I have a fear of raw chicken. The FDA recommends storing uncooked poultry for a maximum of 1-2 days in the refrigerator. My husband Michael is looser. He feels comfortable waiting a few days past the sell by date. We are at odds.
On Sunday, I purchase a few chicken breasts from Whole Foods. This particular week, I proudly write a meal plan with a ball-point pen on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. I secure it to our fridge with scotch tape. It contains a whopping five meals. It wasn’t a Pinterest worthy list, but far more than my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to our evening meal.
I ask Michael to be responsible for cooking the chicken suggesting that he complete this task by Tuesday (day 2). He said that his Tuesday is swamped and asks if he can do it on Wednesday (day 3). Day 3 chicken scares me but I hesitantly agree.
This particular Wednesday at 11:15, we scheduled sex. When I wrap up my last session, I see a text, “I’m making us Applegate hot dogs and fresh sauerkraut for lunch. I forgot about the chicken, but I can make that tonight.”
I shoot back, “I’m worried about the chicken.”
With most people in the world, I am scared to let them see my intensity. I try to appear laid back and flexible. I reserve all of my repressed obsessions for Michael.
Tuesday morning to Thursday evening is the most demanding stretch of our week. As an Enneagram 1 and 3, we move like self-driving Teslas from carline, to soccer practice, to commitments with the small business we run together. We rarely have the chance to look into one another’s eyes.
This week we decide that sex in the middle of this turbulence could be a way for our bodies and hearts to come back to a sense of synchronicity and attunement. We hope it will be like huddling in the bowel of a ship, with our bodies entwined while the rough waters of to-do lists rage around us.
However, on my ride home these 4 pieces of poultry are causing a turbulence of their own. “Do my needs matter to him? He knows I am scared of chicken. How could he forget? He never sees me.” I vent.
As I arrive home to the smell of sauerkraut, we stand on opposing sides of the kitchen island in a sexual standoff. He suggests that we suspend our plans for sex so he can hear more about what’s happening inside of me. I am agitated and short. My body is tense. We lay on the bed together. I look into his eyes and share how vulnerable it is for me to ask for a specific need in fear that he may dismiss it. “I want you to acknowledge my fear of salmonella and how much cooking a piece of chicken actually matters to my sense of safety,” I explain. I tell him about my longing for him to see and care about what my body is harboring from packing lunches, changing soiled sheets and honoring stories of trauma in the counseling room. He listens and nods and then offers a kind and sincere apology for forgetting the chicken while refusing to agree to my emphatic sense that he is conspiring against my needs. After a few minutes, I feel closer to him, but my body is still braced.
Like raw chicken, the divine mystery of marital sex feels messy, sometimes bloody and the rules of consumption seem unclear.
Proverbs 30: 18-19 says:
There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
John and Stasi Eldredge in their book, Love and War, cite how the author speaks to this mystery of sex through poetic images.
Sex is both transcendent and supernatural like a majestic eagle rising above the earth and equally earthy and gritty like a snake slithery on a rock in the hot sun.
When I read this scripture, I notice the graceful and careful coordination necessary for these creatures to move fluidly in and through these harsh environments. Failed attunement creates problems with sex.
This leaves me with a question of when do we move toward one another as a means of transcending the mundane, a place to renew the divine covenantal vows we have made and when do we allow fights over raw chicken to halt our movement, allowing a different type of care to be expressed and received?
Michael gives me a long hug and then grabs his car keys to head to work. We don’t have sex this day. We leave not knowing the next time we will. I feel less angry, safer and more seen. I preheat the oven to 400 degrees to bake the chicken.
Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her three little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael cofounded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption.