Sustaining Desire:
“It doesn’t matter. Let’s just watch TV.”

“Salsa Picante” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire



Being compliant vs being desirable. When desire takes a back seat!

The fear of being alone causes some people to pursue the security that comes from being needed rather than the vulnerability that goes with being desired. Thus, they may become overly compliant to avoid any potential friction.

Then one day, they wonder, “What happened to the passion and desire in our relationship?”

Anxiety: fear, passion, desire

Both fear and passion involve anxiety about the unknown. When you feel the excitement of desire, it’s anxiety that heightens a person’s senses and awareness. However, when we focus on our fear, intense anxiety can block our emotions. Excitement transforms into distress and triggers the freeze or flight response. So when the level of anxiety rises too high for a person’s comfort level, desire disappears.

The greater your tolerance for withstanding anxiety of the unknown, the greater is your horizon to experience desire.

Partners lose desire and passion for each other when their fear of their partner’s reactions exceeds their ability to handle anxiety. Their fear of rejection by their partner stops them from evolving, transforming, and being creative. They become a slave to their worry about how their partner will react to new ideas or behaviors. Thus, they avoid any change that might result in discomfort for either partner.

For example, they may give up on expressing their desires, such as, “It means a lot to me to take dancing lessons/go out on date night/share more intimacy.”

They attempt to preclude potential rejection and loss by taking no risks at all. No risk, no reward. It’s easier to watch TV every night than to rock the boat and pursue your desire to go dancing or to increase intimacy with your partner. When people relate to each other in order to avoid anxiety, they quickly lose desire and passion for one another, or they seek new partners once a relationship gets too mundane.

Fear of rejection and loss

The pursuit of desire and passion in long-term relationships feels risky, because it opens us up to potential embarrassment, loss and disappointment. Yet, when fear of change and growth dominates a person’s outlook, the result is that relationships become stagnant and lackluster. Desire cools and soon disappears.

We have to be willing to tolerate the anxiety of not knowing whether we will experience rejection and disappointment – because at times we will – whether we take the risk or not. Accepting the possibility of heartache and disenchantment allows us to expose ourselves to the risks of desire. The benefits of facing our fear of change is more growth and vitality in our lives, more excitement and enjoyment in relationships, and fewer regrets at the end of our lives.

Desire out of wholeness and not need

Desire out of wholeness arises out of a sense of self worth and desirability, rather than a need for validation or security. An appreciation of our own value is not a narcissistic sense of vanity, but a feeling of gratitude for the blessings we are endowed with. People become more attractive when they have sufficient self-confidence (and perhaps a sense of humor) that they are willing to expose themselves to both “success” and “failure”. You cannot have one without exposing yourself to the potential for the other.

With the ability to tolerate the excitement as well as the discomfort of growth, desire and passion are the product of the process of re-creating ourselves while also honoring our partner in his or her growth and exploration of life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Recommended: Schnarch, David. (1993). Problems of Sexual Desire: Who Really Wants to Want? (Audio.)

Read “Where’s the passion? ‘I’ve toned down my dreams, achievements, and spontaneity so I won’t annoy my partner. Now we take each other for granted.’”

“Positive Bonding Patterns: ‘We never fight, but we don’t talk anymore and there’s no more passion.’”

Read “Intimacy: ‘I want more intimacy and to feel closer to you.’”