I’m talking about a literal shark.
For those of you who don’t know much about Omaha except that it is in the middle of the country and it has hosted the Men’s College World Series for more than 50 years, you may be surprised to hear that we have one of the best zoos in the country.
Seriously, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to interview our then zoo director right before the opening of the Lied Jungle (pronounced Leed and named after a local philanthropist). This is America’s largest indoor jungle, just one of many cool exhibits.
Our zoo rocks.
And because my kids love the zoo, we spend a lot of time there.
My older son and I spent the night at the zoo on two different occasions as part of a youth group outing. So cool. On one over-night visit, we slept in the glass tunnel in the aquarium, where you can see sharks and all other kinds of sea life swim around.
Our tour guide threw out this question to the group: “Why don’t the sharks eat the other fish and creatures in the aquarium?”
He followed up with another question.
“If you could have a hamburger by having to kill a cow, butcher it, ground up the meat and then grill it — or by going to McDonald’s and ordering one, which would you do?”
I was surrounded by 10-year-olds, so obviously their answer was unanimously “McDonald’s!”
The guide went on to explain that it’s kind of the same thing with the sharks.
Because the zookeepers regularly feed the sharks, they don’t see any need to go to all the effort and risk of having to hunt and fight over the “food” swimming all around them. The sharks are content because they have come to expect they will be fed regularly.
So what does this have to do with sex?
Well, it made me think how when we as married people are attentive to our spouse’s needs and desires, it makes for a more peaceful homefront.
Now, before you think I’m saying “peace at all costs,” hear me out.
Just like in the aquarium, where species co-exist and have to figure out how to do life together, the same is true within our homes. The choice of marriage brings with it the reality that we are choosing to do life with someone else (and if there are children involved, we are bringing them into the fold as well).
Marriage fascinates me, bewilders me, enriches me and aggravates me.
And that can be all in one day.
Some things in some marriages are downright abusive and cruel and shouldn’t be tolerated. But in many marriages, two people are simply wrestling with doing life together.
Argue with me on this one if you want, but I think when mama and daddy are generally functioning well, the rest of the “aquarium” operates pretty well too.
I don’t need contentious people in my house. I have no desire to play any part in creating a frustrated husband who feels neglected or starved by his wife.
For lack of a better way to say it, a well-fed shark is generally a happy, content shark. He is less likely to hunt elsewhere and he is less likely to be grumpy and easily agitated. (Same goes for me as a wife, by the way).
“Julie, are you saying that sex is a way to affair-proof your marriage?”
Not exactly, because the only thing that affair proofs a marriage is each person within that marriage intentionally choosing to never wander. Sadly, there are marriages where one spouse held up their end of the commitment by being faithful, sexually available, supportive, etc., and their spouse still committed adultery. (Gina Parris and Shula Jackson so humbly and authentically explore this dynamic in this post on Gina’s blog. Such a good post).
What I am saying is that it is just good wisdom to feed the ones we love with the attention, compassion, grace and tenderness they long to receive from us.
Marriage is a daily surrender to one’s self — and a daily expression of one’s needs.
Did you catch that?
Marriage carries with it the willful intent to embrace that it’s not all about me — and simultaneously carries with it the responsibility for expressing what I need from the relationship.
The married folk who tend to grasp this best are the ones who live short-term for the long-term. In the short-term (daily), they make choices that forge beautifully into something that lasts long-term (years and maybe even decades).
Think you have plenty of time later or after the kids are grown or when money isn’t so tight or when you get a less stressful job to then work on your marriage?
The short-term positive choices we make, including those we make sexually, will ultimately reveal themselves in the long-term. Well-fed sharks aren’t just happy in the aquarium today. They likely will be happy years from now too.
It’s just food for thought. Maybe every time you see a shark on TV or at the zoo, it could remind you to have sex with your spouse.
Or maybe every time you see a McDonald’s.
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.