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Keeping Desire Alive in a Long-term Relationship

Posted by adrionna on May 19, 2014 in Long Distance, Love, Wisdom and Life

I am enrolled in a course this spring entitled “The Nature and Culture of Love.” This class explores how “love” has changed through human experience. The feelings have stayed the same–why it hurts, why it takes so long to get over somebody–but the circumstances (modernity, sexual freedom, and analysis paralysis of potential partners) have altered our overall perception and experience of love. My favorite book that has spoken to these topics is Eva Illouz’s Why Love Hurts. It is fascinating.

One of the most interesting and helpful things I’ve learned from this class is the idea of Desire and why desire is such a necessary ingredient for a relationship to stay alive. If you have time, I seriously recommend watching Esther Perel’s “The secret to desire in a long term relationship.” In it, you will find explanations to why people cheat and what needs to be in a relationship for the spark to stay.

My true take-away (since I’m writing this after watching it a good three weeks ago) is that the relationship must be one with two independent players. There is, of course, an element of interdependence, but to keep desire alive, each individual must have access to that which makes him or her happy in and of itself. In order for this to truly happen, I must allow my partner to have the time and space to pursue his interests. It is when I see my guy in his own element–presenting at a conference or speaking to others about ideas he is passionate about–I feel attracted to him because I am able to step back and appreciate him in the way that others are perceiving him at that moment. If another woman is in the room, he immediately becomes more attractive because now there is an element of competition–even though I’ve taken him for granted hundreds of times, if there is the slightest threat of his being taken away, I become possessive. It is this want that is eros, or desire.

My “favorite” way, or the way that seems guaranteed to build desire, is to create some kind of distance between the lover and the beloved. In this space, desire grows as the chasm between the lovers grow. This is why becoming long-distance can be both healthy and detrimental for a couple; if long-distance for a “doable” amount of time (which will be different for everyone), couples will become more infatuated with one another, but if long-distance for too long, you aren’t able to see each other in your elements, and desire dies (sad face).

If it feels as is desire has packed its bags and left the relationship, there is always a way to get it back. It requires a stepping-back, but not necessary a separation. It calls for a deliberate attention to the relationship and reintegration into it–and one of the ways to do that is through the individual. Let me do my thing, I’ll let you do your thing, we’ll admire each other and then do each other ;).
Some tips for creating desire within a long-term relationship:

– Find ways to get intimate in places and spaces that don’t exactly allow such excitement. It’s the stuff teenage romance is made of.

– If you and your partner would be into this sort of thing, go to a bar separately and flirt with others, eventually finding each other. Act as if you’re meeting for the first time. If possible, try not to use inside jokes; make new ones.

– Sometimes a date night isn’t enough, especially if it’s the same ol’ dinner and a movie idea. Do something that neither of you have done before: paint-balling, running a 5K together. Find a new experience and relish the thought of being nervous and outside your comfort zone, but having your comfort holding your hand the whole time.

– Decide to pack up for the weekend and head somewhere new and foreign (even if it’s just 3 hours outside of town).

– Find new recipes, dress up the dinner table and be your best self as you have fun cooking together. If it’s a disaster, ordering in is even more fun in the candle-light.

– Babysitting little ones in the family or friends circles. Stay with me here: when you see your partner interacting with kiddos and you can’t exactly jump his bones in front of them, it certainly increases the desire. Obviously if you’re a parent, this will change.

Do you have any other ideas?

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