Monday, July 14, 2014

Erotic Intelligence and Esther Perel

I became an immediate fan of Esther Perel when I saw her TED Talk on intimacy and eroticism. She is just so wise—and studied—about what keeps a relationship sexy. She is a family therapist and she serves on the faculty of the International Trauma Studies Association at Columbia so her research and thinking go much deeper than sex. But then, is anything deeper than sex?

I’ve been re-reading her book, “Mating in Captivity” (Harper Collins, 2006) and this is definitely one for the bedside table, and one for every book group—women or mixed.

What is crucial to understand is that Perel is not giving sex tips. This is not content for Cosmopolitan readers (though I am a huge fan of uber-feminist Helen Gurley Brown). No, Perel is talking about our attitudes toward our lives and our deeper selves, and how we think about our mates and our relationships—that is the core of true sensuality, sexuality and eroticism.

In a chapter on monogamy she writes about a couple --Philip and Jackie--who are in the blahs. She leads the chapter with a discussion of the law of diminishing returns and how that tells us that increased frequency leads to decreased satisfaction. The car, house, handbag or job are always worth more to us before we have them and over time…well, the blahs.

As she moves on to address this as it applies to love Perel says, “The logic of this argument breaks down when it is applied to love, for it is based on the erroneous assumption that we can own a person in the same way that we can own an iPod or a new pair of Prada heels. When Jackie said, “Perhaps I only want what I can’t have, I responded, “What makes you think you can have your husband?”

And she continues with this crucial statement:

“The grand illusion of committed love is that we think our partners are ours. In truth, their separateness is unassailable, and their mystery is forever ungraspable. As soon as we begin to acknowledge this, sustained desire becomes a real possibility.”

That is a gem worth pasting inside the cupboard where you reach for your coffee mug each morning.

If you’d like more of Esther Perel here is the link to her TED Talk:

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