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Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,081 Ratings  ·  338 Reviews
Why does great sex so often fade for couples who claim to love each other as much as ever?Can we want what we already have? Why does the transition to parenthood so often spell erotic disaster? Does good intimacy always make for good sex?

Ether Perel takes on these tough questions, grappling with the obstacles and anxieties that arise when our quest for secure love conflict
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 15, 2008 kareem rated it it was amazing
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
Jeffrey Otto
Apr 09, 2011 Jeffrey Otto rated it liked it
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 an
Jul 30, 2012 Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sexuality
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
May 24, 2009 Emily Jane rated it did not like it
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
Stephanie Sun
Dec 27, 2014 Stephanie Sun rated it really liked it
"Joni is quite forthcoming in disclosing her sexual past... But when I ask her, 'What does sex mean to you? What are the feelings that accompany your desire? What do you seek in sex? What do you want to feel? To express? Where do you hold back?' she looks at me, perplexed. 'I have no idea,' she admits. 'No one's ever asked me that before.'"

No one's ever asked me that before.

Sex is simple—two people (occasionally more), in the same time, in the same place, with the same idea—that's all it is, all
E.C. McCarthy
Jan 28, 2013 E.C. McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great-women
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
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
Shane Moore
Jan 27, 2015 Shane Moore rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 11, 2012 Eli Nunez rated it it was amazing
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.
John Ryan
Jan 21, 2008 John Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: relationship
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
Feb 04, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How does one begin a review of a book about eroticism in long-term relationships? And, more personally, how does a single man currently outside a long-term relationship do so? I have no idea, so I'll just say that this is an excellent introduction into an incredibly complex topic.

The core issue that Perel addresses is the inherent tension between what are arguably our two greatest needs in a long-term romantic relationship: continued sexual chemistry and emotional safety. Because the former requ
May 08, 2012 Joni rated it it was amazing
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,
Mar 19, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2015 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
I first read about Esther Perel in the NYT Magazine a year ago [ ]. This 2006 book isn't fluff reading, but neither is it academic or dry. There is also nothing graphic here, not explicit in any way. She frequently refers to other writer-therapists (such as David Schnarch and Michael Bader) and while she really nails the problems (again and again) she doesn't have any easy solutions. There is no bulleted-list of do's and don'ts. One has to read the case s ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Nikki rated it did not like it
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
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
Πέτρος Παπαγεωργίου
I have to admit...I'm a "soft" critic... and the five stars are easy for me... but then again I usually want to read the books i read...because I know I m going to like them!! I read the book in Greek, and then looked up the english title, which is SSSOOOO much better! The Greek title was "Erotic Intelligence" , abit boring really..but the book is good. I found it to be an eye opener, in many aspects..some things obviously were familiar , but it stll explained a lot... I would definitley reccomm ...more
Francesca Marciano
May 03, 2015 Francesca Marciano rated it liked it
Interesting, repetitive, it could've been condensed in one hundred pages, but that is the problem with these kind of books, they keep hammering the same concept over and over with slight variations. I saw Esther Poser's talk on Ted, which was very entertaining and the book just expands that.
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
Christine Farmer
this made for a good book club discussion, but the main takeaway was : Perel has a few really great insights to share, and this should have been a TED talk, an essay, a Kindle Single... not a whole book.
May 28, 2014 Blair rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author's thesis is that relationships require a gap for a spark to cross, or that too much intimacy kills sex.

I stopped reading after getting fed up with the name dropping, failure to back up her claims, and offering conflicting, and potentially damaging advice, in her book regarding relationships.

If you want a pop-sci self-help book that encourages infidelity, you might find comfort in this book. Otherwise I'd recommend staying away from this one.
Greg Davis
Nov 13, 2014 Greg Davis rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. Really insightful in so many ways. Some reviewers have cited that the tome fails in its lack of practical, direct advice. I disagree; Ms. Perel, in sharing the experiences of many of her clients, all likely composites, creates a rich tapestry for the reader to ponder the timeless tension between the domestic and the erotic. Highly recommended.
João Martins
Feb 19, 2016 João Martins rated it really liked it
It never ceases to amaze me how people insist on planning and preparing for the most trivial things in their lives, and then completely neglect all of the psychological and scientific information for the things that they themselves consider to be the most important or long-term in their lives, like their relationships.

This book tackles the notion of eroticism and domesticity - how they interact and play out in longer term relationships. It discusses how sexual desire can fade over time, the reas
Nov 03, 2015 Jennie rated it really liked it
I'm a bit in love with Esther Perel after listening to her TED talks and her wonderful advice on several of my favorite podcasts. She's a smart, sexy progressive lady and no doubt a lot of couples could benefit from her ideas. One of the lovely things I heard her say recently is that if you are grappling with your role in a relationship and what you think you should be getting out of your marriage, divorcing your partner is not necessarily where you should start. Instead you should first divorce ...more
Mike Smith
Mar 09, 2013 Mike Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Tim Pendry
Mar 23, 2008 Tim Pendry rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Nov 18, 2012 Giorgos rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 10, 2015 Josie rated it did not like it
When your entire book is based on the premise that intimacy kills desire, you've lost me. The idea that the closer you get to someone, the more comfortable with them, the safer you feel, the less attracted to them you are just seems ludicrous (and if that's true I feel like maybe you've got some solo therapy to do).

The idea that you should talk/share less, flirt with other men to create "safe" jealousy, and perhaps open your marriage up to other partners or dating other just hardly
Cristian Strat
Jun 28, 2014 Cristian Strat rated it really liked it
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
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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.” 36 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.” 20 likes
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