5 Mistaken Assumptions About Long-Term Love

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1 plus 1 equals 3
YourTango Expert Esther Perel questions some of our most basic beliefs about intimacy.

2. Sexual problems implicate relationship problems. In our modern society, we believe that if a couple has sexual problems, they must come as a result of relationship problems. We see sexuality as a metaphor for the relationship.  Thus, we say "fix the relationship and the sex will follow." However, this is a convenient assumption, it's not always the case and fixing the relationship does not always fix the sex. While love and desire may relate, they also conflict … and therein lies the mystery of eroticism. For while two people may love each other deeply and truly in the kitchen, the same may not be true in the bedroom. Rather, sexuality is a parallel narrative that tells its own story. Otherwise, how do you explain a couple who claims to love each other as much as ever but experiences sexual difficulties or fails to share any physical intimacy at all?

3. Love and desire go hand in hand. For centuries, marital sex was either a "wifely duty" or it was sex for reproduction. Then we did away with the loveless marriage and replaced it with the marriage of love and desire. Gone are the old rules, but now we face a new predicament: gone is the sex, full stop. You see, in every corner of the globe, the romantic ideology of modern love and coupledom has left citizens of the world wondering about, and preoccupied with, the dilemmas of desire. At every turn, couples around the world are chasing the desire dragon. We, the beneficiaries of the sexual revolution, have contraception in hand, egalitarian ideals in our head and the permission to do what we want. Yet, we don't feel like doing it — or at least not at home. Couples cultivate closeness with the expectation that more intimacy will bring better sex. The message is the same; we all got the memo: the more you know, the more intimate you become (and you become intimate by revealing every little detail about yourself), and the better the sex will be.

But will it? Reconciling love and desire is about bringing together two fundamental, but opposing human needs: our need for safety, security and stability, along with out need for separateness and adventure. For some people, love and desire are inseparable. The safety, security and trust experienced in love works to unleash their desire. For others, they are more disconnected. While on the one hand we seek predictability, and stability — these are the promises of the much sought-after committed relationship — our other hand is reaching for more, for mystery, excitement, discovery. Time and time again, it is coming up empty. To sustain desire toward the other, there must be an element of otherness, separateness, a bridge to cross and someone to visit on the other side. Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem we can solve; it is a paradox we manage. Keep reading ...

Article contributed by

Esther Perel

Counselor/Therapist

Learn more by visiting http://www.estherperel.com

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: MA
Specialties: Infidelity / Affair Recovery, Marriage, Sexuality
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