ROSIE GREEN: Lust, love… I want it all!


Styling: Nicola Rose. Make-up: Caroline Barnes at Frank Agency. Hair: Alex Szabo at Carol Hayes. Dress, Wyse london. Shoes, Jimmy Choo

 Styling: Nicola Rose. Caroline Barnes, Frank Agency. Makeup. Alex Szabo, Carol Hayes. Wyse, london. Jimmy Choo Shoes 

 I always thought wanting something wasn’t as good as having it. That true satisfaction lay in ownership of the lusted-after It-bag or the Farrow & Ball-painted Georgian rectory (in my wildest dreams). This could be compared to my relationships. My younger self felt happiness was associated with security. The solid foundation of a strong partnership.

Although courtship and flirting were pleasurable, they weren’t the key to building a strong union.

Self-psychological analysis would suggest that this is because I crave stability and my parents divorced early in life. My 20s and 30s were a time when I was surrounded by single friends who shared their stories of dating. I used to be jealous at the romance and sex they told me, but I felt guilty about my marital status.

But here’s the thing I’ve learnt on my midlife relationship journey: the craving, pining, yearning you feel at the start of something new is deliciously thrilling.

The Psychology Today website (my new obsession) tells me that our brain’s motivational system rewards unexpected pleasure. A message from the man you don’t know is interested. Mega dopamine surge. He offers to go on a second date. Excitement levels go stratospheric. The hit you get from a long-term partner planting a kiss on your forehead like he’s done a thousand times before is significantly less exciting. Unpredictability increases the brain’s feel-good chemicals, which can lead to a wonderful release of joy in the frontal cortex.

You can’t resist the lure of the chase, it is irresistible to the ego.  

Studies show it’s as powerful a high as cocaine – and I can vouch for that. After a slow and steady marriage, the beginnings of my new relationship, while laced with anxiety (‘Will I get hurt?’, ‘Will I blow things by revealing my love of Selling Sunset?’), have given me highs I couldn’t have imagined. These first few months are anything but boring. It’s dinners out, dancing in the rain and sex in the afternoon. It’s easy to see why some people would want to remain in this zone forever. They are addicted to that mental push and pull. There is a flurry or flirty text messages that are followed by long, silent silences. It’s the intensity of a first date, followed by the excitement until the second one is arranged. It’s thrilling but disquieting, a stomach-turning, heart-wrenching rollercoaster ride that delivers a next-level adrenalin buzz.

I’ve been out with guys who are addicted to the thrill of the chase. Always wanting what they can’t have – or at least can’t be sure of. I could tell the prospect of a cosy night in made them feel dead inside, as though they’re settling into a ‘pipe and slippers’ phase. The 2021 equivalent is take-out and slankets.

It is addictive for the ego, but the thing is about the chase. My first date was with a guy I liked. I was more successful at winning him over than I was in obtaining his attention.

When we are afraid of losing something, we all realize that something is more beautiful. If ever I try to take my kids’ unloved toys to the charity shop, suddenly the one-eyed troll that has not been picked up for years becomes vital to their happiness. In relationships, my partners have become infinitely more desirable when I saw the flame of attraction light up in another woman’s eyes. While the beginning stages of a relationship can be exciting, they are not lasting.

My current relationship has evolved into something stronger and more stable. I’m grateful for that. I love the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with future plans and cosy nights in… but I also don’t want to lose the excitement of the early days. I want macaroon, and I want it to be delicious. Esther Perel, therapist and author of Mating In Captivity, espouses the theory that ‘desire is wanting and loving is having’. She asks: ‘Can we want what we already have?’ Or put another way, once someone is a sure thing, are they less desirable? I’m hoping not. But as a precaution, I’m saying no to slankets.