The common wisdom is that intimacy breeds desire and couples often feel confused when the closer they are together, the less chemistry they feel. What’s the reason for that? Couples’ therapist Esther Perel believes that there is such a thing as too much closeness in a couple. Her argument is that to have a connection between two people you need to have two separate individuals. If the two become one unit, there is no space for connection between them – there is just one fused entity. Couples whose lives overlap nearly 100% (e.g., working together, having only common friends, common interests and sharing every thought with each other) sometimes pay the price in terms of their desire for one another and their sex life suffers. In her bestselling book, Mating in Captivity, Perel encourages couples to create a degree of separateness (without separation) to recreate the spark and bring back the excitement and joy into a relationship. How can one do that? As a couples’ therapist I recommend 3 simple things:
- Having separate hobbies and activities can be helpful so that you have more to share when you meet on a date with your partner. Your partner seems more interesting when they have new things to share, right? Do you bring in new material to your couple as well? For some couples it’s as simple as exercising separately, for others it’s flirting with others or even opening up their relationship (for tips on how to do that I recommend Opening Up). You define your own boundaries (if that’s difficult to do on your own ask an experienced therapist to help you do that).
- Spending time with other couples may allow you to see your long-term partner through the eyes of the other men/women present. If they can find your partner attractive and you witness it, chances are, you’ll notice the same qualities in your mate as they do and it will spark some interest in your spouse for you as well. Seeing your partner as others do can be refreshing!
- Discover exciting activities together. Doing something new or something you haven’t done in a long time can bring the excitement back. For instance, going dancing together (whether it’s clubbing or taking salsa lessons) can bring some joy and laughter in a physical context that will likely rub off on you in a good, desire-producing, way. Going hiking on a difficult trail or kayaking can do the same thing. You choose your activity – the point is, it should be somewhat new (or at least not routine) and raising your adrenaline. Research shows that people with whom we engage in somewhat stressful/exciting (=adrenaline-rising) activities seem more attractive to us. Use that to your advantage and go on roller-coaster rides, try racecars or travel in stimulating places together.