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Why trying to be everything to your partner is toxic

Have you ever looked at couples who seem to do everything together; work, play, share secrets, and even exercise together, and felt a twinge of envy? It might seem like an ideal setup, but actually, trying to be everything to your partner can lead to trouble.

When you try to fulfil every role for your partner, especially if they’re also your life partner, it can harm your romantic relationship, starting with your sex life.

I recently attended a beautiful wedding where the couple was deeply in love and shared many interests. Despite well-meaning wishes for them to become each other’s everything, I couldn’t help but hope they maintained some independence to keep their relationship exciting.

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I’ve experienced the pitfalls of trying to be everything to somebody firsthand. For many years, I cohabited with a wonderful man who started off as my lover and ended up as my best friend.

In our case, the mistake we made was thinking we could combine being colleagues, and best friends, while still having a romantic relationship. It did not last.

Our arguments only grew with time, and eventually, we couldn’t even trace back to our romantic relationship. We broke up. In the long run, such dynamics are almost impossible to navigate, for reasons I’ll mention.

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According to relationship expert and best-selling author Esther Perel, from her book “Mating in Captivity” where she explores the dichotomy between intimacy and desire in long-term relationships, intimacy, and desire often clash.

She states that while love craves closeness and familiarity, desire thrives on mystery and novelty. As couples settle into a routine, the flame of desire can dim, leading to dissatisfaction.

“Love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery,” says Perel, “Love likes to shrink the distance that exists between me and you, while desire is energized by it. If intimacy grows through repetition and familiarity, eroticism is numbed by repetition. It thrives on the mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected.”

As the saying by Neil Armstrong goes, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” For a romantic flame to thrive there needs to be constant pursuit beyond the “I do”.

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Intimacy, suggests Perel, is about being close, whereas desire is about wanting to be close. “An expression of longing, desire requires ongoing elusiveness.

It is less concerned with where it has already been than passionate about where it can still go. But too often, as couples settle into the comforts of love, they cease to fan the flame of desire. They forget that fire needs air.

Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity.

At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?”