What happens to our intimate relationships when we find ourselves in a continuous loop of routine and familiarity?
Many of the couples that I meet and talk to in both social environments and in therapy say that they feel extremely grateful for all that they have. A loving partner, loving children, meaningful careers or enough money to live comfortably. However, some individuals have an inner dialogue that niggles at them. Something’s missing in their day to day routine and it’s often hard to pinpoint what that might be.
Individuals who are able to express this yearning, describe an unfulfilled expectation or hope. Some are overtly clear that there is a distinct lack of joy or passion in their lives. What on earth creates this conflict? Where does this contradiction of needs (routine & security) and expectations for something new and exciting (novelty) come from?
Let’s explore this idea.
If you can recall when you first met your partner, you were most probably in a haze of desire. Your world may have been tipped upside down. Everything was new and exciting. There was a sense of adventure, and you recognized that here was someone unique in this world. You simply couldn’t get enough of each other.
You may have experienced this the first time that you traveled somewhere. The sights, the sensations, everything was brilliantly new. Every fiber in your body was on high alert and you soaked in every new and extraordinary experience. Your mind was stimulated and countless moments were etched into your memory. Eventually, the whirlwind escape came to an end and you boarded your flight home.
Each of these stories describes an instance where we have an exotic or novel experience. Participating and sharing novel experiences has the potential of growing or developing ourselves through new and stimulating experiences. When we create and share new and unique experiences with our partner, it improves our connection with each other. The level of commitment between each other is heightened.
A recent article in the New York Times describes research being conducted on the nature of ‘self-expansion’. According to Dr. Arthur Aron the concept of self-expansion is the desire to grow and change and it is considered critical to boosting a couple’s level of commitment towards each other.
Self-expansion within a relationship is defined by seeing your partner as a source of exciting experiences, a support for becoming a better person, or a way to expand your own capabilities. As a result, the bond between a couple is enriched. The desire to participate in novel experience is inherently human. We all experience this desire.
The relationship therapist and acclaimed public speaker, Esther Perel emphasizes that “men and women equally have a need for adventure, for novelty, for mystery, for risk, for danger, for the unknown, for the unexpected, for a surprise, for a journey, for travel.”
In her Ted Talk presentation titled ‘The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship‘ Esther offers a contemporary and realistic perspective on creating and maintaining a passionate marriage or relationship.
Esther explains that we all crave adventure and excitement to counterbalance the repetitive routine of our daily life. The irony is that we often place unrealistic expectations on our partner to be the sole provider of excitement throughout our life and that there is tremendous value for the health of our relationships in finding a balance between our need for security and passion.
Balance is created by being aware that life occurs in ebbs and flows and that imagination, playfulness, novelty, curiosity and mystery can create new and exciting experiences for ourselves and our partner.
If you feel like you’d like additional help in this area, Start Here.