“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Proust
Adele is 38, a well-established lawyer in private practice who has been married to Alan for 7 years. She is mostly happy with Alan but sought help from Esther Perel, a couple’s therapist, to try to figure out what it is that is missing for her in the marriage. Adele is hard-working in her practice, does her share of taking care of their daughter, cooking meals, and cleaning up in the evening. At the end of the day, sex is the farthest thing from her mind.
In going over her marriage, she can see that the excitement in the beginning of the relationships was, in part, the insecurity of not quite knowing what this very desirable man was thinking and feeling about her. When the phone rang, it was exciting that she did not know if it would be him.
When you first meet, you are filled with a sense of possibility, of emotional enthrallment, and far away from the mundane. Love grabs you.
However, the more you become attached to the wonderful person you just met, the more you have to lose. So you do the things that bring you reassurance of his/her love and commitment. The two of you create comfort with each other through such devices as ritual, habit, even the pet names you have for each other. There is a powerful tendency in long-term relationships to favor the predictable over the unpredictable.
Eroticism thrives on the unpredictable, the uncertain, the adventure that promotes passion and excitement. Laura had to develop “new eyes” for rediscovering the excitement of the Alan she fell in love with.
Adele recounted to Perel a time when she unexpectedly had a moment of seeing Alan with “new eyes” at a function in which he was animatedly talking with colleagues. Suddenly, she was reminded of the man she fell in love with. He was so attractive. Adele recounted to Perel that she forgot that he was her husband (a real pain in the ass, obnoxious, and stubborn). At that moment she was drawn to him as she was in the beginning of their relationship.
Adele did not tell him about this experience, fearing that he would make fun of her. For Perel, the fear that Adele expressed seemed more about the risk of having moments of idealizing and yearning for one’s spouse as a separate, independent person with whom there is always risk in recognizing him as an autonomous human being.
Perel’s point in this story is that the waning of romance is more about the fear of challenging the familiarity that comes with a long-term relationship. You can become fearful of the destabilizing effect of acknowledging the other’s autonomy and independence and being vulnerable to one’s own insecurities about how desirable you are.