Love, commitment, desire, and sex

I just returned from a week in the land of wine and pasta, where I was honored to officiate (symbolically) the wedding of my brother and sister-in-law. I suppose it’s only fitting that I spent the entire week contemplating romantic love, marriage, commitment, desire, and sex.

It all started before I left… I signed up for Psychotherapy 2.0 – a two week online summit of brilliant minds sharing their fascinating work. Regrettably, I only caught a few sessions, but I did get to hear the one I was most excited about: Esther Perel, The Double Flame: Reconciling Intimacy and Sexuality. The talk focused on:

  • Why loss of desire is the prime sexual complaint that leads to relational unhappiness, infidelity, and even divorce
  • How love and desire relate, but also conflict. How the need for security and closeness can coexist with our quest for separateness and freedom.
  • Eroticism as a quality of aliveness and vitality in relationships extending far beyond a repertoire of sexual techniques, frequency, and performance

(I think you can buy the program through Sounds True, if you’re interested).

I may have posted some stuff about Esther before, here’s her site, but I’m too lazy to go back and check. Fearless, brilliant, and hilarious, she’s one of my favorite authors, speakers, therapists. She studies desire and passion in the context of loving intimate relationships. Her latest work is on the subject of infidelity. Her two TED talks are here and here (both have millions of views).

In 2007, she wrote Mating in Captivity, which is perhaps one of my new favorites. I liked it so much that I read it twice this past week. (When I say “read” I mean listened to, because audiobooks are my favorite favorite thing; lots of “favorites” in this post, but so what.).

In the book, Esther explores how the concepts of increasing intimacy, transparency, and the comforts of best-friendship, which are considered the pillars of a good mature loving relationship, kill erotic sexual desire. They are, in fact, polar opposites to the mysterious, unknowable, lustful feelings associated with early stages of a romantic relationship.

And so the main question she considers is whether a loving committed relationship can sustain hot passionate sex over time.

With intriguing case studies and surprising practical advice (humbly offered in deference to the elusive ineffable energy of Eros), the book is a must read for anyone seeking to reclaim that missing spark.

What resonates most for me, is that in order to maintain passion, in order to remain attractive to, and attracted to, your partner, you must love yourself first; you must nurture yourself and maintain your independent sense of self, you must learn the art of embodied surrender, even within the confines of a committed relationship. A big big “YES!” in my opinion.

Did I already mention how much I loved this book?