In an excellent article in Salon, author Esther Perel argues that marriage and family as they are formulated in American culture are not hothouses of erotic love. Friendship, managing children and household needs, and a literal and figurative intrusion of kids into the parent’s bedroom, spells doom for excitement in the marital bed.
Not news to most of us, surely, yet I always appreciate an honest discussion of the struggle to find eroticism in monogamous-kid-filled marriages. How does one account for the supposed sexual peak that occurs for most women in their mid- to late-30s and the concomitant decline in some men’s appetites? Regardless of who wants what, when, and how, the issue boils down to managing differing levels of desire.
More than money, in-laws, and differing religious beliefs, sexual desire has always been at the core of most of my relationship conflicts. And I don’t mean mild disagreement, either. All the loud door-slamming and yelling and crying has been committed by me during discussions of sex. And these fights have usually occurred because I have a higher level of sexual desire –talk about feeling out of sync with the mainstream! My first marriage more or less crashed and burned over this issue.
Assuming one is committed to staying within the bounds of monogamy, that one loves and desires one’s spouse and loves one’s children, what is one to do to rekindle erotic love, passion, and desire amidst the prosaic reality of laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and diapering?
Perel argues (and she seems a good authority, she’s been married over 20 years) that part of recapturing eroticism is to carve out a space that is kid and chore-free. I can appreciate the idea that some of one’s house should be kid-free, but I don’t need to tell you (because you know) how totally off putting it is to be the little french waitress and have one of the kids yell out that they have an itchy bottom. And yes, we can employ babysitters and run away to hotels far far away (which my hubs and I do occasionally), but I don’t want to have to spend $200 just to get my freak on.
What I’m talking about is something more revolutionary… imbuing the every day with the sparkle of the erotic. And no, goddammit, I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. But it can be done, I know it can. Meanwhile, all I have is the bad late 80s album by Bruce to keep me company in my quest…
Well it ain’t no secret
I’ve been around a time or two
Well I don’t know baby maybe you’ve been around too
Well there’s another dance
all you gotta do is say yes
And if you’re rough and ready for love
honey I’m tougher than the rest….