Monogamy and desire.

Author Esther Perel wrote the book, Mating in Captivity, in 2006. This is a great book for looking at the complicated relationship between long term monogamy and ongoing desire. Perel articulately explores how often our longing for stability and comfort can annihilate passion and desire. Perel furthered her research by traveling the world and asking many diverse groups the question – can a couple continue to have a good, passionate, sex life in a long term monogamous relationship? Can intense desire exist in a safe stable relationship? She pointed out that in some ways these two things seem mutually exclusive. If we feel safe and secure and close can we also feel drawn and excited and desirous? I have always felt that the answer is yes, but Perel posits that it takes some work and a few key ingredients, and I agree.

Perel recently gave a talk at the TED Conference, to present her findings. What I love about Perel’s TED talk is that she gives some language to “how” to overcome this seeming conundrum. She explains that what couples need to do is to create an “erotic space” in which they can exist together. An imaginary space that is separate from their lives as parents and managers or husbands and wives. Perel describes an erotic space where they can play and be creative and do things or say things or exist in a way that is free from the constraints that they may feel during the day or in other parts of our lives. In the process of interviewing people, she found that an active imagination is a key ingredient in being able to maintain both monogamy and an exciting sex life

Perel ends her talk by discussing attachment theory. She does it in a very simplified way by describing 3 different children’s responses to a 3 different kinds of caregivers: one who is attentive, one who is distracted and one who is avoidant. Perel accurately explains how this original experience with a caregiver creates a template for our future intimate relationships. If one has a secure relationship with his/her caregiver, one can move out in to the world with curiosity and fearlessness. Perel explains how the same is true in our intimate relationships. If we feel securely attached to our partner, we can move in to this sexual realm with adventure and a sense of fun. If not, we stay close to our partner, we monitor, we control, we possibly smother and then the ability to be desirous and playful gets compromised. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight and an expert in couples therapy, proposed this idea long ago and it is wonderful to see Perel embrace it, explain it and include it in her study.

If you would like to view her talk go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa0RUmGTCYY