A committed relationship seems like an enigma. On one hand, we want our romantic partners to be a grounding force that meets a great deal of our individual needs. On the other hand, we want to experience novelty and passion.
Relationships are so often depicted in the blissful honeymoon phase that it can be easy to minimize the effort required. Marriage is no exception.
Marriage is often depicted where it starts and stops with a picturesque wedding. But what does marriage become when the reception ends and guests leave? What sustains a couple’s burning, passionate love well into the years?
What is Desire?
Desire is a main ingredient in our alive-ness. It creates the tensions we respond to. It fuels our purpose and our relationships. It’s a force that connects us with ourselves, with others, and the world at large.
Desire is what fuels our relationship. Sustaining such passion in a marriage first requires that we reconcile two opposing needs:
- We need a grounding experience that provides security, continuity, and comfort in our relationship.
- We need an adventurous experience that provides the unexpected, transcendence, and edge.
Modern marriage is built on connection and cooperation. It also asks our partners to meet most of our needs—to be our best friend, lover, confidante, therapist, etc. Previously an entire village or community helped to meet our many needs. Expecting our partner to meet all of these needs forms a pressure that eventually dampens desire.
Connecting with our eroticism—and the relationship’s eroticism—throughout a marriage requires a new understanding of desire. In psychotherapist Esther Perel’s work on long-term relationships and desire, committed desire differs because it’s premeditated, willful, intentional, and present. While it may be different, this desire is nothing short of passionate!
Desire Requires Space
Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder. Yet, marriage is when two lives become intertwined. Despite the nature of this intimate relationship, it’s important to create the space necessary to experience the absence of our partner. Room to both wonder about and miss our partner stirs the desire to reunite!
Space presents an opportunity to invest in our individuality. It allows for a healthier interdependence. When each partner meets their individual needs and explores their interests it absolves the relationship of some of that responsibility. After all, our individual lives add to the richness of our relationship, so if they’re lacking the relationship will too.
Space builds passion-filled tension. It gives us the ability to imagine ourselves with our partner, to miss them and fantasize about them. Here our imagination is free to run wild envisioning everything we wish to experience with our partner. Their absence drives us to desire them. It inspires us to close that distance.
Space is ultimately an invitation for both partners to cross a theoretical bridge and reunite. A willful and intentional space sustains desire because it creates a longing for one another.
Desire Needs Novelty
The unexpected is fresh and sexy. We want to be swept up in something novel, to be shaken out of our routine. But in an emotionally intimate relationship like marriage, we can come to believe we know everything about our partner. And sometimes we fall into a routine. Novelty becomes an all too distant dream, or so you think.
Expressing the different parts of ourselves is how we create novelty. Our personality has many facets to it, and we can choose to share these many parts in our relationship. Revealing them to our partner sparks that dazzling desire for the unexpected. It invites playfulness and passion.
Do you actively share the different parts of you with your partner? If yes, how do you express these parts? If not, what holds you back? Is it routine or is it fear-based?
Part of building this novelty together is shifting our belief that we know our partner inside-out. We have to be open to being surprised by our partner, to be willing to experience the new and different parts of them. When we surrender to the idea that there’s more to discover we get to experience that desire, that taste for the unknown.
Desire Craves Confidence
Desire is to want what we see and experience. When we observe our partner in their element a particular magic is unfurling. The confidence they exude is an aphrodisiac. In the moments we glimpse our partner’s “otherness,” they become a mystery once more.
According to Perel’s work, we want to experience an “other,” to cross a bridge between us and our partner. When our partner becomes an “other” we get to witness them with fresh eyes. This mystery creates a tension that we can respond to and continue building. It’s an ongoing invitation to continue stoking the passion and crossing the bridge towards one another.
When our partner freely expresses their uniqueness and radiance it stokes a desire within that transcends the physical.
When desire is running on fumes it’s easy to assume the marriage is to blame. We sift and search for the “broken” aspect that needs healing to reignite the passion once more. Rather than blaming the relationship in the name of healing, we can use space, novelty, and confidence to continue reconnecting with our partner. Dwell in the physical, sensual, and sensorial experiences together.
Desire is how we bravely cross the bridge of “separateness” in our relationship. It demands that we willfully and intentionally stoke it well into the years.