Is pair-bonding illegal?

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Is pair-bonding illegal in our society?  I know that sounds ridiculous.  Maybe it isn't, but the limiting ideas we have about it, such as the way we approach dating, and what we call marriage, etc., seem to indicate that it is.  I will share some reading I've done that makes me wonder such things. I am quoting Brad Warner below:

"There is no set Buddhist view on marriage. But I’ll give you my own take on it in brief.

Marriage turns the natural inclination of humans to pair-bond into a legal institution. This is fine. We humans do a lot of this sort of thing. We’ve reined in our natural inclination to eat whenever we’re hungry and turned it into an institution of eating at three specified times of day. We’ve turned our natural inclination to care for the members of our community into a bizarre system of taxation and government. The list goes on and on. Why should pair bonding be spared?

Marriage is neither good nor bad in and of itself. There are a lot of reasons to recommend it. And this is why I came out so strongly in favor of monogamy in my other books. I’m still very much in favor of it when it can be accomplished, and I still highly recommend it. It solves a lot of problems by making clear boundaries on sexual behavior."

Warner, Brad. Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between (pp. 247-248). New World Library. Kindle Edition. 

I am still not clear on this whole thing of "finding" a mate, sorry to say.  I know a woman who is 36 years younger than me.  She's someone I happen to work with.  We have a great friendship.  I've noticed lately how much she appreciates being hugged, and we seem to connect on a much deeper level with each other than we do with anyone else in our environment (most of which are not interested in giving/receiving hugs).  I consider her though to be more like an adopted daughter (her father is deceased), than a potential partner.  I wouldn't want to ruin her life by pursuing any kind of romance with her, given my age.  Yet, part of me is sort of baffled by the closeness we seem to feel for each other.  I can't read her mind, but I can feel that there is a sort of mutual caring for each other.  We openly express affection.  I find there is a natural inclination toward what seems like pair-bonding between us.  We have a connection which is sort of unusual, given the very wide gulf in our ages. 

I have experienced what seems like a natural inclination toward pair-bonding with women much closer to my age.  Like I've done with the young woman I just mentioned, however, I have often raised objections at the prospect of getting "sexual" with them.  I wouldn't want to date anyone 36 years younger than me for various "conditioned" reasons, but there are times when I will question such conditioning.  Society seems to dictate what we should and should not believe, do, or feel in the dating world no matter what the age difference is, or at any stage in the pair-bonding processes we get involved in.  This seems to go against the natural inclination of humans toward pair-bonding that Brad Warner mentions.  To me, it makes pair-bonding seem illegal.  Further on, Warner says,

"Marriage is neither good nor bad in and of itself. There are a lot of reasons to recommend it...But marriage also creates difficulties, such as making it very problematic to end a pair-bond situation that is no longer viable. Having said that, though, I think in most cases a married couple should try as much as possible to find ways of preserving their marriage if they believe there’s a chance it can be preserved. But when it can’t be preserved, they should be free to end it."

Warner, Brad. Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between (p. 248). New World Library. Kindle Edition. 

In everything Brad Warner explores in his beautiful book having to do with sexuality, one thing he doesn't talk about is karezza.  That may be because he has not yet discovered it, or because he knows something about it, but he's not revealing that for some reason.  Who knows?  Yet, karezza, from what I've only been able to understand intellectually (with the exception of experiencing what may be at least one aspect of it, such as "the love hormone," oxytocin, when hugging someone), would seem to be one of those ways we might find of preserving a marriage, however broadly or narrowly we might wish to define marriage. 

I can't help but wonder how many times I have passed up the natural inclination for pair-bonding of any kind because of the limiting ideas I hold and had drilled into me growing up in our society.  I am like a fly caught in a bottle with this, not seeming to be able to find my way out.  I know what I know, but I share a certain mindset with our society unfortunately, and this makes it difficult to act on the basis of my own true nature.  Maybe someone has an idea what I'm getting at (even if I'm not sure I do) and maybe a little experience to share. 

Thank you for this thoughtful post

Pair bonds can be life-enhancing, with or without sexual activity. I find the second half of this long, rambling article on asexuality  intriguing in this respect.

As an aside, I also find it interesting that the author fails to question whether people who can only climax to imaginings of others having sex have been conditioned by years of internet porn use. How "asexual" would some of these folks be if they gave up porn for a few months? I ask because I've seen so many guys report that real partners became attractive after months of no porn. Yet our society's psychologists unquestioningly accept that such people are innately "asexual." The blind leading the blind??

The book author probably has no idea that karezza is even a "thing." Maybe you could write and enlighten him. Mail 1

I would think that if he did some careful inner listening, he would know if a deeper connection would be beneficial for both.


I actually did consider writing to him, and I still might do that. I have no idea if he's ever heard of karezza. I could ask him about it since it seems it should have been included in his work. He has looked into everything else about sex. My feeling is that, if he doesn't already know something about karezza, he would approve of it wholeheartedly, the way I did when I first read your book.

I don't think I could enlighten him though the way those who practice it might be able to. I haven't yet found anyone with whom I can have such an experience, whether I've abstained from porn or not. I've been on both sides. That's just my individual experience, thus far. I think the matter may be much more complex than we imagine, given how sexually incoherent our society has gotten to be. Incoherent in the sense of how much suffering gets generated in connection with whether we're "getting any" or not.

That is what I was trying to say in my rant. The way people are these days, you would think pair bonding is illegal, or even taboo. The only thing that doesn't seem illegal is the "no strings attached" variety of getting what "matters most," such as orgasm, or the way we keep overpopulating, or both.

Yes, thank you for saying pair bonds can be life-enhancing with or without sexual activity. I could say that at least I have that much going for me (and I would say that for the young woman as well). So in that respect, we are both fortunate.

Yes, intriguing.

I wonder though what is meant by "lust-free" intercourse. I say that not having experimented with sacred-sexuality, or karezza, for that matter, so it may be difficult for me to conceive. On the other hand, intuitively, I think it could work, as long as I am not conflating desire with lust, since lust is maybe just excessive desire. It's easy to get confused about all of this when we're talking about it.

The symbolism of the bridal chamber as "the place of trust and consciousness", and that being an icon of "union beyond all forms of possession" is beautiful and enlightening to me. I read something about Gnostic sexuality a while back that is similar to all of this, and I found it fascinating.

As you experiment

you'll figure it out. Lust is a goal-oriented drive, an evolved biological mechanism for hurling genes into the future. It's also a kind of tension.

Staying in the moment (during lovemaking) without trying to "get anywhere" is like the sexual equivalent of meditation in a sense. It can become quite pleasurable and relaxing...with practice.

The way

you put it makes so much sense to me. Lust is a goal-oriented drive, and a kind of tension. It is an excessive desire for something, such as for hurling genes into the future, as you said.

Practice as well can imply something that is goal oriented. The "goal" is to become better, or more proficient. It might create performance anxiety, or some kind of stress. But if we are relaxing and staying in the moment, and we're not trying to "get anywhere," we are not so concerned about the practice aspect of the love making. We are just being with it.

It does sound like the equivalent of meditation, in a sense. Zen "meditation" though is not like other forms of meditation. That's why we call it zazen. Zazen is about "just sitting" and suspending judgments about anything. Letting thoughts come and go without attaching to them, or pushing them away. It is about just being with all of that, where one is.

Dogen Zenji, a 13th century Buddhist priest, writer, poet, scholar once said, "Practice and realization are one." He was suggesting that our practice is not goal oriented. We are not trying to "get anywhere." The practice is the realization, and vice versa. That's like saying everything we will ever have need of is right there within us. We are already enlightened. We only need to wake up to that, or to realize it, so we sit.

I imagine this could apply to karezza love making. The less we try to concern ourselves with doing it "right," the more we are able to participate in a way that is pleasurable and relaxing, and not have it be something we are trying to accomplish. So, in a sense it is paradoxical. By letting go (of trying to figure it out) and just being with the sexual experience as it unfolds, we are more likely to go through with it. The "performance" though is not one-sided. It involves the other and the whole of the experience. It may be even more participatory than just the couple involved, and it may include the idea that when we make love the whole universe is participating.

This is how I would imagine it to be. It is the hypothesis I am relying on for the experiment, should I ever get the opportunity to carry it out.

In the beginning you said something that I was glad to be reminded of. "Pair bonds can be life-enhancing, with or without sexual activity." I suspect this is the key to forming an intimate relationship with someone we admire. If I am not seeing this as something to "go after," it may manifest of it's own accord. For some of us, there may be performance anxiety (and other blockages) even when it comes to dating, or before anything like a "relationship" starts to develop. I think you know what I might be implying. It seems just being able to pair bond with anyone in general is the first step on the path of karezza.

I see

that I might be conflating pair-bonding with just bonding in general. Maybe what I mean to say is that bonding in general, with others, can make bonding with someone we admire (pair-bonding) more of a possibility..

Of course, you are right,

Of course, you are right, that pair-bonding is not illegal. But, the-powers-that-be create strife in our lives. With that strife in our lives, we soothe our pain through drugs, alcohol, movies, clothing, cars, boats, etc. TPTB tear down natural forms of comfort, support, and pleasure, such as pair-bonds. They do that through glamorizing 'affairs' and demeaning 'boring' monogamy. We are better slaves and consumers when we are alone, unsupported, and yearning for love and companionship. Just my alternate view, developed from using alternate lifestyle measures, such as practicing karezza, eating organic and vegan (except Thanksgiving, ha, ha), and reading alternate history.

Me, if I were you, I would ask the girl at work out. It sounds like you two share a special connection. You would not "... ruin her life by pursuing any kind of romance with her, given my age...' If she was not interested in romance with you, she would say so. Or, given your sensitivity, you would detect it.

I think this life is about learning lessons to develop our spirit, helping others, and enjoying this often-beautiful physical place and time. Your workmate may be looking for a thoughtful, sensitive companion. That person may be you.


that would be radical. She has not yet gone through her first Saturn return, but she will, soon. Given my sensitivity, yes, I am starting detect something of a romantic nature.

There's another part to this...

That detection though

is likely a little biased in favor of the bond, however it actually exists. The "pairing" may or may not be sexual in reality, but as far as I'm concerned, if it were sexual I think that I might be inclined to welcome it, or at least fool around with it, knowing me.

I guess the only way to know what's there is to do as you suggested. Truth is, we've been out a couple of times already, just for conversation and me helping her with issues. Lately though, it seems our connection (or bond) is strengthening, but I am sort of puzzled over what it means.

What seems "radical" is the idea of being with someone as young as she is. That's why I raised the question about pair-bonding. If it weren't for all the wild influences out there (or as you put it, TPTB) in our society and the way we are all so conditioned by that, there might not be so much interference with natural inclinations toward pair-bonding. I'm not saying it should just be a "free-for-all," but I do wonder how different it would be for the not yet partnered people out there if this didn't seem to be the case.

What you said about TPTB and consumerism seems so right on. Is it a conspiracy? I don't know. I'm not sure what to call it other than just "thought" running rampant and getting further and further removed from anything of an original nature. I do see how I've participated in that with all of my previous little "objections" that had to get raised around whether I should allow this or that pair-bonding opportunity to take root. I'm in my 60's and I'm single. I see how I've been fearful. In this case, a young woman comes along and I start to wonder what her mom (who is near my age), or my friends and relatives, or anyone, will think if the two of us got together.

There may well be good reasons for not wanting the social pair-bonding situation I have with that young woman to include anything of a sexual nature. I seem to think it could ruin her life, but as you said, "she may just be looking for a thoughtful, sensitive companion." That may or may not be me. I'm not feeling any distress about it one way or another. It is just causing me to really consider how I've dealt with previous natural inclinations toward pair-bonding. About all of the assumptions I've carried around without ever having looked beneath them to see what is actually there.

I appreciate your response, and again, it does seem so right on. I think you got what I was trying to say, and spelled it out quite accurately.


for allowing this communication. Sometimes it's just good to "talk it out." I appreciate the shared wisdom, and the understanding. Now I have no need to try an oracle, not at this point. But since I love oracles, I just might try one anyway. :)


particular Zen koan seems fitting for what I've been sharing. I am just offering it as a reflection. Sometimes I can be like that old man, and sometimes like the old woman. Thanks again. Enjoy life, however it ends up!

"An old woman built a hermitage for a monk and supported him for twenty years. One day, to test the extent of the monk’s enlightenment and understanding, she sent a young, beautiful, girl to the hut with orders to embrace him. When the girl embraced the monk and asked, “How is this?” He replied stiffly, “A withered tree among frozen rocks; not a trace of warmth for three winters.” Hearing of the monk’s response, the old woman grabbed a stick, went to the hermitage, beat him and chased him out of the hut. She then put the hermitage to the torch and burned it to the ground."

I am happy that you have gone

I am happy that you have gone out with her for conversations about issues she is facing. Great, to be a sounding board, or to be able to offer her helpful counsel.

There are lots of older fellows who go out with or marry younger women, e.g., Donald and Melania Trump. As a 60 year old, you long ago learned that you cannot control what folks think about you or how they react to you. (Folks who do not know you may think you are a financial fat cat, ha, ha). I am sure there is a great chance that her Mom will accept you if you treat her daughter well. I have seen that happen in my family: my wife's cousin (57) is dating one of her former high school teachers. Tough, initially, for her Mom and Dad to accept. But, he is an honorable, good, and decent fellow, and their relationship is strong and solid, it seems. He is now warmly welcomed by all in the family.

Best wishes on next steps!

I do

give her counsel quite often when she wants it. She sort of relies on me in that way, and encourages me to do so. I feel that I do it because I care about her deeply. I don't know where that comes from. It's just there. Like maybe I had something very important to do with her in a previous life. Now, in this life, it's like I owe her something.

She is a very precious young woman. I am honestly not sure where I am with our connection, and to be honest it does feel a little awkward for me. It feels that way because I have it in my mind that I am supposed to be with someone in my own generation. So I never expected this.

I know that she feels an attachment to me, but I'm not yet sure what to make of it. It's not that I worry about it, but I do want to be open to whatever this process is going on between us. That's just part of my practice.

Thank you for your thoughtful response, John, and the examples you gave of relationships with an appreciable difference in age. I have seen a couple of those myself. I think they may be a very small percentage of the population, at least in this country.

And thank you for the good wishes!

Meddle, meddle, sorry, sorry

It's clear that you have a lot of regard for her as a person. That's always heartening!

To get right to the point, are you up for the possibility of raising children with her? Women have a limited window of time for childbearing. If there's any chance she might ever want a child, or if the human race might benefit from a child raised by her, and if you're not up for that, this is the time to step aside. Otherwise, you'd be wasting her time and setting up regret or heartbreak for both of you if she ultimately needs to leave you to find a mate.

Hello undying,

I don't feel you are meddling at all. You raise a very good question.

First, I actually have no children of my own, and I am not sure how I ended up this way, given the few significantly intimate relationships I've had over the years.

Secondly, I come from a big family, with a number of female siblings and no brothers. So, being the only male in the family, there was always the thought that if I never had any children, the line would end with me. Seems odd to me that I never had children when there were plenty of opportunities for that, but it seems even stranger that I have always been sort of indifferent to the prospect. It's not something I think about, but it wouldn't necessarily be anything that I'd push aside. If by chance I somehow ended up with a child, since I do like children in general (all beings for that mater), I am sure that I would put everything I have into raising one.

Thirdly, I once asked her what she thought of children. I was surprised at her response when she said she was not all that interested in them. She seems to love animals more than children. There could be one or two good reasons for that, but I haven't explored that area with her. Where I work, I see children coming into the environment quite frequently. It gives me joy to see them smile at me and put goofy expressions on their faces. I end up smiling with them and thinking how precious they are. I don't see much of that with this other person, and I am around her quite a lot. She seems indifferent.

Finally, I think I've mentioned already that I am not sure where the two of us are with respect to anything more than just a special kind of friendship. She may or may not be interested in more than that. We do show affection because we hug a lot, and we prefer to be around each other more than apart. I am very interested in her well being, and I feel she draws on me for support in certain areas.

When I started this post, however, it was not because I needed input necessarily regarding my relationship with the person I've been talking about. It had more to do with relationships in general, and how I've noticed it seems certain kinds of conditioning and societal influence have kept me from forming an intimate relationship with anyone pretty much over the past decade. I once was married and I've had a couple of other significant relationships with women, but I have not been able to find another partner for a long time. So, I raised the question, "Is pair-bonding illegal?"

I raised that ridiculous question because I see lately that I am not at all alone in having not much luck finding anyone. Singles abound! They are everywhere, and everywhere it looks like people are way too busy with their lives and nobody's interested much in getting together with each other, unless it has to do with getting some quick nooky and moving on. If that is all I wanted, I would have plenty of opportunities and I would not be shy about it either. It seems as though "pair-bonding" on all levels (except maybe the sexual) is something people (me included) try to avoid for some reason, as though it were illegal. I am just trying to find my way out of that, or to disentangle myself from the web of death and static existence I see getting pinned up everywhere. It helps to talk about this. In the 60's and 70's we had a sexual revolution, which was great. I think it's time we had something similar. Not so much necessarily fertilization-driven, but perhaps of a more wholesome nature, and more about humans connecting in general, on all levels.

So, I see what is happening with me and the woman I mentioned has caused me to question all of this. Her youth and seeming interest in me (and mine in hers) keeps me suspended as though in mid air, and as though to say, "this may or may not be a possibility, but first, before you take any decisive action with it, just have a good look at where you are, and why that is, and why you're not alone in this." Turns out that I am starting to see there is nothing illegal about letting myself connect more completely with the world around me. Why aren't we having that dialogue though, out there, that is the question.

starting new relationships, and age differences

"Like I've done with the young woman I just mentioned, however, I have often raised objections at the prospect of getting "sexual" with them."

Does than mean that she asked you if you would like to get sexual?

Since you both seem to enjoy hugging, it seems likely that you would both enjoy snuggling up and sleeping together. That doesn't imply that you would also have sex. That's an entirely separate subject for discussion.

It seems she trusts you enough to open up to you and let you help with her issues. Do you trust her in the same way, i.e. do you feel like you can discuss anything that's on your mind with her? If not, what holds you back?

It might be helpful to ask her how she wants your relationship to proceed, i.e. does she want to remain friends and confidantes, or does she want something more? Short term or long term? Exclusive or not? And you could tell her your thoughts and concerns, for example about your age difference, and how you might "ruin her life." Of course, acknowledge that her and your feelings might change with time, so what you think and feel today might be different tomorrow or next year.

Regarding age differences, I know at least six guys who were married to women 15 to 40 years younger than they were. Some of those marriages seemed good and long-lasting, some not so good. I don't think I have a large-enough statistical sample to be able to say that those marriages were on average better or worse than the general population. I once dated a lovely woman who was 17 younger than I was. Being together seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me, and I rarely even thought about the age difference.

You asked,

"Does that mean that she asked you if you would like to get sexual?"

She didn't "ask" me if I'd like to get sexual with her. Not long ago we hugged and I think we felt something that was a little more than just hugging. That really is actually when I started to think about all of this.

I feel we like to be within close proximity to each other. We work together, in a public setting. We never know who will walk around the corner. It's also kind of stressful for me. There are times I'd rather just go work in some area where I'm not around her. Not because I don't want to be near her, but because, well, to be honest, it's a little hard to focus on the work. I think she sometimes feels the same way. There's more to it than that, but that's basically how it is.

"It seems she trusts you enough to open up to you and let you help with her issues. Do you trust her in the same way, i.e. do you feel like you can discuss anything that's on your mind with her? If not, what holds you back?"

I think we do trust each other enough to be able to discuss anything. A few things do hold me back, however. First, she's going through some things. Nothing all that major, but enough to occupy her mind at times. I think my only role with her at this time is just to be there for her, and to give her some guidance when she asks for it, and she will ask for it. It just doesn't feel like the right time to make any serious moves on her. I'm not normally (or not necessarily) the assertive type anyway. I just let things happen naturally if I can help it. But I am sensitive to what she's experiencing in her life right now, and just letting her work with it, and being available to her when she needs me.

Something else that holds me back is the awkwardness I feel at times if I start to think about us as anything more than just friends. I know that people say age differences are really nothing to worry about, but it's actually just a little hard for me to get used to the idea. At the same time, I do feel like I owe her something. Like, because she did something very big for me in a previous life. (Not that I have any real opinions about reincarnation. I honestly don't know what to think about it.)

But as I mentioned, since the timing for anything decisive seems inappropriate right now, I am not really doing much. I guess you could say I am suspending it, holding it up and just having a good look at it because I'm interested in what it could mean in a more general way for me, or us, (and beyond me, or us). I am good with that for now. I don't feel any urgency in the matter. Seems to me she is fine with just being as much of a friend to me as I am to her, without us needing to force anything into existence. For all I know, even though there is this closeness between us, she could very likely have an interest in someone else. I may have an interest in someone else as well. There is no other one at this time, but I am open to that possibility.

Eight days

have gone by since I started this post. I appreciate the responses I've gotten to what I had inquired about. I've learned quite a lot, and I am satisfied with where I am, eight days later. The bigger question is still unanswered, but I am not at all expecting a response to it. Unless there are any more questions or comments, I am fine with just letting this post fade out so someone else can start something new.

Enjoy the holidays! :)