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Mating in Captivity

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,397 ratings  ·  201 reviews
One of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, Esther Perel offers a bold, provocative new take on intimacy and sex. Mating in Captivity invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home.

Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the compl...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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If you're in a long-term relationship, or ever want to be in one, you must read this book.

It tells you how to have the security, stability, comfort, etc that are requirements for a healthy a LT relationship while at the same time creating the uncertainty, mystery, and risk that are requirements for passion.

The author is a therapist in NY and draws on cases to illustrate her points. It's engaging, the topic is fascinating, and Perel has some refreshingly smart suggestions for maintaining or rec...more
The author is a European, kink-and-alternative-lifestyle-friendly relationship therapist. It was quite refreshing to have her non-judgmental viewpoint on most issues of sexuality. She maintains throughout the book that in order to develop intimacy between two people, there needs to be some separateness. Which is a problem in this American society where our mate is supposed to be everything to us. There's a struggle in finding another person erotic and sexy when there's too much comfort and secur...more
Emily Jane
I wanted this to be the answer to the last couple of fights I've had with my partner. The subtitle is "Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic", and so I'd hoped that this would help me understand why it is we fight with the one we love most, and how to prevent real problems before they happen. This is, after all, what the book promises to do.

But, unfortunately, it really falls short. Because while the author gives numerous anecdotal accounts of how this couple or that was able to reignite the f...more
Jeffrey Otto
Reconciling Cliche and Popular Sociology

On a crowded bus last week, my eight year old son couldn't help but inquire about the title of Esther Perel's debut book, "Mating in Captivity : Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic." What's "mating" mean, dad? And "cap-tiv-i-ty?"� With numerous ears besides his own eager to hear my reply, I resorted to cheap humor that passed by him as surely as hot sex passes by Perel's patients throughout this book. "Mating."� I told him, "is finding someone to love...more
E.C. McCarthy
This book is so much more erotically charged than the "50 Shades" fictional nonsense. Perel offers great insight into human desire -- for love, sex, connection, space -- and how we tend to thwart the very intimacy we crave by applying judgement to our desires. I haven't read a better reason to be hopeful that long term relationships can maintain, even increase, passion and desire than this --

"The counterargument to the law of diminishing returns is the principle that consistent investment leads...more
John Ryan
Do you feel lost, frustrated, confined or disappointed with your sex life? Does sex feel like a chore? Has the rugrats' arrival sucked that sexual impulse out of ya? Or maybe relations has morphed over the years from what seemed spicy and fresh into a short menu of the same ol' sauces and meats? Do you wonder if this is the inevitable result of being married/together with the same person for years? That you just have to "grow-up" and accept it?

Esther Perel, in "mating in captivity: unlocking ero...more
Shane Moore
Reading this book I soon found myself questioning every aspect of my marriage. Apparently, I should be keeping my wife at a distance or we'll get bored with each other. Maybe I rely too much on verbal communication to express my feelings? Sure, things are great now, but am I setting the stage for an unhappy 2nd act? Would my wife be happier married to someone who doesn't speak English?

I quit. I don't need a book to make me second-guess and doubt the happiest aspect of my life.
Eli Nunez
Enlightening. This is one of those books that make you better, educated, happier, confident and much more if you read this with a very very open mind. Doesn't give you advise nor tell you what's better, it just sets you free... I love it! Finished it in two days. Couldn't stop reading. Totally influencing my life right now.
I read this several years ago and remember it being a paradigm shifter for me. The main thing I took away from it is that we expect too much from our spouse, who is, after all, only one person. He/she cannot be our "best friend," confidant, protector, object of our frustration, safety net, and also passionate lover.

I am now going back to re-read because I've been reminded of it while I am reading "Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships."

In that book,...more
The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health
Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic has been translated into 24 different languages and examines issues of intimacy and sex in married and/or long-term couples. Perel is a practicing AASECT certified sex therapist in New York City and a well-known voice on couples and sexuality across cultures. She has been a guest on numerous television shows as well as featured in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Vogue, among others.

The book opens with a poem by D.H. Lawrence e...more
Mo Tipton
I'm still not entirely sure what I think about this book. On one hand, it's incredibly fascinating. Perel offers page after page of marvelous insights as to why it can be so hard to sustain passion in a long-term monogamous relationship, and so much of what she said seemed original in comparison to other books I've read on the topic.

On the other hand, I found it difficult to take the information presented in the book and figure out how to apply it in my own relationship. Perel's solutions invol...more
Mike Smith
This book challenges the assumption that sexual desire and eroticism inevitably decline in a long-term committed relationship. Author Esther Perel is a couples therapist with over 20 years of experience. Raised in Belgium and trained in Israel before moving to the U.S., Perel brings an outsider's perspective to the strange mix of attitudes and behaviours that characterize American (and, by almost certain extension, Canadian) relationships.

Her basic premise is that we crave both the security and...more
Interesting, but not very practical--

The main argument of the book is this: intimacy begets comfort and boredom, distance unpredictability and excitement. Pretty commonsensical stuff, but when applied to marriage, it can be a powerful principle.

Most couples experience an increase in boredom as they become intimate and comfortable with each other and they start to yearn for the excitement. This transition is not only emotional but biological: a man's testosterone levels plummet after his wife giv...more
Tim Pendry
Mar 23, 2008 Tim Pendry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone not entirely happy with their lot
Now this really could be a life-changing book if it hit the right person at the right time. The thesis is simple and powerful and the only problem with the book is that the personal stories pad out a simple message.

What Perel does is undermine the more dumb-ass aspects of the Anglo-Saxon approach to psychological fidelity and relationships in favour of a more European view that permits play, calculated deceit and fantasy in a way that is really quite shocking to contemporary femino-liberalism....more
Nov 18, 2012 Giorgos rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Giorgos by: Heather
After setting a framework that emphasises the balance between closeness and distance in sexually intimate relationships, much of the book's message rests on the premise that predictability and familiarity - engendered by excessive emphasis on bonding - kill passion. The solution? Individuals in relationships should ruthlessly preserve their individuality, in spite of the separation anxiety that might cause, and allow enough distance to preserve the "otherness" that attracted them in the first pl...more
Herman A Correa-Diaz
Mandatory reading for committed couples in all stages

I read this book after reading references to it in a New York Times blog. I like the fact that it is not prescriptive on the topic of the erotic inside the couple but challenges readers to think about their own relationships through the description of the various situations of her patients. There is something for every committed couple at every stage of their relationships. As stated, every couple should think about this and what better way th...more
Cristian Strat
This is a great book on sexuality and what it takes to sustain desire in an intimate long-term relationship. I personally found it enlightening, fun to read, though a little bit repetitive.

“We think it’s easy to love, but hard to find the right person.”

"What makes sustaining desire over time so difficult is that it requires reconciling two opposing forces: freedom and commitment. So it’s not only a psychological or practical problem; it’s also a systemic one. That makes it harder to “work at.” I...more
This could be incredibly useful reading for newly (or not) married couples who feel like a switch was flipped once they found 'their one'. I wish I had read this the day after I got married to prepare myself for the internet shift in my brain once "I can't wait till forever" became "... for.. ever?"
I want to counter the reviewers who have said that it doesn't answer the serious questions with, well, you're right, it doesn't. It asks those questions, implores you to ask them yourself and then al...more
I found this book really interesting. My boyfriend has been in very long term relationships were as I haven't stretched past a year and a half. I figured I should read something about long term relationships to be on a better footing for discussions and to understand him better. I think this book did that. I found that despite never being in a long term relationship there were thoughts and feelings expressed in the patients stories that I resonated with. I also appreciated how much she pointed t...more
Michelle Cristiani
Loved this approach, this delivery, this message. Any relationship can benefit from what Perel says here. With any love, if there is nothing left to seek, there is nothing left to find. And here and now, we are somehow expected to be alpha and omega for our partners, which is both impossible and unintended through history. Perel manages to write without sounding preachy or absurd; she is level-headed, academic, and logical. I second her words, and recommend this to anyone, anywhere, in a relatio...more
Corrie Campbell
Mating in Captivity was written by Ester Perel who shared her many insights on marriage, intimacy and desire gathered from her many years of practice as a family therapist. In my opinion she is quite astute and recognizes the paradox of competing needs we – as humans – have in our relationships. For example, her second chapter “More Intimacy, Less Sex: Love seeks Closeness, but Desire Needs Distance” illustrates her point eloquently. This idea seems obvious, yet most might wonder why we haven’t...more
Marko Petkovic
Esther Perel dedicated her life to researching human desire. Well, she did it well. Marriage used to be an economic term, an institution, in which there was a partnership for life between two people to have children, maintain and/or achieve social status, companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition "I want you to be my best friend, and my trusted confidant, and my passionate lover and we live twice as long". So we come to one person and asking th...more
The book sounded interesting and it was--but it is more squarely in the category of self-help than any other. Part of this is likely because Esther Perel sees couples when their marriage is heading toward dysfunction so a large chunk of the book is anecdotal and applies to very specific situations. The book felt like an extension of her practice and I suspect it does provide helpful tips to couple with very specific sorts of marital difficulties. Depending on why you want to read the book it's n...more
I read this for school and it was awesome! Perel’s ideas transcend modern thinking and give a fresh approach to methodologies and a different lens for viewing relationships. This book challenges ideas about sex and sexual attitudes. The author was not born in the U.S. so it is not surprising she has some new ideas to bring to the table. I guess my review doesn't tell you much so just read this book, I think anyone could get something out of it.
3.75 STARS

The natural outgrowth and follow-up of Mitchell's CAN LOVE LAST? ... Can sexual desire and eroticism last in long-term relationships?

The answer is, Yes it can, but only with conscious intent and deliberate cultivation, and the continuous fight against the human-brain heuristic of "familiarity breeds contempt". A false heuristic as regards people, because we are evolving stories and can never fully known or owned.

An interesting read. Repetitive at times as she waxes poetic into the huma...more
Geoff Balme
Tough and intelligent talk about romance, sex and love that EVERYONE should be aware of. This should be a course we all take in High School LOVE 101. Instead we're left to the devices of bad romance films, and horrible pop-culture ideas like those Dr. Perel mentions, goal oriented and business formatted relations -- the american way! Many myths are handily sunk!

The book is written in a very chatty style, simple to read, and gives plenty of examples, and it isn't without humor.

Does intimacy des...more
A fantastic, refreshing book that helps put your intimate and sexual thoughts and feelings into a healthy perspective. We, especially in America, don't often have a chance to explore our sexual emotions - it's not taught to us by our parents (except maybe peripherally), our schools and is repressed by our society - it's no wonder that our relationships struggle in this area. This books (and/or books like it) should be part of learning about healthy intimate and sexual relationships, as well as s...more
While I initially rated this book four stars, after I read Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex--and How to Get It I had to downgrade it to three in comparison.

The start of this book is an interesting and useful exploration of the idea that distance might be necessary to some degree in maintaining sexual interest over the long term, and the case studies were interesting and I think might be helpful for desensitizing some slightly (and unnecessarily) taboo topics. The later piece of...more
I saw Esther Perel on The Colbert Report and as always, Colbert made the conversation interesting. I'm not one for self-help books or couple advice, but I was intrigued after that interview. I should have just stayed away.

The basis of this book appears to be "familiarity breeds contempt." Emotional distance, according to the author, equals a better sex life and therefore better marriage. I found this wholly contradictory and I could not get on board with her "therapy" message. Honestly Perel com...more
Hakan Jackson
Sex, as we all know, is taboo and because of this it's hard to get good earnest information on it. This book is written by a sex therapist, who uses her patients stories (with their consent and different names) to provoke questions and thoughts about sex. It doesn't do is give any rigid one-size-fits-all advice, because sex is different for everyone. As the professor in one of my psychology classes told me, "The brain is the most important sex organ", and this book is definitely food for thought...more
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Esther Perel is recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships. She is the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, translated into 25 languages. Fluent in nine of them, the Belgian native is a practicing psychotherapist, celebrated speaker and organizational consultant to Fortune 500 companies. The N...more
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“For [erotically intelligent couples], love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning. They know that they have years in which to deepen their connection, to experiment, to regress, and even to fail. They see their relationship as something alive and ongoing, not a fait accompli. It’s a story that they are writing together, one with many chapters, and neither partner knows how it will end. There’s always a place they haven’t gone yet, always something about the other still to be discovered.” 16 likes
“Love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning.” 11 likes
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