Can a Long-Term Marriage Have Both Love and Desire?

4 years ago

By Audrey van Petegem, Chief Editor

I was recently on a short flight from Toronto to Chicago, and sat beside a gentleman from France. I normally have casual chats with the person sitting beside me -- they either end as quickly as they start, or we find a common interest and talk the whole flight.

This chance encounter was different. I do need to preface this post with the fact the I have been happily married to the same man for almost 27 years.

Audrey & Scott, happily married for 26 years

This man ignited something in me that has left me seeing myself in a very different way. In the one-and-a-half-hour flight, we felt intense attraction for each other. Here was this man who was flirting with me and making me feel wonderful about myself. It was neither sleazy nor lewd. He boosted my confidence. He made me feel wanted, not needed. I felt ageless, desirable, and worthy of attention. It was quite honestly the most surreal situation of my life.

After I deplaned, I sat in the airport wondering what had just happened. Did I mention that I am very happy in my marriage? I love my husband, but I am understanding that desire has nothing to do with love. Desire is about adventure, mystery, and the unknown. Love is about security, safety, and dependability; everything a marriage is about. I realized that our desire for each other had fizzled, and in its place was familiarity and companionship.

Esther Perel, a sex therapist, has addressed this exact topic in a TEDtv session. In this timely video she discusses how difficult it is to have desire in a long term relationship. In her studies that have spanned the globe she has noticed three commonalities in keeping the marital flame burning.

They are:

  1. Distance makes the heart grow fonder: It is true that when we are away from a partner and we reunite, we feel that desire for each other. When I am away, my husband and I seldom talk, and I wonder if this helps. He deals with all the daily issues, and does not entwine me in them. I am the same when he is away. When I return, my mind is clear, without having been dragged into the daily responsibilities. He and I can embrace and connect, and I can be welcomed home.
  2. There is a reason we get crushes on rock stars: When we see our significant others in their element, whether on stage or just across the room at a cocktail party engaging people, we feel proud that they are ours. What is more hot than seeing your spouse confident and in charge?
  3. Vacations are a must: Responsibility and desire to not go well together. There is no room for neediness to feel desirable. When you can laugh together and be playful , that reignites the desire in each other.

Below is Esther Perel’s talk on TEDtv:

Esther states: “We think love comes with selflessness, and in fact desire comes with a certain amount of selfishness in the best sense of the word: the ability to stay connected to one’s self in the presence of another.“

I realized that this man on the plane helped me see that I am an erotic, sexual being and that I am desirable. When my husband and I first met, he had the same effect on me. It is much easier to feel sexy and hot when you are young and in a new relationship. Now, to bring back desire into my marriage, I need to explore my own desire for my 50-year-old self first.

I have shared this video with my husband. We have a lot to discuss, but when I came home from my trip, I can honestly tell you that I felt true desire for him.

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