As a writer, I’m a memory archeologist. I spend a lot of time reflecting on all those old wounds and painful disappointments. Of course, I remember the good stuff too...Read More
We sat at the dinner table, my husband and two of our children.
My husband was joking around when he said, “you’d still be in the bayou if it wasn’t for me.” (By bayou he meant New Orleans.)
I didn’t say anything.
“And you wouldn’t have anything to write about.” (It’s true - he’s given me plenty of heartache. Oops- I mean, material.)
“What would you be without me?”
I played along. “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without you.”
“A lot less therapy,” my son said.
We had a good laugh over that one.
“My poor mother,” I said, “she thought it was because of her.”
But the truth is I sought out therapy because of me.
I’m a believer.
It’s simple really. I’ve learned so much.
Like the time my typically good-natured 14 year-old son was fighting with all of his siblings and my therapist said that his bad behavior was making it easier for him to separate from our loving family. She assured me that what he was doing was developmentally appropriate. With this understanding, I engaged with him in a way that was sympathetic, not punitive.
Like the time I learned that while my husband could be overly assertive, it was my job to find my voice and practice agency.
Like the time a friendship veered off-course, and I discovered I couldn’t change anyone but myself.
What I’ve learned in therapy has been invaluable.
I treasure every insight realized and every nugget of information acquired.
And it's good to know, when all else fails, in the words of Robin Williams, according to Freud, "if it's not one thing, it's your mother."
My husband doesn’t look at me like that. We have to discuss this. Why doesn’t my husband look at me like that?
Laughing so hard I thought my stitches would pop, I wrote: I just sent my husband to buy me stool softener. Maybe that’s why.
(In thirty years of marriage I’ve never asked this of my husband but post-surgery...)
Anyway, isn’t that the point? When you live with someone, share a life with someone, a real life, can there be mystery?
My final text before going to sleep was, You can’t compare three months of dating to twenty-five years of marriage.
But I woke thinking about this.
According to Ester Perel, a NYC therapist and best-selling author of Mating in Captivity, “Desire needs distance, freedom, dream, mystery. It is that very freedom that allows us to maintain desire that also has the risk to separate us. The freedom posits risks but without freedom we don’t maintain the intensity of desire.”
It seems impossible to have distance, freedom and mystery in an intimate long-term relationship. But Perel writes, “Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem we can solve; it is a paradox we manage.”
There is a well-known cartoon by Sam Gross that was printed in the New Yorker. Two snails are talking. They are staring at a scotch tape dispenser and one snail says to the other, “ I don’t care if she is a scotch tape dispenser. I love her.”
The shapes of these things appear the same but what else is known? This is what we do in the beginning of a relationship. We see some things and we conjure up the rest; part fantasy, part denial. And the distance and mystery stokes yearning.
Ester Perel asks an important question in regards to her work on desire.
Can we want what we already have?