From an interview with Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, by Courtney E. Martin in Alternet.
Martin: What can parents do to avoid replacing their need for adult intimacy and passion with play dates and car pools?
Perel: When I say “sex” to people with children, they say, “You must be kidding.” Then I say, “OK, let’s not talk about sex in the narrow sense; let’s look at the erotic ingredients.”
Playfulness! I see you play with the kids, so imaginative, but with your partner it is the usual routines where you are locked in the same character. With the kids you are constantly looking for new things to do, to discover; with your partner, it is the same old, same old. Comfortable, perhaps, but also predictable.
Your kids are dressed in the latest fashion even to go to bed; you are walking around the house in sweatpants. Your kids are blessed with languorous hugs while you, the adults, are living on a diet of quick pecks. The erotic energy seems to be alive and well, it’s just that it is Eros redirected. At some point, some of that erotic energy needs to be brought back to the couple. You need to cordon off an erotic space where you can meet as adults, for the sake of being together, not as responsible citizens who join to go over their to-do lists. It is a space where you can experience pleasure for its own sake and where sex can happen, but it does not have to.
Meet your partner for lunch when you are actually awake and dressed. Close the bedroom door once in awhile. No need to feel guilty. When kids play, they have fun; when they can be slightly naughty on top of it, they are gleeful. Adults, too, experience freedom when they break rules. For example, the rules that mature, marital sex must be serious, that moms and pops don’t do these sorts of things. Any small incursion into the illicit and the transgressive with your partner can be really enlivening. That means skipping a soccer game once in a while as well.
Martin: Do you believe in soul mates? Why or why not?
Perel: Yes, I think some people share a deep mutual sense of recognition, identification, complicity, partnership, muse, shared vision, shared gaze onto the world, shared humor. All these are features of what I guess one would attribute to a soul mate. It is a word that I don’t connect with, however, even though I share many of these features with my life partner. I guess I like to include in a relational description elements that attest to the individuality, the freedom, the separateness, the otherness, and these are usually not included in the image of soul mate, which is more fusional, and thrives on oneness.
There are lots of concepts raised in this interview that I love including play, privacy, independence, separateness and transcendence and then also, some fascinating new ones for me, too, about what might be falsehoods of relationship communication and emotional work. It’s a thought-provoking interview.