Archive for excitement

The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

There have been nearly 7 million hits on the Ted Talk by Esther Perel:


She questions, ‘Why does good sex fade – even for couples who continue to love each other as much as ever? And why does good intimacy not guarantee good sex?’

 
She explores the nature of erotic desire and the dilemmas for modern love relationships. She suggests that we live in an age where the expectation of sex is that it should continue over time to be about ‘pleasure and connection rooted in desire’. Yet that expectation can be confounded when there is a struggle to sustain the desire.

 
Perel’s research identifies this as a clash of two ‘fundamental human needs’. We have a human need for the intimacy, closeness and attachment offered by a loving relationship. It creates a feeling of wellbeing and emotional security that nurtures and sustains. However, we also have an urge for excitement, play, mystery – and for change and novelty.

 
These needs can clash and can be hard to reconcile. We want our partner to be a trusted confidant and offer warmth, friendship and understanding. But, from the same person, we want heightened excitement of passion.

 
We want the comfort of familiarity, being known, loved and appreciated. But then, in the sexual relationship, we want variety, surprise and adventure. While technique, toys and sexy lingerie can add spice, it is not about novelty. Perel says sex is not just something you do. It is not just a behaviour but about speaking a language too. Sex is a place you go for a conversation and for that you need a sense of a separate self, autonomy and self-esteem.

 
To challenge expectations, we need a more profound understanding of arousal, desire and unconscious longings and Perel concludes that ‘desire needs space; fire needs air’. For desire we need imagination, curiosity, playfulness and the spark of interest created by a sense of ‘Other’ and ‘Difference’.

 
The contradiction of a long-term relationship is that it offers the closeness, familiarity and sameness that can create ‘a kind of fatal erotic blow’. She suggests that desire is ‘to want’ and is about attraction and enticement. It is about looking with new eyes each time and seeing the other as different and unknown. Desire starts with an idea of separateness and the urge to move towards one another. She suggests the idea of a bridge to cross in order to find each other anew – starting from a point of willingness to play and want and give pleasure.

 
Interdependence, caretaking, parenting, while soothing, reassuring and comforting, can decrease the erotic charge between the couple. Sex makes babies and great joy, and yet babies can spell erotic disaster for the couple. Feeling weighed down by responsibilities, disliking your body, feeling anxious or depressed, stressed at work, can have a similar deadening effect. However, a couple can use the love and connection and emotional warmth to provide a springboard of energy for lovemaking.

 
Sex in a long relationship is premeditated sex as much as it was in the beginning and there is a need to debunk the idea of spontaneity. In a trusting relationship, there can be permission and a willingness to lead, or be led, into an erotic space. Foreplay starts with accepting and allowing the thought of sex to germinate in the mind. It is about encouraging thoughts of sex to keep ‘simmering’. It is about taking responsibility for making gestures and taking opportunities to initiate.

 
The couple understands that passion waxes and wanes but they know how to find the generosity needed to reconnect. It is accepted by both that a definition of their relationship includes ‘This is what we do’.

 

Kathy Rees

Stages in Couple Relationships

Falling in Love/getting to know one another:

How we negotiate the challenges of becoming a couple determines the way we communicate as a couple in the future.

As the initial excitement/passion dies, the couple is weighing up whether their other connections are sufficient for them to take the relationship further. It’s important to note that a couple needs to experience this idealization stage in the relationship in order to move forward together.

This is the time couples get to know each other and start to explore what is means to trust one another and to stay together even when they are no longer on their best behavior.

Decision to Commit:

Becoming a couple: This is usually the make or break stage in most relationships. Declaring to one another and to the wider world that you’re a couple can be very challenging. It can feel very serious, which of course it is, so it is no wonder we often feel anxious about it.

How we become a couple depends on what makes us feel secure and safe in a relationship. It doesn’t have to be what society tells us it should be but for the couple to agree what works best for them. For some, it might mean moving in together and planning for the future; which includes getting engaged, married and having children.

But when one partner wants to move forward faster than the other, difficulties often arise. Feeling pressured to commit or feelings of not being wanted polarize a couple. We see many instances where one person is holding the ‘wanting’ in the relationship and the other is withdrawing, feeling immense pressure to do something they don’t want to do. It’s a dance that many couples become entangled in and can follow them throughout their relationship. It can also set up a dynamic between a couple that says “ You forced this on me, I didn’t have a choice” or that “You never wanted me enough, I had to beg.”

People, for all kinds of reasons are delaying entering into serious relationships and causing huge anxieties for each other. Women want and need to start families and are torn between being clear about this and fearing they will scare their partner away. It often translates into a power play between couples and somehow, the goodwill environment a couple started off in becomes more like a battlefield with the loving relationship being slowly eroded.

These challenges and changes that these stages bring are a huge opportunity for us as individuals and as a couple to grow.

The Reality of Everyday Life:

Lets face it; it’s the everyday banality and irritation of living with others that begin to chip away at our relationship. It’s not the fact that the toothpaste cap isn’t on the tube, it’s the stories that we create like: ‘She knows this is important to me and I’ve asked her a thousand times and she still can’t manage to do it’. It’s also the way we ask and blame one another that impact on a relationship. All these pressures can impact even on committed and loving relationships.

  • Work/Life balance
  • Financial Stress
  • Family, friendships, etc
  • Banality of the everyday
  • Childcare and distribution of labour
  • Life Stages and Their Challenges:
  • Just when you thought you have dealt with what life has thrown at you and the relationship is finally settling down, guess what?
  • Children move home after university
  • Redundancy
  • Retirement/Illness
  • Aged parents

The way we, as individuals and as a couple are able to adapt to changes allows us the ability to roll with the difficulties life some times throws at us. Life isn’t always easy but it can be easier when we understand and appreciate some of the issues involved in the making of a committed and successful relationship.

Shirlee Kay