Sex and presumption against breaking a relationship

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This is my rejoinder to Will's reply to my earlier response to him. He says my argument is only slightly fallacious. I'm not sure what that means. I'll have to think about that. If I'm guilty of the fallacy he says I'm guilty of, then it's just plain fallacious, unless he meant something else.

Will considers my argument a false binary, meaning that I present two options, while he thinks he has an in-between option. "Either you believe in permanent commitments that should break only come hell or high water, or you believe in no commitments at all." Now I don't think these are the only two options, and I wasn't assuming Will to be saying this either, so let me try again to make my argument clear.

Will quite clearly endorsed the view that sex creates attachments between unmarried people. He thought it was funny that Morse, whom he was criticizing, made a point of discussing the hormones that create this emotional bond but yet didn't acknowledge that this was also true for unmarried people. I thought it was funny that he would acknowledge that bond and then think it's ok to go breaking it as lightly as people do. I described it in terms of a presumption against that sort of thing, so let me explain what I meant.

I think there's a strong presumption of continuing in any relationship, and there's something sad when it gets broken. Sexual relationships are particularly devastating to break, because they involve the deepest kind of connection people can have. When the prophet Malachi rails against the religious leaders of his day for allowing no-fault divorce, saying that God hates divorce, he's getting at exactly this. People would marry someone for economic reasons and then later find someone more attractive and younger, and they would break their relationship off, after having children and building relational connections, deepened of course due to the sexual activity. Now that's a far more serious violence than the young couple with no children who have a sexual relationship for a year and then move on to other poeple, but I think it's a kind of violence nonetheless. Therefore, I think there's a strong presumption against doing so.

Now I never said that someone who initiates this kind of violence never had any commitment. It took some degree of violence to break whatever commitment and intimacy had been there. If the commitment had been stronger, then that violence would have been avoided, and the relationship would have been healed rather than broken. There may be times when this is necessary, but I think we should not think of it as the kind of easy option we all seem to think it is nowadays. When there was a much stronger opprobrium against this kind of behavior, people learned how to love each other. Nowadays, people don't seem to move beyond the infatuation stage into love, or divorce would be far less common. I just don't see how infatuation is enough of a commitment to justify the deepest emotional connection between two people. That seems to me to require genuine love, something that involves seeking the best interests of the other person, and I just don't see how you can do that if you engage in the deepest emotional connection between two people and then break it on a whim, as many people do all the time.

"Old high school friends pass on to different schools and different lives. Siblings grow estranged, spouses die, and lovers are carried on to different worlds. Growing apart is usually unpleasant, but it's as natural as human behavior gets."

I think now it's clear why I think this is just a mistake. I've lost contact with old high school friends, and that's sad. Is it ok? That depends on how close I was. I wasn't very close with my high school friends, and I was much closer with college friends. That justifies replacement in terms of whom I keep in touch with. I don't keep as much in touch with my college friends as I should, given the connection we had. That suggests to me that deeper connections deserve deeper continued contact, even over a distance. The deepest connection possible would then require continued deep contact, barring other considerations. When someone dies, there's nothing you can do about that. I lost my closest brother. The fact that that's so sad is what drives me to maintain the connections I do maintain. The deepest ones are the ones that I would like to keep deep. This is why what Will sees as natural is something I can only see as a result of the fall. Things shouldn't be this way, and it's worth doing what we can to resist this when it's within our power.

Finally, Will suggests I have some metaphysical view about what connects people who have had sex. I'm not sure why he thinks this. I never said anything about some non-physical cord connecting people that, when it breaks, consists of violence. I just think it's somewhat violent to sever a relationship with any emotional or spiritual closeness. When it's a stronger closeness, it's more violent. I spent an afternoon talking with someone one time, enjoying the company and sharing some personal things. We never had much further contact after that, and that seems to me to have involved some kind of emotional severance that's at least unfortunate. It's a matter of degree. I had a very short, non-sexual, but certainly romantic relationship with someone before I met the woman who is now my wife. When that ended, I insisted on continuing the friendship with some proper bounds on what was appropriate and the level of time commitment, and I'm very glad I did that. We gradually grew apart over the next year, and she moved across the country, but were still good friends for that whole year afterward. I would have regretted any more sudden ending to the relationship. It's not about some unseen reality created by sex. It's about how close a connection can become and how emotionally and spiritually disruptive it is to someone's very being to tear that connection.

Update: Apparently the link to my earlier posting was incorrect. I've fixed it.


I agree whole heartedly about the painful difficulty I have faced when involved in a relationship that involved discussion and inclusion in spiritual and/or religious activities. In addition the biggest hurt of all is when the other person suddenly ends a relationship in which there was sexual intimacy. Personally, I cannot be intimate with someone unless I do feel genuine love for that person. I don't know if what I feel is just a women thing... How can men severe relationships so abruptly under these type of circumstances? What does it say about the other person?

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