Here's the missing link between love and sex. Without it, no relationship can survive the long haul.
There is a secret to fall and stay in love that I've only recently learned about, despite spending over 30 years studying and/or coaching people in relationships.
We all know about sex, at least on the physical (vs. metaphysical) plane, and most of us who have any commitment to being good at sex fall somewhere between good enough and really good.
We also know about love — at least at one level. Most of us are capable of love and of loving our friends and lovers for a long time. And most of us have no big challenge falling in love — it's as easy as falling off a log.
However, staying in love? That’s the big challenge. Our inability to stay in love is why some 80% of all marriages fail, even if only 50% of us get divorced. We might still love our spouse or former spouse, but we're not in love. So what's missing?
The answer comes from a Pathwork lecture, The Forces of Love, Eros, and Sex. It turns out that Eros, the erotic force, is the missing link – the bridge between love and sex. Without it, no relationship can thrive over the long haul.
So what is Eros? Simply put, Eros is the adventure and search to know the soul or essence of one’s partner. Eros heightens our curiosity to know the other, and to keep discovering more and more about the other.
As every person is far deeper than can ever be known, and moreover, as we are always changing and growing, there is no danger of finally getting to know another. The danger is in thinking we do, or in ceasing to be curious.
Eros is further bolstered by our revealing ourselves to the other. By being vulnerable. By allowing our emotions and feelings to be known. To come from behind the veil of having to look like we have it all together.
We recognize Eros when, for example, a person we find attractive smiles as us and we experience an urge to connect with them. The more we think about them, the deeper that urge becomes.
But for too many of us, once we get to know the person, perhaps date for a number of times, sleep together a number of times, spend a few weeks or months together, Eros subsides. We essentially feel we know everything we need to know about that person, and, moreover, we’ve shown about as much to this person of ourselves as we are willing to reveal.
The sex might be great (although that too will subside), we might have a lot of love for this person, but, without that curiosity and vulnerability, the relationship is going to wane. Every. Single. Time.
My curiosity to continuously learn about my partner keeps Eros alive. It doesn’t have to be that she climbed Mount Everest, although certainly that would be cool. It could be that she’s deathly afraid of clowns.
Or that she used to compulsively collect Mickey Mantle baseball cards and later, when she found out he was an alcoholic, ceremoniously burned them all. Or even that she was sexually abused as a child and still harbors a wariness of all men.
It must go both ways. Eros is maintained by revealing yourself to yourself and to your partner. I need to be interested in knowing myself and I need to know that she’s interested in really knowing me.
That I can tell her that I’ve harbored a hatred of God since He took my mother when I was 12. That I feel self-conscious at a restaurant when everyone else’s plate has been removed and I’m still eating. That one time in college I volunteered to lecture a class about a complex equation, lost the thread half way through and walked out of the middle of the class in total shame.
That the slightest complaint from one of my customers can throw me into panic. That at age 59, from time to time, I miss my mother and cry like a child.
I discovered the secret of Eros unwittingly, before I learned its name. Before I met JoAnn, I had relationships with many women. I loved them all and still love most of them. They were all good people. What was missing in these relationships was that after a few months, I always got bored.
I suppose I felt I essentially knew everything there was to know about them, or I just didn’t bring myself to be curious.
Everything changed with JoAnn. I chalk that up to each of our many prior experiences. We’re just not willing to settle. We’re just not willing to be anything less than vulnerable and intimate. And we’ve both become very good at seeing the other as something magical and evolving.
It really helps that we’re working a spiritual path together (using Pathwork), and that has us constantly revealing more and more of ourselves to each other – lots of those juicy dark places that are so much fun to reveal and to learn about.
Is it too late for you and your partner? I don’t think so – not if both of you can create a conspiracy of Eros. It might just be shifting your consciousness (“Who IS this magical person sharing my bed?!”) and raising your own level of vulnerability.
It could only help to get into some kind of spiritual practice together, one that calls for each of you to learn more and more about yourself while revealing more and more of yourselves to each other.
LovePong, the app for couples, is a tool you can use to help keep Eros alive. LovePong gives you little communication assignments, such as “Share something about yourself with your partner that nobody knows about you,” and “Make a specific request of your partner to support you in doing something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself.”
You can do them often or infrequently – but what’s important is that you routinely doing something to keep communication, curiosity and vulnerability alive.
To my way of thinking, this planet offers no greater riches than the relationship with a partner that’s functioning at all three levels, Sex, Love and Eros. Maintaining Eros is simple but not easy. It requires something of yourself. Not just vulnerability and curiosity, but also a level of intentionality. And it’s so worth it.
For the first 40 years of my life I was all but convinced that I could never be in love with one woman for a number of years. Now, after spending 11 years, 3 months and 8 days with JoAnn, I have every confidence that I will be in love with her for the rest of my life.