We often expect our relationship to act as a buttress against the slings and arrows of life. But love, by its very nature, is unstable. So we shore it up: we tighten the borders, batten down the hatches, and create predictability, all in an effort to make us feel more secure. Yet the mechanisms that we put in place to make love safer often put us more as risk. We ground ourselves in familiarity, and perhaps achieve a peaceful domestic arrangement, but in the process we orchestrate boredom. The verve of the relationship collapses under the weight of all that control. Stultified, couples are left wondering, “What happened to fun? What ever happened to excitement, to transcendence, to awe?”
Desire is fueled by the unknown, and for that reason, it’s inherently anxiety-producing. In his book Open to Desire, the Buddhist psychoanalyst Mark Epstein explains that our willingness to engage that mystery keeps desire alive. Faced with the irrefutable otherness of our partner, we can respond with fear or curiosity. We can try to reduce the other to a knowable entity, or we can embrace her persistent mystery. When we resist the urge to control, when we keep ourselves open, we preserve the possibility of discovery. Eroticism resides in the ambiguous space between anxiety and fascination. We remain interested in our partners; they delight us, and we’re drawn to them. But, for many of us, renouncing the illusion of safety, and accepting the reality of our fundamental insecurity, proves to be a difficult step.
Mating in Captivity
Esther Perel 2006