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The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

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Iconic couples’ therapist and bestselling author of Mating in Captivity Esther Perel returns with a provocative look at relationships through the lens of infidelity.

An affair: it can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet, this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. What are we to make of this time-honored taboo—universally forbidden yet universally practiced? Why do people cheat—even those in happy marriages? Why does an affair hurt so much? When we say infidelity, what exactly do we mean? Do our romantic expectations of marriage set us up for betrayal? Is there such a thing as an affair-proof marriage? Is it possible to love more than one person at once? Can an affair ever help a marriage? Perel weaves real-life case stories with incisive psychological and cultural analysis in this fast-paced and compelling book.

For the past ten years, Perel has traveled the globe and worked with hundreds of couples who have grappled with infidelity. Betrayal hurts, she writes, but it can be healed. An affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage—with the same person. With the right approach, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.

Affairs, she argues, have a lot to teach us about modern relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. They offer a unique window into our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment. Through examining illicit love from multiple angles, Perel invites readers into an honest, enlightened, and entertaining exploration of modern marriage in its many variations.

Fiercely intelligent, The State of Affairs provides a daring framework for understanding the intricacies of love and desire. As Perel observes, “Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it is also a window, like no other, into the crevices of the human heart.”

352 pages, ebook

First published October 10, 2017

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About the author

Esther Perel

34 books3,143 followers
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 New York Times, in a cover story, named her the most important game changer on sexuality and relationships since Dr. Ruth. Her critically acclaimed viral TED talk reached nearly 5 million viewers in the first year.

Known for her keen cross-cultural pulse, Esther shifts the paradigm of our approach to modern relationships. She is regularly sought around the world for her expertise in erotic intelligence, couples and family identity as well as corporate relationships and team collaboration.

Her clients and platforms include companies such as Nike, Johnson & Johnson and Mopar, the Open Society Institute, Tony Robbins Productions, Summit Series, Founder’s Forum, PopTech, Young Presidents Organization, Entrepreneur Organization, and the Bronfman Foundation.

Her innovative models for building strong and lasting relationships have been widely featured in the media across 5 continents spanning The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Ha’Aretz and The Guardian, The New Yorker, Fast Company, and Vogue. She is a frequent guest on radio and television shows including NPR’s Brian Lehrer Show, Oprah and The Today Show, Dr. Oz and The Colbert Report.

In addition to Esther’s 30-year therapy practice in New York City, she also serves on the faculty of The Family Studies Unit, Department of Psychiatry, New York University Medical Center and The International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,490 reviews
Profile Image for Warwick.
824 reviews14.5k followers
December 9, 2020
You go through these periods where everyone you know is getting married, then having babies; and then suddenly, you reach an age where it seems like everyone you know is Having Problems. We noticed this a couple of years ago – all at once it seemed that half the friends we knew were watching their marriages fall apart because the men were sleeping with their secretaries. ‘Can you believe these guys?’ Hannah fumed. ‘And where are all these secretaries, anyway?’ I said, staring into the middle distance.

As Dumas père laconically observed, ‘The bonds of wedlock are so heavy that it takes two to carry them, sometimes three.’ He, of course (through no fault of his own), was French. In Anglophone culture, by contrast, infidelity is presented – during radio phone-ins, in books and movies, and on internet discussion forums – as about the most heinous act possible, right up there with murder, child abuse, and the prose of EL James.

Which is perhaps a case of people protesting too much, since – as the statistics show – a lot of us do it. And a lot of us have been hurt by it, too, either directly or through a parent. People's quickness to judge tends to be formed by the interplay of these backgrounds, since, as Esther Perel points out in this superbly uncensorious study, attitudes to infidelity are strongly marked by what social psychologists call the actor-observer bias: ‘If you cheat, it's because you are a selfish, weak, untrustworthy person. But if I do it, it's because of the situation I found myself in. For ourselves, we focus on the mitigating circumstances; for others, we blame character.’

Deceit from loved ones is incredibly traumatic; but Perel does not ignore the fact that affairs can also be, for the person having them, transformational and even (her word) empowering. Not many people have affairs out of sheer disregard for their partner; generally, they are motivated by deeply felt (if obscure) needs and desires, and Perel is concerned with rooting out these explanations ‘without hearing them as justifications’. Her aim, then, is to somehow take both these aspects into account,

the pain and destruction of betrayal as well as the thrill and self-discovery inherent in transgression […] the duality between the liberating and empowering dimensions of adulterous love and the damage that it can inflict….

The question then becomes: how can the positive feelings that people find in affairs be understood – as it were extracted – so that couples can generate them internally without needing to have the actual affairs?

Perel builds her arguments around case studies of her clients, and I should pause here to note that one of the joys of this book is the pure voyeuristic pleasure of reading in such detail about other people's weird love-lives – by turns heartbreaking, baffling and inspiring – any of which would make a fine basis for a novel and all of which have you drawing nervy comparisons with your own relationships.

Conventional wisdom has it that anyone having an affair is obviously in an unsatisfactory relationship, yet that is clearly not consistent with what we actually see in reality. ‘In session after session,’ Perel says, ‘I meet people who assure me, “I love my wife/my husband. We are best friends and happy together. But I am having an affair.”’ Sometimes, paradoxically, this is precisely not because they fail to value their home life—

quite the contrary, they value it so much that they don't want to tamper with it. They are loath to disturb the stability of their domestic lives with the intemperate energy of eros.

Faced with an incompatibility in the bedroom, some decide the simplest solution is ‘outsourcing the need for passion and risk to a third party’, much as middle-class couples avoid quarrels over the housework by outsourcing that to a cleaner. Meanwhile for others, Perel intriguingly shows, infidelity is not so much to do with looking for someone else, but rather with looking for something new in oneself. ‘You think you had a relationship with Truck Man,’ she tells one happily married woman who has unaccountably started sleeping with a truck-driver down the road. ‘Actually, you had an intimate encounter with yourself, mediated by him.’ A new person can make you see a new aspect of yourself that is not present in your existing relationship; who they are can be practically irrelevant.

These impulses are all very well, you might think – but why lie about it? Why not at least have the decency to be honest? As Perel shows, though, this is idealistic at best. Financial dependency, legal repercussions, emotional security for children – all these things can make it extremely challenging to rock the boat at home.

Besides, the idea that truth is always morally superior is, in therapeutic terms, a debatable (and peculiarly American) one. ‘Truth can also be irrevocably destructive and even aggressive, delivered with sadistic pleasure,’ Perel points out. ‘On more than one occasion, I've seen honesty do more harm than good.’ The value of honesty is relative, not absolute (especially given the potential consequences for women or gay people in some parts of the world).

And there are other traps to watch out for, too. All conversations around infidelity carry ‘an implicit gender bias’ and Perel manages this issue with great care, her case studies never allowing for any pat conclusions about how ‘men’ or ‘women’ act, but also suggesting the ways that they are socialised to behave differently. That means they may have the same motivations, but they offer different justifications when they act on them, and react differently, on average, when they are the ones betrayed.

When it comes to men, I found Perel's analysis especially sensitive and…almost endearing? She repeats Irma Kurtz's line about how men are supposedly finding it harder and harder to ‘squeeze themselves and their erections into the shrinking maneuvring space between being a wimp or being a rapist’ (not sure how much I actually relate to this), and connects it to the kinds of things men tend to look for outside relationships when they ‘purchase the right to be selfish’:

Sitting in a strip club, hiring a hooker, swiping right, or watching porn, guys can take a break from the tightrope of modern masculinity. […] They [i.e. pornstars and other sex workers] put men at the center of the woman's attention, relieved of any pressure to perform and in a position where they can fully receive.

After a couple of hundred pages of these conflicting impulses and anxieties, you can't help wondering – like Dumas – whether monogamy, strictly conceived, is really practicable. Everyone has to work these things out for themselves; it's a neverending, ongoing conversation for which the general culture offers astonishingly poor guidance. I've never had a real open relationship myself, but ours is, I suppose, more ajar than some people's; Hannah and I are realists, and are not jealous people, and, most fortunately, are still sufficiently crazy about each other that our realism and lack of jealousy are rarely called on.

But in any case, even polyamory (which furnishes quite a few of the case studies in here) is no protection against infidelity. Change the rules, and the cheating will simply shift to wherever the new transgression lies (‘only with a condom’, ‘only if he doesn't come inside you’, ‘only if it's no one I know’…or whatever). But still, this last chapter, where Perel looks at some expanded concepts of how ‘monogamish’ and similar relationships might work, is one of the most enlightening parts of the book.

Because in the end, people do have affairs and they always have – and why is that? What, specifically, are they getting out of it? As soon as you stop saying ‘because people are dicks’ and take the question seriously, quite a lot of practical and suggestive details come out. And that's what Perel's book does so well – strips away the blame and the moralising that usually characterises the subject, and leaves you with just the interesting stuff. Affairs are not very nice, but they are very interesting.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,412 followers
November 23, 2017
Apparently eighty percent of the population has some experience with infidelity, whether through a parent, spouse, friend, or family member. Considering how hurtful and destructive such urges are, it is amazing most of us are still standing. Esther Perel has distilled her years of marriage counseling and study of infidelity to reveal fascinating insights that make enormous sense to me. She tells us that
“In a surprising number of these cases, a direct line can be traced from an extramarital adventure back to our most basic human fear—the confrontation with mortality.”
I would add a corollary that if the infidel (?) one who commits infidelity didn’t fear death before they became involved in an extramarital affair, they should after, for sure.

I love the way Perel thinks. She is such an adult. When one is in the midst of handling an exposed infidelity, it is common to experience sadness, rage, jealousy, and diminished self-worth. Perel says we can feel these things if we want, it is normal, but it is probably more worthwhile to look at why one strayed, if one has the stamina for it.

In this way, one may find one prefers one’s spouse to other possibilities, and can renew their vows in a fuller knowledge of one another, and a fuller knowledge of what it takes to make a marriage succeed. One of the things I notice about marriage is that sometimes the people involved forget that the spouse is a mystery and basically unknowable; that the spouse is an independent sexual being; that affairs often allow us to discover a new self, rather than merely a new sexual partner. Oftentimes it is that new sexual self that is so entrancing, not the new partner after all, e.g., “I feel alive.”.

A couple of other things Perel points to are that we keep many secrets in a marriage, and perhaps infidelity is not the most damaging of these. She thinks that sometimes admitting to an infidelity may cause more damage than not, and one has to ask oneself what one’s motives are in revealing such a thing if it is not already discovered and is unlikely to be.

While we often hear that revenge is sweet, in fact it is frequently the opposite. There is an important lesson to know about long-lasting feelings of vengeance: “If in the process of getting even you end up hurting yourself more than you punish the other, you gain nothing.” Feelings of stress and anger can make you miserable.

Studies of romantic love discover that it is a physical addiction, similar in effect to cocaine or nicotine on the brain. Quoting Anthropologist Helen Fisher who has done fMRI studies on the brain in love: “weaning oneself off of obsessive thinking about a lost love…is akin to breaking a dependency on drugs.”

Perel defines infidelity as including one or more of three components: secrecy, sexual alchemy, and emotional involvement. Towards the end of the book she explains that although women are used to being in touch with their emotional side and the multidimensionality of their sexuality (its subjectivity, its relational character, its contextual nature, and its reliance on a delicate balance of conditions), men rarely give themselves that freedom.

There are so many myths surrounding the definition of male sexuality as being biologically imperative, uncomplicated, ever ready, and always in search of novelty but actually men and women are in fact more similar than they are different. Men may find themselves emotionally disengaging in direct proportion to the demands of their relational entanglements and the conflicting messages they are receiving about who they are and who they should be. “You don’t pay the hooker to come—you pay her to leave”—highlighting the pleasures of less emotionally complicated forms of sex.

In the end, Perel says, it is usually a lack of real sexual communication in the midst of a loud and proud declaration of emotional transparency in modern intimacy that is most at fault for a drawing away from real intimacy. A successful marriage, I’m guessing, allows some of the mystery to remain. Two individuals agree to share lives; that they can leave at any time deepens the mystery. One needn’t do it, so when we do, there must be meaning. Communication is critical. And weathering a storm can unlock a few mysteries we tend to keep hidden, even from ourselves.
“Every act of betrayal shares common features, but every experience of betrayal is unique.”
Perel has Youtube videos of her most popular talks, and she is particularly good at cutting to the heart of relationships and fingering the sore spots. Most of us can find our own situations well-represented. Her examples of couples in treatment are diverse and distinct, and very interesting. I’d say listening to her is worthwhile even if it has never entered your mind to stray.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,458 reviews8,561 followers
February 10, 2018
I liked this book and would have liked it even more if Esther Perel focused more on relationships outside the context of marriage. What I appreciated most about The State of Affairs: Perel recognizes that relationships are dynamic and require consistent communication and recalibration. Instead of taking a binary or absolutist approach, she explores the motivations and emotions underlying infidelity. I enjoyed the brief bits of feminist thought in the book, such as her recognition that marriage is a concept derived from patriarchy and control over women. This quote toward the end of the book showcases Perel's writing and critical thinking at its best:

"Our partners do not belong to us; they are only on loan, with an option to renew - or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment; rather, it mandates an active engagement that long-term couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency, in the most positive sense."

This book had the potential to be so much more radical and revolutionary. For about the first 60%, Perel provides anecdote after anecdote of affairs destroying marriages. I wish she had used that space to delve deeper into topics she only touched on later on in the book. How are poly relationships, open relationships, and other types of relationships helping us break free from the historically sexist and limiting features of marriage? Why is it that we are socialized to invest so much of ourselves in romantic love (i.e., amatonormativity), even when it hurts us? Instead of throwing in some stories about queer couples that fit a heteronormative script, Perel could have provided more chapters centered on the unique and distinct experiences of queer people, people of color, and those who engage in intense and meaningful friendships. Perel is a solid writer who knows how to package a stigmatized concept for public consumption. I wish she had played it less safe and really thoroughly pulled back the curtain on marriage, infidelity, and broader constructions of relationships in society.

Overall, recommended for those instructed in the topic of infidelity who want an introduction to the more complex meanings of affairs, especially in the context of traditional romantic relationships and marriages. I hope that this book can lead us to question ideas about marriage and relationships that we so often ingest without thinking, such as how we glorify marriage and monogamy in the first place. Curious to see where Perel heads next with her work and good for her for adapting a stance of nuance and compassion.
Profile Image for Liina Haabu.
318 reviews267 followers
November 30, 2022
How very limited are our vocabulary and emotional intelligence when it comes to infidelity. Quick to use stereotyped responses and to protect the romantic ideal that, let's be honest, a large majority of people are not able to live up to or are unhappy while doing that.

Esther Perel gets that. She has cut through the Affair Cake with a sharp knife during her decades-long practice as a psychotherapist, and she has quite a lot to tell about all the layers it hides. Her approach is refreshingly realistic. At the beginning of the book, she states that nowadays our one partner has to give us so many contradictory things and the expectations for the quality of the relationship so high that it is no wonder we are having trouble living up to those standards.

Torn between the need for security and novelty at the same time trying not to lose the sense of "self" that so often gets diluted when there is not enough space between two people - those and other causes are discussed with different specific mechanics as why people stray and in the last parts - what happens when the unimaginable has happened? How do couples go on?

She is not a judge and does not take sides. Instead, Perel is so very emphatic and humane that the tone she uses, is at least as worthy of a reason to read the book as the information it holds and the interesting case studies she shares. It is a difficult subject and one that people are very opinionated and often polarised about, but I think she has done a terrific job in giving a nonjudgemental view of it.
Profile Image for Joe.
96 reviews717 followers
April 17, 2018
"Our partners do not belong to us. They are only on loan with an option to renew - or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment. Rather, it mandates an active engagement that longterm couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency in the most positive sense." - Esther Perel, The State of Affairs

I discovered Perel not through TedTalks, as many people apparently have, but because her podcast, "Where Should We Begin?" popped up on my podcast suggestions list.

People and their stories have always fascinated me, and that's precisely what Perel's podcast offers: listening into a couple's therapy session as they explore not only their own stories but also the nuances of their coupling. To me, it's pretty gripping because it opens a little window into human behavior and thought while illustrating that situations in any relationship - personal, romantic, platonic - are not black and white. Like most of life, all human interactions exist in shades of gray.

Faced with 13 hours on the road, I decided to join Audible and listen to Perel's latest book. Don't let the provocative title fool you: though this book definitely centers on infidelity, it touches on so much more: jealousy, forgiveness, monogamy, indiscretion, romance in a digital age, and so on. This is not merely a book for people who have dealt or are dealing with infidelity. It is for anyone who is in a relationship - even if that relationship is the most solid romance ever.

The brilliance of The State of Affairs is that it offers no solid solutions. It is ambiguous, but in the most satisfying way possible. I once read that the only two people who need to understand a relationship are the two people who are in that relationship. Therefore, every relationship is a crystal: unique unto itself. This is precisely why The State of Affairs can't offer solutions, but rather multiple possibilities - none of which can possibly be a perfect fit.

Perel weaves research into her own observations, offering insight into both her interactions with patients and her startlingly intuitive interpretation of their issues. Although the book primarily focuses on heterosexual relationships (after all, like it or not, they are the majority of relationships), Perel occasionally references gay relationships and marriage, and how gay people historically have had to reframe concepts of romance and love. I very much appreciated this. At times I found my beliefs being challenged (or confirmed), my heart being opened, and, most importantly, my compassion being championed.

Compassion. This really is the critical term for this book. If you're looking for a book to confirm "once a cheater, always a cheater" or "cheaters are always the villains", this book is not for you (though you should still read it). Perel refuses to think in and/or syllogisms. She very much operates in nuance.

This book is for you if you're looking for something engaging, challenging, and frank.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this book changed me. I am all the better for having listened to it. I don't often listen to audiobooks, but I highly recommend this one - Perel is a lovely narrator with an enchanting accent. I do think, though, that I may go back and read chapters of it as well.
Profile Image for Lexi.
90 reviews5 followers
July 1, 2018
Too repetitive. This book could have been done in 3-4 chapters, it's just a series of anecdotes, with no development in the findings or inferences. I was bored throughout (read for book club).
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
572 reviews151 followers
January 9, 2019
I am hesitant to review this book now because doing so means that it will be my first review of the year, meaning that, 12 months from now, I will be reminded of it in my little "here is what you read in 2019" and I was hoping to get the year off to a far better start. When I am reminded 12 months from now that I read this book I will remember nothing about its actual content, only that I gained nothing from it.

The author, and host of a popular relationship podcast I have never listened to, comes to the same conclusions regarding relationships and infidelity that I had already come to myself. What works for one couple will not necessarily work for another.

I have serious doubts about whether monogamous relationships are what us humans would benefit most from, but if I tell my girlfriend, "hey, I want an open relationship" she might agree because she doesn't want to lose me but she might also find the situation that results to be one of abject misery for her. In other words, one couple might find their happiness in a polyamorous relationship, whereas another is perfectly content in a monogamous relationship.

The key then, and the conclusion that Esther Perel seemingly at last comes to, is to be with someone like-minded. That is to say, someone who has the same outlook on relationships that you do. Because while opposites may attract, if they're too opposed they'll ultimately end up in divorce court.

Now you don't have to read the book. You're welcome.
Profile Image for Heather.
293 reviews14 followers
November 17, 2017
The funny (and probably unfortunate) thing about reading a book like this is that people automatically assume you're trying to save your marriage or something. haha. I discovered Esther Perel via Dan Savage. I love both their practical approaches to relationships. They deal with the realities of life, not idealistic dreams that often don't work in people's daily experience. Perel does not minimize the pain of infidelity. But she's a much needed voice in our culture about what infidelity means and how it can be approached in relationships. My biggest take-away from the book is that we need to pull our judgemental noses out of the relationships of other people and stop judging them for how they choose to negotiate their lives. Stop looking down on your friend who stays when their partner strays. Stop looking down on people who view commitment and fidelity differently than you do. It's none of your business and it doesn't actually do anything to help your friend or family member.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,138 reviews
September 18, 2017
Everyone in a relationship should read THE STATE OF AFFAIRS: Perel is a wonderfully engaging writer, and raises so many thought-provoking questions and opportunities for deep thought and reflection. Marriage in America has gone through so many changes in a relatively short period of time, and this book gives both those who are happily coupled language to start a conversation and those who have dealt with infidelity an incredible perspective. Not to be missed.
Profile Image for dontpanic.
39 reviews19 followers
January 10, 2020
Imádom Esther Perelt. Annyira imádom Esther Perelt, hogy mindjárt viszonyt kezdek vele. Wait, what, no.

Próbálom visszafogni a lelkesedésemet a könyv iránt, és inkább valami értékelhető gondolatmenetet összerakni róla, hogy kicsit érthető legyen, miért is imádom ennyire.

Perel nem erre a fogalomra fűzi fel a könyvét, de nekem a paradoxon szó az, ami nagyon sokszor eszembe jutott az olvasás alatt. A párkapcsolat paradoxona, az affér paradoxona, a szerelem paradoxona, a házasság paradoxona.

Perel megjegyzi, hogy napjainkban, a nyugati társadalmunkban kevesebb dolgot tartunk akkora értéknek, mint a monogámiát, viszont sosem volt még kor, amiben többet gyakoroltunk volna a félrelépést, mint most. Mi következik ebből? A hűtlenséget tabusítjuk, úgy teszünk, mintha nem lenne, botrány- és pletykaszintre süllyesztjük, felháborodunk, ha csak szóbakerül, illetve elintézzük közhelyes szólamokkal. Esther Perel ezt a tabustátuszt döntögeti, azzal az egyszerű állítással, hogy ha már ennyire szeretünk hűtlenkedni, talán nem árt, ha beszélünk is róla egy kicsit.

Azzal kezdi a könyvet, hogy történelmi távlatba helyezi a párkapcsolatokat, csúnya szóval funkció szerint. Régen a házasságok elsősorban gazdasági, társadalmi társulások voltak, és a szerelmet, szenvedélyt általában nem ilyen kötelékben keresték az emberek.
De ma, a nyugati társadalmakban a szerelmi házasságok a legelterjedtebbek, viszont a gazdasági, társadalmi funkciók sem tűntek el. Mit jelent ez? Az a standard, hogy egy embertől várjuk a következőket: legyen a szerelmünk (ez a szerelem persze ne csökkenjen az évek folyamán), legyen a szeretőnk (persze a legszenvedélyesebb mindközül, akikkel addig dolgunk volt), legyen a legjobb barátunk (véletlenül se legyen az ő életében se olyan, akivel bizalmasabb, mint velünk), legyen a szülőpárunk, akivel tökéletesen neveljük tökéletes csemetéinket, legyen a lelki társunk, együtt fejlődjünk a spirituális utunkon, legyen gazdasági partnerünk, együtt alkossuk meg az anyagi biztonság felfelé ívelő görbéjét, legyen a támogatónk a saját önmegvalósításban, közben építse önmagát is, legyen intellektuális partner, és mondjuk szociálisan, társadalmilag is egyenlő fél legyen.

Csak ennyi, végül is egyáltalán nem nyomasztó ennyi tudattalan elvárást cipelni a hátunkon, tényleg.
Nyilván egy ember mindezen elvárásokat nem képes teljesíteni, mi a logikus megoldás erre? Egy affér! Wait, what, no.

Leegyszerűsítve, a párkapcsolat a paradoxona az, hogy egyszerre vágyunk a biztonságra és a kalandra. Az intimitásra és a szenvedélyre. A biztonság kiöli a kiszámíthatatlanságot, a szenvedélyben nincs tervezhetőség. És akkor lavírozgatunk ebben, épp milyen életszakaszban melyik a fontosabb, de ezek miatt az egymásnak ellentmondó igények miatt nagyon könnyű belecsúszni egy viszonyba.

Namost, dobálózunk ilyen szavakkal, hogy monogámia, megcsalás, affér. Perel arra is felhívja a figyelmet, hogy fontos tudni, ezek a szavak mindenkinek mást jelentenek. Még a monogámia is. (És akkor egyéb párkapcsolati formákról, mint nyitott kapcsolat, poliamoria, ne is beszéljük – de Perel beszél ezekről is, sőt arról is, hogy ezekben is előfordul hűtlenség.)

Perel a hűtlenséget három összetevővel jellemzi: titkolózás, szexuális vonzalom, érzelmi kötődés. A szerző szerint, ha legalább egy megjelenik, az hűtlenség.
Ezeket persze rugalmas kategóriaként kezeli, hangsúlyozva, hogy minden eset más és más.
Na, és talán ez az, amiért én annyira szerettem ezt a könyvet.

A hűtlenség kapcsán rengeteg szólam jött már velem szembe.
„Aki egyszer megcsal, máskor is meg fog csalni.”
„Az is tehet róla, akit megcsaltak.”
„A megcsalás csak tünet.”
„Ilyenkor a bizalom örökre elveszik, kár is próbálkozni.”

Engem ezek mindig idegesítettek, mert valahogy úgy éreztem, elkerülik a lényeget, leegyszerűsítenek nem leegyszerűsíthető helyzeteket.
Könnyebb lenne azt gondolnunk, hogy minden megcsalás ugyanolyan, mert ez valamiféle hamis biztonságérzetbe ringat minket: ha megcsalnak (vagy esetleg mi kerülünk megcsaló vagy épp szeretői pozícióba), elég elővenni ezeket a szólamokat, és máris tisztán fogunk látni. Hát, nem.
Perel végigveszi az összes szólamot, amit valaha hallottam a hűtlenség kapcsán, és nem arról van szó, hogy cáfolja őket, inkább árnyalja.

Perel egyik tételmondata az, hogy boldog kapcsolatokban is történik megcsalás. Ezen sokat gondolkodtam. Egyrészről megnyugtató: ha megcsaltak, nem biztos, hogy az én hibám, ezek szerint. Másrészről ijesztő: hát akkor nincs garancia? (Nincs, amúgy.)

A tavalyi Margó feszten volt egy beszélgetés a kötet kapcsán, ott hangzott el az, hogy úgy helyesebb lenne az állítás, hogy a funkcionáló kapcsolatokban is történik megcsalás. Boldog nem egyenlő funkcionáló.

De azt hiszem, ez még így sem teljesen pontos. Számomra értelmezhetetlen a „boldog párkapcsolat” szóösszetétel. Olyan, mintha azt mondanánk, hogy boldog otthon vagy boldog munkahely. Szerintem egy párkapcsolat nem tud boldog lenni, emberek tudnak boldogok lenni. Egy párkapcsolat önmagában még nem tesz boldoggá (ahogy egy otthon vagy egy munkahely sem), akkor sem, ha jól funkcionál. Boldogtalan, sérült emberek élhetnek jól funkcionáló, szeretetteljes kapcsolatban.

De tulajdonképpen Esther Perel is valami ilyesmit mond. A könyvben szerepel egy eset, amikor egy nő azzal érkezik Perelhez, hogy szeretője van, és szeretné megoldani ezt a helyzetet. És Perel leírja, hogy elkezdhettek volna ők kutakodni a nő házasságában, és biztosan találtak volna ott mindenféle dolgot, amit hónapokig lehet rágni, de érezte, itt nem ez a kulcs, hanem a kulcs a nőben van, az ő hiányairól, vágyairól szól ez az egész, aminek kevés köze van a férjéhez.

Szóval Esther Perel ilyen: sutba dobja a sémákat, egyenválaszokat, szólamokat és minden egyes helyzetet egyedinek kezel. Aki került már hűtlenségi szituációba, bármelyik oldalon, szinte biztos, hogy fog találni történetet a könyvben, ami rárímel a helyzetére, mert annyira sok esetet ismertet a szerző (egyébként ettől nagyon olvasmányos és valóságos a kötet: reeengeteg esetleírás van benne). Van, ahol az a kimenetel, hogy az elsődleges kapcsolat kiüresedett, szépen el kell válni. Van, ahol visszaépíthető a kapcsolat, csak valami félrecsúszott. És olyan is van, hogy az az üdvös út, ha a lezárt viszony ki sem derül. (Azért ez is mennyire merész üzenet, nem? A monogámia mellett az őszinteség is piedesztálon van, mint érték, és Esther Perel ennek ellenére ezt sem „szólamosítja”.)
Az, hogy nincsenek egyetemleges válaszok, egyszerre felszabadító és ijesztő is.

Persze, jogosan várjuk, még akkor is, ha nincsenek egyen megoldások, hogy Perel azért mondjon valami konklúziót... ha tényleg halott a monogámia, ebben a formában, akkor mégis mi van helyette? Na, ennek a fejezetnek az eleje kissé le is sokkolt, mert Perel ekkor kezdte el pedzegetni a poliamoriát, a nyitott kapcsolatokat. Valószínűleg ezt a könyvet sok olyan ember veszi kézbe, aki épp túl van egy viszonyon vagy épp kiderült, hogy megcsalták. Szeretne valami megnyugtatást, és akkor itt fejbekólintják azzal, hogy hát igen, babám, a hagyományos monogámiát elfelejtheted, mert úgysem működik, legyél inkább poliamor. Ez körülbelül olyan, mint amikor valaki eltöri a lábát, erre az orvos közli vele, hogy holnap indulnia kéne a maratonon.

Aztán azért árnyalódik ez a kép is, nyilván nem kell mindenkinek azonnal egy harmadikat fogadni a hitvesi ágyba vagy bérletet venni a swingerklubba. Perel itt is arra hívja fel a figyelmet, hogy minden kapcsolat más és más, és a kapcsolaton belül kell megtalálni a megoldásokat. Hoz jó pár példát is, hogy milyen irányokba lehet elindulni. Viszont azt is el kell fogadni, hogy aki párkapcsolatra adja a fejét, annak együtt kell élnie a bizonytalansággal. Ez az jelenti, nincs bizalom? Erre Perel azt mondja, hogy „a bizalom egy magabiztos kapcsolat az ismeretlennel”. „Egy erő, amely felvértez minket, hogy együtt tudjunk élni a bizonytalansággal és sebezhetőséggel.” Mennyire jó mondatok már ezek.

Perel konklúziója az, hogy a viszonyok működtető erőiből sokat lehet tanulni a saját vágyainkról, igényeinkről, olyan oldalainkról, amit esetleg elnyomtunk, elrejtettünk addig. Még akkor is lehet ezekből tanulni, ha sosem volt viszonyunk. Perel szerint egy viszony segíthet tudatosítani sok mindent az emberben, magáról, a kapcsolatáról, működési módjairól. Mint ahogy egy rákos megbetegedés sokszor rádöbbenti az embert, hogy mi is az igazán fontos neki az életben. De hogy Perel ajánlja-e a viszonyt egy ilyen önismereti út megkezdéséhez...? Csak amennyire azt ajánlja, hogy legyünk rákosok...:P

Szerintem ez egy egészen fantasztikus könyv, ajánlom megcsaltaknak, megcsalóknak, szeretőknek, monogámoknak, poliamoroknak, embereknek.
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews205 followers
August 8, 2022
Do you have a shelf for romance novels with Cheating Cheaters who are the worst of the worst? Do you think you know what all cheaters are like, or believe "once a cheater, always a cheater"?

Esther Perel counsels couples in the crisis of discovered adultery, both together and separately. And what she's learned is that nothing is as simple as the conclusions we all jump to about infidelity.

This was educational, insightful, and deeply empathetic. While having read this book will not ease the pain of learning that one's partner has been having an affair and lying and sneaking around, it may help people to communicate and to allow compassion for each other, and to avoid immediately deciding to end a long-term marriage that may be worth salvaging.

I applaud Esther Perel for being willing to write this book about a subject no one wants to think about, talk about, or admit an interest in (believe me, I felt weird reading it in public). And it may inspire you to talk more with your partner about what your expectations for monogamy are, and how you achieve them. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Maryna Ponomaryova.
494 reviews34 followers
December 2, 2018
(Зігрійте чаю бо це надовго)

Книга зацікавила спочатку обкладинкою. Що дивно. Тема зради для мене величезний триггер: наприклад, коли у фільмі або книзі є (яскраво передана) подружня зрада мені стає фізично погано, починає нудити, трусяться руки. Часто виходжу в іншу кімнату, закриваю книгу, виключаю фільм. До того ж, зважаючи на деякий досвід у житті, ця тема мені муляла довго і мені було важливо розібратися в ній і переосмислити.

Ця книга буде цікава як і тим кого зрадили, так і тим хто зраджував, і тим хто був «третьою особою», тим хто коли-небудь задумувався над тим як працюють немоногамні стосунки, як моногамія взагалі працює у суспільстві, як зрада впливає на людей, чому люди зраджують (навіть у відкритих стосунках), що є зрада взагалі, як із нею впоратися, як на нас впливають ревнощі, за які стосунки варто боротися і як це робити і так далі і так далі. Як би у мене була паперова книга і закладочки, вона б була вся утикана ними.

Далі цікаві факти/цитати:
- Іноді навіть коли зрада мала місце у фізичному плані, люди викручуються і не хочуть визнавати свою провину. Авторка наводить цілий список реальних «відмазок» із закінченням речення: «Це був не секс, бо... я навіть імені її не спитав/ жоден із нас не кінчив/ я був напідпитку/ я не отримав жодного задоволення/ я не пам'ятаю жодних подробиць/ в мене ніколи раніше не було сексу з особами цієї статі/ ніхто цього не бачив/ ми навіть не роздягалися/ одна нога була не на ліжку, а на підлозі». Смішно і сумно.
- Наше суспільство зараз настільки орієнтоване на особисті потреби, що ми можемо припуститися зради, вважаючи що маємо на це право - адже це наша висока і єдина мета - задовольняти власні потреби (навіть за рахунок інших).
- Хоча внаслідок зради ми можемо отримати деякий досвід, що допоможе нам сформувати себе, переосмислити наші цінності, стати сильнішими - авторка не радить вдаватися до зради так само як і не бажала б нікому пережити рак.
- Невірність - це пряма атака на одну з найважливіших психічних структур - нашу пам'ять про минуле. Зрада не тільки може зруйнувати майбутнє а й Вимальовує жирний знак питання над всією історією стосунків. Ми починаємо сумніватися у всьому що було, копирсаємося в історії питаємо себе де була наша половинка що вона думала коли ми були разом, чи взагалі щось відчувала і тд. Ми вже не можемо довіряти минулому і дивитися на щасливі фотографії не відчуваючи себе приниженими, пограбованими. «мабуть найбільша у світі зрада - викрадення в людини історії її життя»
- В різних культурних бекграундах зрада може зачіпати різні аспекти життя. На заході якщо тебе зрадили то твоя самооцінка різко падає, тоді як, наприклад, сенегальські жінки зазначили що жодна з них, через зраду чоловіка, не відчула втрати ідентичності. «бо на те вони і чоловіки, а не тому що їх дружини загадково неадекватні»
- Жінки, тепер вже більш фінансово незалежні, зраджують не менше чоловіків, чоловіки страждають не менше жінок.
- Сучасна модель суспільства вкладає у романтичного партнера дофігіща обов'язків і сподівань: задовольняти всі наші потреби, від сексуальних, інтелектуальних, до емоційних, до надання відчуття захисту, фінансової стабільності підтримування постійного інтересу і так далі. Це величезний тягар очікувань і тому ми неодмінно можемо бути розчаровані що проста каблучка не зробила нас щасливими. Раніше всі ці потреби можна було трохи перекласти на плечі інших людей у громаді, шлюби взагалі рідко були романтичні, тому зрада не вдаряла так жорстоко. Це було радше розчарування що чоловік полишить хату і жінка не зможе забезпечити сім'ю, або що жінка піде і не народить спадкоємця (або народить від іншого)
- Часто коли нас зраджують ми ідемо до найближчих друзів, і якщо вони вже знали про зраду, ми відчуваємо себе ще гірше, подвійно потрійно зрадженими. Якщо не знали, вони часто можуть не надати жодної нормальної підтримки, сказати «тобі треба іти від цієї людини негайно/я так і знав що він мудак/ або інші речі які зо��сім не допомагають, бо часто зраджений не може різко перестати любити ту або того з ким жив роки, просто хоче зрозуміти що робити, вилити емоції, знайти коріння і рішення проблеми, зрозуміти що відчуває і як рухатися далі.
- Коли ми ревнуємо, то страждаємо аж вчетверо гостріше: бо ревнуємо, бо відчуваємо себе винними через це, бо боїмося що наші ревнощі образять партнера, бо стаємо частиною звичного розвитку подій: тобто що нас виключають, що ми поводимося агресивно, що ми божевільні, і що ми банальні.
- В часи інтернету зрада може відчуватися ще гостріше коли ми знаходимо переписки і читаємо те, що партнер говорив про нас: ми чуємо історію від нього, про них, нередаговану для нас, і це може бути просто жахливо.
- Іноді якщо партнер відома людина у суспільстві або якщо є якісь інші чинники (малі діти, батьки), зраджений/а ще мусить за тиском обставин вигороджати її перед іншими, захищати її руйнуючи себе і це теж мега жахливо.
- Іноді найжахливішим нам здається те, наскільки сильно треба було партнеру брехати і планувати все, щоб не бути викритим - інші банківські рахунки, змова з друзями, брехня у малих деталях - під час яких партнер свідомо завдавав нам болю. Отже детально спланована зрада може завдати болю, але коли це стається мимовільно це теж дуже болюче «І ти змусив мене стільки страждати через щось що «не мало значення?»
- Фінансово залежні жінки можуть не мати вибору крім як терпіти (так і було цілу вічність)
- Коли партнер розказує нам про зраду, він зазвичай відчуває величезну провину і йому хочеться пошвидше закрити цю сторінку і рухатися далі, тоді як зраджений навпаки, вперше відкриває для себе цю історію з цього боку і йому просто необхід��о почути все в максимальній кількості деталей щоб змогти пережити цей досвід.
- Кожна зрада унікальна у своїх причинах і наслідках і коли ми все спрощуємо просто до «сексу і брехні» ми нікому не допомагаємо цим, адже є багато інших деталей що всі послужили маленькими пазликами історії в якій треба розібратися щоб почати терапію і шлях до зцілення.
- У нас забирають право голосу, право на захист: історії які наш партнер розказує про нас третій людині, ранять так само боляче як і сам акт.
Коли зрада вбиває наші майбутні плани, вона так само знецінює наші жертви які ми зробили заради кохання. Можливо ми відмовились від важливої роботи, або завели ще одну дитину і так далі, і тепер відчуваємо «відплату» і страждаємо.
- Коли ми зрадили і розповідаємо про це партнерові, маємо думати про те, кому ця сповідь більше буде потрібна. Іноді ми просто перекладаємо на них свій бруд. (Наведена історія жінки яка мучиться подвійно, через те що стала вдовою, і через те що на смертному одрі чоловік зізнався їй у зраді).
- Навіть у відкритих стосунках зрада трапляється, бо часто її рушієм є просто прагнення мати якийсь секрет, побути іншою людиною, побачити іншу сторону себе.

І взагалі дуже багато всього ще крутого і вартого переосмислення.
Скажу ще, що укр переклад ок (крім назви), але в оригіналі просто мед на душу.
Profile Image for Andreea Chiuaru.
Author 1 book762 followers
August 14, 2022
Cartea asta mi-a schimbat perspectiva 🤯

E genul de carte pe care nu as fi citit-o când eram într-o relație. Cum adică sa "regandesti infidelitatea"?

Am ajuns la Esther Perel prin "Inteligenta erotica", acum 3 luni. Iar la Cluj, într-o librărie mi-a sărit în ochi cartea asta. Sigur am mai trecut pe lângă ea de 336363 de ori. Doar ca nu a fost momentul ei. Nu as fi acceptat-o măcar, ce sa mai zic de a o înțelege.

Câteva idei cu care am rezonat 👇

"Toata lumea vrea sa știe cât la suta dintre oameni își înșală partenerul. Dar aceasta este o întrebare dificila pentru ca, mai întâi, trebuie sa răspunzi la o alta: ce înseamnă a insela? (...)"

"Odată ce l-am găsit pe El/am găsit-o pe Ea suntem de părere ca nu ar mai trebui sa existe nicio nevoie, nicio dorința, nicio atracție pentru altcineva. (...) contractele noastre de închiriere sunt mult mai complexe decât contractele relaționale. Pentru multe cupluri, discuția consta maximum în cinci cuvinte: dacă te prind, ești mort."

"Este ironic faptul ca unii oameni vor minimaliza implicarea emotionala pentru a reduce delictul (Nu a însemnat nimic!), în timp ce alții vor sublinia natura emotionala a legăturii, exact cu același scop (Nu s-a întâmplat nimic!)"

"Pe vremuri, monogamia înseamnă o persoana pentru toată viata. În ziua de azi, monogamia înseamnă o persoana acum, apoi alta, apoi alta."

"Așteptările noastre privind căsătoria nu au fost niciodată mai mari ca în zilele noastre. Vrem în continuare tot ce trebuia sa ofere familia tradițională - siguranță, copii, proprietate, respectabilitate - dar acum vrem și ca partenerul sa ne iubească, sa ne dorească, sa fie interesat de noi. Trebuie sa fim cei mai buni prieteni, confident de încredere și amanți pasionali. (...) Vrem ca alesul nostru/aleasa noastră sa ne asigure stabilitate, siguranță, previzibilitate și sa fie de încredere. Și vrem ca aceeași persoana sa ne uimească, sa ne ofere mister, aventura și risc. Dă-mi confort și dă-mi tot ce mai bun. Dă-mi lucruri pe care le știu și dă-mi noutate. Dă-mi continuitate și dă-mi suprize. Îndrăgostiții din ziua de azi cauta sa aducă sub același acoperiș dorințe care s-au aflat întotdeauna în zone diferite."

"In societatea noastră de consum, cheia este noutatea. Durata de viata este programata, astfel încât sa ne provoace dorința de a le înlocui, iar cuplul nu face excepție de la aceste tendințe. Trăim într-o cultura care ne ademenește continuu cu promisiunea a ceva mai bun, mai nou, mai plin de viata. Prin urmare, nu divorțam pentru ca suntem nefericiți, ci pentru ca ne gândim ca am putea fi mai fericiți decât în prezent."
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
December 15, 2017
I'm a huge fan of Perel's super realistic view of marriage. I've been following her work and this book did not disappoint. I know she's a sex therapist and so her focus on sex obviously makes sense and when you are a researcher focused on one thing, you tend to think that that thing is the most important thing. But I wish she had given a more holistic view of marriage apart from the sex/desire angle. Because I think this is part of the problem with some of our modern thinking about a marriage that has to provide all things, which is an issue she highlights. But yet she keeps coming back to the importance of desire and sex as though it is of central importance. That is a culturally specific view.
Profile Image for Anamaria.
49 reviews
November 6, 2017
"No woman should give any man the power to shatter her romantic ideals."
Profile Image for Kitty.
1,130 reviews76 followers
March 3, 2021
see on küll üks raamat, mida soovin, et oleksin kaua aega tagasi lugenud. mitte isegi niivõrd truudusemurdmise kontekstis, aga sellepärast, kuidas siin üldiselt abielust ja püsisuhetest räägitakse - pannes nad laiemasse (ajaloolisse ja kultuurilisse) konteksti, kust paistab hästi välja, kuidas järsku viimase paari inimpõlve jooksul oleme otsustanud hakata ootama üheltainsalt inimeselt oma elus seda, mida läbi ajaloo on pakkunud terve kogukond ja erinevad inimesed. ja siis imestame, kui pikapeale ikkagi päris kõike ei saa. sest mis mõttes, meil on ju õigus isiklikule õnnele.

vastuseid ja lahendusi siit justkui ei leiagi väga palju. on juhtumite ja olukordade kirjeldused ja konkreetsete paaride lood, mis kokku annavad ikkagi pildi, et: 1) varem või hiljem on igas suhtes puudujääke (ja enamasti jääb puudu just kirest), 2) petetakse ka väga heades suhetes. petetakse isegi avatud, polüamoorsetes jne suhetes! you can't win!

kindlasti kavatsen Pereli eelmist raamatut "Mating in Captivity" ka nüüd lugeda, sest tundub, et sealt saab ehk isegi mingeid konkreetsemaid näpunäiteid kogu selle sasipuntra lahendamiseks. aga kui ka ei saa, siis vast ikka seda lohutust, et: asi pole minus, me teeme kogu ühiskonnana asju veidi veidralt.
Profile Image for Matthew Jordan.
71 reviews53 followers
December 27, 2022
I really like Esther Perel. I think I’ve listened to all of the couples therapy sessions on her podcast. I am not well-versed with the couples therapist scene, but I feel like she surely must be one of the best French therapist-podcaster-author in the game right now, right?

I’ve learned a lot from Perel over the past couple years, and much of it was summed up in this book. The most interesting part of the story, for me, was the fact that romantic relationships now play an outsized role in our sense of self. The story is something like this: back in the day, marriage served many purposes, including: strategic family alliances, merging material assets, setting up people who seem compatible, strengthening community ties, and maybe, if you’re very lucky, love and emotional intimacy. In the 21st century, we’ve stripped away all of those other reasons to get married, and we’ve also transformed our society from deeply communal—living in close proximity, around family all the time, with lives mediated by religious organizations or shared work spaces—to highly atomized.

As a result, marriage is now just about two individuals’ compatibility. It’s about emotional attunement, desire, sexual chemistry, fulfilling another’s deep needs, learning their love languages, being their primary support system, having an intellectual equal, and much more. In the absence of a community or broader social system to contain the marriage, the relationship is exclusively about the two people within it, and therefore factors enormously into their sense of purpose and self in life. Who we date becomes a matter of personal identity and expression. When relationships end, it can feel like the most important part of our lives has been stripped away. And because relationships are often so stripped of community, it can feel that all of the burden of that relationship ending is borne by the two people in it. Oof. No wonder these things are fraught.

(Side-note: is this feminism’s fault? Perel seems to suggest so? She says something like “Western women are more emancipated, but more of their self-worth is tied up in relationships.” I really do not know how to feel about this.)

A related idea is that we simply demand too much of our partners. In many 21st century relationships, our partner needs to be our best friend, our therapist, our co-parent, our logistics coordinator, our lover, and our primary emotional support. Plus, we all live twice as long as we used to. So this one person has to be our everything, forever, where “forever” is like until age 97. PLUS we now have access to the best parts of everyone else’s relationships through social media, and an infinite supply of potential alternative partners through dating apps. We have the option to constantly wonder whether we could be happier, and the possibility of lifelong optionality.

All of this feels pretty untenable. No wonder people cheat! It seems there are a number of ways out of this situation. One that’s increasingly popular is polyamory. Personally, I am skeptical, but I’ve got nothing but respect for the people who do it successfully. The other solution is simply to ask less of our romantic relationships. In an ideal world, we would surround ourselves with vibrant, nurturing communities and tight, close-knit friendships. Our relationships would be embedded in a broader web of strong and loose ties. Entering a romantic partnership would cease to feel like shopping around for the perfect product, which we then take to the repair shop (Esther Perel’s couch) when it’s not giving us the results we’d hoped. Or maybe, I dunno, we do arranged marriages? Or find someone whose family’s assets merge well with our own? (Disclaimer: I am single and therefore have no leg to stand on here.)

Another key idea that comes up often in Perel’s work is that sometimes it’s good to not know everything about your partner. We’ve somehow gotten it in our heads that healthy relationships are rooted in total transparency. But Perel suggests (especially in her previous book, Mating in Captivity) that eroticism is rooted in uncertainty, the dance between proximity and distance, the vulnerability of desire. These things are very difficult when you are sharing a bathroom and credit card and medical insurance with someone. In fact, says Perel, one of the main reason people have affairs in the first place is because they want to sleep with someone who has absolutely nothing to do with the other parts of their life (which they are generally happy with!).

This also seems like a lesson that was very salient in the second season of The White Lotus (spoiler alert!!). We initially view Harper and Ethan as a healthier couple than Cameron and Daphne becaus they are honest and transparent with each other, and more importantly, they don’t cheat (even though their sex life has fizzled). But then by the end of the series, we cannot help but wonder whether the extramarital shenanigans were actually the spark that rekindled Ethan & Harper’s relationship.

This book was good, but is really worth reading as one entry in a much larger oeuvre that includes Perel’s podcast (Where Should We Begin) and her other book. I think that these things paint a combined picture of a worldview about cheating and relationships that feels worthwhile to understand. It’s a non-judgemental portrait of the reasons people cheat and the ways that cheating can both destroy and empower relationships. This book equipped me with the language and tools to understand why people cheat, led me to be more sympathetic to more styles of relationship, opened my eyes to why romantic relationships today are so deeply tied to the core of our identities, and showed me there could be another way.
Profile Image for Victoria.
234 reviews3 followers
December 13, 2018
Thought her ideas were interesting -- reminded me of conversations in college sociology and gender comm classes about marriage etc. But the format of the book was not for me. Way too many examples, not very much data. Also some quotations pulled out of context and some pretty sweeping generalizations about different cultures. I could've gotten the idea in an essay or article.
Profile Image for Yuliya Yurchuk.
Author 9 books50 followers
June 9, 2019
Книжка читаєтсья як антропологічна розвідка про зраду з купою прикладів з практики авторки. Про неї я напиисала дуже детальний огляд ось тут:
Profile Image for Cherniakhivska.
237 reviews20 followers
June 10, 2021
Дуже цікава книжка. Про те, чому часто секс із часом згасає в шлюбі, з яких причин люди можуть шукати коханців, як ситуацію може сприймати інший партнер, як роман на стороні може зруйнувати шлюб або навпаки розвинути його. Авторка ні про що не каже як про однозначно хороше чи погане, просто показує різні варіанти: "буває так і так, і ще так", хоча все ж помітно ставить моногамію під питання.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,404 reviews2,364 followers
September 2, 2019
I remembering watching Esther Perel's TedTalk on infidelity and loving it so much even though I am not married or was ever in an affair. I started listening to her podcast Where Should We Begin? and I devoured the two seasons. I cannot get over real and important that podcast and this book is.

As Perel puts it, "this is not just a book about infidelity... I hope to engage you, the reader, in an honest, enlightened, and provocative exploration of modern relationships in their many variations. Enlightened I am. Perel really gave an insightful look into modern relationships not just marriage. I think everyone should read this book because there is something for everyone in this book- especially if you are considering marriage. I liked that Perel spoke about couples who get married without having a conversation about what fidelity looks like for them etc.

One thing that really stood out for me and a point I cannot shut up about is this Infidelity is a direct attack on one of our most important psychic structures: our memory of the past. It not only hijacks a couple’s hopes and plans but also draws a question mark over their history. If we can’t look back with any certainty and we can’t know what will happen tomorrow, where does that leave us?

A book I cannot stop recommending.
Profile Image for Emmy.
77 reviews
January 1, 2018
Our partners do not belong to us; they are only on loan, with an option to renew—or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment; rather, it mandates an active engagement that long-term couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency, in the most positive sense.

First read of this year and my conclusion is this – everyone should read this book. Regardless of your age, gender, relationship status, sexual orientation, previous experiences - if you are a human being you should read this book.
Profile Image for David.
579 reviews137 followers
May 22, 2023
There is a great deal of variation here in how infidelity/affairs take place and then play out. This book does an admirable job of showing how this can lead to a failed marriage/disaster or a rebuilding. The author has the experience necessary to proper listen to counsel these various clients (different countries too) to help them through these tough times.

By the time they go to counseling, usually one of the partners (that recently discovered the affair) is still quite angry, while the other partner was usually living a double-life for a fairly long period of time. And don't forget how the third-party here gets impacted too.

If you've had an affair, or known anyone who has, their example is probably in these pages.

These stories make a critical point - many affairs are less about sex than about desire: the desire to feel desired, to feel special, to be seen and connected, to compel attention.

The constraints of monogamy can induce panic. In a world of endless options, we struggle with what my millennial friends call FOMO - the fear of missing out. The minute we get what we want, our expectations and desires tend to rise, and we end up not feeling any happier.

We used to get married and have sex for the first time. Now we get married and we stop having sex with others.

When marriage was an economic arrangement, infidelity threatened our economic security; today marriage is a romantic arrangement and infidelity threatens our emotional security.

We have a nostalgia for unlived lives, unexplored identities, and roads not taken.

The honeymoon phase is special in that it brings together the relief of reciprocated love with the excitement of a future still to be created. What we often don't realize is that the exuberance of the beginning is fueled by its undercurrent of uncertainty. We set out to make love more secure and dependable, but in the process, inevitably we dial down its intensity.

I often say to my patients that if they could bring into their relationships even a tenth of the boldness, the playfulness, and the verve that they bring to their affairs, their home life would feel quite different.

Tell me how you were loved and I will know a lot about how you make love.

I listened to the audiobook. The author read it. Her accented English made it hard to increase the speed of playback at all. A regular book with this person reading and I would have returned the audiobook quickly and gone with the hard-copy. I recommend the hard-copy for yet another reason - that of highlighting/taking notes - since this is a very informative nonfiction book.

Profile Image for Devina Heriyanto.
371 reviews213 followers
August 9, 2021
We have a set of assumptions about relationships and those who cheat, and more often than not, we condemn cheaters and refuse to hear any explanation. Through this book, Esther Perel wants us to have a conversation that we most certainly won't by the time an affair has taken place: to listen to the cheater's story and understand the reasons behind the transgression, so that we might have compassion or forgiveness, if not radical transformation in the relationship altogether.

Perel, who's a relationship therapist, has sat down with countless people who have been affected by an affair, from the cheater, the victim, to the other woman/man. She argues that while cheating is an unilateral move by one party in the relationship, in most cases, everyone is responsible for the context from which the affair arises. Dubbed as the symptom theory, an affair is a wake up call for the couple that shakes them out of domestic stupor.

Another interesting point from the book is that an affair reveals says more about the person than the relationship itself. It's not only in the sense that when we're depressed or grieving that we make poor choices that lead to the affairs, but also in the sense that our upbringing shapes our views on relationships, loves, and emotional intimacy so greatly that we behave a certain way in a relationship. When you look at a serial cheater, it's better to understand where they're coming from than to simply pass judgement on what they've done.

If it's not obvious already, the book changes my mind about relationship and infidelity. Not only does the author emphasize on compassion instead of judgment when it comes to infidelity, she also establishes quickly that our notion of relationship and marriage has changed drastically throughout the time. Previously, a marriage is a practical affair and not necessarily an emotional one, but now we put so much meaning and weight to a relationship or marriage, that once a crack shows up in the supposedly ideal person or connection, the whole castle crumbles down.

Perhaps, one of the most important takeaways from the book is this: "The One" is a person too, who is as flawed and capricious as you are. It's easy to pass judgement on someone else's behavior, but understanding the reasoning behind the action without falling to mere justification can help us build a stronger relationship in the long run.
Profile Image for Emily.
79 reviews4 followers
April 22, 2021
4.5 stars. I dove into this book to explore my own values and assumptions about infidelity and relationships, especially as a way to give me language to discuss what is important and fearful about marriage as we know it today. I just loved how it opened my mind to giving grace, curiosity, and clarity to marriage, and I love the emphasis on clear communication. For me, the realization that almost every relationship develops the patchwork of its boundaries and assumptions by “trial and error” seemed to be the most human and meaningful way to put it.
Profile Image for Rachel.
582 reviews68 followers
January 22, 2018
A really interesting look at infidelity, through a lens of compassion and wisdom.
Profile Image for Allan Aksiim.
84 reviews14 followers
February 7, 2022
Raamat koosneb lugudest. Mõned neist lõppevad hästi ja mõned mitte. Ses osas on ta väga eluline ja aus ning Pereli pikk terapeudikogemus annab tunda - näiteid ühe või teise olukorra ilmestaks on hulgi. Vahel võiks tunduda, et neid liiga palju aga kuidagi on neid täpselt parajalt.

Mõtteainest leiab siit palju. Läbi nende lugude ja Pereli soovituste on mingisugune juhis liikumaks läbi olukordade, mille eelnevad põlvkonnad pigem vaikisid maha. Eraldiseisvalt meeldis, et oli ära toodud armukese perspektiiv - tihti ära unustatud "teine naine", kes võibki jääda ootama et armusuhtest midagi enamat saaks.

Lõpupoole (eelviimases peatükis) oli ka vähemtraditsiooniliste suhtevormide ülevaade, polüamooria erinevad kombinatsioonid, avatud suhted ja nendega kaasnevad väljakutsed.

Üldiselt pani reflekteerima küll. Võiks nagu arvata, et see oleks selline raamat "oh oleks ma seda 10 aastat tagasi lugenud!" aga tegelikult ei ole sest ma ei usu, et ma tollal oleks nendes asjades nii sisuliselt suutnud kaasa mõelda. Elu tuleb elada, armuda ja irduda, armastada ja lahkneda ja kui hästi läheb siis õpib sellest.
Profile Image for Miri.
165 reviews82 followers
November 24, 2017
I came to this book with some friendly skepticism; I’d heard Esther Perel on several podcasts I listen to and I found her engaging and thoughtful, but as a therapist I was a bit turned off by her use of outdated Freudian concepts. However, this book was very light on the Freud. I loved how seamlessly Perel wove in her anonymized patients’ stories along with her own theory and observations. She didn’t cite much research or anything like that, but she didn’t need to, because this is a book about new ways of looking at things, not about the psychology or sociology of affairs.

I was also delighted that Perel included plenty of stories from LGBTQ individuals/couples, and also paid keen attention to race, ethnicity, and other factors when discussing her patients. There was also an entire chapter at the end about nonmonogamy and how it can and can’t prevent violations of trust in relationships. So few therapists/authors dealing with sex and relationships include these topics in a culturally competent way, and Perel did so brilliantly.
Profile Image for Anna.
245 reviews61 followers
January 20, 2021

Since I have already professed my love and admiration for Esther Perel, I will only say that this is yet another book of hers that is worth reading for anyone who is in a relationship.

I've always wondered how people manage to maintain long-term relationships and Perel in this book explores what happens when one of the partners actually strays. Spoiler alert: affair is not always about the relationship and it doesn't have to lead to the break-up of the said relationship.

The book outlines the various reasons for why affairs might happen, how culpability can look like not only for those transgressing but also for those who are being transgressed on, who are the various parties involved and what are the potential outcomes that an affair might have.

I've learned a lot and, hopefully, internalized some useful advice.
Profile Image for Caleb.
145 reviews106 followers
February 20, 2021
I'm familiar with several colleagues who have served as paramours and mistresses. Having a front row seat to the outcomes really matched some of the very stories shared by Perel's counseling sessions. This book goes to the root cause of various reasons given for affairs, the discovery process, and how to cope or depart afterwards. I will start listening to Perel's podcast after reading this work.
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