August 14, 2013

The Unexpected Rules of Desire.

Excerpt: Happy! Sexy! Shameless! What Your Mother Did Not Know About the Birds and the Bees...

Students often ask me how they can keep their relationship hot after years of being together.

Even after a few months, what was once passionate desire can fizzle out. We may have a great loving relationship or a great friendship, but the desire is gone. Why is it we lose that lusty feeling?

Now before you say desire is bad according to my religion, guru or horoscope, let me tell you that without it you will not have a relationship of any kind. Contrary to many spiritual teachings, desire or attraction is actually the basis of life.

In Tantric teachings (not the sex ones but the actual philosophy) the universe or the Goddess is described as wanting you. That is, wanting to experience life through you as you and this desire is what creates life. There is a longing for connection that is extremely deep in all of use. The basis of life is one of attraction. The very substance of the universe, atoms are held together in a dance of attraction. Without desire or attraction there would be no love, no life and no form this world.

So how do we keep desire for our lover alive? The answer is actually contrary to everything we have been told about relationships and intimacy…

Separation is Good For You

“How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”

I use to jokingly say this to my husband when we were first married. Though I was totally in love with him, I also liked time away from him. I was as happy on my own, with my friends and at work as I was with him.

Did this make me a bad wife?

When I went to India without him a few years after we were married, people seemed shocked. Some were surprised that, “He was letting me go.” Others asked if everything was ok in our relationship. These comments reflect our cultural paradigm that to be in love means to never be apart.

We believe good relationships means we dress the same, be the same, think the same and are always in sameness together.

We often see separation, individualism and differences as an indication we must not be in love. When a couple takes a separate vacation, what do you think? Do you assume they are on the “outs”?

We have also bought into the mythology that another person really does complete us and to be on our own especially when we are in love, means there is a problem. Do you assume that couples that spend time apart are not spending anytime between the sheets?

Here’s the truth…Gerry McGuire did not have me at hello (nor does he complete me). He had me at good-bye. Separation is what makes for a good relationship and for good sex.


According to psychologist and sex researcher, Esther Perel, humans have two basic needs or urges: the need for connection/security and the need for adventure/novelty.

On one side, we want to know our lover will be there for us. We want to know that we can count on them, rely on them and call on them when needed. We long for connection, transcendence and deep intimacy. We want to be known deeply and loved truly. We want them to be our best friend, confidant and bridge partner.

On the other side, we want to do our own thing, think our own thoughts and have it our way. This is our longing to feel untethered and free. We may feel stifled, suffocated or bound by our relationships so seek freedom from it.

Perhaps this is why so many affairs and indiscretion happen—not because people are not in love but due to the thrill of risk, newness and “the other.”

The basic human needs of love/security and adventure/freedom are clearly at odds with each other.

Does this mean our relationships are doomed?

I say, no. We can have stable even monogamous relationships that satisfy our need for love and security while at the same time feeling alive and free. By understanding these basic needs and knowing they are at play, we can navigate them. It does require, however that we break from the cultural mythology about love and instead follow two basic practices.

Don’t Smother the Fire: Create Space

My husband Ian and I do spend a lot of time together but also enjoy time apart. We create space for each other as individuals. We allow each other to have a separate life and we don’t see it as bad. In fact, we see it as a means to create desire.

We are not alone in the understanding. In her Ted Talk video, Perel shares her worldwide research findings on desire.

What Perel reports is that couples feel most drawn to their partner when they are apart. Couples around the world reported they are most drawn to their partner when they were away and apart as this space gives us the opportunity for longing. The very act of separation creates attraction.

In essence, both our human urges are satisfied. We know we have a stable relationship but we also have the space to experience ourselves in the world while wanting that relationship.

So if the fire is feeling a little smothered, give it some space. But take the time to think about, long for and want your lover. When you are reunited, the space will create the spark.

Here’s the other aspect to this idea of apartness: We must allow our partner to be radiantly separate from us.

Perel reports the number two time people feel most drawn to their partner is when they see their partner as radiant and confident in separateness.

For example, watching your lover give a speech or command a room at a cocktail party is a great aphrodisiac, according to Perel. This allows us to see them as their own individuals with strengths and skills and that is a turn-on. They are with us but also apart from us. They are expressing their own individual strength and this creates longing. We are attracted to people who are attractive but we must allow them the space and opportunity to be so.

Consider the last time you felt really attracted to your lover…was he or she separate from you and demonstrating their own power?

Put on the Tuxedo: Newness

Perel reports that the third most time people say they are most drawn to their partner is when there is newness or novelty. According to Perel, novelty is not about new positions but about what parts of our selves we bring out and bring out in new ways.

For example it’s the thrill of seeing your lover in a tux for the first time or seeing a vulnerability that had previously been hidden. We see our lover with new eyes. We see a fresh, unexpected side. We momentarily get a shift in perspective and that creates desire.

For me, seeing my guys-guy, construction worker husband practicing yoga and discussing Shakti-Tantic philosophy is thrilling even after 10 years. I love the apparent contrast of these two sides of him presented together in a delicious package. I love that we keep revealing more and more of ourselves to each other while retaining our separate, individual radiance.

This radiance is what attracted us in the first place.

I believe it is also an ability to appreciate the strengths of our lovers. I appreciate the aspects of Ian that are not like me. I don’t need him to be my clone or even have the exact same views about life.

I don’t want to date myself; I want to date someone who is different and separate but aligned, attractive and awake. We need to come together and our desire for each other ensures we do but our individuality and separateness keeps the desire alive.

This may all seem paradoxical and perhaps it is, but it is really quite simple. To keep the fire burning, we can’t smother it and we have to find ways to stare at it long into the night while seeing its unique, intrinsic power…



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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