You know that feeling you get when you first start dating, the one you want to last forever but it always goes away?
That sense of excitement, the energy, the desire.
We experience it for a short time and then, for some reason it suddenly vanishes. I recently watched Esther Perel’s TED talk, The Secret to Desire in a long term relationship. As a coach focused on courage, communication and connection I’m thinking to myself as I watch this, “Yes!! Yes!!! She’s got it!! That’s how I’ve been feeling and someone finally put it into words!!!”
Esther Perel is a couples and family therapist who focuses on erotic intelligence.
I found that she beautifully and easily articulated what these feelings are like while also exploring them in depth, helping us to learn why it goes away and what we can do to help maintain it.
Divorce rates are through the roof, heck I’m one of those statistics! So if I can do something different, take a different perspective on my next relationship and get a different result, then I’m open to doing that.
Both her TED talk and her book, “Mating in Captivity” explore the relationship between love and desire. She has, in her 30 years as a couples therapist, observed that a major component of desire is rooted in absence and longing. The ability to maintain your autonomy and independence from your partner are key to maintaining desire she says. Listen closely to the area of her talk where she describes what couples said when asked, “When do you find yourself most drawn to your partner?”
Have you noticed that when you got married or you were dating that you lost yourself in the relationship? You gave everything you had and didn’t save anything for yourself? Where did that person go once you entered a romantic relationship? We seem to have the expectation in us that when we meet someone we want to or should spend as much of our time with them as we can. After all we are a couple!
I’m certainly guilty of this, both in my marriage and in relationships since. Esther’s comments made me wonder, how has the fact that, for the last 30 years many of us “shacked up” rather than got married, affected the divorce rate? Did we think we were doing it differently by not tying the knot but in the end it wasn’t any different? We still lost ourselves.
Our expectations around what we want from our partner have become next to impossible to achieve, and this is from both men and women. We say I need security but I also need adventure. This quote from the Ted talk sums it up perfectly.
“Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise and we think it’s a given that toys and lingerie are going to save us with this.”
Yes!! I find myself saying! You nailed it. And then I said, “Mmm.”
How realistic is this? How can we possibly expect one person to be all of those things to us and how can we possibly be that for someone else?
Marcel Proust says, “Mystery is not about travelling to new places, it’s about looking with new eyes.” Esther suggest s that this is part of the key to maintaining desire, to look at our lover with new eyes, eyes that look from a distance rather than close up.
Deep down many of us long for connection, we struggle to find the courage to ask for what we want intimately from our partners. And often we just can’t find the words to communicate our wanting. But what if it’s only in maintaining our autonomy that we can really have these things with our partners?
I think Esther has found the key, the question is will you use it to unlock your door?