Desire in Long Term Relationships: Keeping it and Finding it When It’s Gone.

There might be love. There might be commitment. There might be a solid friendship at its core. But that doesn’t mean there will be desire in a long-term relationship. No wonder they’re such hard work! Worth it – but hard.

Desire feeds physical intimacy which in turn feeds connection, nurturance and the protective guard around relationships. Intimate relationships in which desire has faded can take on the shape of housemates or colleagues. There can still be love and a deep emotional bond in these relationships, there might even still be sex, but without desire the way we see ourselves and feel about ourselves changes and will ultimately play out in the relationship. Understanding the nature of desire is key to getting it back. 

The intensity of desire in relationships will ebb and flow. Kids, work, life stress, hormonal changes and those ‘but-they’re-just-so-comfy-feel-them’ grey trackies that glue themselves to you in winter have a way of putting out the fire a little, but problems come about when it stays out for too long. Intimacy might fade, the connection might loosen and sex just doesn’t happen any more.

Slowly, the protective guard around your relationship might start to chip away. The very thing that makes your relationship different to every other relationship in your life slowly stops. You can spend time with other people, laugh, cry, argue, share a meal and go on holidays with them – but sex is something that is only for the two of you, building and nurturing an intimacy and connection that is shared between the two of you and nobody else. This is why it deserves attention.

The fading of desire happens slowly. It comes with the vacuuming, the cleaning, stress, work, busy-ness, familiarity, predictability and just trying to make it through the day. Above all else, it comes with the assumption of responsibility for the needs of our partner over our own. As explained by Esther Perel, a leader in the area of desire in relationships, desire fades when we disconnect from ourselves and become selfless, which is the enemy of desire.

The clue is in the word – ‘self-less’ – as in the lack of self. It’s impossible to switch on desire if we’re not there to switch it on.

Desire then, isn’t about what our partner does, but about what we do and the connection we have with ourselves. It’s about a psychological space we go to during intimacy, where we are with another person but able to let go of responsibility for that person and engage completely with ourselves – our physical needs, our sexual needs, our fantasies. We become selfish – ‘self-ish’ – in the very best sense of the word. We show up completely. We’re fully available for ourselves and this is critical for desire to flourish.

What you need to know about desire.                                                                            

From the work of Esther Perel, we know that desire in long-term relationships involves two needs that push against each other. On the one hand, we need security, safety, familiarity and predictability. But we also need adventure, unpredictability, mystery and surprise.

We need to feel safe and secure in a relationship – we can’t build intimacy and closeness without it. We need to feel as though the relationship has staying power and that the person we love isn’t about to walk out the door. We need a sense of familiarity and predictability. We need to know what happens when we reach out and we need an idea of where the relationship is headed.

But we also have a need for adventure and excitement. As much as we need predictability, we also need mystery and surprise. As much as we need security and safety, we need adventure and risk. It’s how we feel the edges of ourselves and stop ourselves and our relationship from stagnating. 

The problem is that we are asking for all of this from one person. It’s a lot. We want a predictable, safe partner we can trust and we want an exciting, passionate lover. We want to be in a relationship where we feel a sense of belonging, but we want to expand our own identity. We want to feel safe, but we want the excitement and growth that comes with teetering with our toes on the edges of unpredictability.

Why Desire Fades 

There is a difference between love and desire. To love is to have, to desire is to want.

In love we feel the having, the closeness, the belonging. The wanting is fulfilled and there’s a security in knowing that it won’t leave – that it’s safe and stable. We want that from love. We want to feel that it’s safe to give ourselves over, that we will be received and not left exposed. We want to have the person we love. We want to be physically close, as in no distance between us. We want to know the other, to be familiar and to feel the warmth of that. We want to feel comforted by their physical nearness.

But in desire, we want something else – something unpredictable and unfamiliar. We want the excitement that comes with seeking out and discovering that the one we are seeking has been seeking us too. We want the excitement that comes with the mystery, the uncertainty and the unpredictability of that.

As explained by Perel, the qualities of a relationship that grow love – mutuality, protection, safety, predictability, protection, responsibility for the other – are the very things that will smother desire.

The desiring mind is not necessarily a politically correct one – but it is an exciting one and one we deserve to experience. Desire comes with a range of feelings that would make our everyday, socially appropriate selves gasp with the inappropriateness of it all – jealousy, possessiveness, naughtiness, power, selfishness. Too often, the very things that turn on our sexuality and our desire between the sheets are the same things we will push against once the bed is made. 

We make the mistake of not asking for that which might nurture our desire because we confuse it with selfishness. So instead we act from a place of selflessness. The problem with this is that is can starve our desire. Desire by its very nature is selfish – but the very best kind of selfish – the capacity to stay in tune with the self, while being with another. 

Now the Good Part – How to Get it Back

The secret to desire lies in being able to stay connected with the part of ourselves that’s powerful, passionate, playful, sexy, mysterious, selfish, while also being able to be generous, considerate, socially appropriate, responsible and respectable. 

There is a time and a place to fully engage with our self so we can be aware of and meet our sexual needs and feel the feelings that come with desire. There is a time to put our responsible, selfless part aside and experience our desiring self in the fullest.

Neediness and desire cannot exist together. Nothing will kill desire quicker than neediness. Nobody will be turned on by somebody who is needy for them or who has an expectation of them as their caretaker.

In relationships, the more connected we become, the more responsible we also become and the less able we are to be selfish – to let go – in the presence of another. Over time we lose the connection with the part of ourselves that experiences desire.

Desire involves letting go enough to be able to fantasise, to imagine, to be completely in our own head and our own body while being with another, but not responsible for another. It involves having the security to turn the focus from our partner to our self in order to look after our own sexual needs, and to trust that the relationship will still be there when we’re ready to come back. Through her research, Perel has found a number of ways to increase desire.

  1. Spend time apart.

    We know this one. Desire flourishes in absence. It’s something we all have in common regardless of gender, culture or religion. When we are apart, we shift away from the day to day responsibility we feel for (and share with) our partner and reconnect with that which is unfamiliar and exciting. We move from ‘having’ to ‘wanting’. Desire is cramped by the familiar. With distance we are able to feel mystery, longing and anticipation – the hallmarks of desire.

  2. Watch them in their element.

    Our desire grows when we watch our partner doing something that’s driven by their passion and knowledge. We see others drawn to them and we see them exude a confidence that we may not typically see. However much we might love the person we see at home or on holidays or in the everyday, seeing them in an unfamiliar light as confident, knowledgeable, expert and sought after, inspires the unfamiliar which in turn feeds desire. During these times, we are not close up. We watch from a comfortable distance and in this space, this person who is so familiar becomes mysterious, exciting, unpredictable. In that moment, we are changed for a while and we are open to the excitement and mystery that is within touching distance. This is when love and desire share the space.

  3. Know what shuts desire down for you and what turns it up.

    To find the desire or to bring it back into a relationship we have to look to ourselves first, rather than making the issue one of what our partner can do to make us desire him or her more.

    Ask yourself the question: When do you shut yourself off from desire? Is it when you feel exhausted? Old? When you don’t like the way you look? When you haven’t connected in with each other? When you feel selfish for wanting? When you feel as though you can’t ask? When you feel as though you can’t take? When you’re tired of giving? When receiving pleasure feels wrong? When? 

    Similarly, ask when you turn your desire on. When do YOU turn your desire on. This is a different question to asking what turns you on. One comes from the self, one comes from the other. Is it when you miss your partner? When you feel good about yourself? When you’re not busy? When you’re able to loosen from responsibility? When you’re confident? When you feel like you deserve to look after yourself?

  4. Who are you when you feel desire? Embrace that part of yourself.

    Desire is about a space you go into where you stop being the responsible, well-behaved human who looks after others and takes care of things. Desire happens when you can be completely available to, and connected with, yourself while you are with another. Where do you go when you don’t have to be the responsible one? Is it a spiritual space, a naughty space, a playful space or a place of complete surrender. As Perel explains, ‘Sex isn’t something you do, it’s a place you go, a space you enter inside yourself or with another.’ Give yourself permission to do this and if you’re worried that it might feel too ‘selfish’, ask your partner what it would be like for him or her if you were to completely let go during sex. I’m betting it won’t be a problem.

  5. Respect that each of you are entitled to sexual privacy.

    For desire to flourish, there has to be the capacity to psychologically ‘leave’ the relationship and enter your own erotic space. We’ve made the mistake of making intimacy about transparency but it’s not. You don’t have to know each other’s every thought, fantasy and imagining for the relationship to thrive. It’s just too much. Entering somebody’s psychological space is a privilege, not an entitlement, and though being invited into that space is important, being there all the time will hinder desire. 

  6. Forget spontaneity. It takes effort.

    Bringing back passion into a relationship takes a deliberate effort. It’s important not to stand still and wait for it because it won’t come to you by itself. Passion isn’t going to appear from nowhere when you’ve packed the dishwasher and finished your chat about which tiles would look best for the kitchen splashback. It just doesn’t work like that. What does work is deliberately creating opportunities and space to be with each other. 

If the desire has faded, reigniting it might feel awkward at first and that’s completely okay and completely normal. Don’t take the ‘awkward’ as a sign to stop. Take it as a sign to keep going because you’ve already been stopped for too long. 

Desire, sex and physical intimacy are worth the fight and should never be looked on as a bonus extra. They are the heartbeat of relationships and the lifeblood of connection and intimacy. We deserve to experience desire in the fullest. We deserve it for ourselves and for our relationships.


(Image Credit: Unsplash | Charlie Foster)



Thank you very much for this insightful read!

For a couple of years now, ever since I decided I was ready to be a parent, I’ve been unhappy and I shrugged it off as nerves for nearing 30 and the idea of parenthood, had 9 months of pregnancy bliss (hormones I suspect) and then 3 months later my negative feelings return. I suspect now that it is to do with the fact that I have been feeling less and less desire for him. We work together and live together and we enjoy it too because we make a great team. Lately, we have started therapy to provide some insight into my unhappiness.
I am very emotional and good at opening up to him, he is a great listener. Therapy has made me realise he doesn’t open up to me, but he’s always been a super chilled person. Do you have any ideas here?

Your article has inspired me to focus on spending time apart more and to take control of my desires. I used to desire him and initiate but was hurt from rejection a few times that I just stopped altogether. Sometimes I think I will surprise him tonight with sex and then lose confidence. When he initiates however I feel myself pull away which really bugs me. I wish I didn’t feel this way. Any suggestions?


My problem is not losing desire for a partner in a long term relationship. This happens to me within weeks of meeting someone, usually after a couple of sexual encounters. I not only lose desire my body shuts down sexually and I suffer from severe sexual dysfunctions that make sex stressful and unpleasant. This has been going on since I started dating as a teen and I’m now in my 50’s. I want a long term relationship but every time I try these dysfunctions crop up and II have no reason why.

Kari G

This was a VERY good, well written and thought out article. My fiance and I read it this morning and it brought about some good conversation as we’re currently in need of finding our way back to desire in our 7 year relationship. Thank you!!


Married 13 years to a pretty good guy with a lovely home and 2 kids. We’ve always avoided conflict and drama so our level of intimacy has been affected. He tends to be dismissive when I’ve raised things I’m struggling with, “your glass is either half empty or half full”, “you’re/we’re really lucky compared to others” etc. This has tended to shut me off from expressing a lot of deeper fears and feelings. Sex was never great. He has a low libido and some degree of performance difficulty. Over the last 5 years, we would’ve had sex maybe 5 times, with over 2 years at one stage. Of course, it’s always pretty awkward and clumsy. I have engaged in an affair with a long-term friend and the intimacy is the best of my life but there’s a lot at stake if I choose to leave my marriage. My husband knows and we have been separated under the same roof for over 6 months. I wonder if I just write off intimacy as part of my life hoping that I won’t really care as I age (currently 47).


I am in a loving and committed 6 year relationship with my boyfriend. We live together and have a dog. Sex has been an issue for us throughout our entire relationship. Our ‘honeymoon’ period was the shortest I’ve ever experienced. After less than 2 months of fun and excitement my boyfriends libido disappeared completely (and utterly). This was very hard for me and in our mid 20’s was a bit of shock. We went through a long period of him having NO interest in sex at all and my libido grew completely uncontrollable. After a few years my libido dropped too. I generally mimic desire and when there was no apparent desire for me, along with being constantly rejected, I stopped desiring sex altogether. I even lost interest in masturbation. This has also lead to me completely losing that part of myself that is sexual, mysterious, flirty, etc. I just don’t feel capable of any of it anymore, like the old me was someone wholly different and distant. We have spent years communicating about this, talking it through. I persuaded him once to try couples sex therapy but we never made it past the introductory appointment. I’m starting to realise there are some problems you just can’t talk your way out of. I’m starting to go a bit mad, especially now everyone has to self isolate due to Covid-19, which is just making it harder as so much of the advice out there involves finding space and time away from each other. I used to rationalise it as something that wasn’t as important as loving and committing to each other but reading your article has made me realise sex and desire is something I really want and miss. I don’t want to have a sexless relationship anymore. Please, Do you have any advice that might help us?


Me too … you are both not alone, this is very similarly my situation as well. Especially during COVID, the craving for space is crazy and yet so hard. It makes desire impossible


I’m currently in a 4year relationship with my girlfriend and before the all this quarantine stuff happened, it felt as though my girlfriend was so into very intimate things. She had just started to send me dirty texts and sometimes even nudes last December and she’s never done that the years prior. But then around February, when this covid thing started to blow up, and we’ve been forced to have a LDR, I was confident and secure that she would still send me dirty stuff. But I was very wrong. All the sexual aspects of our relationship had disappeared. She gets uncomfortable whenever I try to turn her on or even just when I just express how sexy ‘this: or ‘that’ is. I’ve had it rough this year. Its as if I’m not wanted anymore because she was never even the vocal type about affirmations. It just never comes natural to her to be “sweet” and then now that we’re in this LDR, she can’t express her usual physical affection either. I don’t know if I’m just living in the past but it really feels as though I’m not even interesting to her at all anymore. And to add to all this, she and her family are planning to move to a different country some tine late next year so I feel so frustrated that we somehow have not figured out what to do about being apart for so long because its going to be 2-3 years before I can go and follow to the other country. I want to figure out how to manage our LDR not just for the now but also for the near future but it really feels a lot of signs are pointing to us being nothing when we’re apart like this.


Rose, your experience mirrors my own. I have been married for over 25 years though. What you have is a tough nut to crack. I suggest you find support such as a therapist. I have often wondered if my spouse has Asperger’s because of his total lack of interest in finding time for sex. I am also not sure if he witholds due to anger. Unfortunately, I believe in Esther Perel’s insight, and it would attract me more to him if he also chose to follow this concept, but he dismisses it (which feels like he dismisses me). I do hope you find a way out of this dilemma because you don’t want to waste your precious youth. In fact, I urge you to not waste anymore time wasting your precious youthfulness and find an alternative. You can always return to the marriage again. You are allowed to have fluidity in your life.


Loving this article btw! You really nailed it!! it is by far the best as opposed to all the other ones. Defiantly worth reading and taking in! When you speak about time apart how much time is enough time to start missing that person and would that mean minimal contact too? I hope to see more blogs and posts from you regarding relationships it’s very interesting and accurate information. Thankyou



Hello I just had a question Iv’e been with my boyfriend for 4 years now sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I’m not feeling the desire we used to share once together. things have been, for a lack of a better word, “dry.” I have been working on my neediness because I tend to be needy when I’m not getting the attention I want from him. Talking to him about sex seems to dampen his ego and makes it hard for me to approach the situation. I want to rebuild our spark mostly Iv’e even tried buying things from Victoria secret just so I could possibly turn his head around but that didn’t work he blames things on being too tired and he has been dealing with depression and has been in a negative head space. I have been trying to help but I also have my own bad days and get to be needy. Don’t get me wrong he’s an amazing guy and yes he’s dealing with a lot of pressure right now but Sex doesn’t seem to be on his mind…and I know for a fact he isn’t gay. If I initiate to any degree hes immediately turned off. Ultimately I think I’m going crazy trying to figure out what I can do to spark things up so we can have a healthy sex life.


Great article. Wondering when you speak having one’s own private sexuality or private sexuality space in the relationship what do you mean. Masturbation? Pornography? Or do these things make desire with your partner less powerful?

Karen Young

It doesn’t necessarily mean finding a way towards sexual satisfaction in a way that is separate from your partner, but more being able to be with your partner, but also focus on yourself.


Such a great article. I’ve been married for 10 years and desire has certainly been something I’ve had trouble with. I think growing up in a very religious home desire and selfish sexual thinking have been discouraged my whole life. It is a tool that is deeply hidden and not used. This has been an issue in our marriage from the start. I feel I go through the motions most of the time, and that is bad for both of us. We have a deep love for one another and are committed, but I want that desire in our marriage. Any tips on how to exercise that feeling when it has been unused for so long, and not feel guilty about it?

Karen Young

Experiment gently with what that feeling would be like for you. It might feel awkward for a while, but that’s ok – it’s about discovering and trying something different until it feels right.


This is the best article that I’ve read about intimacy and desire. Thank you for putting in the effort and sharing these amazingly valuable information Karen!


Thank you for writing this. I have been on this off and on rut now with my boyfriend, more so me having a push-pull routine. He’s the most amazing guy I’ve ever met in my life and I truly can see myself spending my life with him. I have went through many growing pains within myself the past year and it’s caused me to disconnect from him pretty massively– as well as health issues that gets in the way of our intimacy (as well as my completely out-of-whack hormones taking a huge role of this). We are compatible and nothing in this world tells us we shouldn’t be together. I am making doctors appointments and I am going through the awkward stage of reconnecting after disconnecting for so long (a year of disconnection is a long time) Your article after all of this gives me hope we can get back to where we were and live a happy life together with the intimacy, love, and desire we both deserve. Thank you 🙂

Hey Sigmund

Kelley you’re so welcome. I’m pleased the article has been able to give you hope and comfort. You sound so motivated – you deserve to have someone in your life who you adore and who adores you. Sounds like this man is it. I hope you are able to work things through.


Hi, I’m currently almost entering 8 years of my relationship with my fiancé. And after a few difficult weeks, he’s finally called for a cool off period. He tells me things like he knows logically he still wants to marry me, but the emotional attachment has changed. I can understand it’s probably because for the last few months I’ve been very busy with work and he’s been helping me out with it. So much that I’ve been dependent on him being there and while I show my appreciation, it’s not enough with him. He tells me that he feels like he has no time for himself, and also another main thing is physical intimacy. We have tried to have sex during the first few years but I’ve always felt pain and am unable to carry it though. I also don’t find myself desiring sex with him, maybe because my knowledge of it is always a painful experience. After that, he just stopped trying during the last few years. He finally expressed that he’s been quite affected about it, even though I’ve said I’ll seek help if I need to, or we can use external help like lubricants etc to minimize the pain.. But he says that it might not help too? Coupled with the feeling of being stuck in a rut, he’s really lost as to if he wants to go on with this relationship. Please give me any advice to find back my desire for him, as I would still want to fight for this relationship. Right now we are working on distance as we have agreed to not meet or contact unless necessary for the next one month..

Hey Sigmund

This sounds like a difficult time for you. Physical intimacy in a relationship is something that’s can break a relationship if the couple aren’t on the same page. It’s so much more than the physical aspect – it’s nurturing, bonding, connecting and is one of the things that makes your relationship with your partner different to every other relationship in your life. A relationship can work without sex provided that both people agree that they are honestly okay with that, or provided that there is an alternative way of creating physical intimacy that doesn’t involve intercourse and that both people are happy with this. I would really strongly encourage you to speak to a doctor to see if there is something physical that’s causing your pain, not only because your fiancé has flagged the lack of physical intimacy as an issue, but because pain is usually a sign that something isn’t right and it’s important to take notice of that. It’s also going to be difficult for you to find your desire again if you expect to feel pain. If there are no physical reasons for the pain, there may be psychological things, like stress or worry, that are behind it. If this is the case, a counsellor would help you to understand what’s happening and they would also be able to help you find strategies to deal with it. Here is some information that also might help . I wish you all the very best.


You mentioned in your article that neediness can diminish your partners desire. What’s the best way to approach your partners neediness without making it seem you don’t care about their feelings or needs?

Hey Sigmund

Have a discussion but the more tenderly you can do this, the better your chance of being heard. Try and make it a positive, ‘this is how we can make us even better’ conversation. Naming and acknowledging a feeling helps to tame that feeling, so in your conversation, try to name the feelings you’re aware of in your partner. If you’re not sure, ask what happens for your partner when they do what they do that feels needy. Acknowledge that the behavior is important for your partner and that you just want to understand it more. This will help your partner to feel heard and understood and as though you’ve ‘got this’.

What seems to trigger your partner’s neediness? Then try, ‘I understand that when … Happens it triggers something in you and you feel uncomfortable. I want to understand more about it so we can work on a way to feel better about it.’ Then gently address the impact on you. ‘I really understand why you feel like that but when you do … I feel …’ Hold or touch your partner while you talk. That in itself can release oxytocin, the bonding chemical, and nurture feelings of closeness and security while you are having your difficult talk.

Talk to your partner about the article and the effect of one person feeling like a caretaker. Try not to use the word ‘neediness’ though – it’s a word that will trigger all sorts of things. If you can describe it positively, you’ll be more likely to be heard. Rather than neediness, try ‘the way you love me’. Try, ‘I love the way you love me and it’s important to me that you feel loved and secure in the relationship. Sometimes I feel as though you don’t feel that way, and that puts a distance between us. I know we can sort through this. Can we talk about what we each need to do that?’ Effectively, it’s naming the specific behaviors that feel needy, acknowledging your partner’s feelings behind it (fear of ….), and validating that.

Neediness can have nothing to do with the present and a lot to do with past hurts. If you’re doing what you can do to help your partner feel secure (by being loving attentive, being accountable, calling when you say you will, being where you say you are) then it may be a leftover response to past relationship or childhood hurts. If it feels safe for both of you, this might be something worth gently exploring because people automatically, without realising, people respond to new situations as though they are old ones. This is really normal and we all do it. If this is what’s happening (and it might not be) talk then about how you and your relationship are different to the past ones that were hurtful. If this becomes a real barrier in your relationship, counselling will be able to help you both to move to through this. I wish you all the best.


I still feel love and comfort in my 10 yrs relationship, but… very often I find desire in thinking about other women. Sometime this desire is answered by those other women… Allthough we defenitly had some passionate first yrs in our relationship, I just dont feel the real desire in this anymore. Your article was helpfull but I’m still in doubt what to do… Thank you.

Hey Sigmund

This is a difficult one. Relationships eventually reach a point where the euphoria of the earlier times in the relationship settles to a more secure, deeper love – this is really normal. If you are looking to other women it will always be very difficult to find desire with your partner because your time with these other women will be ‘euphoric’, kind of like the earlier days with your partner. It doesn’t mean that your current relationship isn’t capable of having this, it just means it’s compromised because it will come so much easier with new people. It’s really up to you how committed you are to your relationship. If you are committed and want to stay in it, the best chance of rebuilding the desire is making the decision not to look outside of your relationship for this. A new person will always be exciting and interesting because you haven’t reached the point of stability and security and attachment that you have reached with your partner. This will always undermine your capacity to feel desire with your partner. It can be difficult to find the desire when it feels as though it’s gone, but there are ways to do this. It’s about recommitting and rediscovering each other again. You might find that somewhere over the last little while you’ve both slipped away a little bit, and spending time together and connecting intimately, not just physically but talking together, doing things together – especially exciting things that you may not usually do, not just side by side but actually together where you start to see other other as individuals again, rather than the person you live with. It’s about being vulnerable with each other again, appreciating each other, being open with each other and seeing with each other. Sexually, it’s about letting go of having to be the caretaker and feeling some sort of responsibility for the other person and being able to really move into yourself, whether that’s through fantasy or whatever. It’s important for your partner to be able to do this too – desire brings desire – so sharing the article with her and talking openly about what you both need would be a good place to start. Relationship counselling can really help with this as it’s a safe way for both of you to openly explore what you need to move the relationship forward.


Thank you so much… I really appreciate the fact you clearly acknowledged that I truly feel at comfort and love in my relationship. I notice that often people can’t seperate desire and love in these matters. Thank you.

I can really connect to what you’re saying. Maybe because we’re both still quit young (26), it is tempting for me to look at other friends and see their ‘euphoric’ times again and again. It’s true: this might be something to talk about with my girlfriend- or should I start saying: significant other? :-), but I’m still afraid of hurting her… On the other hand: I wrote the first comment when I was really down and my head was spinning in a negative circle that evening. Later that night I found the courage to openly talk with her about some of those issues I felt. She responded really well. I guess she keeps on surprising me, even after 10 yrs.

I feel like we’re gonna be ok, but it will remain an issue in our relationship. Thanks again for your response and beautiful/interesting website!


Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. It’s great that you could both talk about this – it says a lot about your relationship, and about the both of you that you had the courage to bring it up and that she had the courage to listen. Sounds like a relationship worth fighting for.


Does this mean it’s okay to have an affair if it’s ‘desire”? An then what… work on love, passion and desire in the marriage?

Hey Sigmund

This article is about desire within the relationship you’re in – without going outside the relationship and having an affair. The idea is that over time, desire diminishes as we take on responsibilities and caretaking for each other at the expense of ourselves. The way to get it back is to find a way to psychologically let go of that sense of responsibility temporarily during intimacy and to attend to our own needs. We can get back desire within our relationships by entering a space where we can fantasise, imagine and completely look after our own needs sexually rather than taking responsibility for our partner. It’s very hard to do that if we’re worried about the other person and assuming responsibility for their sexual needs. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about our partner – we absolutely do – it’s just that during intimacy, desire will be enriched if we can attend to ourselves first. It was a good question. I hope this has answered it for you.


Thank you. What if the other partner needs desire outside his marriage to satisfy that need while working on the desire with his wife? Is there ever room for that?


So good to read! You completely nailed the downfall of my first marriage. Thank you for your research and for your suggestions.


I had no idea that this is what was at the root of the problem! So interesting. Thank you, I believe this can help us old dogs.

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. It’s fascinating research isn’t it – makes so much sense! I think there’s something in it for all of us


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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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