The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel) (#241)

(On conventional marriage)“If Apple sold you a product that failed 50% of the time, would you buy it?”

– Esther Perel

I’ve wanted to speak with psychotherapist Esther Perel (@estherperel) for years.

In a cover story, The New York Times called her the most important game changer in sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth.

Her TED talks on maintaining desire and rethinking infidelity have more than 17 million views, and she’s tested and been exposed to everything imaginable in thirty-four years of running her private therapy practice in New York City.

In this episode, Esther and I explore:

  • How to find (and convince) mentors who can change your life.
  • What she’s learned from Holocaust survivors.
  • Polyamory and close cousins.
  • Is there such a thing as too much honesty in relationships?
  • Can we want what we already have?
  • Why do happy people cheat?
  • And much more.

Esther is the author of the international bestseller Mating in Captivity, which has been translated into 26 languages. Fluent in nine of them (I’ve heard her in person), this Belgian native now brings her multicultural pulse to her new book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (October 2017, Harper Collins).

Her creative energy is right now focused on co-creating and hosting an Audible original audio series, Where Should We Begin.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#241: The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel)

Want to hear another episode about relationships? — Listen to my interview with Astro and Danielle Teller. In this conversation — my first podcast with a couple — we cover focus on something I haven’t personally figured out: relationships. It’s important to note that the Tellers are not “for” marriage but, rather, “for” the freedom to decide how to live most honestly and happily, whether as part of a couple or as a single person (stream below or right-click here to download):

#77: What Do Google X, Medicine, and Great Relationships Have In Common?

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This podcast is also brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years, and I love audiobooks. I have two to recommend:

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

All you need to do to get your free 30-day Audible trial is visit Choose one of the above books, or choose any of the endless options they offer. That could be a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a class. It’s that easy. Go to and get started today. Enjoy.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Esther Perel:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Show Notes

  • Esther gives us a little background about her life. [07:20]
  • Esther elaborates on the experience of growing up among Holocaust survivors in Antwerp. [08:58]
  • To what combination of “chance and choice” did Esther’s parents attribute their survival of the Holocaust? [17:35]
  • What comes first: trust or vulnerability? [27:12]
  • Thoughts on impermanence as motivation for living life fully. [29:03]
  • Esther considers herself counterphobic. Does she think this is a good thing? [31:25]
  • How did Esther come to study in Jerusalem? [33:53]
  • How should someone seek and approach a mentor? (Sometimes it just takes a healthy dose of chutzpah.) [40:06]
  • What is eroticism, and what does Esther mean when she calls the erotic “an antidote to death?” [49:32]
  • What are the ethical options for an otherwise happy couple experiencing sexual listlessness? [53:08]
  • In a relationship, is there such a thing as too much honesty? How do Americans and Europeans tend to differ on the subject? [1:01:04]
  • Does honesty — or one-hundred percent sharing — equal caring for the other person in a relationship? [1:07:19]
  • If one of her patients wants to disclose an infidelity to a partner, how does Esther walk them through the decision process? [1:08:39]
  • Is it possible for a partner in a non-exclusive relationship to overcome the fear of being left as a result of discussing infidelity? [1:14:09]
  • How would you score on a quarterly relationship report card? [1:22:08]
  • How does Esther feel about a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for a polyamorous relationship? [1:23:44]
  • The value of innovation and flexibility over rigid ideology in a relationship. [1:26:32]
  • Every relationship is a power dynamic. [1:29:00]
  • What was the research process like for Esther’s upcoming book about “historically condemned and universally practiced” adultery? [1:32:36]
  • Is there an argument for marriage these days? [1:39:22]
  • Why does Esther find divorce rates for second marriages particularly interesting? [1:45:16]
  • Why does marriage often lead to sub-par behavior between people in a relationship? [1:46:57]
  • Through the lens of infidelity, what human questions is Esther trying to answer in her upcoming book? [1:50:00]
  • What books has Esther gifted most and found worth rereading? [1:53:58]
  • What would Esther’s billboard say? [1:55:05]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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88 Replies to “The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel) (#241)”

  1. Thank you, Tim, for bringing Esther on the podcast! I remember watching the ted talk first time and how impressed I was. I will definitely check out her books!

    And now after listening to the podcast I’m deeply touched by the Esther’s personal story.

  2. Oh Tim

    I’m shocked and saddened by your inability to find much value in marriage. You didn’t even mention our biological drive to procreate as a key to becoming married

    1. Hi Bill, Am I missing something here? I don’t think human need to be “married” to procreate. So many people have kids without being married.

  3. Very interesting podcast. Seems like people are trying to come up with arrangements to satisfy maximum sexual satisfaction over a long period of time as possible. I’m always interested in techniques and there a million ways to arrive at the goal but usually the end point is clear and agreed by many (and usually virtuous). Enlightenment or clarity and calmness brought on by meditation.

    One part of thinks this is innovative and clever, another part of me thinks it’s juvenile, playing games, and just immature. It’s like having the cake and eating it too. You want everything and don’t want to give up anything.

  4. Tim,

    Love the interview, as usual. One request: when you have a question, ask the most basic version then stop. You often go on for 20-30 seconds, adding on hedges, subquestions, and self-deprecating comments. I understand why you do it: you are intimidated by the guest’s knowledge and don’t want the question to sound stupid so you cram in as much as possible to have any possible interpretation. But it would make for a better interaction if you kept it simple. Thanks!


    1. I actually appreciate the calm inclusion of his many related thoughts. Many of us think holistically, in complex ways, not only linearly…. And it opens up the possibilities for a fuller, multi-faceted answer, reflecting the truth and richness of multi-faceted life.

  5. I loved this episode-top 5! I got so much out of it.


    – The balance of being bold and humble and examples of what that looks like. Thank you so much!

    – The invitation to inquire if I am the player with the fear of abandonment or the fear of suffocating was powerful. It made me wonder what if I have both? I get one is more dominant than the other; it’s an interesting examination as to how overall fears of intimacy manifest creating barriers in human connection and inevitable suffering.

    – The kind investigation into the evolution of relationships-the multi-dimensionality of intimacy. I loved how infidelity is viewed as symptomatic and used to ask deeper questions into the nature of the relationship and as a deeper means of understanding our relationship with ourselves.

    I would love for you to have Esther back on to delve further. Esther I was first introduced to you through Armand Dimele. I am so grateful for your continuous expansion in this confusing arena.

    And on the mention of Armand Dimele, Tim-I would love for you to listen to Armand Dimele’s “Psychology of Men” series-I think you would appreciate it and it could add another dimension to your interviews.

    I love your show more and more and so grateful! And the earnest unveiling of your vulnerability in this sensitive subject matter.

  6. I find it so NOT difficult to be with the same person, I hope, forever. Very interesting to hear some one with very different views. I love the way how Esther is able to be very analytical and thorough on the subject: okay, so, you cheated, and why do you feel the need to tell that? That is the real question here. Very refreshing!

  7. Well Done Tim. It is so difficult to have an honest conversation on this important topic. Ester, to her credit, does not provide answers or solutions, instead she provides a framework for couples to communicate. My takeaway…mutual joy can be had by thinking compassionately about your partner and the nature of the relationship you both create.

  8. Halfway through and I love the key points about not having to share everything ‘wholesale’…..and if you don’t, you must be hiding something…..Thank you….

  9. Here’s a litte more detail about the origins of Gaslighting, if you are interested. “The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by the main character in the 1938 stage play Gas Light, known as Angel Street in the United States, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the attic while searching for hidden treasure. The wife accurately notices the dimming lights and discusses the phenomenon, but the husband insists that she just imagined a change in the level of illumination.”

  10. I don’t think that much about polyamory because I just think humans can’t handle it, emotionally. Most of us in the USA weren’t outraged about the Clinton/Lewanski affair. We were outraged that Clinton lied about it on national TV. So much confusion about marriage… I have been married for 30 years. It is a commitment, for our children, our health (isn’t AIDS still a concern?? maybe not) and a good kind of sacrifice, for many reasons. I don’t agree with much of what she said, but I am glad I listened.

    1. Somebody must have been outraged. The republicans spent 50 million on an inquiry that was a dudd. The Clintons are still married, and they sincerely support each other in the public domain (and probably in private). Meanwhile, all the Republicans are divorced and married many times, like for example Newt Gingrich and Trump. The facts speak for themselves.

      Esther is right. It is hard to understand the way of marriage in America.

      The podcast was fantastic, and I will have to hear it again. It was total human intelligence proving that we are not doomed.

    2. bmw –

      * People ARE living polyamorously and “handling it,” emotionally.

      Conversely, some people are living monogamously and not handling it so well. People do different things and different things work for different people at different times and in different ways.

      * When you say “(Marriage) is a commitment, for our children, our health…” the statement seems to apply to all people everywhere as if that’s just the way things is or the way they should be, rather than making a statement about yourself and why you have chosen marriage or monogamy for yourself.

      * Marriage isn’t necessary to raise children.

      * Being polyamorous doesn’t mean you’ll get AIDS.

  11. Still listening, but especially like your discussion about seeking a mentor. I do psychic readings for a living and have an intimate access to people’s minds, lives, and futures. Sometimes, the encouragement for clients is to go beyond what they’d get by doing nothing and waiting for fate. Rather, to seek out and create your future which also hits against the issues of how. In your discussion, it was permission to seek out mentors, how someone might do it, and do it again and again if the first answer is no.

  12. I can’t be the only listener wondering why Tim’s egg timer orgasms were skirted in this episode.

    Aside from that, riveting podcast. Slimme vrouw die Esther.



  13. The “elephant in the room” question Tim did not ask.

    After all these experiences of talking to couples, how does Ester manage her own relationship? What is her ” relationship routine” like? I totally get why the question was not asked but isn’t the show about the tactics and routines that experts themselves employ?

    1. Of course it wasn’t brought up. It is not of relevance.Tim was interviewing a trained professional with an incredible database from which she seems to be deducting rationel conclusions It is like engineering.And she said so: she doesn’t write books if she has nothing to say. But it seems that she has an awful lot to say … and in an empathetic and intelligent way.

      1. How she conducts her life is very relevant. As an expert she will distill her database to the techniques that work best and apply them in her own life. And that would be good to know. BUT, she has every right to privacy for herself and her family.

        Don’t quite get the engineering analogy Lars….. or were you referring to mechanical engineering?

      2. Civil engineering that is. But what I meant is that she is a working social scientist that works with data in a systematic way. Ideally her personal situation should have no relevance/influence on her conclusions, and so it seems.

  14. Supplementary questions to ask in follow up interview:

    1) what models of relationships seem to work well? Examples?

    2)As a parent, How would you advise teenagers , young adults to conduct their sexual relationships?

    3) is there any evidence from other societies of relationship models that work harmoniously?

    4) what do relationships look like in cultures with no organised religion , or cultural hierarchy?


    On Sun, May 21, 2017 at 7:30 PM, The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss wrote:

    > Tim Ferriss posted: ” “Nothing will give us more meaning in life than to > know that we matter for others.” – Esther Perel I’ve wanted to speak with > psychotherapist Esther Perel for years. In a cover story, The New York > Times called her the most important game changer in sex” >

  16. If anyone can help I would love to get a transcript of this podcast. Esther’s answers painted a web of possibilities and questions that I would like to try and map. Her ability to connect disparate points and distill them into profound (at least for me) insights was riveting.

    1. Yes, like they do at Freakonomics ……. a whole transcript. But it will take up a lot of time and some space.

      1. “Some space”? What are you talking about? The whole Bible is only four megabytes. A transcript of a one-hour talk (the first 50 minutes are completely off-topic, about Perel’s parents’ life in concentration camps) is only about 35 pages. Here it is.

  17. Thank you. This is by far your best (and arguably most important) interview. It gets to the heart of life, love, expression, desire, loss, anxiety, choice and connection – at the very root of living.

    As someone who has been exposed to the open lifestyle since my early 20s, Esther’s wise words caution me to use it for mutual growth rather than escape.

    As a recent transplant to San Francisco, your podcast has been a valued friend, reminding me to dig deeper and regard others as potential teachers. And drink good wine…

    Your searching is your best quality.

    Signed, Voracious (not insatiable).

  18. Great perspectives here, cheating/porn/open sex has been a huge topic for us at the authenticity process, however when we get to the core of “why” we would need to cheat or get other means of stimulation we created awareness and depth in the relationship.

    Honesty can be a catalyst for deeper more energised sexuality and connection. SLOW DOWN Is great advice, hearing the inner voice and what it is trying to tell us is all for the purpose of aligning ourselves with a core of our beings. The funny thing is most people think they experience life, yet they experience the programme of a relationship

    An Authentic relationship is able to see the mirror and transform it into GOLD!

  19. Excellent podcast as always Tim, you somehow manage you combine a conversational style with some of the most interesting guests out there. Well done. The section about marriage in particular made me take a long hard look at myself, I split up with my wife of 22 years in 2016. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  20. Thank you so much Tim and Esther! and it came in my life just in the perfect moment! I was recently wondering about the value of marriage nowadays, monogamy, jealousy and the radical honesty. It was highly helpful.

  21. I so value Esther’s insight. She really has a way of putting grace into a topic that can be quite confusing and intricate/complex. I love how she reigns it all in, makes it possible to see and accept the challenges of relating while encouraging courage, responsibility, care, wildness – all at the same time! I love her. I feel enlightened for real. Thank you for this conversation.

  22. The last 10 minutes was awesome. You two were just getting started. I think add complexity may be the key verses adding lightness which works for engineering but maybe not for relationships. My wife and I have been in an open relationship for 30 years. At this stage it looks like a Rube Goldberg machine and not some finely crafted airplane. We started out with the honesty thing but the last 15 years has been more of a don’t ask don’t tell. At 58 I am still super horny and my wife is not. I currently have a 23 year old GF and we go to swing clubs and bondage clubs together. My wife no longer is interested in the details. She still has her long term GF but they see each other every couple of months. Like anything it works and it doesn’t work then it works again. We do work at it every day. IT is an adventure.

  23. Thanks for the show Tim! Great topic and one I am very interested in.

    I do want to ask, since it really wasn’t discussed, are these tangential relationships based only on sex? What changes when it’s not just sexual, but more of a relationship? I recently went through an experience where a couple invited me into their marriage for an actual relationship. It did NOT work out. So i would love to hear more from her on these kinds of scenarios, etc.

    Anyways, love the show, keep it up!

  24. I’ve got an argument FOR marriage (coming from someone who’s experienced divorce, and questioned its benefits myself).

    If you feel the need for variety, and feel bored with your relationship after some time and move on to the next person, you can ask yourself if you’re really getting variety by, or if you’re repeating the same cycle with a different people.

    If you keep bouncing around from rock to rock, you miss out on the opportunity to explore all the possibilities of making that one relationship go deeper.

    You can’t experience that depth and get more creative about connecting with someone on an intimate level if you leave every time to get the itch for that euphoric “new relationship” feeling.

    It would be like living in a city, but leaving as soon as you get bored with the neighborhood you live in, and then repeating that cycle over and over.

    Sometimes there’s uncharted territory right in front of you that you might not see if you leave every time it gets hard and uncomfortable.

  25. I loved how vulnerable you were willing to be on this episode, Tim. This is a topic which makes me very uncomfortable but you inspire be to embrace that side.

    I’ve been going through, literally, all your old podcasts from day 1, and it’s amazing how everything links up. Currently on #39 w/ Maria Popova and it’s a real gem.

    Good luck with the new TV show Tim, and pop down to South Africa when you get the chance. Cheers!

  26. Wonderfull and interesting interview ! I have listened to it once but am intending to listen to the whole thing again….- I had quite a laugh when Esther put the Antwerps slang into the mix and you had a bit of a trust-issue there 🙂 (being Dutch I could understand what she was saying and her translations were spot-on!)

    My suggestion: re-interview Alain de Botton about this subject for he just had a book full of philosophical views on the matter of love and marriage which could supplement the view of dr. Perel.

    1. Liesbeth – that is a great idea. All the way through Esther’s interview (which I thought was really insightful), I kept thinking about the interview that Alain de Botton did with Debbie Millman on the subject. I don’t think his views are necessarily at odds with Esther’s, but they do have different perspective.

  27. Hey Tim,

    Great episode, was pleasure to listen to it.

    If you are interested in Holocaust (but not only) survivor stories you can lookup some Polish authors, as you know – a lot of fucked up things ocurred in Poland during WWII and there is a ton to learn from that.

    I think you would like stories by Tadeusz Borowski – an Auschwitz Survivor, who wrote a book with catchy title of “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” ( Moreover it consists of short stories, and that is great, because it is really hard to take all of this inhumianity at once. Borowski is mostly using behaviourist-like approach to writing, meaning he only describes actions and words and almost completely skip overs inner dialogue and feelings. After reading his book I believe you will understand why.

    I will give you three quotes as a teaser:

    “It is the camp law: people going to their death must be deceived to the very end. It is only acceptable form of mercy.”

    “Despite the madness of war, we lived for a world that would be different. For a better world to come when all this is over. And perhaps even our being here is a step towards that world. Do you really think that, without the hope that such a world is possible, that the rights of man will be restored again, we could stand the concentration camp even for one day? It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, paralyses them into numb inactivity. It is hope that breaks down family ties, makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands kill. It is hope that compels man to hold on to one more day of life, because that day may be the day of liberation. Ah, and not even the hope for a different, better world, but simply for life, a life of peace and rest.”

    “I think that human dignity really lies within this thoughts and feelings”.

    And if you ever will be in Poland – and everyone should given our grotesque history – hope we will be able to have a drink!

    P.S. Few more authors if anyone is interested:,,

    Anything about, Witold Pilecki was the fucking man, just read this: “During World War II, he volunteered for a Polish resistance operation to get imprisoned in the Auschwitz death camp in order to gather intelligence and escape. While in the camp, Pilecki organized a resistance movement and, as early as 1941, informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz atrocities.”

    If you are interested in some more books or themes to discover, let me know as I used to be very interested in literature about “humans on verge of humanity”.

  28. Hi Tim, I’m an undergrad student at the University of Oregon, writing for my school’s paper, the Emerald. I’m working on an article discussing ketosis and exogenous ketones and would love to chat if you have a few minutes. Please let me know, thanks!

  29. I wish there was a way to pay you directly for episodes like this one, which I already know will have a huge and lasting impact on my life. Thanks so much for doing what you do, Tim.

    1. I concur!

      Really awesome interview. Many of her words have stuck with me in the days following listening to it. Wonderful questions from Tim, insightful responses from Esther…a real gem episode!

  30. A lot of what Esther says reflect 1. westernized thinking and 2. fails to recognized how people of religion view marriage. I, personally, am saddened (and also aware) of the topics of what came up of how honest should one be with their affairs, if one partner isn’t ‘satisfied’ sexually to get it elsewhere, etc. In Christianity, marriage represents union with God, often looks outward and focused on sacrifice, selflessness, and commitment. I agree that if marriage is only based on how satisfied one is or if there are ‘fireworks’ (and believe me, it will have phases of ups and downs) all the time, it is doomed. It’s inherently based on selfish needs, and that itself is made to sink. I’m not naive–I know there will be opportunities to cheat physically and emotionally and justify it, and especially for people who are of high status/power or looks may be more susceptible to it. But if marriage and commitment is beyond just a satisfying our own needs, but make it beyond ourselves, and believe we are accountable to God, then the conversation of marriage, sex, and relationships opens a complete different dimension of dialogue. It also aligns how the world of business works–if one focuses on the bottom line, take shortcuts to get the work done and satisfy their own agenda and profit, and the other believe in a purposeful way of serving a customer out of love, curiosity, and passion, the money will follow.

    1. You should read the A.J.Jacobs article that Tim mentions. You can find a link on this his site.

      I also note that neither Esther nor Tim mentions religion. Thank god for that.

  31. Do you plan on having any pro athletes from the major American sports (NFL, NBA,etc) on the podcast soon? If not, why?

  32. One of my favorite podcasts! Thought provoking and insightful. Ultimately shows you “self-care” is just the start and connectedness, love, community and giving are the true gifts.

  33. What a fantastic podcast. Can’t wait to hear Esther’s audiobook and catch up on the books she has authored to date. Also thought it was courageous of you to be honest about your concerns with marriage. Marriage isn’t a bed of roses and there was some validation in hearing that my own struggles are perfectly normal and to be expected. I still think it is worth it though, 16 years in…

  34. The 2hrs I spent listening to this was the best investment I’ve made all month. Thoughts challenged, mind opened. Thankyou.

  35. Tim,

    Thank you for your deftness and sincerity while inquiring about Esther’s community of Holocaust survivors. The resulting dialog was truly exquisite. As a child of holocaust survivors I gained tremendously, hearing and feeling things on the topic that I’d never heard or felt elsewhere.



  36. I really hope you read this.

    Your “undecided” lifestyle choice?

    Polyamorous and monogamy are two sides of the same coin and for quite some time you have stated reservations about both lifestyles and why neither one could work.

    Intuitively, I’d say this polyamorous thing is a distraction from addressing some underlying issue, because you would have permanently pursued this lifestyle by now. But you haven’t. So what’s underneath?

    There are multitudes of the wonderful feminine out there. You love women? Okay. But how many V*ginas do you need to go through till you have a pinpoint on this issue?

    I wonder if this is about your need for multiple women or is it about having to settle for second best?

    I don’t think you’ve even come close to the thrill of a woman that is so highly compatible to you, with the right amount of contrast/compliment, but also affinity on all levels: mentally, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and value-wise–ALL of it. I think it would be the game changer so to speak. A woman you could actually set apart, because the fit is so ___ good, that risking a fall would actually be worth the risk. Total Surrender– Come what may.

    You’re a Brilliant Man on many, many levels–so appreciated too. And you make things happen. But WHY aren’t you making THIS lifestyle happen? If you aren’t going for this other lifestyle choice–still? How can it be what you want? I know polyamorous people who have kids with multiple people and they are all married to each other under the same roof and FOR LIFE. They are totally fulfilled. You need a reference? I’ll give you one. A successful one.

    There are only two options here: If you do want to play Badminton? Stop dating the soccer players. Only date the Badminton players. Leave the Soccer players ALONE. That’s only fair. Meaning HoTotal immersion into the Polyamorous lifestyle and Do NOT date monogamous women anymore. Otherwise, holding back from that leap and still questioning what you really want in this department, most probably means it’s not for you–for whatever reason(s).

    Either way–it’s time for you to Sh*t or get off the pot. This matter has become a waste of life energy and mental resources at this point. Make your choice. Take the leap, and you can always change your mind back later.

  37. I’ve lived both in Europe and America and I have witnessed lasting partnerships without marriage and there is a deep abiding commitment to each other. However, in America it’s true that couples who don’t get married do not tend to last as long and in that sense it’s the deep commitment that is not existent that that represents. In America marriage is the symbol or sign that this is a person you will have that kind of lifelong partnership. So the question is upside down. It’s not that marriage does or doesn’t do anything to couples and their ideas of commitment. It’s what the societal context and the internal value and belief system of the couple is with regards to their relationship.

  38. I just wanted to say that I appreciate that you have been interviewing more women recently. I was starting to wonder if this was a males only podcast. Esther was by far my favorite. Her words are powerful beyond measure. She has this way of taking a concept that is so complex and has so many layers and just ……revealing it so clearly and beautifully to her audience and more importantly to her clients. Pure magic.

  39. Thank you for having more women on the Podcast!

    Some random thoughts on the benefits of marriage:

    One point that was not touched upon in depth is the eventuality of aging. I get that we are all sexually bored and want variety and we all want to have options and so forth, but I have watched as my single friends have aged, gotten sick and needed a lot of reassurance and care with age and there was no one there. Parents had passed away by then, no kids (because they never had them). While you are young it is extremely easy to hop around from partner to partner. Even active elderly people get around. But in the event of long-term ill health, or other serious survival issues, being alone is an extremely sad state–a tragic state. You may not always be able to take care of yourself.

    Long-term relationships with a single person are extremely special in ways that are hard to analyze and put into spreadsheets. There is a coziness, a hominess, a comfort that is hard to replicate or explain.

    Women especially have a tough time competing financially in this white-male-dominated world and so marriage tends to be a matter of survival and lifestyle that allows women to thrive far better than they have been able to do alone. Of course there are exceptions but in my personal life experience, the well-educated woman still earns far less than her male counterpart.

    Combining income/effort into one household means 10x the results. You would be amazed at the spread of wealth when two people are both working toward one goal.

    1. Eventuality of aging? Aging, death and taxes are some of the few very certain eventualities affecting us all. Seems to me that the message was all about how to recognise all the misunderstood romanticism, save the marriage and enjoy the long-termness of life with another person, all rooted in real conversation…. and that seems a real challenge

  40. I’m very surprised you did not ask her what form(s) of relationship(s) she is in (has been in) . Always good to compare what she does vs what she says,

  41. Thanks Tim and Esther. This episode was a crocodile-wrestle of what I have grown up with as “world view”!

    I noted, for ongoing wrestling…

    – “Can you want what you already have, which is the basis for desire”?

    – “Do you want to have a negotiation with yourself? Or, with your partner in couple-making”?

    – [for me not related to infidelity, but I loved the question…] “…what guilt are you carrying?

    – Esther’s steps for people dealing with infidelity can no doubt be applied to other family relationship strains: “Slow down, sit with it. Then write a letter: cleanse your soul (you-centric), then write a letter more about them, and your relationship.”

    – “A secret can be cruel, a secret can be benevolent.”

    – “A lot of effort goes into making something not mean anything.”

    – On partnership, “find another human being around which you weave the story of life”.

    – the insight (generally, no doubt) that families nowadays mostly survive when they are well-off.

    – the reminder to think of marriage in cultural meaning, not a legal construct.

    And finally, the uber-inspiring and challenging:

    – “Only write something when you have something to say, only say something when you can not only add to, but re-frame, change the conversation.”


  42. I listened to the entire podcast, and got a lot out of it. Regarding one quote that Tim grabbed: “If Apple sold you a product that failed 50% of the time, would you buy it?” (marriage failure rate), the comparison doesn’t work for me. I don’t see getting married as an expectation of success based on a statistical success rate. Would someone not try to (substitute whatever: losing weight, etc.) simply because 50% of people don’t achieve that? Marriage is a commitment. And certainly there are valid reasons to end a marriage. But to me, that doesn’t mean the commitment wasn’t worthwhile. If people want to have relationships (with one or more person at a time) and never get married, that’s their business of course.

  43. “If Apple sold you a product that failed 50% of the time, would you buy it?”

    – Esther Perel

    That quote make think a lot

    Saludos Tim

    1. Just because people break up does not mean it was all a complete failure. I don’t think the Apple analogy is fair. Better to compare to being in a football team. Suppose you play in a team and you get beaten 50% of the time. Do stop playing football? It is not just about the winning. There are so many facets of the game to enjoy. Just like marriage, e.g. The children, the intimacy, the companionship, the shared sense of purpose. These things can come and go , but you enjoy and appreciate them as they arise and accept that they can be temporary.

      1. Good point – loosing a great game can still be very memorable – in a posiitive sense

  44. Hi Tim! I so appreciate your podcast; it’s my favorite. It has informed me and added value to my life. Thank you! I just finished listening to “The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel).” Esther was lovely and her approach towards struggling couples was warm, kind, and humane. However, I am a (truly!) very happily married woman of 27 years, and listening to this podcast was depressing to me, which is a first for any of your podcasts. I would like to suggest that you interview John Gottman of the Gottman Institute for your podcast. He is the world’s foremost scientific expert on marriage as he has studied it scientifically for over 40 years and has written many terrific books on the subject. He can give you and your audience greater insight into how to succeed in having a happy marriage and what to avoid. I am fortunate to be a blessed woman in most aspects of my life, but it is my relationship with my husband that brings me the deepest fulfillment and my greatest joy. I promise you, this is out there and attainable because I have it. I really think you and your audience would benefit by listening to what John Gottman has to say. Also consider reading his books! They are on relationships too, more than just marriage. Thank you for reading as I know the demands you have on your time; I am an avid consumer of your material so I understand. Please have a terrific day!

  45. I was puzzled that Tim was so impressed by the EP’s comment regarding whether someone would buy Apple products is they failed 50% of the time. I thought that she completely missed the point. Wouldn’t you buy *any* product if, 50% of the time, it lasted your entire life?

  46. This podcast rocked my world – and my wife’s. We’ve both listened to it a couple of times and discussed it at length. We found it very helpful! So, a world of thanks from Rotterdam, The Netherlands

    1. Esther is really well spoken and has a very sharp mind. I’d love to see more of her. Well done Tim, for having this interview.

  47. Hi Tim, I really enjoyed the podcast – as always – but was slightly disappointed with your joint inability to come up with good reasons FOR marriage. [Moderator: Additional text and link removed.]

  48. Hi Tim, I LOVED this podcast and will definitely be reading her books. I thought she had a lot of great information that I would like to have. Is there any way to get a transcript of the conversation? I currently work as a therapist with juvenile sex offenders. I find this information very interesting and would likely possibly get into sex/couples therapy in the future.

  49. Esther Perel is a social truth teller. She gives really cogent advice that is hard to implement. I can tell from the other comments that folks are not quite seeing their cultural programming. Not discounting the value of the programming. Joseph Henrich’s superb book “The secret of our success” highlights the evolutionary value of monogamy and cultural programming. Nevertheless, follow Esthers advice particularly a the beginning of new relationships. It is hard to renegotiate the deal later. Say to the new partner can we both work to communicate and meet each other’s needs. Wow! “Women have done sex and felt dead for centuries. It’s really that other side of it.” I hate it when women use this old skill.

  50. Thank you so much for sharing this. When your book came out in 2007, it was recommended by a colleague before I left for 2 years on a mini-retirement of sorts. And last night on a date in Cow Hollow, my date mentioned you as a better match for me, lol. Had no idea you lived here. Thanks for again diverting my life path. Haha. Great information. Especially on rituals and how little we have of them in our society.

  51. She speaks quite fast and don’t follow along. english is not so good for me. Where to find the transcript for this episode please?

  52. This episode was utterly fascinating. I love how passionate Esther was when it came to talking about marriage and failure rates, etc., although I have to admit it did scare me a bit to learn that second marriage failure rates are higher than first. I was also very interested to learn her take on infidelity and the purpose of telling your partner about indiscretions. Good stuff!

  53. My biggest reason for marrying my wife is: ward off people who would question our relatedness and closeness. I’m referring to medical and other like institutions. Husband, wife, father, mother, son are powerful associations and given an unfortunate situation to be denied access or recognition would be a hurdle I don’t want to deal with.

    That might be weak, how many situations have occurred where parents override the wishes of their child because those empowered ignore the child’s significant other. Marriage sorts out that situation fairly quickly. Also if something happens to me de facto partnership might be a thing, however without marriage certificates it’s too easy for others to mess things up…

  54. Hi Tim,

    On the subject of mentoring… Audio is such an intimate way to connect with people – you are right there with us in the room / car / gym talking to us. So even though I have never reached out to you directly, you’ve been mentoring me for years through your podcast.

    Thank you!


  55. Tim, have now had men bring her to my attention so I had to go back and RE listen to this podcast as I had just I suppose “taken it in” before as I do many other thing that I do at 1.5xs speed. Now I seem to get the scope of what she is saying and even as growing up a baptist and this is harder to me to admit with my faith involved as it is, I am tested in ways and pulled directions that I am not sure that we, as humans on the simplest– most basic of desire levels–are meant to be?? However, there are arguments that one could get in on all sides of that. I won’t even begin to go there. Not here. Great podcast though. Thank you for having her on and I appreciate all you have enriched my life with. H.

  56. What an amazing interview! I did not know who Esther was until I heard this talk. What an incredible and intelligent human being she is! This information was transformational. Thanks Tim!

  57. I wonder too something about the soulmate, seeking the other who got split in two. Made me remember from my readings of the emerald tablets when Thoth Said, As above so below. He elaborated on heaven and hell, Equal and opposite, light and dark, thus male and female. I wonder if When there more at play than just seeking self. Those who fins that they are unfulfilled in day to day life and relationships maybe seeking their other half of self. Tim is analytical and super left brain, (of course recent experience has given insight into the right side I think 😉 to have a balanced whole it is reasonable to consider perhaps there to be an opposite female “helpmeet” who is the complete opposite yet comprised of mutual patterns meant for you.

  58. Great episode, always love hearing from Esther Perel. Much I could comment on but this is what struck me:

    As I’m sure many of us have, I’ve heard the data before about how 52% of first marriages end in divorce, but 65% of second marriages do. And of course that’s interesting. But today I realized how many assumptions are in that and how much missing data. For example:

    100% of people in a first marriage have not been married before
    0% of people in a first marriage have not been married more than once

    But while

    100% of people in a second marriage have been married before

    That’s not the only factor involved.

    What percentage of people who get married once and divorced once decide never to marry again?

    And even if 100% of people who got married once and divorced then marry again (I know this is getting complicated; it’s definitely a numbers and data problem for someone who is not me) — even if every person who got married once and divorced once then gets married again, then that 65% is not as dire as it sounds because what it means is that 35% who “failed” (loaded word, too complex to go into here but for the record it’s not a failure, just using language that is clear) before, succeeded on the second marriage.

    So 1000 people have first marriages
    Of those 480 people stay married
    520 people get divorced
    Assuming all 520 of those people get married again (which is a hell of an assumption and obviously false)
    Then 65% of them or 338 get divorced again
    182 stay married

    Which means that (480 + 182)/1000 people stay married on their first or second marriage = 66.2%

    But again that’s completely inaccurate because how many just never get married again?

    Anyway, none of it really matters because every situation is different and getting divorced isn’t a failure so much as a learning and discovery, as I see it. I’d just never thought before about the fact that the data are misleading and incomplete.