Sex & Relationships

Is your relationship suffering from intimacy overkill?

A couple's constant companionship and togetherness could jeopardize sexual chemistry.
Couple in bed, woman looking upset Photo, Frederic Cirou/Getty Images.

A too-good relationship may be the reason why your sex life is dying on the vine, says relationship counselor Esther Perel in an interview with The Telegraph.

It’s a provocative idea in our soulmate-centric love culture to argue that intimacy in too great a quantity represents the death of desire. But Perel, the author of the 2007 book Mating in Captivity, says she sees too many examples of couples who have strong interpersonal bonds but little to no sexual chemistry.

The problem isn’t closeness exactly, but intimacy overkill.

“Intimacy as we define it today is about transparency, sharing everything and being known, and transcending our existential aloneness by the shared connection with one other. We still want everything we wanted from traditional marriage — a family, companionship, social status, economic support — but we also want that person to give us mystery and transcendence,” explains Perel.

Balancing out the need for security and intimacy with the equally strong desire for passion and mystery is really the task faced by every couple.

“It is a paradox to be managed, not a problem to be solved,” says Perel.


Managing that paradox may require taking a few steps back from our shared life with our mate, she says. Indulge in hobbies on your own, take a weekend away with friends — basically behave with some more autonomy and independence rather than insist on constant companionship and togetherness.

“It is about not being threatened by the difference of the other, not being threatened that if you don’t do everything together, then it means that you’re not close, that you are not intimate,” she explains.

Ultimately, Perel may simply be acknowledging the fact that relationships need outside energy for longevity.

"We need multiple connections, multiple attachments. If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”


Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.