Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Esther Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire in her book ‘Mating in Captivity
’. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships.
Many patient conversations start like this: "We love each other very much, but we have no sex." They describe relationships that are open and loving, yet sexually dull. Although they treasure the stability, security and predictability of a committed relationship, they miss the excitement, novelty and mystery that eroticism thrives on. When we love, we worry about our partner and feel responsible. Desire is more wolfish and beast-like.
For many people, passion comes from a place of uncertainty and vulnerability. When we are too comfortable in our relationships, it can be difficult for us to get excited about the other person. It becomes too easy to start seeing someone as a partner or a spouse rather than the man or woman we were first excited by.
It seems contradictory to say that desire is often diminished as the unanticipated side effect of a growing intimacy. In fact, the very qualities that nurture intimacy can be sexually deflating. Familiarity and shared rituals add a level of predictability for couples, yet on the path to secure love, couples squeeze out the very erotic ingredients that spurred the relationship into being: surprise, novelty, spontaneity, curiosity, and uncertainty.
Mating in Captivity is a book, principally, about negotiating appropriate distance in relationships – emotional distance, physical distance and even conversational distance – in order to remain sexually close. Its discussion of intimacy as something that can actively depress sexual excitement will likely prove a huge relief to many couples who wonder why, when everything seems so right with their emotional relationship, their physical relationship has faded.
It is often assumed that sexual problems come from relationship problems. Poor communication, lack of intimacy and accumulated resentments are some of the reasons to explain this numbing of desire. The assumption is that if a troubled relationship means no sex, then improving the relationship should rekindle that flame. But, unfortunately, the rules of desire are not the same as the rules of good relationships. Love is about having, and desire is about wanting.
Mating in Captivity encourages readers to examine assumptions about intimacy and sexuality in order to find uniquely individual ways to improve their sexual lives. Who we are, as individuals and within our relationships, affects our sexuality. Mating in Captivity explores the ways in which maintaining individuality and autonomy is important for sustaining a healthy, passionate life in different situations.