This week kicks off another round of TED Talks at their annual U.S. conference. I love having the opportunity to watch a whole new crop of juicy and insightful tidbits on love and connection! One of my recent favorites comes from Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, who discusses the paradox of love and desire.
Sometimes dating feels like a carnival game of Whack-A-Mole: you meet a great guy who possesses all the qualities you want in a partner―he’s smart, stable, and emotionally available―only to realize a few dates in that the physical spark just isn’t there. Or vice versa: your chemistry is off the charts with someone, but you know right away he’s not partnership material.
Of course we want the full package―a partner who makes us feel secure and understood, and who also happens to ignite our passion. Shouldn’t these things be symbiotic? If one side of the equation is there, how can the other be so elusive?
According to Perel, we’re trying to reconcile two basic human needs that are fundamentally at odds―a tricky proposition.
All of us, men and women, need security and emotional intimacy, qualities associated with love, while we also need adventure, intrigue, and a little danger, the qualities of desire. The trouble is, as Perel eloquently phrased it in a recent TED Talk, “the very ingredients that nurture love―mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other―are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.” And likewise, the uncertainty and distance that fan the flames of desire can undermine the sense of safety and connectedness we associate with love.
I’m curious about your experiences in reconciling these two sets of needs. Have you experienced great emotional intimacy with someone but lacked that erotic spark? What was he like? Or have you had a great sexual connection with someone who just didn’t stimulate you mentally or emotionally? Or perhaps you’ve found love and desire to be inextricably linked? Please share your stories in the comments!
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