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Love and Desire: Relationship Conundrum


Love and Desire

Love and desire are equally necessary in relationships.  “I love my partner, but what happened to the passion?!” “Am I bored or are we incompatible?” Have you asked yourself these questions in a relationship? The answers may lie in the relationship conundrum of love and desire.

Love and desire.  The foundation that keeps relationships going strong, love, is the very antithesis of what keeps them alive, desire.

Let’s talk about love and desire individually and how they interact.  Love is the foundation of healthy relationships. It is security, safety, stability, and connection.  Love is the ability to be self-less, to nurture, and to give.  Our relationships develop when they are predictable, we know what to expect from our partner and they from us.  The attachment, the bond between us, is strong, supportive, and stable.  This is what allows us to get the adult-ing done.  The comfort of the familiar to come back knowing our relationship will be there.

On the contrary, desire is erotic, unpredictable, and mysterious.  It is passion and uncertainty.  Desire is the ability to feel confident in our sexual self while attuning to our partner.  Desire is personal and intimate.  It is unique to our own relationships; the part that is shared just between us and our partner. The place we go to together.

Love and desire.  Our desiring self typically makes our loving self squirm with inappropriateness.

According to Esther Perel: love is to have, desire is to want.  The characteristics that fuel love are the very traits that stifle desire.   In love we have the familiarity, care-taking, and belonging.  Desire is what we long for; the novelty, excitement, and passion.   Esther Perel explains that both are biological needs, however love and desire are in contrast in relationships.

Love and desire.  The need for connection and separateness, autonomy and dependence.

What to do with this challenge?  The most effective way to re-ignite desire is to mix it up!  As Perel explains, spontaneity does not fall from the sky.  In order to ignite desire we have to plan and be intentional about surprises, passion, and eroticism.  On the other hand, are there things you need to feel more stable?  Long-term relationships last because “erotically intelligent” couples stoke both the flames of love and desire.   Here are some tips:

  • Love and desire tip #1:

    Ask yourself “when is my desire turned off” and “when is it turned on”? Understanding this for yourself empowers you to have control over your own desire.

  • Love and desire tip #2:

    Plan something for you and your partner out of the ordinary that is thrilling for you (something on the erotic side). Your partner will most likely find your excitement arousing!

  • Love and desire tip #3:

    Take a day (or a week) apart. Distance breaks the familiar and stimulates the “wanting”.

Watch Esther Perel’s TED talk here.

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