Cornerstone of desire

It’s no secret that the world of erotic desire is a mysterious one. What makes someone become attracted to another person? What keeps the fires of desire burning hot over time? And why do some couples lose their spark while others seem to maintain it indefinitely?

In his book, “The Erotic Mind,” author and psychologist Jack Morin, PhD suggests that there are four foundations of erotic desire. According to Dr. Morin, longing and anticipation, violating prohibitions, searching for power, and overcoming ambivalence are all key factors in creating and sustaining sexual arousal. He terms these four areas ‘Cornerstones of Eroticism’ and emphasizes that not all four are present in most situations. It is usually one, maybe two that can get someone really excited. 

How does this apply to your life?

We can, even in the context of long-term relationships, introduce these components to our relationship without betraying our beloved. However, let’s explore some common ways partners may unintentionally squash these components. 

You are co-dependent and enmeshed with one another. Your life is their life. You don’t have separate activities, friends, or interests. All of your time outside of work is together. This might work in the first couple years of coupledom but good luck 10 years in when the co-dependency has really set-in. This is what makes the early years of parenting so hard on couples. Very little time apart and not all of child-rearing is joyous. 

You don’t play anymore. You always do everything by the book when it comes to sexual encounters. What about a tryst in the park or the car? Been awhile? Violating prohibitions doesn’t have to be each others prohibitions, but a little extra spice on date night goes a longgg way. 

You’re a doormat to your partner (or they are to you). It’s not sexy to be able to walk all over someone. A backbone is important and couples who maintain that spark don’t agree with each other 100%. Stand-up for yourself. 

It is important to be honest with yourself about that sexual desire does not always play by the same rules as what we’ve been taught are components of “ideal relationships”. Love, trust, communication, support, friendship ARE critical for relationships to thrive but great sex in long-term relationships requires us to step outside ourselves and ask “what boundaries do I feel safe pushing when it comes to sex?”. An example might be the type of sexual position you do. Is it routine? What about HOW you arouse your partner? What about adding play into your dynamic? A touch before work with a knowing look can engage the fire for many couples, especially if out of character. Most of us want it all – I know I do. It’s important to evaluate what boundaries you’re willing to push or change in order to engage in the four cornerstones while you strive for relationship bliss. 

The paradox of emotional intimacy and eroticism. As discussed by Esther Perel, PhD in her book Mating in Captivity, emotional connection and erotic desire are not always hand-in-hand. Partners can love each other deeply but their interest in sex wanes as time and life goes on. This may be due to the loss of the four cornerstones of desire as the couple becomes more stable and enmeshed with each others lives. In her book, she suggests ways to introduce eros without compromising the relationship’s commitment or integrity.

One of these that is discussed in detail is ‘the threat of the third’. What does this mean? You have to go outside your relationship or allow your partner to do so? No. Definitely not. While I am unconvinced humans are monogamous beings, that topic is best left for another blog. The suggestion is open-ended. It postulates that when we are threatened or our mate feels threatened, eroticism heightens. How can you do this within the safety of your relationship? Fantasy. Most importantly, be true to yourself. Don’t create fantasy that doesn’t actually entice you. It will backfire and your arousal system will shut down. Remember, sexual play is a different realm from where you normally exist in your relationship. It is not a time for inhibition or guarding. 

So what can we take away from this? That desire, while it may follow a familiar pattern, is not always predictable. What works in the beginning of a relationship might not work later on and vice versa. If you’re struggling to keep the fires burning, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what might be getting in the way. Are you co-dependent? Do you play anymore? Are you too much of a doormat?

Honesty with yourself is key. And if you need help reigniting that spark, don’t be afraid to ask for it. There’s no shame in admitting that things have gotten a little stale in the bedroom. With some effort, change, and creativity, eroticism can be harnessed.

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Writer: Michelle Leary
Writer: Michelle Leary
January 24, 2023

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