Last October, I heard Esther Perel tell a conference room full of women that, "We are willing to be erotic at work and then numb at home."
Some of the audience sat stunned, some winced, and some nodded in agreement. It was a hard hitting truth -- if you understand the concept of erotic energy.
Eroticism at work does not mean sex at the office.
Esther defines erotic energy at work as, "Being alive, focused, present, intentional, curious, expectant and playful."
For many women, work is a place to take risks, be curious and move outside of our comfort zones. We look to our significant other for safety and security, and then turn to our career as an arena to test boundaries. However, this can quickly turn into boredom within the relationship because all of the excitement has been used up in navigating things like office politics.
The tension between responsibility and playfulness.
For those with children, this dynamic can intensify as, "We [the couple] become security and the children become adventure."
We give our kids novel experiences, languorous hugs and regular outings; yet as a couple we stick with routine. The stability and security that we expect from our partners suffocates the sense of playfulness we foster with our children.
Esther points out that we have institutionalized romantic relationships in North America, as we are overly focused on responsibility, expect complete familiarity with each other, and the role of wife/mother has been desexualized.
This eventually causes us to, "Lose touch with our erotic self...lose touch with pleasure and sensuality."
The cost of allowing the relationship to die.
In her book, Mating in Captivity, Esther urges readers to reconsider the North American assumption that work and children be prioritized over our significant other.
As she cautions in her first chapter:
Suddenly, the compromises that worked so well yesterday become sacrifices we no longer want to brook today... We ground ourselves in familiarity, and perhaps achieve a peaceful domestic arrangement, but in the process we orchestrate boredom.
We expect our partners to willingly take a back seat as we climb the corporate ladder and raise our children, and then, not surprisingly, the relationship crumbles. Yet even before we face losing the relationship, we begin to lose ourselves.
Esther questions, "How much will I lose of myself, in order not to lose others?"
In prioritizing the needs of everyone else, we either end up resentful and depressed, or rebel in an "act of exuberant defiance," such as an affair.
Unlearning self-sufficiency as an antidote.
I asked Esther how women can take steps to change this misdirection of erotic energy, and her answer surprised me. She pointed out that working mothers in North America are made to feel guilty, no matter what they chose to do, and their reaction is to become overly responsible for all facets of their life.
In Esther's words, "Nobody has gained from seeing a depressed, sacrificial mother."
She firmly believes that the concept of mothers doing something for themselves is revolutionary in North America. In other countries around the world, there is much more communal living, where the child has other adults to depend on.
"Middle class women in America are overly-self-reliant. In this country, first you pay for services, then you might ask a friend for help. It's the complete opposite in the rest of the world."
When we ask for help, we create space and time for re-introducing erotic energy back into our relationships. Reliance on others ends up giving us freedom in our romantic lives.
Esther conceded, "This is a major cultural shift."
In 2016, Esther will be launching her third online workshop, Rekindling Desire, as well as a professional online membership site for coaches, therapists and organizational leaders. Sign up for Esther's newsletter so you don't miss out on the launch dates.
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