Esther Perel: The Secret To Desire In A Long-Term Relationship

Why does good sex fade? Why does good intimacy not guarantee good sex? Can we want what we already have? Why is the forbidden so erotic?

Everywhere where romanticism has entered, there seems to be a crisis of desire. A crisis of desire as in owning the wanting, desire as an expression of our individuality, of our free choice, of our preferences, of our identity, desire that has become a central concept as part of modern love and individualistic societies.

Esther Perel has made it her mission to find some answers to our dilemmas in modern love. As she explores in this clip, the paradoxical relationship between love and desire can create tensions over time in relationships. While on the one hand we look for security, predictability, safety dependability, reliability, permanence (anchoring, grounding experiences) in love, on the other, we have an equally strong need for adventure, novelty, mystery, risk, danger, the unknown, unexpected, surprise, and sense of journey; and as Esther suggests, at the "heart of sustaining desire is reconciliation of [these] two fundamental human needs." Looking for security, a best friend, passion and adventure all in one partner, there's no wonder relationships can face strain. Esther reasons, therefore, that the crisis of desire is often a crisis of imagination. We can become so used to the idea of love and what we have, that we ignore the idea of desire and what we want from our partners.

The very ingredients that nurture love - mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other - are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.

Esther encourages couples to shift their perception and look for what makes them desire their partner. There's a sense of becoming more receptive to the mysteries about your partner, however familiar they are, to look for novelty, create more imagination, playfulness, curiosity and excitement. There's a need for renewal, a need for energy. We need to create a space for desire, and forget about responsibilities in that space. Passion may come and go, but we can't lose sight of bringing it back and demystifying the myth of spontaneity. 

Committed sex is premeditated sex, it’s willful, it’s intentional, it’s focus, it’s presence.
In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire?