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"It's not the problem with religion!" I insist. "It's the problem with human nature! If people weren't segregating and torturing one another in the name of religion, they would do it in the name of something else: nationality, skin color—you don't exactly have to wrack your brain thinking of examples."

My adrenaline rushes with the thrill of this argument, an argument about something other than why I let Aidan sit on the open dishwasher door when it has already broken twice, and why Joe leaves the boys' clothes around the rim of the toilet when he gives them a bath, creating unnecessary laundry. I take Joe's hand and squeeze in delight.

"You feel like the old you again," he says, looking at me with such joy it's sad. "I hope this doesn't have to end. From now on please let's try to make love even when we're too tired."

"Okay," I say. "And please let's try to kiss standing up."

We do try. For a while, we even succeed. The first ten days we're home, we make love even when we don't initially feel like it, and one night when I am washing my face before bed, Joe grabs my waist and we kiss standing up. But then our older son gets an ear infection and wakes up screaming, and our younger son catches it and wakes up screaming, and before we know it we're so exhausted we revert to our pre-Venice ways. At least on the outside. Inside, we are buoyed by the knowledge that our passion hasn't died; it's just sleeping, exhausted by the pip-squeaks who are its product. If it can be woken once, it can be woken again.

More from the O relationship vault: How to build intimacy in your realtionship

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