Woman Crush Wednesday: relationship therapist & expert Esther Perel
I first became entranced with Esther Perel after watching her TED Talk (anyone else absolutely obsessed with TED Talks? I can't watch enough of them) entitled "Rethinking Infidelity." Her bold identification (and yes, in our society this identification is bold as hell, completely swimming against the tide of conventional morals) of infidelity as NOT relationship kryptonite was simultaneously incredibly practical, yet refreshingly innovative.
I literally get a lady boner every time I watch her speak.
In a quick review of the literature, it seems as though somewhere between 25%-75% of relationships experience infidelity. Why the HUGE gap? Lots of reasons: the operational definition of infidelity is so varied (What counts as cheating? P in V sex? Sexting? Watching porn? Flirting?), relationships are also so varied (some research is conducted on just married couples, other on heterosexual couples, some on cohabitation couples, some on self-identified romantic couples, what about relationships that consist of more than two people - gasp!), etc. etc. You see where this is going. There is no solid answer as to how many people cheat.
What we CAN conclude is that infidelity happens fairly often.
In this talk, Esther explores misunderstanding about, as she puts it, an act that is, "universally forbidden, yet universally practiced." The part that really got my nerd juices flowing was her commentary on shame and infidelity. Here's a snippet...
"We live in an era where we feel that we are entitled to pursue our desires...If we used to divorce because we were unhappy, today we divorce because we could be happier. And if divorce carried all the shame, today, choosing to stay when you can leave carries all the shame."
"Staying is the new shame."
I want to punch her in the face. She is so RIGHT ON.
But think about it, how many times have we had a friend, a sibling, a parent, a loved one who was betrayed by infidelity. Our first reaction is to encourage them to end the relationship. Get out! Leave! Once a cheater, always a cheater, right? It is viewed as the ultimate betrayal. A complete breach of trust. Relationship kryptonite. And if our loved one decides to stay in the relationship, they are often viewed as weak, a pushover, codependent. They feel shame and will fear (probably rightly so) judgement from their support system.
"Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other." - Henri Nouwen
Esther Perel challenged my preconceived notions on infidelity, and allowed me to reflect a bit on my capacity for compassion, and therefore my ability to be a supportive friend/lover/companion. I immediately wanted to dive into more of her work, and hope all of you will too! She's a smart cookie, who clearly is not afraid to dispute cultural assumptions on relationships and love. She recently published a book called, "Mating in Captivity," which is on deck for my next read!
Has anyone read it yet? I've heard good things! You can get more Esther by visiting her website at www.estherparel.com. Check out her blog - there was a great post that relates some of her ideas about infidelity to Beyoncé's Lemonade album - which I have SO much more to say about, so stay tuned!