Would you rather have security or adventure? How about predictability or surprise? Safety or danger? How about dependability or risk? Maybe you prefer reliability or is it the unexpected you like?
These are some of the many contradictory experiences that couples everywhere are trying to reconcile as they negotiate the terms of their relationships. In her 19 minute TED TALK, Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic explores what she calls a “Crisis of Desire.”
Through her research, Ms. Perel identified three conditions that help increase desire among longer term couples:
1) When there is physical distance (separateness), you have the ability to IMAGINE your self with your partner. This is an essential component to creating longing or desire. It is not necessary to desire what is always present, always available, always known, and literally within reach or contact.
2) When your partner is in his or her element, doing what he is passionate about, he or she is RADIANT and SELF-SUSTAINING. From this comfortable distance (not so far they are out of reach, but not so close you can not create a momentary elusiveness) the desire for your partner is enhanced.
3) When there is NOVELTY or surprise, desire is increased. Sometimes novelty is less about doing new things, and more about revealing some new part of yourself. Desire spikes when we are able to see a new, previously undiscovered aspect of our partner.
How can you use this information to increase desire in your own relationship? As I reflect on these three conditions described by Ms. Perel, which she attributes to sustained desire, it seems to me that the key is in #2.
If you pursue your passions and interests, if you are willing to step into the parts of your own life that infuse you with energy and aliveness, you will also achieve #1 (creating separateness) and #3 (surprise your partner with unexplored parts of yourself).
The single greatest thing I am aware of that you can do to increase desire in your relationship is to take interest in, and action toward, growing your passions. This may feel like a risk, like it may take you away from your partner, instead of closer to your partner. However, like attracts like: passion attracts passion. Passionate, capable, confident, independent, and authentic people are desirous. But only always.
The question you need to ask yourself is, “Is what I am doing working?” If it is not, then it is time to consider a change. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you pursue a passionate, confident, fulfilled and joyous life?
“Sex,” Ms. Perel explains, “is not something that you do, it is a place you go, a space you enter, inside yourself and with another or others.” One of the key points she makes in her TED talk is that there is no room for neediness or caretaking in desire. Some of the characteristics of a robust erotic life, according to Ms. Perel, are: imagination, playfulness, novelty, curiosity, and mystery. She draws a picture of wonder, of intrigue, of happiness and play.
What can you do TODAY to grow your passion? What is something you’ve always wanted to do, but never allowed yourself to pursue? If you have trouble answering these questions, ask yourself instead, what are small things that bring me joy? Gather this list of joys and make it your intention to notice the things in life that increase your energy – that give you a little extra pep in your step, that make you smile and light up. That’s where it begins. Whether your steps are big or small does not matter, just move your feet!