Book Review: The State of Affairs by Esther Perel

the state of affairs“The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” explores thoroughly one of long-term relationship challenges, namely, infidelity. I’m quite a big fan of Perel’s who’s not scared to say what’s true, even if people would prefer not to hear it. She also has years of experience in couple counselling so it’s certainly a voice that’s worth listening to. If you’re more interested in general relationship challenges people face in long-term relationships check out my review of another book by Esther Perel, “Mating in Captivity“.

Infidelity… We like to think about cheating as a disgusting thing that’s only done by dodgy people. We want to sweep it under the carpet with Ashley Madison users and creeps I’ve met that one time when I worked as a sexter. Perels shatters this vision with her book. People cheat for many reasons and it’s not as simple as “because they’re evil”. They sleep with other people because they’re dissatisfied and bored with their marriage life, because they feel insecure and conquering others is a way of feeling better about themselves or because it’s fun and they’ve been the responsible ones all their lives.

In years of her practice as a therapist Perel has seen it all and that’s perhaps why she has a very understanding and compassionate approach not only towards those who cheat but those who have been cheated on but want to stay in their partner too. None of these things are easy to deal with seeing how judgemental people are. Society tells you that if you’re cheated, you’re a bastard and if you stay with a cheater, you’re a walkover. This is not only untrue but also harmful for people who need to deal with infidelity in their own lives.
Perel discusses numerous examples of cheating and the reasons behind them to show the reader that nothing is black and white when it comes to love. As much as we’re allowed to define rules for ourselves and we may want to make them strict, we shouldn’t judge other people for wanting different things for themselves. We don’t really know what’s happening in a relationship and only the interested parties should be involved in decision making.

“The State of Affairs” apart from discussing infidelity, meaning a situation when one of two people who’ve agreed on monogamy breaks this agreement, also explores the topic of polyamorous relationships.
I have expressed my views on it in my post “Togetherness in Modern Relationships“. Brief, not for me. Still, reading Esther’s examples about polyamorous relationships and agreements people enter into is very interesting. Just like in monogamy people decide on just sleeping with their partner, in polyamorous relationship they may agree on only having sex with one-night stands, having no rules apart from sleeping with friends or anything else they fancy. Only breaking these rules is considered cheating.

All in all, Perel’s book is extremely interesting and very well written. I think anyone who is or is planning to be in a long-term relationship, regardless of whether it’s polyamorous or monogamous, should read this book to understand issues relating to infidelity better. For those of us, who tend to me judgmental (I’m guilty of it!) this book is also a very good eye-opener and helps us to be more compassionate towards alternative choices of others.

Have you ever cheated on someone or have been cheated on? What do you think about polyamorous relationships? Would you try being in one? Let me know in the comments’ section!

6 comments

  1. Sounds like a interesting read. i haven’t ever cheated in the usual sense but once I dreamt that I cheated on a now ex-boyfriend. I woke up balling because I kissed a faceless man on the steps of a church in Italy (I wonder what the dream interpreters would say about that!). Our relationship was quite clearly on the rocks at the point, I think it’s easy to judge other people’s relationships, when you are not in their shoes. Every relationship has its quirks, I suppose. Things that other people won’t get.

    I used to be judgey about women (people?!) who stayed in violent relationships, until I was involved with a sociopath that called my morbidly obese and useless everyday, and I found ways to justify his behaviour. Oh, like he had a hard life and his parents didn’t love him and blah blah blah blah. I’m glad there was tipping point for me where I wouldn’t take that BS anymore but it last 6 months longer than it should have done, and its easy to see how people in more long term things stay put when there are kids, finances, etc involved.

    I don’t think cheating is a nice thing. It would be nice if such things never happened. But I don’t blame people for trying to work through things if there is some hope for a future.

    As for polyamourous relationships, I know there is a lot evidence in favour of them and proof that they can work but I’m a traditionalist. If other people want to do that then that is cool but I don’t think it would work for me…I’m an only child who doesn’t like to share my toys (yes, I know I should not compare a human to an inanimate object but you get my point). For me, as much as its nice to have all the options in the world…I’ve been tindering long enough to know that the options out there aren’t all that exciting! I’d much rather just have something I felt was worth working hard for rather than multi-tasking with loads of people and dealing with all those associated issues. Take me back to the dark ages : P

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    • Yeah so I’ve also never cheated on anyone and I think it’s an iffy thing to do…BUT I broke up with my ex-boyfriend via sms because I fancied someone I knew I was going to see the next day and he fancied me back and I was scared something could happen between us. So after I broke up with my ex I hooked up with the guy next evening. Sure, our relationship hadn’t been working out for a while and I had been trying to break up with him in person but he was too broke to see me for two weeks so what I was supposed to do? I understand my behaviour then but would it make me a worse/better person if I waited until I could break up with him in person but actually cheated on him? I guess this particular situation made me see that it’s very easy to judge people for, for instance, breaking up with someone via a text message (which I had been super judgey about before I happened to be in the described situation) or cheating (which I almost did because I didn’t fancy my partner for a while and he just wouldn’t show up to meet me so that I could jut break up with him :D). I guess the lesson here is that it’s easy to say: I would never do X and judge others but we should get off our high horse more often in life. Similar judgemental tendencies don’t really benefit us. I mean they don’t make us a nice person to be around, they make our friends scared to be vulnerable around us AND they make us feel like horrible hypocrites when we break one of our should/shouldn’t’s rules…

      I’m with you on this. I know the options aren’t that exciting as people make them seem. On the other hand, people can do whatever the hell they please and it’s certainly interesting to read how it works in reality!

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      • I’m yet to meet someone actually doing this whole polyamory thing officially. Cheaters, sure they are all around us but people who create rules and actually have a functional ‘open’ relationship, I’m yet to meet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure whether people are open about it even if they do it, in fear of judgement? If you meet any, remember to interview them for this blog :p

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      • Well, I kinda heard of a married couple who ‘opened’ up their marriage. She was going through a stressful time and decided that she wanted to explore her sexuality. And he was like ‘OK, till your stress is over. Then we will discuss’. I recently saw him on Tinder. Apparently, he was OK because she was exploring women rather than other men…so he didn’t feel like he could compete. All seems rather complicated for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting! I probably couldn’t have stopped asking them about all the details 😀 Yeah, it seems like a high maintenance concept.

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