I was recently introduced to a book by psychotherapist Esther Perel: Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.
The basic premise is that we, as married couples, have lost sight of that which made us separate people and, therefore, we view marriage (and married sex) as boring. We lose the erotic in the domestic.
Or, as the review in Publisher's Weekly suggested, according to Perel, we should work on "rekindling eroticism involve cultivating separateness (e.g., autonomy) in a relationship rather than closeness (entrapment); exploring dynamics of power and control (i.e., submission, spanking); and learning to surrender to a ‘sexual ruthlessness' that liberates us from shame and guilt."
I am with her on all of it. Except one thing.
There seems to be this notion floating around right now, and Perel touches on it, that husbands and wives are not supposed to be one another's "everythings." An aunt told me a few years ago when her daughter broke up with a boyfriend (for not being passionate about the things she loved) that she could not expect one man to have sex with her, love her, raise children with her, and also be excited about the things she was excited about -- language, travel, lacrosse.
"If you want someone to be excited about your language stuff, call me," she told her.
My aunt presented this as though it were fait accompli and that we should all assume that to be true of our relationships, "except for you, of course, Sasha, because what you have with your husband is so special."
But is it, really? I found it profoundly sad that someone would tell their 19-year-old daughter that she should give up any hope of finding the love she wanted because "most people just don't get that."
It's this idea of settling that's nagging at me. And this idea that somehow "closeness" breeds contempt, according to Perel.
I tell my husband every quirky, weird thought that crosses my mind. I trust him implicitly, so when I have a problem at work, I call him before I call anyone. If I'm planning to do something, I always ask his opinion before I do it.
He was beside me at both of my marathons, running the last miles with me and feeding me water and Swedish Fish. He supports my writing goals even though he's a scientist (and not a writer), he gets why I am and he pushes me, allowing the time it takes for me to develop my craft. We also have really good, frequent sex.
We grocery shop together, we wrap birthday gifts together, we go on date nights and to movies together. I have friends, but he is my closest. And I don't think our "closeness" hurts our passion. I think it fuels it.
That trust is what allows me to think outside the box sexually. It's what allows me to explore new ideas and believe he will be right there with me. Some of what Perel says is true. Experimentation and keeping things fresh is vitally important to a long-term marriage, but why can't we have both? Why can't we experiment within a marriage that's also a deep best friendship based on mutual trust and ... "closeness"?
How would you describe your marriage? Does being close always have to mean you don't have sex?