That’s what my husband has nicknamed Mother’s Day. He takes me out to eat and he calls me a goddess, since we have no children.
Before you start retching, let me add that it’s a miracle we made it to 33 years.
Marriage is hard, as my colleague Delia Lloyd explained in her post, More Wives Should Dump Their Husbands. Delia was moved to write by the sad tale of Silda Spitzer, who literally stood by her man when her husband Eliot Spitzer resigned his post as New York governor.
Silda took responsibility for his visits to prostitutes and thereby his downfall. The wife, she said, is in charge of sex. She failed.
There is a proverb: When a woman cries, you see the tears of two. Silda Spitzer’s confession is certainly cringe-worthy, but I find a kernel of truth in what she said.
The longer the marriage, the greater the blurring of the line between husband and wife. In the words of Talking Heads in the song, “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)“: “I can’t tell one from the other / Did I find you or you find me?”
What passes for pathology or codependency in some circles, in other circles is a simple force of nature. All-consuming. Undeniable. Indescribable.
To quote another great song, “Comes Love” (from the forgotten 1942 film,”Yokel Boy”), made famous by Billie Holiday and other singers: “Comes the measles / You can quarantine the room / Comes a mousy / You can chase it with a broom / Comes love, nothing can be done.”
After a while in private practice, the bloom was off the psychotherapy rose for Yalom. He found he did not enjoy being the one to dissect, analyze and exterminate one of the few human experiences that makes life bearable — love.
Are you insane? Or are you in love? seems to be an unanswerable riddle. You don’t have to read the news for long to find proof that people in love do crazy things.
In “Oxytocin, Chemical Addition and the Science of Love,” excerpted from “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love,” by Helen Fisher, a researcher says, “We are literally addicted to love.”
The brains of people deeply in love do not look like those of people experiencing strong emotions [like anger or fear] but instead like those of people snorting coke. Love…uses the neural mechanisms that are activated during the process of addiction.
Years ago, controversial writer Camille Paglia put it this way:
You know what gets me sick and tired? The battered-woman motif. It’s so misinterpreted, the way we have to constantly look at it in terms of male oppression and tyranny, and female victimization. When, in fact, everyone knows throughout the world that many of these working-class relationships where women get beat up have hot sex. They ask why she won’t leave him? Maybe she won’t leave him because the sex is very hot. I say we should start looking at the battered-wife motif in terms of sex.
Depending on one’s point of view, Paglia may or may not be correct. However, scholars agree that playwright Tennessee Williams understood human nature better than most writers. To this day, the title of the 1951 film “A Streetcar Named Desire,” based on the Tennessee Williams play, is almost a synonym for erotic love.
A restored clip, cut from the original film due to the Hays Code, shows Kim Hunter, as Stella, after she fled a violent Marlon Brando, as Stanley. When (in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history) she hears her husband crying “Stella!” she makes the decision to leave the safety of a neighbor’s apartment. The restored clip — a close-up of Hunter’s face, “blank with desire” — makes clear why she descends the stairs into her husband’s arms.
The rampant consumerism of the 20th century has, with the help of Madison Avenue, de-sexualized wives. Why make love when you can shop? The presentation of household appliances as the perfect gift for Mother’s Day is just one potent example.
On a housing bubble blog, I read the comment that at least one guy did not understand the American obsession with houses. He said his home was wherever his wife and kids are, be it rented or owned, for one night or for 30 years.
It’s a cold, cruel world out there. I’d be the last person to recommend returning to an abusive or unfaithful husband. On the other hand, I’d be the first to acknowledge relationships that look just awful on paper could be, in reality, the very best that life has to offer.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]