Review: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

mating in captivityEsther Perel is a renowned psychotherapist who has been working with couples like forever. One of her main interests are long-term relationships and more specifically domestic sexuality and infidelity. She’s also fluent in 9 languages and in general a very impressive smart thinker. During one of my book shopping splurges I bought a copy of her book “Mating in Captivity” and here’s what I think about it.

“Mating in Captivity” is an interesting read. Theoretical parts of the book are supported with Perel’s clients cases. It’s quite a comprehensive book in some aspects. I did feel, however, like it was written a bit too much on the basis of Perel’s work experience and thoughts and there was too little focus on other books/research on the topic.
The author makes some very important points. She underlines how a good couple is a union of independent beings and how dependence and lack of separation is a desire killer. This is counter-intuitive given our social and cultural programming (just think about the Jerry Maguire everyone’s favorite line to his love interest “You complete me.”). I also liked how she pointed out the importance of society in formation of our expectations and views regarding sexuality and domesticity. As a representative of any Western society, you can relate to most of what she’s talking about. Still, some of her points are very American culture oriented and fall flat with a non-American reader.
The society has a big impact on us but Perel couldn’t be a respectable psychotherapist without mentioning a thing or two about the impact of childhood and our relationship with parents on our sexuality. Last but not least, she discusses the complex reasons why children can be such sex life killers and no, just being tired isn’t anywhere close to the full explanation.

The book provides food for thought and reads well. I do have certain doubts about its use for a troubled couple, though. Let’s say someone, for instance, thinks that spending 100% of your time apart from work with your partner is the blueprint for happiness but after years of doing so is struggling with resentment and a non-existent sex life. I really doubt that pointing out that this isn’t the way to go, even if supported with an appropriate case study will encourage this person to change. In a way, as good as this book is, it does feel a little bit like preaching to the choir. Perhaps the genre of the book is a bit unclear? It has some traits of a self-help book as well as some of a more general “how human works” vibe. Anyway, thanks, Madame Perel for making me feel justified in my judgment of other couples 😉

 

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