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Balancing Act: How to Take Care of Long-Term Romantic Love—Even During Lockdown

During lockdown, even those who thought they could never possibly get enough of their delightful partner are probably struggling with such close confinement. Here are a few tips for taking care of love during these strange days.
by Amy Leonard | May 13 2020

When Esther Perel released her first book, Mating in Captivity, in 2006, she could never have imagined how fitting that title would be in 2020. Drawing on twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel’s book explores the complex, and often contradictory, balance of security and freedom we seek in long-term relationships. With a hit podcast, Where Should We Begin? — which is currently airing a special Couples Under Lockdown season — Perel has become a leading voice on erotic intelligence, sharing wisdom and insight that help couples keep passion alive over the long-term.

Right now, people in relationships may find themselves obliged to live a life of much more intense domestic togetherness than usual. Stripped of the usual independence that a day at work and socializing with other people, or even being able to leave the house brings, we can easily become complacent—and frustrated—with each other. As a result, taking care of that primary relationship may be even more important than ever.

Just like the houseplants we’ve suddenly become addicted to tending, we also need to nurture our relationships. We dove into the Blinkist library to find a selection of titles—and words of wisdom—that will help make sure you don’t end up seeing your other half as just another part of the furniture.

Check Mate

Perel’s first book explores the contradiction in the human need for both security and passion, and how finally achieving security and stability can often extinguish the desire and eroticism of the early stages of a relationship. Covering everything from new parenthood to childhood insecurities, Perel unravels the webs of monotony we get caught up in in our daily lives that distract us from seeing our partner as a sexual being. In doing so, she lays out how to keep passion alive in committed relationships.

Relationship Survival Tip: Retain your individuality. By holding onto the hobbies, interests, and identity that made you attractive to your partner in the first place, you will keep that sense of “otherness” that sparked excitement when you first met.

Affair Deal

Perel’s second book takes a fresh look at infidelity, suggesting we reconsider how we think about it. Most Westerners, Americans specifically, she says, see their role of partner as integral to their identity. It’s this emphasis which makes people see infidelity as the ultimate betrayal. Using anonymous real-life examples from her clients, she details the many reasons that can lie behind infidelity and how it’s rarely as cut and dried as your partner not wanting you anymore.

Relationship Survival Tip: Make your own relationship rules. Traditional, binary ideas about what constitutes a “good” relationship can be limiting and unrealistic. Not sure that monogamy is right for your relationship? Try being “monogamish” and find what works best for both of you.

All Woman

Emily Nagoski gets scientific in her compassionate and funny examination of the complexities of female sexuality, from cultural mentality and body image through to arousal and orgasm. Though the message—by loving yourself you will open yourself up to a deeper and more enjoyable sexuality—may not be shocking to anyone who has read up on the topic, her delivery is an utterly new departure. She lays the facts on the table and follows them up with scientific studies, experiments, and research.

Relationship Survival Tip: Get to know your brakes. When it comes to sex, we all have turn-ons and turn-offs. By learning what stops you feeling sexy, you’ll be more able to create the best conditions to make sure both you and your partner are having fun.

Make Love Mindfully

Psychologist Dr. Lori Brotto has blazed a trail by using mindfulness to treat sexual dysfunction and to improve women’s sex lives. Her book is an exploration of the root causes of many sexual disorders, from stress to depression, distraction to pain, and the ways you can use mindfulness to help yourself heal. Brotto’s work offers an insight into problems you may not even realize you’re experiencing and ways in which to understand what’s happening in your body.

Relationship Survival Tip: Use a raisin to practice mindfulness. Taking a single raisin, notice everything you can about it: its texture, smell, the way it catches the light in your hand, and eventually its taste and feeling on your tongue. By being mindfully aware of the whole sensory experience of eating a raisin, you learn to enjoy and appreciate it more. This mindful technique can then be applied to any area of your life—including sex—to ensure you feel present, engaged, and tuned in to your own pleasure.

Life Imitates Art

Fromm’s exploration of love sheds light on why and how we love. He argues that love is an art which, like any other, we must first learn and then practice in order to master. By teaching the four elements he considers key to love, Fromm explains the different forms love takes and the principles at the heart of the art of loving.

Relationship Survival Tip: Distinguish truth from fiction. Fromm argues that our capitalist system has changed our view of love, so the couple you see loved up on Instagram may not actually be the dream team they’re projecting. Don’t let someone else’s social media shows of love make you question the value of your own relationship.

Dates with Destiny

With a novel approach to relationship advice, this book suggests eight dates you should go on with your partner, emphasizing the essential role of good communication in any relationship, new or established. On each date, you discuss a topic or theme that is central to a successful, long-lasting relationship. From conflict to children, money to dreams, the book addresses each topic and then gives practical advice on how to prepare for and proceed with each date, even giving guidance on the questions you may ask each other and how to deal with the responses.

Relationship Survival Tip: Be present and attentive when talking to your partner; it will let them know you are interested and they are valued.

Baby, Please Don’t Go

Chapman’s book relates specifically to difficulties in marriage and how to deal with them instead of jumping ship. Explaining how divorce isn’t the easy way out that people may hope for, he goes on to explore ways to resolve particular marital issues that may arise. While a lot of his advice is pretty sound, much of it may not be for everyone. For example, I don’t think I would be too keen to bring my verbally abusive spouse a gift after an argument, as he suggests.

Relationship Survival Tip: Say “I” instead of “you”. By explaining your own feelings and reactions rather than accusing and insulting your partner, it will not only keep things calmer but invite them to understand you rather than back off in defence.

Now You’re Speaking My Language

Using his theory on the five love languages, Chapman explores the ways in which people give and receive love. These different languages we use to express love, and the misreading or misunderstanding of them, can often be the root of problems between partners. By understanding what love language your partner speaks, you can give them love in a way they will be able to receive it.

Relationship Survival Tip: Be there. While The 5 Love Languages offers a comprehensive guide to recognizing your partner’s love language, there’s one way you can’t go wrong right now: Give your partner the gift of quality time, instead of just killing time.

She Blinded Me With Science

Three psychiatrists debunk the myth that love is a matter best left to artists and poets by taking a scientific look at the marvelous and mysterious phenomenon of love. The language may be technical at times—think the evolution and inner workings of the human brain—but the book contains lots of solid information on emotional ‘programming’ that is formed during childhood and ways to undo it, enabling happier, healthier relationships.

Relationship Survival Tip: Learn to separate loving from falling in love. The honeymoon period is only a short-term thing, so remember that long-term love looks a little different from fireworks and early romance.

hooks, Line, and Sinker

Discussing both romantic and platonic love, hooks offers a definition of what love actually is, in order to dispel our false ideas and expectations. She explores the obstacles we can come up against in love, both on an individual level and in the wider societal context. An interesting point she makes is the importance of community as a place to learn to love, and how the structures around us provide more opportunities to experience love we may not receive from our families.

Relationship Survival Tip: Love your neighbors. Show kindness to strangers and appreciate those around you in order to build connections and lasting community.

This is a selection of just some of the books in the Blinkist library that will help you care for your relationship in harder times. By understanding love on a deeper level, you’ll be set up to deal with the good stuff as well as the ups and downs. Whether you’re looking to find love, sustain it, renew it, or even ‘fix’ it, start reading to stay loving.

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