Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
Esther Perel eloquently explains why desire is so difficult to sustain in a long-term relationship, mainly because eroticism exists in the space between two people.
To add to this conversation, what if the difficulty of defining this space is evident at the beginning of the relationship?
While our relationships will struggle to keep passion and eroticism alive -- we each play a role in not only its creation -- but also its potential solution.
Which is -- fire your marketing department.
When you boil it down, each of us possess our own marketing department.
The part of us that protects our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and puts on a good front in social situations, or even with loved ones.
Problem is... our marketing department works to create the person who becomes whatever they believe the people they're with want them to be in order to be liked.
The guy who uses the big words when he's with his smart friends, talks sports with his athletic friends, cusses and swears with his work friends, is the perfect son when around his mother, and all business talk when with his father.
Marketing departments seek to get us to believe we're not okay and likable just as we are.Dr. Corey Allan
Underneath it all, he has no idea who he is or if anyone else would like him if he were able to just be himself.
What drives him is the desire to be what he perceive others want him to be because if he doesn't, he's afraid he'll wind up alone.
The irony of this -- he already feels alone most of the time anyway.
Marketing departments seek to get us to believe we're not okay and likable just as we are.
If you're run by a marketing department (aka, a chameleon, a pleaser), you may focus on something about yourself, or what you do, or even who you're around in order to attain the approval and validation you seek from others -- things like your looks, talent, smarts, work ethic, kindness, attractive spouse, cute kids, nice house or nice car.
While everyone gives these parts of life some thought, too often we attach these parts to the perceived value it provides for our life.
Here's an example:
Steve uses the various parts of his life to win approval and love from others. He prides himself for always being in a good mood, dressing well, living in the right neighborhood, driving a nice and always clean car, having cute kids, and an attractive wife. When he and his wife go out, he's very concerned about how she looks because of the reflection her attractiveness to others has on him.
Steve also wants to be seen as a good dad, so he likes to dress his kids so they look cute, then take them to the park. He believes when others see his kids they will smile and perceive him to be a good father.
What's interesting is that no one really values Steve for his attachments, as none of these things have anything to do with who he is as a man.
The Dilemma Of Close Relationships
Relationships, especially close ones, present a problem (and we all face this problem).
There's no way that you can be in a close, committed relationship, and not have your spouse discover who you really are.
This is the reason intimate relationships can be so difficult.
They're balancing acts.
Every committed relationship carries with it the fear of hurt or betrayal due to vulnerability and the fear of isolation or loneliness if you're not close. How you navigate this balancing act is the mechanism for growth in the relationship.
In reality: You can get as close as YOU choose in your relationships.
Perhaps you've believed the opposite -- that your spouse has to be open and available in order to create intimacy in the relationship. This is known as "other-validation," and it's very common in relationships (especially marriage).
Other-validated intimacy looks like this:
"I'll tell you about me, but only if you tell me about you.
If you don't, I won't either. But I want to, so you have to.
I'll go first and then you are obligated to disclose too: it's only fair. But before I go, you have to make me safe and secure. I need to be able to trust you."
When you approach relationships with too much emphasis on the other person and their reaction, response or validation -- you create the chameleon. And being in a relationship as a chameleon, or with one, almost ensures that neither person will experience the intimacy and love both are seeking in the relationship.
Being intimate with someone doesn't mean you get the response you want.
There's a fundamental truth at work in every relationship -- relationships (good, bad, and everything in between) are co-created.
In order for there to be a relationship, the spouse's have to collude to create it.
To move beyond the chameleon and use your relationships to grow, here's a few rules to follow:
-- Confront yourself for the sake of your own integrity and personal development.
-- Don't count on your spouse confronting him/herself ... that's his/her business.
-- Stop taking your spouse's reactions personally.
-- Don't react to your feelings -- instead learn to respond to them.
-- Stop trying to change your spouse.
-- Stop trying to make your spouse listen, accept or validate you.
-- Forget about working on the relationship, and start working on yourself.
-- Focus on your self, and not what your spouse isn't doing.
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