“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sunstruck hills every day. It began as mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
Diane Ackerman, from A Natural History of the Senses
Most of us receive little preparation or modelling on how to cultivate and sustain desire in long-term partnerships. The assumption prevails that with the “right” partner, desire simply thrives of its own accord, throughout life's vicissitudes. So, we bravely set out to navigate coupleship in American mainstream culture with its deep puritanical roots, and free-market imperatives that prize efficiency as a virtue above all — two forces that are frankly skeptical of something as lusty, defiant, and unruly as Eros. And yet. How persistent the human wish is to be seen, heard, and touched in the dark by a beloved Other. Passion is not a luxury. It testifies to appetite of the spirit, and without appetite, an organism cannot survive. At its heart, passion is about curiosity, the urge to draw closer, inhale deeply, bear witness, and in the process, to know more about each other, ourselves, and our environment.
My approach as couples therapist is to advocate for the Erotic of Curiosity. I support and explore the restoration of curiosity as a fundamental life stance — a way of being with each other, and in the world. Like good therapy itself, the practice of coupleship requires equal parts safety and risk. Without a degree of safety, we cannot allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open with each other. Without a degree of risk, there can be no change, no growth, and no galloping across magnificent, newly discovered terrain, the love affair with life. Together, we will collaborate in creating this environment in our couples therapy sessions, so it gradually becomes part of the culture that you own as a couple.
Some couples therapists contend that in a good, healthy relationship, the sex falls into place. My sense is that even therapists may be impacted by a puritanical culture, and reluctant to delve into this subject. I have witnessed too many companionable, decent people in long-term partnerships where the yearning for touch remained secret, dormant, and unaddressed. Good sex should be more than an afterthought, more than a condiment to the feast of a relationship. When you are ready, we can explore its role for you, your wishes, and your mutual preferences for both comfort and risk.
A crisis is not requisite for embarking on the conversation of couples therapy. Alert, thoughtful dialogue deepens the capacity for shared adventure, and constitutes good maintenance for any coupleship. But if you arrive at my office in frustration, grief, anger, hurt, or confusion, I stand prepared to support you with practical skills and resources for determining what comes next. That decision will be based on your own values, both as individuals and as a couple. At both major and minor life junctures (after the arrival or departure of children, with job changes, financial upheaval, a move, or infidelity), it is often necessary to engage in re-vision of the shared assignments and meaning on which your partnership is founded.
Passion is the antithesis of indifference. It rouses us, and stirs us to a more engaged life. Because it exerts an irresistible pull, it moves us, literally and emotionally. Passion is an activist force. It holds the capacity to be a transforming agent — whether in our private lives, our work, and communities, or in the way we move through the world. I consider it both an honor and a matter of human justice to accompany my clients in claiming it for themselves, with each other.