The Difference between Love and Desire

There is a lot of emphasis put on physical and sexual attraction in relationships. And I'm not saying that this isn't important, but when we primarily focus on desire as the only signal that a relationship is working, we can start to believe that long-term, monogamous relationships are not ‘for us’.

In the beginning stages of a relationship, it is easy to take for granted the unfettered desire we feel for our partner. Everything is new and exciting in the beginning, and this becomes the standard set for what it feels like to be ‘in love’. And then when it is not like that, we feel we have ‘fallen’ out of love.

But as Esther Perel outlines in her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, love and desire are two different processes in the body and they require two separate environments in order to thrive. On the one hand,

love requires closeness, intimacy, routine and sameness. Like a child, we also need that safe haven to come back to after being out in the world adventuring all day.

While common values, respect and friendship is at the core of love and intimacy, desire thrives in an environment of adventure, difference, separateness and spontaneity. Think back to the beginning of a relationship: Everything about this person is new and exciting, and so is the level of desire we feel for our partner. There is so much to learn about them and they are so different from us. And because of social conditioning, we conflate the desire we feel for this person (based on them being foreign to us) with being in love.

When ‘the spark’ would fizzle out in my relationships, I tended to leave them pretty quickly and rationalise this by the thought that I didn’t love them anymore. But actually, part of it was me running away because the love started to deepen, and I felt vulnerable.

Because love requires closeness and intimacy, and many of us live full and busy lives, it is natural for desire to wane.

It takes conscious effort and work to create an environment for desire to thrive. Think about it: the modern couple lives together, is expected to raise children together, while also being soul mates, best friends and epic lovers. Which often means our partner becomes our only source of non-sexual intimacy too.

So desire starts to dwindle because there's not enough separateness, there's not enough time apart. But there are ways you can consciously create desire again:

  • Creating more separation between you and your partner – taking a weekend away alone or with friends

  • Acting out Fantasies – consciously creating the suspense that characterized the beginning of the relationship, through sexting, erintentionally planning an evening with each oth (I created another video here about why its important to talk about your fantasies

  • Role-playing – its fun, and helps intentionally create desire through separation and difference.

When we start to see love and desire as two different processes, we can intentionally create the environments required to sustain both.

I hope you enjoyed the video! I’ll be creating more videos and blog posts about how you can consciously create desire and sharing more about my own experience with love and relationships. Subscribe to my mailing list to get first access (and to get you started, you will also receive a free copy of my journaling guide for Manifesting Magnetic Relationships, to help you define the primary purpose of your relationship and start becoming a magnet for the partner of your dreams.