Esther Perel on Affairs

Slate interview with Esther Perel about how happiness in a marriage ≠ no affairs.

Not sure if I agree with author Hanna Rosin that we are in a “golden age of marriage” (see here), but this interview with Esther Perel is nonetheless chock full of interesting concepts.

Here’s a taste:

They are longtime monogamists who one day cross a line into a place they never thought they would go. They remain monogamous in their beliefs, but they experience a chasm between their behavior and their beliefs.

So what’s going on here? Does this mean a re-adjustment of beliefs might be in order?

Very often we don’t go elsewhere because we are looking for another person. We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become. … That’s why an affair is such an erotic experience. It’s not about sex, it’s about desire, about attention, about reconnecting with parts of oneself you lost or you never knew existed. It’s about longing and loss. But the American discourse is framed entirely around betrayal and trauma.

Perhaps we could continue to experience the benefits of being with someone else but eliminate the lying and deceit? With agreed-upon non-monagmy, this excitement and renewing of one’s self is possible without lying to one’s partner(s) about it. Or would that inherently undermine what you get from the affair? Are the benefits precisely because you are lying and sneaking around?

We have this weird fixation that to desire and to be with more than one person romantically or sexually suggests that there is something wrong with you or your relationship(s). Let’s forget about affairs for a moment — even within an agreed-upon non-monogamous relationship, there is still a perception that you wouldn’t need to have multiple partners unless there is something missing from or wrong with your relationship(s).

Perel’s breakthrough:

I make a distinction between cheating and non-monogamy. Cheating is about a violation of a contract. People misunderstand me because they think I’m saying affairs are OK. No! But I do think examining monogamy is our next frontier.

To boldly go where no man has before! Except, erm… we have already gone there.


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