Last night I was lucky enough to get tickets to go and see Esther Perel speak live for the London School of Life in Russell Square.
Actually dear reader, it wasn’t really luck as I made damn sure I bought those tickets months ago, and apparently they sold out within one day. Such is the fame of the brilliant sex and relationships guru.
The event was called “Lasting Love”- Perel’s take on how to create long term happy relationships.
I took along my supportive mate Nat (one of the only people who knows me IRL and knows I do this blog. And she’s still my friend. Winning).
We grabbed a plastic half pint of warm white wine each and sat down to enjoy the packed out UCL auditorium. Me – excited to hear Esther speak. Her- possibly here under false pretences (see end of post).
Anyhoo, my focus on being there was to wring the woman dry of her tips on how to get a better libido.
And I was NOT disappointed.
(I was also pleasantly surprised when my mate googled how old she is, and found out she’s 58. Perel also is a total fox, so being a sex therapist is obviously the way to go rather than Oil of Olay.)
Perel’s view is that at the heart of human need are two opposite factors:
- The need for security/predictability/safety/dependability/reliability/grounding/permanence.
- And the need for adventure/novelty/mystery/risk/danger/unknown/the unexpected/surprise.
These opposing forces govern our lives, and one of the hardest tasks within a relationship is to balance the two.
They embody themselves within the emotional states of love and desire.
Love is all about security, caring, responsibility, dependability, closeness- aka “having”.
And it’s contradiction- desire– needs mystery, distance, intrigue and space to thrive- aka “wanting”.
The more we “have” (love) someone, the less we “want” (desire) them.
Because how can we want what we already have?
What nurtures love isn’t what fuels desire.
So it makes sense that over time, the more we perceive to “have” our partner, the less we “want” (desire) them.
Which is why often in long term relationships our sex drives can dip.
Perel asked the audience to shout out when we felt most drawn/attracted to our partners. Apart from a few odd balls shouting some random stuff, everyone’s comments fell into four categories:
- when we see them in their element/competent
- as different from how usually see the other- there is a sense of mystery or the unknown
- when jealous or through the gaze of a 3rd
- when absent or there is a sense of longing (e.g. the threat of a breakup)
These four factors create want because you don’t feel like you have.
And this blew my tiny mind.
It also made a ton of stuff fall into place.
It’s why we love it when they’re public speaking or with mates or tending to an emergency.
Or why things feel so intense and your chest hurts and you just want them in a heated argument where you’ve tentatively considered “the end”.
Or why when they mention an overly friendly co-worker your face gets all red and sweaty and you get mardy or hold them a bit tighter that evening at the thought of letting them go.
It’s the distance- the space between us and our issues, our concerns, our bad sleeping habits or our flaws- that fans the embers of desire.
Not sexy lingerie, dirty weekends away or that bottle of lambrini at the back of the booze cabinet.
How to create separateness and closeness at the same time?
This is the holy grail of the sex world…. How to marry up a long term stable relationship with kinky, hot, passionate sex.
Because they’re the antithesis of each other.
How, in one partner and one relationship, can we achieve both?
Or, in other words (and I’m going to massively lower the tone here), how can we continue to want to shag someone when you’ve seen/smelt their poo and feel like the particles are now in your toothbrush and you couldn’t possibly be any closer if you tried?
This is the core issue here, isn’t it people?!
Perel states that the secret is (*drum roll*) to learn to live with otherness.
To live like you never own each other.
To not take each other for granted.
To never assume you “have”- instead always prepare to “want”.
With that, *mic drop*, Perel was out.
And she left a spell bound audience dazed and in awe of her graceful insights, masterful weaving together of theory and experience and honesty, and seriously sexy accent.
And me seriously considering whether getting a house with two bathrooms might be key to increasing my desire.
Afterwards we both felt like we’d had a heavy counselling session in which our souls had been either slightly destroyed or irrevocably changed forever. So we had Franco Manca’s and more wine to drown our existential crises.
Nat ended the evening on a hilarious note when she mentioned she thought tonight was a sex tips event and had casually mentioned this to her partner so he was at home hopping from foot to foot eagerly awaiting a fantastic blowjob.
Instead she was now preparing to head back and spend hours into the night talking to him about childhood attachments, desire, love, the moon and foreverness.
And I had a little laugh to myself that if only Esther knew how much of a cockblock she was last night, I think she’d secretly enjoy it.