the fact that monogamy has nothing to do with love.
(Overview: 3 minute read / The Atlantic article: 17 minutes / TED talk: 21 minutes – all worth your time)
“It is our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person.” – Marcel Proust
A must-read for “anyone who has ever loved.” That’s almost all of us.
Esther Perel is writing for, and talking to, almost all of us. And yet, it’s been more than three years since her New York Times bestselling book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, was published and only a fraction of us have read it. This, despite the fact that over half of us have been on one side or the other of infidelity. At the very least, all of us in this unfortunate – but universally common – situation should read this book.
Reading this tour de force is as addictive as having an affair. But more enlightening. Perel answers many unsettling questions:
- What does fidelity mean to us and why is it important?
- Is it possible to love more than one person at once?
- Can we learn to trust each other again?
- Does passion have a finite shelf life?
- How do we heal?
“Perel proposes a radically new way of thinking about infidelity.” – Globe and Mail
To help get you started on an incredible path of discovery, we’re suggesting these three options:
- A riveting article from The Atlantic by Esther Perel, adapted from the book (17 min read) .
- A riveting TED talk by Esther Perel (21:30 min).
- The book itself (at Love & Sexcess Bookstore – 20% off)
“How do we reconcile what is universally forbidden, yet universally practiced.”
Invest in your relationship – perhaps save it.
As the old saw goes, “The book is better than the movie” (TED talk), but the movie is a blockbuster (posted below). In just 21 minutes, Esther Perel will change your perspective on infidelity from both sides – unless you insist on clinging to your ignorance. Whether you or your partner have had an affair, are having one, or going to have one, this article, the TED talk and the book could be the best investment of your time, your relationship, your life.
Perel says that when asked if she is ‘for or against’ affairs her answer is, “Yes.” She adds, “I look at affairs from a dual perspective. Hurt and betrayal on one side; growth and self-discovery on the other. What it did to you and what it meant to me.” There are two-sides to the story and to her narrative. It’s fascinating and illuminating.
Once you view the TED talk and read The Atlantic article, you will understand the depth and breadth of Perel’s command of this universal behavior. The Sunday Times said, “Esther Perel is widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on marriage.” She knows what she’s talking about and if you can pick up even a portion of it, you will grow.
“Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal. It shatters the grand ambition of love.”
It’s not you, it’s me … and ‘the Bible tells me so’
Perel, in emphasizing the need to understand infidelity, humorously claims, that it is the only subject covered by two of the Christian Bible’s Ten Commandments: #7–Though shalt not commit adultery; #10 Though shalt not covet.
Much of her explanation has to do with the individual having the affair, and because infidelity has little to do with – sometimes nothing – marital dysfunction, she delves into the inner self – you the perpetrator, not your partner the victim. Because it’s rooted in a person’s deep emotional needs. It could be an unfulfilled history or “a quest for a new (or lost) identity” or a “thirst for otherness.”
Sure, some issues in the relationship (i.e., lack of sex, money problems, loneliness, stress) may trigger behavior but that doesn’t mean they lead to an affair. As she said to one of her clients, “I think this is about you, not your marriage.” She goes on to explain that the affair is “neither symptom nor a pathology; it’s a crisis of identity, an internal rearrangement of her [his] personality.”
She explores the “unexplored self” and the need for the wrong-doers to create a “parallel universe” in which they try to recover some portion of “unlived lives, unexplored identities and roads not taken.”
“So often, the most intoxicating “other” that people discover in an affair is not a new partner; it’s a new self.”
The other side – some good news
Perel tells stories of how “adultery is the revenge of deserted possibilities,” and how and why we break the rules and cross perilous boundaries. And yet, despite all her work and insight, she admits there are no telltales as to how a couple will handle the exposing of infidelity. What she does have is an abundance of knowledge and understanding as to why we cheat, even when we appear to have a wonderful and happy relationship. She asks, “Is it possible to love more than one person?” She talks about the psychological effect of culture and childhood and offers an enlightened and honest assessment of one of the most traumatic events that can turn our life upside down.
“Some relationships collapse upon the discovery of a fleeting hookup. Others exhibit a surprisingly robust capacity to bounce back even after extensive treachery.”
She leaves us with a treasure trove of “investigative questions” and fills our mind and heart with insight understanding and, with effort on our part, a strengthened emotional intelligence that can better deal with infidelity – if and when it tries to rip asunder our relationship.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”– Confucius
If you are to read only one book on relationships, this is it – of course, it should be one of many. We should all adhere to Confucius’s quote, and Esther Perel goes along way in helping breakthrough our relationship, sexual and inner-self ignorance.
“Love is messy; infidelity, more so.”
Read full article, Why Happy People Cheat at The Atlantic >>
Read The State of Affairs Book Review >>