The search for intimacy and adventure: the modern relationship paradox

How do we satisfy our need for intimacy AND the need for adventure in a modern relationship?

For the first time in human history, we are looking for a lifetime of intimacy, romance, mystery AND trust, connection and transcendence. How does this work? Is it possible? 

Esther Perel is the author of a book called Mating in Captivity, a guest on the Colbert Report, a New York relationship therapist and one of the world's most respected voices on couples and sexuality. 

Below is a transcript from a recent interview with Esther Perel:

"Intimacy as we define it today is about transparency, sharing everything and being known, and transcending our existential aloneness by the shared connection with one other. We still want everything we wanted from traditional marriage – a family, companionship, social status, economic support – but we also want that person to give us mystery and transcendence."

In the past we derived our sense of security and of self not just from marriage, but from our bonds with the wider community, she says. Consequently, marital intimacy has become burdened with expectations, some of them highly contradictory. In short, love and security need closeness; passion and desire need space.

"This wholesale sharing and constant transparency deprives us of a certain mystery, of an ability to remain curious about one another," says Perel. "It is a real experiment to try to bring together two fundamental human needs – our need for security, and our need for adventure – in one relationship, to ask the same person to make us feel safe and stable, and make us feel playful, mischievous and adventurous."

So, are the two fundamentally incompatible? "Not incompatible, no. It is a tension, a finely calibrated balance. It is a paradox to be managed, not a problem to be solved."

Read more of this article on SMH

Watch Ted talk with Esther Perel