“Mystery is not always about traveling to new places, it is about looking with new eyes.”
I just watched Bill Clinton’s glowing endorsement of his wife for the office of Commander in Chief. He made reference to “good times and bad” with regard to his marriage. He did it in a subtle manner, sort of a Voldemort effect. Dancing around the co-conspirator of his bad times in a “She who shall not be named” fashion, but we all knew who he was talking about.
Would you believe me if I told you that the Clinton-Lewinski scandal sparked the mind of one remarkable woman to begin her quest to understand infidelity? Someone who made sense of Bill’s actions and found them to be quite common. Her name is Esther Perel.
Ether Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist and author of Mating in Captivity was so curious about what makes men and women cheat that she penned Erotic Intelligence, an article published in Psychotherapy Networker.
Do you ever wonder how some people stay committed and others cannot begin to try? Why some relationships crumble a mere 84 months after a passionate romance? And others move to the golden years arm in arm on the front porch swing. Why some people survive affairs and others are crushed by them? How affairs can reignite a relationship and encourage growth of all parties?
Could it be that we have yet to be honest with ourselves and our partners about the challenges of monogamy? Can we sit down and spend some time alone with our thoughts and desires? I first started this process by watching a TED talk by Esther titled “Why Happy Couples Cheat”, In this primer to her book, Mating in Captivity, she examines how marriage has evolved and the myriad of responsibilities we put upon our partner today. Many of which were fulfilled by many different people just a short time ago.
Esther is unbiased and frank. She speaks about the motivations behind all of our actions in relationships, even those we are ashamed of, cheating, porn, etc. Her YouTube channel holds a growing library of her talks uncovering the unspoken themes behind seemingly healthy relationships. If you are not a reader, you can get a nice feel for her book, Mating in Captivity in her video titled Reconciling Intimacy and Sexuality. A nice sidecar to that video is the short article Reconciling Sensuality and Domesticity, published in Psychotherapy Networker.
What I find more encouraging is her hope for authentic relationships even after we realize how screwed up we are when it comes to expressing our needs as they relate to intimacy. Esther is realistic; she pokes fun at the idea that Victoria’s Secret can save a doomed relationship or bring it back to the thrill it once held. In her video The Paradox of Intimacy and Sexuality, she gives the viewer powerful suggestions and methods to grow desire and bring creativity to your relationship.
What I believe Esther teaches us is relational resilience in the area of intimacy. Growing together; understanding as well as respecting our partners needs and desires while finding space to express our own. Esther can teach us to love ourselves and our partners with new eyes. To create a relationship that is not just surviving but thriving.
Many thanks Esther for your commitment to helping humans love each other with acceptance and wisdom.