Does Monogamy Kill Desire?

Published: OCTOBER 29, 2014 | Updated: JANUARY 12, 2022
In a monogamous relationship, desire can fall prey to life, babies and bills. Unless ...
The subject of keeping desire fresh in a long-term relationship has always been a fascination of mine. It’s a mixture of seeing my parents sleep in their room - door open - for as long as I can remember and also going through some bad relationships of my own (one guy said he didn’t do kissing). And, of course, there are all the movies, books, magazines and countless people telling you that passion fades after a while and there is nothing you, me or Mork can do about it.

I picked up Esther Perel's book "Mating in Captivity" mainly because the title was catchy, but also because the premise of her book is fascinating. In her book, Perel manages to put her finger on identifying the cause(s) of waning desire in a long-term relationship. What we believe to be the reason for better sex - intimacy - turns out to also be the culprit that diminishes our desire. So ladies, it turns out that the more intimacy we have, the more certainty we have. And with all that yummy safety comes the need to cuddle more than to ravage. Drat!

You should also check out Perel's TED talk, The Secret to Desire in Long-Term Relationships.

Perel says:

"Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it's a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that."

I love the point she makes above - I’ve often wondered about "the one" that we are programmed to find. "The one" who will fulfill all our desires, hopes and dreams. "The one" who will save us. Isn’t that a lot of pressure to put on one person? And they had better be amazing in bed too! Phew! (Get another perspective in Is Monogamy Ridiculous?)

I mean, judging by the talk alone, it doesn’t look good for us, folks. As soon as we decide to settle down and become monogamous, there goes our desire, forever taken over by practical everyday life, by babies and school and who paid the bills. Unless we decide to spice things up by adding a little uncertainty into the relationship, or some newness by exploring open relationships.

The thing is, I’m not against open relationships - I’m in one right now with my long term partner. But not everyone will want this option for their relationship. Of course there is no better way to add a little uncertainly than to open up the relationship!

Eroticism is such a delicate art. I have yet to find someone who has "solved" it. Sure, there are many tips and tricks, but us humans are certainly strange creatures full of contradictions. I guess in the end, now that we know that in order to keep passion alive we’re going to need to walk the fine line between certainty and uncertainty, we’ll have to figure out what that means for our relationships - and our sex lives.
Coleen Singer

Coleen Singer is a writer, photographer, film editor and all-around geeky gal at (@ssshforwomen), where she often waxes eloquent about sex, porn, sex toys, censorship, the literary and pandering evils of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and other topics not likely to be found on the Pulitzer Prize shortlist. She is also the editor and curator of When she is not doing all of the above, Singer is an amateur stock-car...

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