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Thursday, January 29th, 2009

At Home with the Erotic


Soon, I'll get married. And have a baby.
All of which I'm grandly looking forward to.
(Soon being relative, mind you)

I've always done everything in my life back-ass-wards, in my own time, against the current and by my own rules – and the marriage thing and the baby thing will be no different. Personalized vows, a pre-nuptual arrangement (so we both know what institution we are signing up for!), a highly unusual ceremony, living "off the grid," and the child born into the village it takes to raise it: these are all par for the course for me.

Although I do everything unconventionally and it doesn't look like it's about to change any time soon, I wonder about the conventional phenomenon of the decline of sexual desire within long-term relationship. The sizzle subsides. The heat peters out. The comfort of home and hearth replace the fire of the loins. Not for everyone, but for so, so many.

Should we not get into long-term partnership if we want to keep our erotic embers alive? Is it inevitable or can we practice, will, hope, create, connive and reason our way out of the inevitability? And why does it prove to be so ubiquitously inevitable?

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with giving sex a break. After that many years together, some folks might be happy to get a rest, to have time to devote to intimacy, conversation, travel, children, learning, cuddling, what have you. A hot sex life is only a priority if it's a priority.

But what if it is a priority – and it's going down the tubes? I've just been reading and heartily enjoying "Mating in Captivity" by Esther Perel, NYC based sex/couples therapist.

http://www.estherperel.com/

She posits that one cause for the decline is that the safety, intimacy and comfort that are the hard-won results of long-term partnership are often at odds with the unknown, taboo and forbidden that fuel our sexual and erotic connections.

Another is the identity clash some of us feel in our new roles as wife, husband or family maker. A dutiful wife should be self-sacrificing and not tend to her pleasure, right? A caring husband wouldn't have THOSE kinds of thoughts about the mother of his children, would he?

But who says what we want in one area of our life carries over part and parcel to another? Aren't we flexible beings, capable of wearing many hats? Can we be a vixen in bed and a entrepreneur in life? Can't we be a fantastic parent and into whatever kink we are into? Isn't it a paradox in the first place to be human, to be in a relationship, even?

Perhaps including all our oxymoronic parts in one teeming relationship is what the whole thing is about.

Perhaps embracing the paradox and including what would ordinarily be excluded is the key to getting all we want WITHIN the relationship, rather than going OUTSIDE the relationship. The statistic is that somewhere between 50-80% of people cheat. Yowsa.

As Esther Perel writes:

"Family life flourishes in a an atmosphere of comfort and consistency. Yet eroticism resides in unpredictability, spontaneity, and risk. Eros is a force that doesn't like to be constrained. When it settles into repetition, habit, or rules, it touches its death. It is then transformed into boredom and sometimes, more powerfully into repulsion. Sex, a harbinger of loss of control, is fraught with uncertainty and vulnerability. But when kids come on the scene, our tolerance for these destabilizing emotions takes a dive. Perhaps this is why they are so often relegated to the fringes of family life. What eroticism thrives on, family life defends against."

"When we validate one another's freedom within the relationship, we're less inclined to search for it elsewhere. [Infidelity] is no longer a shadow but a presence, something to talk out openly, joke about, play with. When we can tell the truth safely, we are less inclines to keep secrets."

So, here's to telling the truth – all of it.
Here's to a hearth and home that embraces not only our excellent communication, our brilliant intimacy, our integrity and our loving kindness, but our seducer, our temptress, our shadow, our illicit, and our quickly-beating erotic hearts.

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Posted by LiYana at 1:35 pm

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