The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Iconic couples’ therapist and bestselling author of Mating in Captivity Esther Perel returns with a provocative look at relationships through the lens of infidelity.An affair: it can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet, this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. What are we to make of this time-honored tabo...

Title:The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity
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The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity Reviews

  • Kristal

    I won this book from Goodreads. This book should be read by everyone in a serious relationship or maybe before marriage. Very thoughtful and full of insight.

  • Stephanie

    Everyone in a relationship should read THE STATE OF AFFAIRS: Perel is a wonderfully engaging writer, and raises so many thought-provoking questions and opportunities for deep thought and reflection. Marriage in America has gone through so many changes in a relatively short period of time, and this book gives both those who are happily coupled language to start a conversation and those who have dealt with infidelity an incredible perspective. Not to be missed.

  • Mehrsa

    I'm a huge fan of Perel's super realistic view of marriage. I've been following her work and this book did not disappoint. I know she's a sex therapist and so her focus on sex obviously makes sense and when you are a researcher focused on one thing, you tend to think that that thing is the most important thing. But I wish she had given a more holistic view of marriage apart from the sex/desire angle. Because I think this is part of the problem with some of our modern thinking about a marriage th

    I'm a huge fan of Perel's super realistic view of marriage. I've been following her work and this book did not disappoint. I know she's a sex therapist and so her focus on sex obviously makes sense and when you are a researcher focused on one thing, you tend to think that that thing is the most important thing. But I wish she had given a more holistic view of marriage apart from the sex/desire angle. Because I think this is part of the problem with some of our modern thinking about a marriage that has to provide all things, which is an issue she highlights. But yet she keeps coming back to the importance of desire and sex as though it is of central importance. That is a culturally specific view.

  • Naeemah Huggins

    Full of information about human behavior in love and relationships. So dense, that I think I might have to read it again.

  • Hannah

    An incredibly well written and readable book on our long standing institution of marriage and the infidelity that has come along with it through the centuries. I found this books so helpful in providing new language and frameworks for beginning to articulate where I stand in the midst of this shifting institution both for myself as well as someone (pastor) who speaks with couples about to get married, in the midst of infidelity, hurting years after an affair and with people just trying to unders

    An incredibly well written and readable book on our long standing institution of marriage and the infidelity that has come along with it through the centuries. I found this books so helpful in providing new language and frameworks for beginning to articulate where I stand in the midst of this shifting institution both for myself as well as someone (pastor) who speaks with couples about to get married, in the midst of infidelity, hurting years after an affair and with people just trying to understand the various new commitment frameworks surrounding them. With as much objectivity as possible, a ton of stories and insights everywhere Petel made a hard subject accessible for me.

  • Cristine

    It's hard to rate this without getting too personal because so much of it resonated at an intimate level with me. I will try to take myself out of it and from a sociological point of view review it that way.

    I found it brilliant. Her insights and research and truths about human relationships was fascinating and resonated strongly with me (there I go, not taking myself out). She articulated incredibly well beliefs I have always had (that made me feel like a bit of a freak in out society) that went

    It's hard to rate this without getting too personal because so much of it resonated at an intimate level with me. I will try to take myself out of it and from a sociological point of view review it that way.

    I found it brilliant. Her insights and research and truths about human relationships was fascinating and resonated strongly with me (there I go, not taking myself out). She articulated incredibly well beliefs I have always had (that made me feel like a bit of a freak in out society) that went against what we are taught. (one person should be able to fulfill all your needs, 'infidelity' is the worst thing you can do to another person, if you are happy in your relationship you will have no attraction to any other person ever for the rest of your life, strict monogamy is what everyone really wants )

    I didn't give it 5 stars because the first half of the book was about how destructive affairs can be but I think that's been covered a million times in a million ways. It was the second half of the book that really appealed to me.

  • Anamaria

    "No woman should give any man the power to shatter her romantic ideals."

  • Marisa

    Library Request. It was a real thought provoking insight to affairs and why people do it, accept it or are hurt by them. It was very insightful.

  • Celine

    I appreciate the way Esther Perel has sought to truly understand her clients. I'd like to be able to channel her level of empathy and insight someday. We'd likely all be better partners if more of us did the type of self-reflection and -exploration Perel encourages in The State of Affairs. Often easier said than done though, I think.

  • Trish

    Apparently eighty percent of the population has some experience with infidelity, whether through a parent, spouse, friend, or family member. Considering how hurtful and destructive such urges are, it is amazing most of us are still standing. Esther Perel has distilled her years of marriage counseling and study of infidelity to reveal fascinating insights that make enormous sense to me. She tells us that

    Apparently eighty percent of the population has some experience with infidelity, whether through a parent, spouse, friend, or family member. Considering how hurtful and destructive such urges are, it is amazing most of us are still standing. Esther Perel has distilled her years of marriage counseling and study of infidelity to reveal fascinating insights that make enormous sense to me. She tells us that

    I would add a corollary that if the

    one who commits infidelity didn’t fear death

    they became involved in an extramarital affair, they should after, for sure.

    I love the way Perel thinks. She is such an adult. When one is in the midst of handling an exposed infidelity, it is common to experience sadness, rage, jealousy, and diminished self-worth. Perel says we can feel these things if we want, it is normal, but it is probably more worthwhile to look at why one strayed, if one has the stamina for it.

    In this way, one may find one prefers one’s spouse to other possibilities, and can renew their vows in a fuller knowledge of one another, and a fuller knowledge of what it takes to make a marriage succeed. One of the things I notice about marriage is that sometimes the people involved forget that the spouse is a mystery and basically unknowable; that the spouse is an independent sexual being; that affairs often allow us to discover a new self, rather than merely a new sexual partner. Oftentimes it is that new sexual self that is so entrancing, not the new partner after all, e.g., “I feel

    ”.

    A couple of other things Perel points to are that we keep many secrets in a marriage, and perhaps infidelity is not the most damaging of these. She thinks that sometimes admitting to an infidelity may cause more damage than not, and one has to ask oneself what one’s motives are in revealing such a thing if it is not already discovered and is unlikely to be.

    While we often hear that revenge is sweet, in fact it is frequently the opposite. There is an important lesson to know about long-lasting feelings of vengeance: “If in the process of getting even you end up hurting yourself more than you punish the other, you gain nothing.” Feelings of stress and anger can make you miserable.

    Studies of romantic love discover that it is a physical addiction, similar in effect to cocaine or nicotine on the brain. Quoting Anthropologist Helen Fisher who has done fMRI studies on the brain in love: “weaning oneself off of obsessive thinking about a lost love…is akin to breaking a dependency on drugs.”

    Perel defines infidelity as including one or more of three components: secrecy, sexual alchemy, and emotional involvement. Towards the end of the book she explains that although women are used to being in touch with their emotional side and the multidimensionality of their sexuality (its subjectivity, its relational character, its contextual nature, and its reliance on a delicate balance of conditions), men rarely give themselves that freedom.

    There are so many myths surrounding the definition of male sexuality as being biologically imperative, uncomplicated, ever ready, and always in search of novelty but actually men and women are in fact more similar than they are different. Men may find themselves emotionally disengaging in direct proportion to the demands of their relational entanglements and the conflicting messages they are receiving about who they are and who they should be. “You don’t pay the hooker to come—you pay her to leave”—highlighting the pleasures of less emotionally complicated forms of sex.

    In the end, Perel says, it is usually a lack of real sexual communication in the midst of a loud and proud declaration of emotional transparency in modern intimacy that is most at fault for a drawing away from real intimacy. A successful marriage, I’m guessing, allows some of the mystery to remain. Two individuals agree to share lives; that they can leave at any time deepens the mystery. One needn’t do it, so when we do, there must be meaning. Communication is critical. And weathering a storm can unlock a few mysteries we tend to keep hidden, even from ourselves.

    Perel has Youtube videos of her most popular talks, and she is particularly good at cutting to the heart of relationships and fingering the sore spots. Most of us can find our own situations well-represented. Her examples of couples in treatment are diverse and distinct, and very interesting. I’d say listening to her is worthwhile even if it has never entered your mind to stray.

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