Desire, Beyond the Birds, the Bees, and the Vibrators
I have a girlfriend who has achieved something quite extraordinary. After 10 years of marriage and 2 small children she has a vibrant sex life dominated by intense desire, secret rendezvous, knowing winks, hand holding and touching at every opportunity. Needless to say, we are all in awe and marvel at her ability to keep the flame burning so brightly. The other day I learned her secret. She cheats!
So, why is the forbidden so erotic? What is it about transgression that makes desire so potent? And why do we long after babies when we all know that babies signal the end of erotic desire in couples?
Every couple that has been together more than a few years, knows that the intensity of sexual desire fades. The mystery that sparked the flames becomes familiarity and the couple become more like business partners, running a small enterprise together. Did you know that marriage based on love and romance is less than 200 years old? Before that, marriage was an arrange contract with the express purpose of producing children and merging family fortunes. Nobody expected forever lasting love, deep and enduring friendship or mind-blowing sex.
In this day and age however, we have upped the ante dramatically and our partner expectations are astounding. We want them to be our best friend, mysterious erotic partner, excellent parent, traveling companion, financial partner and trusted advisor. No wonder 47% of marriages fail. Who can live up to this sort of expectation?
When we enter marriage, or a long term committed relationship we want our partner to live up to the seriousness of the situation. Mortgages, kids, reliable jobs we want all these to be part of the agreement. Yet, we also crave the adventure, novelty, danger, mystery and surprise. How can this ever work in the same setting?
For our sex lives to be erotic, mystery and imagination must be present. A bit of distance and a lack of neediness spark desire. In a sense, we need to be doing the opposite of what seems natural when we enter in a relationship. Instead of rushing to know everything about our partner, take care of them, make them as familiar as possible and unravel all the mysteries of their soul, we should be trying to maintain the mystery for as long as possible.
Think about it. What makes early love so exciting is that you are getting incredibly close to a stranger. Touching a body that has a different shape, and being with an unknown person, unaware of their inner thoughts and unsure about their feelings. You want to possess them, know everything about them, claim their identity. The quicker they give all their secrets away, the faster erotic desire fades and their halo disperses. Like eating a box of chocolates all at once instead of savouring them one at a time as they each reveal their special taste and inner core.
Couples have tried many different strategies with varying degrees of success. I know of couples who live in different cities, sleep in separate beds, engage in threesomes, spend a month’s salary in toys and sexy underwear, watch porn together, you name it. All have something in common. The have understood the importance of increasing the mystery, decreasing familiarity and engaging the imagination. Seeing your partner in a situation where they are in their element, in command of the situation, effortlessly and confidently engaging in what they do best is probably one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs. Suddenly, they have a powerful allure that tends to get forgotten between the school run and loading the dishwasher.
It may not be realistic for many couples to live apart of swing with other partners, but what is realistic and perfectly possible, is for couples to go back to thinking of each other as individual beings who own their identities, secrets and private spaces. It is also realistic for couples to renounce ownership of each other and instead allow personal growth independent of the relationship. It is this growth precisely that will maintain respect, mystery and desire. So next time you badger your partner to divulge everything that he is thinking, take a step back and instead appreciate the allure and magnetism of the unknown within the person you know so well.