This Valentine’s Week, we’re setting aside time to honor our relationships with advice straight from the ultimate expert on love, pyschotherapist and best-selling author Esther Perel. Whether you’re single or in a partnership, spending a few extra minutes expanding your knowledge on romance through writing exercises and thoughtful conversation will set you up for a mindful, loving day that will leave you with a greater understanding of love and connection. 

Do you know the difference between love and desire? Chances are, you probably think of the two as at least vaguely synonymous. But once you take a deep dive into what each really means to you, you may find there are some huge differences.

Here’s the thing: While love is a biological need, desire is more centered on a motivation and drive. Desire is a fundamental human experience that we want to be present in our lives, and when we lose it, we lose an important connection with ourselves. Living without desire is like living without hope or inspiration.

Desire is larger than the act of s**—it’s also about feeling like we deserve that wanting. When we feel desirable, we feel we have a sense of entitlement and subjective experience. Our desire lies in our motivational systems.

An exercise on love versus desire.

In order to separate the two and build a deeper connection with your partner, it’s important to create a map so you understand your different feelings on love and desire. Take out a piece of paper, and draw two columns. In the first one, write the world “desire,” and in the second, write the word “love.”

Now, in the first column, fill in the blanks for the following: “when I think of s**, I think of…” “when I desire, I feel…” and “when I think about s** with my partner, I feel…” In the next column, do the same exercise, but with the word “love” instead of “desire.”

Are the results different? In my experience, they are: Most people typically associate the word “desire” with words like “hot,” “power,” “hungry,” and “excited,” and “love” with words like “comfort” and “grounding.”

Once you’re clear on exactly how you view each of these topics, have an open conversation with your partner about your feelings on each. You may find it opens some incredible doors and helps you understand your relationship—or if you’re not in a relationship, your underlying feelings about love and desire—a lot better.

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