How to Rekindle Passion in a Long-Term Relationship

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Mating in Captivity" by Esther Perel. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you feel like your committed sex life is becoming monotone, routine, or worse—non-existent? Do you want to bring back the excitement and rekindle the passion but aren’t sure how to go about it?

In her book Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel argues that the key to rekindling the passion in a committed, long-term relationship is, paradoxically enough, introducing distance. The reason your passion diminished is that the boundaries between you and your partner had shrunk, yet distance, separateness, and mystery are the key ingredients of sexual desire.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to rekindle the passion in a long-term relationship, according to couples therapist Esther Perel.

Esther Perel: Distance Is Key to Rekindling Desire

When you first meet someone, you don’t know them. That’s why budding relationships are so intense, both physically and emotionally. You don’t know what kind of connection you have yet, so you’re working with imagination and potential⁠—ingredients for desire. You idealize the other person and focus on their positive qualities. They do the same to you, and you feel validated and transcendent. Additionally, because you don’t know each other, there are strong boundaries between the two of you. You each have a distinct sense of self that’s unmixed with the other person’s.

As you get to know each other better, either by talking to each other or observing each other, you start to establish a routine. Maybe you move in together, which brings you closer both physically and emotionally. You become familiar with each other. As the distance between you closes, the space where desire used to flourish shrinks.

How to Balance Passion With Intimacy

Establishing intimacy necessitates eliminating otherness and shrinking the distance between two people. Intimacy makes you care about the well-being of the other person and makes you afraid to hurt them. However, sexual excitement requires a lack of worry, and pleasure needs to be a little selfish. When you care about another person, it can be hard to focus on your own needs.

When you and your partner get so close that you’re now a fusion rather than two separate people, you no longer have anyone to connect with⁠. You have to reintroduce distance if you want to rekindle the passion. This can be psychological distance, for example, asking your partner to ignore you rather than immediately greet you when you get home from work. Or it can be literal⁠—one of you leaves for a while. Either way, it can be helpful to think of the distance-creation as sexual play rather than a rejection. It can also help to remember that the closeness you and partner have established gives you a strong foundation to return to.

How to Rekindle Passion in a Long-Term Relationship

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Esther Perel's "Mating in Captivity" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Mating in Captivity summary :

  • Why it's difficult to have a good, erotic life within a long-term relationship
  • What makes up our individual sense of desire and our desire for our partners
  • Tips on how to retain desire in a committed relationship

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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