Couples often settle for closeness and safety instead of intimacy. Intimacy is about a willingness to fully know another and a willingness to let them know you, not only who you are, but what you’re thinking and doing. Part of what makes emotional and physical affairs so appealing is intimacy. Almost anybody can be intimate in an affair, but can they do it in a marriage? That takes hutzpah...
To avoid instability we settle for closeness, which is a pseudo-intimacy. Instability is minimized, but stability comes at the cost of passion. We pretend our wants are the same as our mate’s in an attempt to avoid conflict, but in the process it often feels we’ve lost our soul. We have the security and safety we thought we wanted, but it leads to monotonous monogamy.
We’re not victims however, my passion is my responsibility not my mates, and choosing an emotional affair to address unmet needs is certainly easier in the short run, but it never helps us mature. Anyone can do intimacy in a romantic relationship, but can they learn to do it in a long-term committed relationship? In the emotional affair intrigue and mystery are abundant, but do you know how to keep intrigue and mystery alive in a marriage? The paradigm of closeness and security require us to truncate our mate, making assumptions about their motives and thoughts to fit how we choose to see them. To admit that maybe we don’t fully know them opens us up to a world of discovery and unpredictability. While that may be exciting for those in the beginning stages of a relationship or in an affair, it’s both challenging and rewarding for those in a marriage.
Passion and eroticism require distance, not sameness. The security generated by closeness can cause our mate to feel more like a sibling rather than a lover. Eroticism is about the ongoing expression of desire for our mate. It requires individual sovereignty where I take responsibility for my own desire and arousal, not abdicating my responsibility by placing that burden on my mate. It’s refusing to believe I know my mate and instead choosing to see them as a deep mystery that I could spend 100 years trying to uncover only to still be surprised.
It’s not my mate that has to change, for passion to occur I have to change how I see my mate and be honest with myself about who I am.
Maintaining passion also requires the courage to accept the “shadow of the third.” How quickly we forget the gift given by our mate when they choose to spend their life with us. There is no shortage of people who would love to be with them, but they choose us. Devaluing our mate by failing to remember there are others who would certainly love to be with them, but for some strange reason they continue to be faithful to us robs us of a true appreciation of their love. An appreciation for the shadow of the third reminds us of the value of our mate’s ongoing commitment.