Sex, love, confidence, and spontaneity

It’s been a while since a podcast smacked me hard enough to write about it, but this one had at least half a dozen moments that caught my attention.

I hadn’t listened to Armchair Expert in a while and was scrolling through missed episodes to see if any jumped out at me. There’s a 10-episode series about dating and relationships featuring Monica and their (guy) friend Jess, each with a different guest sharing thoughts and opinions, and giving each a challenge for that week to help them through their dating roadblocks.

Episode 7 of this series (March 25, 2020) is with Esther Perel. I love her and her work, so I tuned in. (Episode 8 with Dan Savage is next on my list.)

If you want the arc of the episode, you’ll need to listen to it. I’m just going to share some bits that stood out to me. Most of them are common things spoken about from angles I’ve never considered. A new way of thinking about things. Only one reinforced something that I already believe.

Time stamps are fairly accurate but might be a couple of seconds off.

17:10 Why do we explain our sadness?

Jess was talking about a recent incident that triggered sadness over the loss of his father. Esther interrupted his explanation about why he was sad, noting that if he’d been laughing (at something else), he wouldn’t have felt a need to explain why he was happy, but we feel an odd need to explain grief.

18:40 On losing one’s virginity

This is the only developmental stage that we define by what we’ve lost instead of what we’ve gained. Have definitely not ever thought about it that way. Not terribly relevant in my life right now, but relevant in talking about it with kids, and in talking to people of any age who struggle.

41:45 “I’m drawn to my partner when___”

Esther was delineating differences between love and desire. After Monica and Jess both filled in the blank with their own answers, she said she’s asked this question to people around the world, and the answers fall into four categories, in descending order of frequency: 

  • confidence—when they are confident in what they are doing, whether it’s relationship-based or not
  • surprise—when they do something unexpected (in a good way) or you learn something new about them
  • absence—makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, though I suspect there’s a point of diminishing returns on this
  • jealousy—seeing your partner through the eyes of others who find them attractive

All of that was interesting, but the part that was noteworthy to me was: all of those answers are given by both women and men. There’s only one answer she’s heard that’s been gender-specific. The ladies are drawn to the men when the men play with the kids, but not the other way around. 

My takeaway was reinforcement that we need to change our expectations. Imagine if both parents did equal work—the physical, mental, and emotional labors. This comment would either be two-way or disappear from the list. 

46:20 The burden of caretaking, but not in a child-rearing context

Looping in to confidence as mentioned above, when your partner is doing something independently and confidently and you’re simply a spectator, they don’t need you. While that might sound threatening, it’s actually freeing. You’re relieved of the emotional burden of being a caretaker and can just take them in. It puts them in a different context. Even if you’re happy to take care of them, when you don’t need to, you have different energy towards them.

49:45 You love yourself more when…

“You love yourself more when you are loved by others.”

We need each other, whether it’s family, friends, romantic partners.

I have the least to write about this one but I think it’s the most important.

52:30 On the loss of spontaneous sex

This was a little mind-blowing to me. Esther said that people lament the loss of the spontaneity of sex earlier in relationships but that it was never really spontaneous to begin with. When you’re getting ready for a date or swiping through an app, you’re telling yourself a story. By the time you meet up, you’re already charged and ready to go. Later in the relationship, the story is right in front of you all the time. To bring back some sizzle, you need to do the same work on the front end that you did without realizing before.

The whole episode was entertaining, even without having listened to the six before it. The assignment she gave Jess was jaw-dropping and I can’t imagine my reaction would have been any different if it’d been me.

If you listen to the episode, let me know what you think.

And of course, if you’re listening to podcasts, check out Ordinary Chaos, my new podcast exploring the interesting side of ordinary.

2 thoughts on “Sex, love, confidence, and spontaneity”

Leave a Comment