For anyone struggling in their relationship and wondering what the options are then Mating in Captivity is a great book to read. Esther Perel’s scope and authority is very reassuring. Her academic style is offset by her way of using the right words to nail an emotion or scenario succinctly. The book is essentially an indirect critique of the traditional monogamous marriage, which she does using pertinent examples from over 20 years experience of sex therapy.
She reviews our present situation – a dilemma of progress. We have such high expectations of romance, intimacy and sexual fulfillment. Our forebears expected less and seemed content with fewer divorces. However, after so many social and sexual revolutions we so often experience frustration and disappointment and leave our marriages in increasing numbers. Whilst substantiating the gains from these advances, she shows the subtle changes they have caused that lie behind our modern expectations and questions the suitability of the old model of marriage.
She lays out the ingredients of a satisfying relationship – the dynamic between intimacy and attraction, security and variety, unity and separateness, the known and the unknown. Without playing with these interactions there is no fuel for the core energy of a relationship, a vibrant desire and eroticism.
In contrast to the talk approach to therapy she strives to reinstate the primacy of body language over the neocortex, and leads couples to eroticise the dynamics of power, control, dependency and vulnerability in non-politically correct ways. This also helps many women to understand their male partner’s communication style as it is the mother tongue of many men. She also separates sexuality as a ‘parallel narrative’ to intimacy, so that both often needing ‘fixing’ in their own rights.
Her continual emphasis is on the eroticism that is misunderstood and missing from many long-term relationships – ‘erotic intelligence is about creating distance, and then bringing that space to life,’ with the imagination. Using case studies she gives examples of couples who overcame these obstacles – her own parents having been early role models in her life.
She encourages couples to tolerate and respect the need for personal intimacy by allowing each other to ‘cultivate a secret garden’ of physical, emotional and intellectual privacy.
Each chapter concentrates on a specific issue, illuminated by case studies, so that you will come away with a new awareness of the dynamics of mating relationship amongst modern man.
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