Esther Perel - Intimacy vs. Mystery
Updated: Jul 6
Humans have a basic need for intimacy, stability, security, predictability, safety, dependability, reliability, and permanence.
But we also have a different need for mystery, autonomy, adventure, novelty, risk, danger, the unknown, the unexpected, travel, the journey, imagination.
We come to one individual person basically asking that person to give us what an entire village used to give us. Give me security, belonging, identity, but also give me mystery, awe, and surprise (and we live twice as long). Shocking that we approach it as a given that one person can give us all of these different things. Interesting too how so many of us are so much more isolated than communities in the past who lived more communally. It puts a lot of pressure on the person we are romantically linked with.
The fire needs space to be a good fire. Enmeshment, codependency, or too much time together looks like a fire where the wood is placed too close together and there is no space for the air to flow through to aid the fire in its growth. The opposite of enmeshment is too much time spent apart. It's like putting the pieces of wood too far apart and the fire has too much air - it kills the fire. There is value in finding a balance of giving the fire sufficient air, but not going to extremes of giving it too much or too little to survive.
Desire also needs space. We are drawn to our partner when: we are apart, when we re-unite, when we get in touch with the imagination again. We are drawn to the other person when they are doing what they are passionate about (or they are in their element separate from us). It draws us in when we see the other person being radiant and confident/self-sustaining. It is a shift in attention that draws us in a different way.
A question I've been asking this week is: what was your family experience with autonomy vs. intimacy? This question informs present-day relationships too as we repeat what is familiar to us from our younger years.