Long-term relationships often chart a similar course. They begin with a period of intense, can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other desire that gradually dissipates over time to a point where sex becomes sporadic, if not non-existent. And yet the love for one another is as strong as ever.
So how can we maintain that desire as the years tick by?
In her 2013 TED Talk, psychotherapist Esther Perel revealed that the secret to maintaining that desire (especially since we now live significantly longer), is balancing our need for security and predictability with our need for adventure.
Here's what she says is key.
Absence and longing
Having the chance to miss your partner, and allowing you to imagine what it would be like to be with them (similar to the anticipatory thrill of the initial stages of courtship), is an important stimulant to desire. That's right—spending time away from each other can actually be a healthy part of a relationship.
Following your bliss
Another common denominator to desire? Watching your partner do something they’re passionate about, whether it’s performing on stage, working in the studio, or even just engaging other people in interesting conversation. The reason for this is simple: When someone is in their element, they’re most likely to appear radiant, confident and, yes, desirable. What’s more, Perel says, being able to observe your partner in such circumstances can help you see them from a new perspective, giving them an air of mystery or elusiveness—something that’s often amiss in long-term relationships.
Wanting vs. needing
While the act of caretaking often fuels the loving aspect of a relationship, it can have the adverse effect on desire. Put simply, Perel says, it’s hard to be turned on by someone who needs you or relies on you for their wellbeing. Instead, we prefer to feel wanted—after all, if you desire something, you want it, but you don’t necessarily need it.
Many of the people who Perel interviewed in her research said that they feel most drawn to their partners when they are laughing with them or when they feel surprised. In other words, when there’s novelty in the relationship. But that doesn’t mean just trying new positions in bed (though we highly encourage that)—it’s about expressing new sides of yourself that your partner may not always see.
Learn more of Perel’s secrets to maintaining desire in a long-term relationship here.