found the answer to this question, I think Byron Katie is onto something here, at least when it comes to first world problems.
If I am here, alive and breathing, even without sex or anyone to have it with, I most probably do not need it -- for now. And since now is the only time I can ever experience anything, I seem to be doing just fine as it is.
I might not need sex but I may desire it. Again, there is a definite difference between wanting and desiring. A toddler does not desire a lollipop. She wants it and does it with a tantrum.
The Buddhist teacher Tara Brach explains the etymology of the concept desire beautifully in her book Radical Acceptance. She says the Latin root of the word is "desidus", meaning "away from the star".
Desire is a deep longing you feel in your heart. If it comes from a pure place that the writer and life coach Martha Beck calls The Core Of Peace, and not from your Ego, you should respect it, for you are worthy of your desires.
You can tell the difference between an Ego based desire (that usually is a want) and an authentic desire by the way they feel in your body. Wants make you restless and obsessive. Desires make you want to become a better person.
No matter what our individual desires are, we have one thing in common: we all seek happiness. The happy man Matthieu Ricard found happiness in stillness. In stillness we get connected to our consciousness, he explains. That is where we find peace. That is also where we find our true selves and it is ourselves we should hook up with, before hooking up with anyone else.
What we have right now is quite okay, no matter what it is. In Buddhist terms it is the suchness of life that one should make peace with. Life is what it is. The worldly pleasures and indulgences are temporary at their best. What stays is our consciousness. It is like the bottom of the ocean. The fleeting pleasures are just the waves on the surface.
We don't need sex but I am beginning to think we need meditation. Try it and tell me what you think.