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A marriage therapist shares the secrets of desire in long term relationships

How do you sustain desire in a committed relationship? By reconciling two fundamental human needs, says marriage therapist Esther Perel. Those needs? Security and mystery.

“On the one hand, our need for security, for predictability, for safety, for dependability, for reliability, for permanence. But we also have an equally strong need —men and women—for adventure, for novelty, for mystery, for risk, for danger, for the unknown, for the unexpected, surprise—you get the gist,” she says.

The answer to how you fulfil both needs simultaneously is the Holy Grail for couples in spark-free relationships. But experiments carried out by Perel suggest that maintaining desire isn’t that complex an issue at all. What she learned is food for thought.


ABSENCE REALLY DOES MAKE THE HEART GROW FONDER...

The old adage is true, it turns out, and not just because it gives us an opportunity to miss all the things about our partner that we might have forgotten to notice, but because the distance allows us to imagine reuniting, and imagination is important for keeping the spark alive.


“I am most drawn to my partner when she is away, when we are apart, when we reunite. Basically, when I get back in touch with my ability to imagine myself with my partner, when my imagination comes back in the picture, and when I can root it in absence and in longing, which is a major component of desire,” explains Perel.


"SO WE COME TO ONE PERSON, AND WE BASICALLY ARE ASKING THEM... GIVE ME COMFORT, GIVE ME EDGE. GIVE ME NOVELTY, GIVE ME FAMILIARITY. "

Esther Perel on the complexities of desire in committed relationships.



BUT BETTER THAN ABSENCE IS HAVING YOUR PARTNER AROUND AND WATCHING THEM AT A COMFORTABLE DISTANCE...

Seeing our partner engaged in something that we’re not involved in—be it a conversation they’re having with a stranger across the room, or indulging in a hobby or passion we don’t share with them—could be the ultimate turn on.

“I am most drawn to my partner when I see him in the studio, when she is onstage, when he is in his element, when she's doing something she's passionate about, when I see him at a party and other people are really drawn to him, when I see her hold court. Basically, when I look at my partner radiant and confident. Probably the biggest turn-on across the board,” Perel recalls of her research.

“Because sometimes, as Proust says, mystery is not about travelling to new places, but it's about looking with new eyes. And so, when I see my partner on his own or her own, doing something in which they are enveloped, I look at this person and I momentarily get a shift in perception, and I stay open to the mysteries that are living right next to me.”



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Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.

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