After a salty reprise of how his current knowledge of the Intentional Interview could have helped him sidestep his former highly flawed relationship, he asked, "Why don't they ever teach this stuff in high school? Everybody should know this!" A reasonable question for a society that preaches the importance of family on the one hand but, on the other, does nothing to help young citizens to have even a glimmer of an idea how they might increase their odds of a successful outcome. The simplest of answers is that we haven't yet reached the needed critical mass of citizens who see this and demand it in our educational system.
But where would you place this sort of information? Math? "One plus a few dozen attempts equals ... craziness and abject failure?" No, not math. History might be another guess. "OK kids, remember what happened to poor Napoleon when he married Josephine and ..." No, not particularly applicable, is it? English class? "OK, after reading Faulkner's 'A Rose for Emily,' I know you're all thinking maybe a living partner is just too risky." Let's not put it in English then. Yikes!
If you guessed sex ed class, you could be forgiven because as most of you will recall, sex ed class is strictly about anatomy and physiology, pregnancy and disease, and really, "That's all there is to know about human sexuality, people. Now let's talk about ‘A Rose for Emily.’" But really, isn't the Intentional Interview a part of the process of mate selection? And isn't mate selection a part of our sexuality?
Current sexual education curriculums tend to focus on the nuts and bolts that science can defend like anatomy and all the rest. This way of looking at human sexuality is mechanistic and, frankly, inhuman. Don't get me wrong, some science-based sex ed is better than growing up thinking dogs are boys and cats are girls but we can do so much better. Where we are today is an understandable result of the culture wars in our country that can, in turn, largely be boiled down to (Forgive me, more subtle thinkers!) the conflict between Enlightenment thinking (reason, knowledge) and religious thinking ("But the Bible says..."). Our kids and their future relational success are the collateral damage in this war.
Ideally we would teach human sexuality to our children as an integral part of who they are as human beings. Our curriculums wouldn't be limited to the mechanistic limitations of venereal diseases and where babies come from. Ideally, our children (and our former selves as children) would have learned about sexuality in a human context. A sex ed curriculum with a human context would include talking about relationships and would promote self-awareness and clear thinking about love, courtship, dating, and decision-making with respect for whatever value system students brought to the discussion. We don't offer our children this or anything like it. So, here we are in our remedial sex ed class for grown-ups.
Besides everything else we've talked about in the previous four installments on this series (the need for a more intentional approach to getting to know someone, universal deal breakers, personal deal-breakers, and so on), I want to suggest that everyone looking for a personal partner in life needs to talk about sexuality. The need to interview about sexual desires and behaviors applies to the horny couple who had phone sex on their first date as much as it does to the asexual individual who has no desire for sex whatsoever.
Talking about sexuality is really about discovering compatibility—or the lack of it—on a deeply personal level. A lot of us don't know how to break the ice on a subject like this, so think about it and take it slowly. It's the sort of conversation that two virgins could have or two seasoned veterans of the bedroom might fail at—but really, we can all have this conversation comfortably when the time is right. If you think about it, marriage is a contract (the courts will remind you of this in case you're unsuccessful) and sexual conduct is an implied part of that contract, so part of doing your due diligence means you have to figure out a way to talk about this and to talk about it more than once.
Here's how you might begin: On one date someone invariably asks (usually after both people have said that they are not looking for a relationship), "So, what are you looking for in your future, relationship-wise?" Another version of this is, "Do you ever think you'll settle down with someone?" Hint: Very few people imagine a future life devoid of partnership and sex in that partnership—but we have to ask because they're out there.
At some point, the next question is, "So what would that look like for you ideally, I mean, what would a typical day look like in this future idyllic partnership?" It's an interesting question to ponder and our date's answer can be quite telling, so do everyone involved a favor and really listen to the answer. After listening (and quite likely getting asked the same question for a little quid pro quo), steel yourself and ask, "So, how would your sex life look in this future ideal relationship?" Plan A: You get a very interesting answer like "Gee, I hope to have it frequently, at least once a year," or "Well, that's really a problem because...." The answer isn't nearly as important as is the fact that you're talking about sexuality.
Plan B: You get blown out of the water with something snide, judgy, or abusive. "Well, it all comes down to that, doesn't it! It's all about sex with you Methodists!" Or you women, you men, you Republicans, you whatever you are. But guess what you just learned? You were actually thinking of getting into a sexually committed relationship with someone who can't comfortably talk about sexuality. Not. Going. To. Work. My client was right: Everyone should know this stuff.