john and me cropped- - polarodDiscussions about 50 Shades of Grey seem to be everywhere, ad nauseam.  I have been wrestling whether or not to jump into the conversation but I decided I could no longer keep silent as I am passionate about helping people have better relationships and I think there are a few issues that haven’t been addressed yet (believe it or not!) … so here goes.

First, I love the color Gray (note the difference in spelling) because Gray is NOT black or white. Gray is Not “either/or” – Gray is “both/and” – one of my favorite concepts! The color Gray has so many shades and nuances that I love. The controversy, conversation, popularity surrounding these books has really wreaked havoc on one of my best word pictures!

Gray is gentle, forgiving, and blurred edges. Gray is possibility, inclusion, and acceptance.

[Tweet: Gray is gentle, forgiving, and blurred edges. Gray is possibility, inclusion, and acceptance. Gray offers Grace.“]

Gray, in forty-nine to a hundred shades, has saved me from soul searing perfectionism, arrogant judgment, and alienating “my way or the highway” stands.  There is no contempt in Gray.

Gray offers Grace.

So imagine my chagrin when this beautiful, life-giving concept and metaphor got tangled up in a worldwide controversy. And what is it about 50 Shades of Grey that so… intriguing?

My sense is that women are responding to this book and movie because we all crave better relationships… and there something about 50 Shades that dangles like a carrot in front of our eyes.  We love when sparks fly; sizzle and excitement awaken us.  And sparks can certainly help create a better relationship, in the bedroom, laundry room, and even the kitchen!

However, sparks are tricky, one minute your candle is lit and then suddenly your house is on fire. The beauty and warmth of an ignited flame draws us in, but if we aren’t cautious, the ember explodes wreaking havoc, soot, and sorrow in its wake, destroying the very intimacy we crave.

Here’s the thing, of course we want to experience the thrill of being chosen and pursued, it’s how God created us.  But too often we are chilled, disconnected, and unsatisfied by a lack of intimacy, and in desperation we grasp at anything that offers a glimpse of what we long for. This is what breaks my heart…we settle for less than and give up hope that our relationship can be better… full of intimacy- and not just sex… but an intermingling of soul, mind, and body. (In fact, that’s when it’s best!)

I think the world (particularly Hollywood) serves up a cheap imitation of real thing… beautifully packaged, on a silver platter, but counterfeit, nonetheless. I often fall for it, too; the “if only I were _____ then I’d feel whole (or at least not so empty). Shiny objects, fantasy, and simulated love promise short cuts and quick fixes, so, we pull out our credit cards, mortgage our souls…hopeful and anxious to fill an aching void.  Hearts stirred, bodies aroused, we buy the illusion, and sadly substitute enchantment for authenticity. Fairy tales would be far more honest if they ended, “and they lived, mostly, kinda, sorta happily ever after!”

But 50 Shades isn’t a book I’ve actually read. You see, a couple of years ago I started the book because I heard some women say it was a “must read.”  But a few pages in, I stopped. I got to the part where there was a “dominant/submissive agreement” that needed to be signed, and I realized it wasn’t healthy for me to read. I needed to stop; it wasn’t for me.

Why? Because untangling our stories, beliefs, past harm, positive experiences, as well as the onslaught of messages from the world and media, makes it exponentially harder to figure out what healthy, enjoyable, soul enriching, heart knitting and body satisfying sex is.

That said, I think sex is great!  Love making… even better! And 32 years into marriage- all facets of intimacy- continue to be an adventure. When we mingle bodies and souls, we are exchanging, creating, and impacting each other… and that is as unique as the two people in the relationship. John and I are still figuring it out… but were doing it together.

Together… the operative word, in my humble option.  Together we are figuring out soul-filled, sexual intimacy, grounded in friendship, trust and love.  Together, we have slogged through discussions, with trusted counselors and friends, with questions, conversation and utter awkwardness.  It requires honesty, vulnerability and commitment to embrace and enjoy the wonder that God created sex to be.  It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it’s been a tough journey, and I imagine we aren’t done… getting older changes things… again!  But we continue… to be present, engaged, and vulnerable, learning each other and loving each other. Just him and me.  Because relationships can get better, there is hope, when done together – with mutual respect and love.

And that is what I have to say about 50 Shades of Grey. And, really? Why couldn’t his name have been Purple!?

6 Responses to “Why Couldn’t it be “50 Shades of Purple?””

  1. Jenn

    Okay, I love the post, but why’d you have to say PURPLE? That’s my favorite color. How about Forest (you know, forest green?)? LOL.
    Shared your post on my facebook. I have been sharing whenever I find something good on the topic. I love your perspective and appreciate you sharing it.
    God bless!

    • Susie Miller

      I hear you Jenn. I like purple as a color, but wanted to find a color that wasn’t likely to be anyone’s last name 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words, I hoped when I wrote it that it would be a blessing as well as help us have good and meaningful conversations. Sadly, I have seen a lot of mudslinging, absolutes and divisiveness. Blessings to you

  2. Jen Lemen


    I haven’t read the book and don’t plan to see the movie, but my problem with the phenomenon is a little different than yours. I think that kink and BDSM can be a very positive way to create intimacy because it requires so much negotiation, trust and levels of consent not usually found in most relationships. I also believe that it can be a force for healing when practiced in the context of deeply loving relationships where people have one another’s best interests in mind, regardless of their level of commitment outside the bedroom.

    From what I see from the discussion of the movie, this is not that kind of relationship at all. You have people amplifying their real life dilemmas (powerless girl wanting to feel important via being desired by powerful man, hurt/damaged man wanting to feel powerful by being able to command a much weaker/less self-aware ingenue with a limited sense of self) instead of using their sexual desires/dilemmas as fodder for personal growth, expanding boundaries and breaking into new territory. In the real BDSM world, the dom would more likely be the woman, and the sub would be the man, as those scenarios provide a chance to work on issues that they can’t get to in the real world because each is so locked into a confining and so limiting role.

    This might not be the comment you were looking for, but I think sex is sacred and amazing in many contexts, even BDSM, when the whole person is considered and when it’s a tool for personal growth. I believe that happens more often than we might think at the edges of people’s desire.

    Too bad the movie/book relies on fantasies and cliches instead of the hard work of consent, negotiating power dynamics and the kind of love that makes space for it all.

    I read this article this morning and I thought it expanded on this point of view beautifully, can’t find it now, but hope this offers another perspective. My favorite read on this topic of how people play out their issues (healthily) via sex/power dynamics in long term relationships is Mating in Captivity.

    • Susie Miller

      Jen, thank you for your thoughtful response. Fantasy and cliche cheapen authentic intimacy and far too often promote that we settle for less than. As a woman, wife, mother of daughters and a son, as well as having worked as a counselor and coach for women and couples for yeas, I am a fan of bold, honest, trust based intimacy. My sadness comes from the counterfeit being sold and consumed without critical thinking about impact. In my work with survivors of sexual abuse, and being one myself, I have seen often domination and power used to harm. Until we understand our story, embrace and live from a whole and healthy self, which takes a lot of work, both personally and in relationship, it is difficult to tease out what is truth, trust and brings healing. Yes, our stories impact how we read, see and integrate things, but we can’t live outside of them. Power over and domination that harms can come in mental, emotional, and spiritual intimacy as well as sexual intimacy, often without our being fully aware of it happening or the soul searing impact. However, consensual, present, engaged intimacy is sacred and brings healing.

    • Susie Miller

      Thanks Lauran,
      I am glad my words spoke to you. I hope they help you have good conversations with others who may be struggling or questioning how to talk about 50 Shades, or sex for that matter! Please share it with anyone who may be helped.


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