Letters from Esther #53: Novelty Is A Powerful Aphrodisiac. Here’s How To Have More.

By Esther Perel and Mary Alice Miller

Shall We Begin?

I have always craved new experiences. I adore new plays and new music. I love a party full of strangers. I like traveling to new places and learning new languages. I enjoy hearing about new topics—and new perspectives on old topics even more. Sure, I love the coziness of familiarity, who doesn’t? But too much of it and I start to wilt. Even during a quiet night in, I find myself asking questions of my husband with hope of hearing new stories. And I often do.

Novelty is a powerful aphrodisiac. In long-term relationships especially, cultivating novelty—whether through stories or experiences—is key for sustaining passion. Maintaining a sense of mystery and surprise helps counteract the routine and repetition that can sometimes lead to a decline in desire over time. Novelty breeds testosterone, it sparks your curiosity, encourages exploration, and shows that even this person who is so known to you is still somewhat unknown, with untold dreams, longings, silliness, and surprises.

When you learn something new about your partner—whether it’s funny and surprising or vulnerable and deep—you experience a stimulating contradiction: “rencontrer” and remembrance. (Unsurprisingly, it takes me a little French and a little English to describe it best.)

“Rencontrer” is a meeting with the new. Remembrance is the comfort of recognition. Experiencing your partner as known and familiar, and yet still elusive and mysterious, creates a highly Erotic tension. Sharing new stories is a great way to evoke this. But too often, partners settle into the tired prompts: How was your day? How was work? What do you want for dinner? Did you go to the gym? (And we wonder why we complain about boredom.) I say: Change prompts, get new stories.

“I was never the same after…”

“A text message I fantasize receiving…”

“A dream I’ve never shared…”

“I feel most free when…”

“If I could whisper in the ear of my eighteen-year-old self…”

“I’ll never regret…”

I think what holds many of us back from trying new things with our partners is the inherent vulnerability of it. We all fall into routines because they’re convenient and efficient but also because they have known outcomes and little chance of rejection. Rewatching your comfort show, going to your tried and true date spot, assuming the same sexual position because it reliably gets the job done—these all give us peace of mind but no new territory to explore.

Asking new questions takes us to new places. And if it feels too vulnerable, awkward, or risky, remember to be playful with it. Play is a container for permission to be vulnerable. Play is when risk is safe and fun. It invites us to be bold, daring, subversive, sneaky, teasing. It’s why people play spin the bottle and seven minutes in heaven. Bring that energy into the conversation. The person you meet may surprise you.

Let’s Turn the Lens on You

Liked the prompts in my letter? Here’s a few more to try:

  • When I hear the word forbidden, the first thing that comes to mind is…
  • The person that taught me the most about love…
  • The part of my parents that I am most afraid of becoming…
  • The most unexpected compliment I ever received…
  • The weirdest place I’ve had sex…
  • A lie I am tempted to tell about myself is…

More From Esther

My card game is designed to bring out the storyteller in you, your friends, family, partner, dates, and more. Stories are the building blocks of relationships, and these conversation cards are a great way to spark meaningful discussions and go deeper together.

It’s with great pleasure that I invite you to join me on my first-ever live U.S. tour as I shine a light on the complex cultural shifts transforming relationships today, inspiring the audience to rethink how we connect, how we desire, and even how we love.

‍A good question disrupts a pattern. It goes deeper. Sometimes, it goes sideways. It enables us to travel to a new place without ever leaving one another’s side.

Conversation Starters

A compendium of highly recommended sources of inspiration and information

I’m Reading:

I’m Listening To:

Each year, my son, Noam Saul, makes me a curated playlist of music from around the world. You can listen here.

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