It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before…to test your limits…to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was mote painful than the risk it took to blossom.Anais Nin
Can you want what you have?
“When my friend Jane said: “Perhaps I only want what I cannot have,” I responded, “What makes you think you can have your husband?”
The grand illusion of committed love is that we think our partners ar ours. In truth, their separateness is unassailable, and their mystery is forever ungraspable. As soon as we can begin to acknowledge this, sustained desire becomes a real possibility. Its remarkable to me how a sudden threat to the status quo (an affair, an infatuation, a prolonged absence, or even a really good fight) an suddenly ignite desire. Therese nothing like the fear of loss to make those old shoes look new again.
Excerpt from page 211 – Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The more she practices, the stronger her skills. The stronger her skills, the deeper her confidence. The more confident she feels, the more risks she takes. The more risks she takes, the more exciting the game. Of course, all this practice takes effort and discipline. It is just not a matter of being in the mood; it requires patience and sustained attention.
Unfortunately, all too often we associate effort with work, and discipline with pain. But there’s a different way to think of work. It can be creative and life-affirming, sparkling a heightened sense of vitality rather than a bone-deep exhaustion. If we want sex to be fulfilling, then we have to apply effort in just this artful way.
Excerpt from page 211-212 – Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The Myth of Spontaneity
When my patients wax nostalgic about the early days of rapid-ignigiton sex, I remind them that even in the beginning, spontaneity was a myth. Whatever used to happen “in the moment” was often the result of hours, if not days, of preparation. What outfit, what conversation, which restaurant, which music? All that planning – that highly detailed, imaginative production – was part of the buildup and part of the denouement.
For this reason, I urge my patients not to be spontaneous about sex. Spontaneity is a fabulous idea, but in an ongoing relationship whatever is going to “just happen” already has. Now they have to make it happen. Committed sex is intentional sex. “I couldn’t resist” has to become “I don’t want to resist”. “We just fell into each other’s arms” has to become “Let me take you in my arms”. “We just click” has to become “Can we click tonight?”. My aim is to help patients become comfortable wit sexuality as a consciously acknowledged and enthusiastically welcomed part of their lives – something that demands full engagement.
The idea of planning is a hurdle many couples need to cross. They associate planning with scheduling, scheduling with work and work with obligation.
Excerpt from page 213 – Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
When couples complain that their sex life is listless, I know it isn’t the mere frequency they’re after. They may want more, but they certainly want better. For this reason, I prefer to talk about their erotic life rather that about their sex life. The physical act of sex is too narrow a subject, which easily degenerates into a conversation about numbers. Human nature abhors a vacuum of intensity. People long for radiance. They want to feel alive. if given half a chance, loving partners can fill the intensity void with transcendence.
Animals have sex, eroticism is exclusively human. It is sexuality transformed by the imagination. In fact you don’t even need the act of sex to have a full erotic experience, though sex is often hinted at, envisioned. Eroticism is the cultivation of excitement, a purposeful quest for pleasure. Octavio Paz likens eroticism to the poetry of the body, the testimony of the senses. Like a poem, it is not linear; it meanders and twists back on itself. It shows us what we see not with our eyes but with the eyes of our spirit. Eroticism revelas to us another world inside this world. The senses become servants of the imagination, letting us see the invisible and hear the inaudible.
Eroticism intertwined as it is with imagination, is another form of play. I think of play as an alternative reality midway between the actual and the fictions, a safe space where we experience, reinvent ourselves, and take our chances. Through play we suspend disbelief – we pretend something is real even when we damn well know it is not. Earnestness has no place here.
Play, by definition, is carefree and unselfish-conscious. The great theoretician of play, Johan Huizinga, maintained that a fundamental feature of play is that it serves no other purpose. The purposelessness associated with play is hard to reconcile with our culture of high efficiency and constant accountability. More and more we measure play by its benefits.
Sex often remains the last arena of play that we can permit ourselves, a bridge to our childhood. Long after the mind has been filled with injunctions to be serious, the body remains a free zone, unencumbered by reason and judgement. In lovemaking we can recapture the utterly uninhibited movement of the child, who has not yet developed self-consciousness before the judging gaze of others.
Excerpt from page 217-218 – Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
Every so often, I meet with couples who get it, who maintain a sense of playfulness with each other, in and out of the bedroom. They are physically ad sensually alive – two people whose desire for another hasn’t been left to languish. Even in our culture of immediate gratification, they are able to see seduction as an end in itself.
For all these couples, playfulness is central to their relationship, and eroticism extends beyond the sexual act. Their lovemaking can be ceremonious or sudden, soulful or utilitarian, vanilla or transgressive, warm or hot. The point is that that sex is pleasurable and inviting, not dutiful. The revere the erotic, yet they delight in its irreverance. They like sex, they especially like it with each other, and they take time to nurture an erotic space.
They know that erotic intensity waxes and wanes, that desire suffers periodic eclipses and intermittent disappearances. But given sufficient attention, they can bring the frisson back.
For them love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life; time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it´s the beginning. They know that they have years in which to deepen their connections, to experiment, to regress, and even to fail. They see their relationship as something alive and ongoing, not a fait accompli. It is a story that they are writing together, one with many chapters, and neither partner knows how it will end. There is always a place they have not gone yet, always something about the other still to be discovered.
Modern relationships are cauldrons of contradictory longings; safety and excitement, grounding and transcendence, the comfort of love and the heat of passion. We want it all and we want it with one person. Reconciling the domestic and the erotic is a delicate balancing act that we achieve intermittently at best. It requires knowing your partner while recognizing his persistent mystery; creating security while remaining open to the unknown; cultivating intimacy that respects privacy. Separateness and togetherness alternate, or proceed in counterpoint. Desire resists confinement, and commitment musn´t swallow freedom whole.
At the same time, eroticism in the home requires active engagement and willful intent. It is an ongoing resistance to the message that marriage is serious, more work that play; and that passion is for teenagers and the immature. We must unpack our ambivalence about pleasure, and challenge our pervasive discomfort with sexuality, particularly in the context of family. Complaining of sexual boredom is easy and conventional. Nurturing eroticism is an act of open defiance.
Excerpt from page 218-219 – Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel