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The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  7,416 ratings  ·  793 reviews
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 tabo
...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Harper
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Leah I'd disagree with the other reviewers a bit; for the most part the relationships studied in this book are heterosexual relationships. I believe there'…moreI'd disagree with the other reviewers a bit; for the most part the relationships studied in this book are heterosexual relationships. I believe there's on mention of a pair of gay men, and maybe a similar pair of lesbians. But there's definitely not much discussion of problems of infidelity surrounding gender identity (zero...). For the most part the relationships discussed are heterosexual in model. I do not say this as a criticism, because I think many "queer" relationships end up being heterosexual in model, and many "queers" can learn a lot from reading this book, but really this is a pretty mainstream book. If you want to figure out what cheating on your polyamorous queer non-binary girlfriend means, uh, you can start with this book, but you won't get any prescriptions or indicative discussion. (less)

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Trish
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, sexuality
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 adv
...more
Thomas
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
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 i ...more
Warwick
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sex, psychology, ebooks
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 dis ...more
Liina Bachmann
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favorites
How very limited is our vocabulary and emotional intelligence when it comes to infidelity. Quick to use the stereotyped responses and to protect the romantic ideal that, let's be honest, the 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 refreshin
...more
Joe
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, audiobook, favorites
"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 Shoul
...more
Stephanie
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, 2017, september
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.
Heather
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 an ...more
Brendan Monroe
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, come
...more
Lexi
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
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).
Mehrsa
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 th ...more
Emmy
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, 2018, 5
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
...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Whenever I hear from people about their affairs, I’m reminded of what the author says to not condemn, but not condone, as we compassionately understand but without justifying (p.7). In the past, affairs made me cringe, but now they make me see pain, as some of them are under depression and contemplate suicide.

This book is very well written, beautifully written. I was willing to put away any form of entertainment this evening so I could hear the author talk, share her beautiful stories, her own i
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Anamaria
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
"No woman should give any man the power to shatter her romantic ideals."
Rachel León
A really interesting look at infidelity, through a lens of compassion and wisdom.
Victoria
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
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.
Miri
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 n ...more
Celine
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I appreciate the way Esther Perel has sought to truly understand her clients. I'd like to be able to channel her level of empathy and insight someday. We'd likely all be better partners if more of us did the type of self-reflection and -exploration Perel encourages in The State of Affairs. Often easier said than done though, I think.
Book
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-science
The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel

“The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” is a provocative exploration of the many facets of the uneasy topic of infidelity. Best-selling author and psychotherapist Esther Perel takes the reader on a journey that addresses the pain and destruction of betrayal as well as the thrill and self-discovery inherent in transgression. This stimulating 341-page book includes fifteen chapters broken out into the following four parts: I. Settin
...more
Liza Fireman
This is a book about infidelity, but the interesting thing is that Perel spent so much time with couples and tells so many stories, that it is very diverse on points of view. Betrayal has many stages, from hurt, to anger and so much more. And the time and digestion of what happens is critical to make any decision going forward. Perel is talking about these feelings, and about anger, and revenge and even about being freed from a non-working relationship. And of course, about different types of re ...more
Wendy (bardsblond)
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-nonfiction
Esther Perel's decades of experience as a clinician are put to good use in this book, which examines the role of infidelity in our lives and what we can learn from it.

"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
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Although the point of this book is to broadly examine the phenomenon of infidelity, what I enjoyed most were the anecdotes that gave an unusually intimate glimpse of many relationships.

"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 marr
...more
David Manley
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Fairly repetitious but makes some interesting points. I found she made many astute observations but repeated those same observations a lot. Quite insightful but I found I read the same ideas slightly reworded over and over.
BookOfCinz
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.
...more
Gabriella
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
I was incredibly challenged by The State of Affairs, which was surprising as I'm nowhere near marriage or an affair. This bears witness to Esther Perel's main idea: everyone owes it to themselves and their loved ones to negotiate their romantic relationships, even before infidelity becomes an issue.

If you've heard Perel's TED talk or appearances on The Longest Shortest Time & Dear Sugar, she has *so* much more to say in The State of Affairs! Even if relationship therapy books aren't really your
...more
Jef Wallican
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Best non-fictional book about relationships I've ever read. Esther writes so clearly which makes this book so easy and fun to read. I've learnt so much in this book, these pages are full of knowledge.
rhodeswarrior
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. Completely non-judgemental, a lot of interesting perspectives and a wealth of 'real world' data. To top it off it's also very well structured and written. Highly recommended, a truly interesting read!
Kristal
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book from Goodreads. This book should be read by everyone in a serious relationship or maybe before marriage. Very thoughtful and full of insight.
Rachel Croce
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
So, I appreciate Perel - her ability to expand and challenge what tends to seem limiting ways of being. She is a great clinician and goes to dark places that
people tend to be very closed-off from. However, I found that there were some contradictions in this text. And, to be honest, I think she dismisses what could possibly be deeper discomforts we tend to avoid when we don’t have healthy or secure attachments in our relationships. She doesn’t address the power imbalances of the married and 3rd
...more
Azita Rassi
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Getting used to Ms. Perel’s accent took me a while, but the ideas and guidelines were interesting and to some extent original.
Hans
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opener as far as affairs, eroticism and sex are concerned. With some fresh thoughts and ideas. Insightful! And so very recognizable! Sometimes it's as if I'm reading about myself!
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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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Summer is a great time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked five of the season’s hottest myst...
19 likes · 15 comments
“We expect one person to give us what once an entire village used to provide, and we live twice as long.” 18 likes
“The “symptom” theory goes as follows: An affair simply alerts us to a preexisting condition, either a troubled relationship or a troubled person.” 9 likes
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