And then I was married. I had always feared marriage as the end of those electric moments of discovery, of passion, that exquisite exuberance that comes with desire. If passion required scarcity, how can someone seem scarce if they use your bathroom every day? How can someone seem scarce if they become so common as to be almost invisible?
Yet marriage, paradoxically, set me free. It was the great equalizer. In marriage, it didn't quite matter who was leaning in which direction. Sometimes I was running away, looking for time to myself; sometimes my husband was the one who ran. The power struggle of desire versus freedom faded into the background as we got on with the business of making a family.
The Buddhists say that all desire leads only to suffering. Perhaps this is what Bellagio meant when he spoke of desire as an illusion. But what replaces that erotic feeling of aliveness that characterized my first dates with Fabian?
What we have lived in marriage, of course, is what countless people have lived: the realization that in giving, in truly loving, we actually stop wanting. In desire, we go from a place of need and try to satisfy ourselves; in loving, we leave our own needs behind and paradoxically find them met.
Still, there has been a way of capturing some moments of passion. I confess that my husband and I have stumbled onto a trick whereby each one of us is "the one who wants more," each one of us is the slave to love. The answer comes in having children (and, in our case, one with special needs).
The secret is in being so busy, so distracted, that we inadvertently make ourselves "scarce." Between balancing four separate schedules, driving to doctors' appointments, shuttling kids to lessons and playdates, and frantically making money to pay for them all, we rarely, if ever, have time for each other. We are usually too exhausted to think about desire. We no longer desire desire; what we desire too often is solitude.
Still, if some evening (or even some month or year) we find ourselves awake at the same time, and strong enough to hold our eyes open in dim light, we may look up and suddenly see each other, almost as if we had just met, and I feel again what I felt when we were first dating. Then intimacy becomes as illicit, as surprising, as fantastical—and even as surreal—as if we were making out on top of a roller coaster. Probably because we are.
We Hear You!