Mating In Captivity: Unleashing Erotic Desireby Esther Perel invites us to take a radical look at monogamous relationships and the often-misunderstood role of intimacy in maintaining desire within exclusive relationships. Her work is aimed at couples (heterosexual, lesbian, and gay) wishing to remain together within a sexually/sensually fulfilled committed relationship; but is also instrumental in helping individuals to identify their own sexual needs and desires.
Perel asserts that a common myth about maintaining desire within a relationship is that if emotional intimacy is strengthened between two people, then sexual desire and satisfaction will follow. Perel explains that this is not so, and differentiates intimacy from desire. She explains that intimacy requires connection, whereas desire is achieved through separation. Whereas the feeling of closeness (intimacy) we share with our partner is based on safety, trust, and ongoing communication creating a sense of security, desire requires that we see our partners as separate beings, whom we can never truly know. This not knowing is the antithesis of the security we seek within our intimate relationships but is essential in maintaining desire.
One of the ways to ignite desire and erotic pleasure is through our fantasies. Perel encourages us to explore our erotic fantasies to access our sexual needs within our intimate relationships. Through our fantasies and the sharing of them with our partners, the unexpected and unknown aspects of the other are accessed and erotic pleasure is deepened. This deepening of erotic awareness allows couples to transcend the daily tasks within a relationship such as work, caring for children, maintaining a home etc. and to develop a sexually fulfilling relationship.
Many couples stay happily together for years due to a great sense of warmth and emotional intimacy, but often one or both partners report their relationship lacks sexual fulfillment. This lack of desire within a relationship can lead to the deterioration of connection and may threaten the longevity of the relationship. Therefore, it is important to develop a sexual language and erotic dialogue between partners so that they may join through their desire as well as through their love and loyalty towards one another. Within a safe and supportive therapeutic environment, I work with individuals and couples to develop a greater sense of their erotic needs while also exploring the barriers that inhibit their sexual desire and expression. I encourage and assist clients to develop an honest dialogue with their partners in which they feel confident in co-creating their sexual fulfillment as a couple.