Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire? With wit and eloquence, Perel lets us in on the mystery of erotic intelligence.

Are we asking love to do too much for us? Do we expect so much from our partners that our relationships are doomed to lose their excitement over time and become monotonous? How do we manage our need for stability and safety alongside our yearnings for adventure and newness?

In this video, Esther Perel deftly describes what happens to desire in long term relationships. She clearly and engagingly takes us through our psychological needs for safety and the contrary need for adventure. Most interestingly, she relates this back to early childhood psychodynamics and the stage of “separation individuation” wherein we build our relational templates or “love maps” that will direct our lives with regard to how much we look back to the other, and how much we look forward.

Romance in relationships is a sandcastle for two. It is a precondition for passion, but not a permanent abode. The sandcastles of romance demand, by their shifting nature, continual rebuilding**

The mistake most people make in their relationships is that they take them for granted. They expect that relationships “just happen.” They don’t. They require a great deal of work, commitment, creativity, and patience. They also require a kind of honesty that allows each partner to really be who they are, without having to give themselves up for the other; to retain a kind of independence, while enjoying the benefits of interdependence.

Enjoy Perel’s Ted Talk here



Psaris, J., & Lyosn, M. (2000). Undefended Love. Oakland CA: New Harbinger.

Mitchell, S. (2002).Can Love Last? The fate of romance over time. New York: W.W. Norton.

Original TED talk:

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