(On conventional marriage)“If Apple sold you a product that failed 50% of the time, would you buy it?”
– Esther Perel
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.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
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):
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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:
- Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel
- The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel
- Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel
- The Jewish Community of Antwerp, Belgium by Haim F. Ghiuzeli, Museum of the Jewish People
- If This Is a Man and The Truce by Primo Levi
- Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum
- We’ve Stopped Trusting Institutions and Started Trusting Strangers by Rachel Botsman, TEDSummit
- The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths to Learn How to Live
- Chutzpah — The Yiddish Word That Means Audacity, My Jewish Learning
- Esther Perel on the Difference Between Sexuality and Eroticism, Big Think
- History of Monogamy: The Shift from Duty to Pleasure by Esther Perel
- More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Janet Hardy
- Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino
- Understanding Polyamory: What’s Compersion? by Hannah Rimm, HelloFlo
- I Think You’re Fat by A.J. Jacobs, Esquire
- Rethinking Infidelity … A Talk for Anyone Who Has Ever Loved by Esther Perel, TED2015
- From Theater to Therapy to Twitter, the Eerie History of Gaslighting by Katy Waldman, Slate
- Monica Lewinsky on the Culture of Humiliation, Vanity Fair
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
- The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment by Jack Morin
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- 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]
- Primo Levi
- David Blaine
- Sala Ferlegier
- Icek Perel
- Jack Saul
- Rachel Botsman
- BJ Miller
- Salvador Minuchin
- Ed Zschau
- Richard Feynman
- A.J. Jacobs
- Oscar Wilde
- Bill Clinton
- Monica Lewinsky
Posted on: May 21, 2017.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.