Mating in Captivity - Book Review
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
We are surrounded by relationships.
Friendships. Colleagues. Enemies. Acquaintances. Lovers. Family. Ex-partners.
How do we be in all these relationships? And (more pertinent to this blog post) how do we keep desire in our romantic relationships while being pushed to be the best parent/worker/boss/adult caregiver/cook/you name it?
In this blog post I offer some of my top takeaways from Esther Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity: unlocking erotic intelligence. “A book that speaks about eroticism and the poetics of sex, the nature of erotic desire and its attendant dilemmas” (Perel, 2006: p. 16). I hope that those of you in romantic relationships (new or long lasting) AND for those of you looking to better understand your past or future relationships will be inspired to read Perel's book after this post.
So here are my top takeaways:
We all want to feel safe and secure.
We all want to be desired and feel excitement.
These are two human needs AND they come from opposite corners of the rink.
We can have both if we work at it.
Most of you have heard from someone or read somewhere that humans thrive on safe and secure attachment. Ainsworth demonstrated this in her experiments with infants and their mothers (see clip). I could go on and on about attachment theory, but my point here is two-fold. First, feeling safe and secure in your relationships is paramount to both your inter- and intra- personal growth (i.e., the growth of your self and the growth of your relationships). When you feel safe you can step out into the uncertain world as your True self, knowing that you have a secure base waiting for you to come back to. Second, and what’s less understood, is that safe and secure attachment essentially kills desire. This happens because “desire [and excitement] is fuelled by the unknown” (Perel, 2006: p. 75). If something is known to you there is no uncertainty about what it is or who they are. The unknown (desire) becomes the known (security), and thereby squashing eroticism.
So if at this point you're asking yourself “how do I get my sexy back?”, Perel offers some great advice! One that I will highlight is to CREATE SEPARATENESS. In other words, now that you’ve grown close to your partner (I use this term to refer to lover/girlfriend/boyfriend/that person I see on occasion/etc.), it’s time to recreate the distance that once existed that fuelled the unknown (desire) between the two of you. “Love enjoys knowing everything about you. Desire needs mystery” (Perel, 2006: p. 122). You must reclaim some sense of otherness in your relationship, be it having a consistent men’s night or women's weekend getaway. Whatever it is to create a little separateness from your partner.
Perel also states that we humans need both security and excitement, and that is more often than not harder to achieve when we fall into the "habits of relationships". Perel encourages you to become a critic of your relationships and take an active stand in redefining it for the better.
If you’re interested in knowing more about these ideas (which I hope you are) I highly recommend Perel’s book. Not only did it help me understand how desire fades, this book illustrated (with real examples) how anyone can untangle themselves from their partner (and relationship) without ending it.
*Note that these types of relationships don’t need to originate from your family of origin; you can develop them later on as an adult too.
Once again, if you’d like to connect about this review or chat about your relationship status, feel free to connect with me for a consultation.