Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” as Want to Read:
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  20,693 ratings  ·  1,682 reviews
A New York City therapist examines the paradoxical relationship between domesticity and sexual desire and explains what it takes to bring lust home.

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 de
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Harper Paperbacks (first published September 5th 2006)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mating in Captivity, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Will Liu Perel has a new book coming out in Oct 2017 called "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity".…morePerel has a new book coming out in Oct 2017 called "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity".(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,693 ratings  ·  1,682 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Emily Jane
May 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephanie Sun
"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
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
Amir Tesla
This book aptly inspects the question: Why passion, desire, eroticism and sexuality follow a downward spiral after marriage. Many elements contributing to this issue are examined with real case studies and often with practical suggestions.

There are a lot of eye-opening and counter intuitive insights in the book that if practiced, will reignite the engine of passion in a married life.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, not just couples.
E.C. McCarthy
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 28, 2014 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.
Eli Nunez
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...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
Jonathan Maas
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
80% of this is solid advice, the remaining 20% is there to get headlines - and to help the couples rethink themselves

I first learned about Esther Perel from a friend, and then from the New Yorker, where she is supposedly 'rethinking infidelity.'

Is she? Yes - but she's not telling anyone to cheat either. Perel just recognizes that there is a lot of unhappiness in monogamous couples, and a lot of sexual dysfunction.

So though she doesn't tell them to cheat, she may tell them to at least look in tha
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, audiobook
A cutting statement that rings, “Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did[..]”, points to a problem and the balance that the author aims to bring more guidance around in the frame of long-term committed relationships. To maintain the sparks, Perel says there is a need to balance Love, which is about having, with Desire, which is about wanting, and creating a sense of oneness for deep emotional connection, without possessing of the other person. Autonomy and individ ...more
Kerri Anne
Dec 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nonsense. The only way I can figure this book became an "international best seller" is because so often sensational sentences are mistaken for logical/interesting/valid ones.

Infidelity (or the threat of it) as a tool for marriage strengthening? Go fuck yourself, Perel.

[Negative stars! Anti-stars! Drop this book off a pier with cement shoes stars!]
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Azita Rassi
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written book with bold and more or less original ideas, but if you want to read it, don’t go for the audiobook. The author has an excellent command of written English, but her very strong Belgian accent makes following the text a hassle. It’s unfortunate that the task of creating the audiobook was not assigned to a professional reader.
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
♥ Ibrahim ♥
She makes many good points, but she doesn’t address the actual needs of intimacy for women as real. It’s not the fault of living in the modern world where couples depend mainly on each other. The needs are and remain the same, whether we are Bedouin or sophisticated lawyers in New York. Her client Adele wants to be appreciated as she is, appreciated as a woman, and it doesn’t necessarily involve sex. But it seems that our author sees that as asking a lot. What Adele longs for as a woman can be e ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opener as far as eroticism and sex at home (in a relation) is concerned. With some fresh thoughts and ideas. Insightful! And so very recognizable! Sometimes it's as if I'm reading about myself! ...more
Francesca Marciano
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. ...more
John Ryan
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Darian Onaciu
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book on relationships and it was a very good one.
I'm looking forward to reading her second book, "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity".

If you're interested in the topic I highly recommend her two TED talks:
Rethinking Infidelity - a talk for anyone who has ever loved
The secret to desire in a long-term relationship
Greg Davis
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: love
Is it possible to sustain erotic desire in a committed, long-term relationship? The answer, Esther Perel believes, is yes, and she wrote this book in hopes of showing us the way. The key to sustaining desire, she believes, is paradoxically to find ways to make your relationship less secure. This is paradoxical because monogamous relationships demand security -- vows of commitment and emotional safety -- while erotic passion thrives on uncertainty, risk, perhaps even hints of violence.

Imagine, o
Magda linga
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to Perel on “Tim Ferris Show” and I was curious to learn more about her views on long-term relationships. I thought the book was very smart and full of certainly not mainstream, yet much needed thoughts. Psychoanalysts and psychologists tend to be obsessed with family as a source of all our sexual and other problems. Perel points out that (the Western) society has as much, if not more, to do with the way we see sexuality and especially domestic sexuality. The view of domesticity as be ...more
Joni Heredia
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,
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. Read this if you ever plan to have sex with somebody you love in the long term or after commitment. It should be required reading.

Key takeaway: Love is "supposed" to be oneness with another human these days. And intimacy is sparked by the otherness of another person.
Bon Tom
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is really, really good. Not a popular psychology. Written by professional with what sounds like huge experience. Lots of original insights.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
A Book Club Named...: Mating In Captivity 16 6 Jan 29, 2021 09:21PM  
A Book Club Named...: What Is Erotic Intelligence? 2 1 Sep 23, 2020 06:17PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Esther Perel 2 14 Apr 06, 2020 03:32AM  
Therapist Book Club: Mating in Captivity 1 16 Mar 03, 2019 05:52PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Adding page number & other edits 10 39 Oct 18, 2018 01:15AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
  • Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love
  • Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
  • Esther Perel: Audible Sessions
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities
  • Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life
  • Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
  • Untamed
  • The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment
  • İnsan Her Koşulda
  • Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

  Luvvie Ajayi Jones—author, cultural critic, digital entrepreneur—might be best described as a professional truthteller. Her crazily popular...
6 likes · 0 comments
“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.” 102 likes
“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?” 100 likes
More quotes…