Does Love Sabotage Desire?
A married man went to visit the doctor one day and the doctor said, ‘Have you had sex in the last seven days?’ And the man said, ‘No, my birthday’s in April.’
That’s the running joke, right? When you say “I do”, you’re really saying “I don’t” to sex. The problem is, lack of intimacy in long-term relationships, often labeled as “losing the spark”, is not a laughing matter for the many couples that face this struggle.
If you’re having a hard time keeping the passionate, desire-fueled sex alive with the partner you’re deeply in love with, know that you’re not alone. Esther Perel, a Belgian therapist who’s crafted a successful career focused on relationships, sexuality, and couples therapy recently gave a TED Talk explaining why even loving, committed couples can struggle to keep the sexual spark alive in their marriage or long-term relationship.
To Love Is To Have and To Desire Is To Want
One of the main culprits behind the decline of desire with time, according to Perel, is that love and desire are composed of fundamentally different ingredients. Love is fueled by closeness, familiarity, and security. For most people, love means “minimizing the distance” between the two partners to create a space that is filled with safety and oneness. Desire, on the other hand is all about novelty, mystery, intrigue and longing.
It’s quite the contradiction. We ask our partners to provide care, safety and stability and, in the same breath, we want them to be mysterious, spontaneous and ever-novel. It might feel like an impossible feat, but it isn’t. With a little intentionality, flexibility and creativity, it’s entirely possible to enjoy a strong, lasting marriage filled with desire between the partners.
So, What’s the Secret to Keeping Desire Alive in a Long-Term, Loving Relationship?
While there’s no single ‘secret’ that’s sure to keep desire strong in your long term relationship, here are a few ways to help give desire a boost:
Give Your Partner a Chance to Miss You
Healthy separation fuels desire – it gives partners a chance to miss one another and imagine the moment when they will reunite. Time apart leaves room for longing — an important aspect of desire.
Develop Your Own Strengths and Interests
Build your own skills, strengths, and self-esteem by working on yourself and your personal interests. This gives you partner or spouse the chance to see you as being strong, confident, and independent.This means different things for different people — it could mean watching a partner interact seamlessly with others at a party, performing onstage, or even repairing a stubborn knock it the family car that nobody else could fix. Regardless of the situation or activity, it’s about partners seeing each other as strong, self-assured, and independent.
Simply put, confidence is damn sexy.
Be Creative and Challenge One Another
Newness fuels passion and desire. Couples who are successful in keeping the sexual ‘spark’ in their marriage know that mystery can be erotic, and that’s not necessarily meaning in a sexual way. It could mean simply switching up a routine, being creative, and encouraging each other to explore, indulge, and experience desire.
Create an Environment for Desire
Between work demands, household chores, kids’ homework, after-school activities, and so on, many of us start our days in “take care of shit” mode, and stay in that mode for the next 17 hours. Hard to go from a task-oriented, duty-based space to a space of sensuality and desire at the flip of a switch. Try integrating micro-moments dedicated to desire into your day. It may be stopping for a moment to give your partner an extra-long kiss, sending a random flirty message, wearing that lacey black underwear typically reserved for either sexy-time or laundry days. The idea is to keep that part of you awake and acknowledged, even if only in small ways, so that when opportunity does arise with your partner, it doesn’t feel like you need to dig too far to get in touch with your inner lover.
A lack of desire is one of the most common reasons why people seek out couples therapy. If you and your partner are missing that spark, know that it absolutely can be rekindled with a little bit of time, effort and creativity. And if you still need help, sex therapy may be able to help you tend to both the love and the desire in your relationship.