The challenges of a long-term relationship
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to maintaining a long-term relationship is attraction— figuring out how to maintain attraction within a marriage over many years and countless physical changes. As you grow comfortable with and used to your partner, it is common to find yourself attracted to someone else. Figuring out how to handle feelings of attraction to others is vital to your relationship. One could argue that our society typically teaches us to cope with attraction outside of a relationship in one of the following three (not so helpful) ways: the denial (sometimes even to ourselves) of the existence of the attraction; secrecy and shame and a non-physical outlet such as pornography; and the ultimate in secrecy and betrayal- a physical and emotional affair.
It is rare to find couples able to openly talk about outside attractions, especially without feelings of jealousy and threat. This requires a level of honesty and trust and security that needs to come from both partners. Tommy Rosen and Kia Miller, both yoga teachers, so eloquently navigate how to have this difficult conversation in their Global Glue film.
As difficult as it is, Tommy is able to say to Kia, “I am struggling right now with monogamy, ” partner-to-partner, they are able to talk it through. For them, that level of honesty and communication has made an enormous positive difference in their relationship. Tommy was able to move away from thoughts such as, “God, what’s wrong with me,” to feelings of total acceptance and unconditional love. Kia has the strength of character to not run away in these moments, and is able to say, “I know you- I know the whole deal and I still love you.”
Getting Away from Guilt
This kind of conversation has the potential to revolutionize long-term relationships. Some may argue, “Ignorance is bliss” and would rather not know about their partner’s attraction for others. Long-term commitment is a choice, but the natural physical attraction to someone else is not a choice. We can choose what do with that attraction. I wonder if turning that attraction toward your partner, and talking to them about it may be the very framework for intimacy that keeps the attraction within the relationship going. I am not sure who said, “Love doesn’t die, it changes form,” but perhaps the same could be said for attraction. What if attraction were to change form from one physical being to another.
It shouldn’t be shameful to find someone attractive. Experiment with your partner. Try saying something like, “You are the only person I want to be intimate with, but I feel attraction to other people at times. I don’t have any interest in acting on those attractions, but I wonder if we were to talk about it in an open way, if it might help deepen our own intimacy and attraction for each other.” If you can begin to create this kind of dialogue between you and your partner, it could be amazingly powerful. This conversation requires effort and patience on both sides. One partner has to sit in an uncomfortable place of acceptance and vulnerability and insecurity, and the other partner must do the work of riding the fine line between honesty and reassurance that certain lines will not get crossed. This is not an easy conversation to have, but it may just be better than either stuffing or hiding those feelings. Let’s face it, honesty (even when it’s challenging) is awfully sexy.
We would love to hear from you- how do you have this conversation with your partner?