Why We're Perpetually Fucked When It Comes To Sustaining Romantic Relationships...

"Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprize…"

During a bout of mourning and healing from heartbreak, I came across this very enlightening Ted lecture done by sex and marriage counseling therapist, Esther Perel. This woman just nails it so squarely. I’ve never heard anyone break down so concisely why so many people have this problem of maintaining sexual or emotional desire for their partner in a long-term, monogamous relationship or marriage (more commonly known as “one-gina” or “these moves again?” or “Netflix night”). The gist of it is is that there are two fundamental needs feely humans have when being romantically involved with each other, but these two needs mix like oil and water. Essentially: we want to close the gap and mentally, spiritually, emotionally connect with our partner, just be completely enlaced with their being and existence. But we also want to forever sustain the feeling of “Day 1: When I saw him/her from across the room—“ because we’re all creepy voyeurs and somehow seeing an attractive person from a distance is what makes us want to pole-vault right into their pants. One need requires closeness and the other requires distance and these two are inside of us constantly duking it out. 

This is the same case for familiarity. Familiarity is comfort and security and it builds trust. After a certain period of time, your partner won’t pull some uncharacteristic shit that’ll shake you to your core. But familiarity over time will bore you and it’ll eventually drive a stake into your relationship. After a certain period of time, your partner’s not gonna pull some uncharacteristic shit that’ll shake you to your core.

Perel’s theories are brilliant and resonate with an actually cathartic truth. Like, hey, it’s actually not us and yet it is! It’s all of us, this is how we’re wired. But y’know what the big bummer in all of this is? As amazing as Perel is at breaking down this paradox, she provides no concrete solution. There is none. What a dick in the eye! We are seriously fucked! We will never be able to reconcile these two fundamental needs. Like, ever.

We’re perhaps forever damned to do this uncomfortable circus-seal balancing act, perpetually intuiting the energy of our partner and our relationship with them, constantly checking the temperature of the room— does this need me to come forward or fall back a little? But out of this exhausting, neurotic exercise, sometimes— not always— but sometimes, we will hit the sweet spot of divine, harmonious balance where our partner engages us in this dance and we’re connected AND we still want to fuck the shit out of their samey-same genitals.

In a simple, encapsulating sentence, Perel says “fire needs air” and she’s absolutely right.