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Mating in Captivity [Paperback]

Esther Perel
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2007

When you love someone, how does it feel? And when you desire someone, how is it different?

In Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel looks at the story of sex in committed couples. Modern romance promises it all - a lifetime of togetherness, intimacy and erotic desire. In reality, it's hard to want what you already have. Our quest for secure love conflicts with our pursuit of passion. And often, the very thing that got us to into our relationships - lust - is the one thing that goes missing from them.

Determined to reconcile the erotic and the domestic, Perel explains why democracy is a passion killer in the bedroom. Argues for playfulness, distance, and uncertainty. And shows what it takes to bring lust home. Smart, sexy and explosively original, Mating in Captivity is the monogamist's essential bedside read.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (20 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340943750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340943755
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An elegant sociological study, complete with erudite literary and anthropological references' (Daily Telegraph)

'Reads like a cross between the works of Jacques Lacan and French Women Don't Get Fat' (The New Yorker)

'At precisely the same moment that you're being shocked by her, you're also acknowledging the validity of her ideas. Perel's ideas are like the chorus of a really good pop song - instantly familiar because they resonate deeply. It's all rather terrifying in its intuitiveness and its pure rightness' (Observer)

From the Author

I wrote this book because, in 22 years of practice in six
different languages, I've met couples over and over again who were having a
good relationship, who love each other, but who have no sex, no tingle! I
met couples who had a bad relationship, and who I helped to have a good
relationship again, and the expectation was that the sex would just come
back - but it didn't. I began to think there's something in this premise -
that if sex is wrong, the relationship is wrong; and equally that more
talk, intimacy and closeness will equal more sex, better sex - that just
doesn't work. I knew I was on to something. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
By Karine
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is a huge and perplexing quantity of literature out there crammed with
advice on how we may tackle the blandness of sex in a long term relationship and thus improve our sex lives; if only we were to follow those authors clearly laid out instruction manuals. Whilst this may be effective for many people, hoards are left asking themselves why they feel so much in a rut and unable to relate to the proposed steps forward. The trouble is, as Esther Perel puts it, “eroticism simply doesn’t lend itself to the rigors of scorekeeping” but “is an imaginative act” and “cannot be measured”. Furthermore, “no amount of will or reason can dictate our love dreams”. How can we desire what we already have? How do we liberate ourselves and re-discover excitement in a sexual relationship that has gone stale? In our long term relationships, how do we manage “the tension between security and adventure”, between commitment and eroticism, or put “the ‘X’ back in sex”? Answers can never be simple and Perel does not pretend otherwise. But what she does do, through case studies and discussion, is explore the paradox between separateness and closeness, as it is acted out in sex, in a way that is plucky, inspired, imaginative, intelligent and entertaining. It is extremely well written and does not hide behind a lot of psychoanalytic jargon, thus making it accessible to the lay as well as the specialist reader. As a professional in the field, I found it to be a first class piece of writing that I can highly recommend.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thought provoking and well written 29 Mar 2011
Esther Perel asks how do we bring lust home? We all need security, love and commitment but eroticism can be lost with repetition and familiarity. Desire is about wanting. Can we - and our partner - want what we have? This is what she says...

Erotic intelligence is about bringing the space between two people to life. Desire needs a degree of distance, elusiveness, excitement, fun, fascination, adventure, discovery, novelty, change, uncertainty, mystery, anxiety of the unknown and anticipation.

We advocate togetherness but we also need autonomy, freedom and personal fulfilment and therefore we should allow a little space in our relationships. If we lose our separateness then connection can no longer occur. For example we shouldn't feel we have to talk about everything - women especially can share too much such that doing so becomes obligatory with nothing left to seek. We are two different people and have a sexual self which is individual, generates its own images and is aware when it gets turned on unexpectedly.

Esther believes fantasy is important, since it allows us to break rules and to have some freedom and excitement, escaping the constraints of life. We shouldn't worry that the erotic imagination is fuelled by a host of improper feelings- lust, aggression, power, neediness. In fact fantasy can be a reaction to unconscious pressures. What turns us on often goes against our preferred self image and our moral convictions, but there's no need to feel ashamed or guilty about our fantasies. Acknowledging one's eroticism is healthy but we should be wary of detailed sharing of our fantasies with our partners.

Esther talks about the '3rd person' in other words someone else, real or imagined, whom we or our partner desires.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and compassionate 30 Jan 2013
By jangali
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've always been a bit skeptical of the concept of marriage counselling, for at least two main reasons. One is that the problems that couples have derive from two individuals who themselves have problems. While work on oneself may certainly help to see relationship issues in a new light, it was, and I guess still is, less obvious to me that there is anything specific to work on in the space between the individuals, the relationship itself. Symptomatic of this lack of real material to work on, marriage counselors have always seemed to me to come at their task with entirely unquestioning devotion to the inherited narrative of monogamy. Their task has seemed to me primarily to consist in assigning blame and soliciting repentance, with the blame invariably assigned to whomever it might be who has stepped outside the bounds of sexual fidelity. This sounds like an insane exercise in self-flagellation of the kind that powerful American men (yes, it's always men) predictably resort to when their sexual dalliances enter the public record.

I have no idea if this is a fair characterization of the profession or if attitudes are changing, but I nonetheless found myself spellbound by the wisdom and compassion on almost every page of this book - and this notwithstanding that, while not judgmental, the author remains to my taste disappointingly coy on non-monogamy. On page after page, Perel brilliantly deconstructs the meaning underlying how partners behave in relationships. Particularly refreshing to generations of men accustomed to being portrayed by feminists as untrustworthy sexual predators is her real insight into how men think and feel about relationships, which is expressed with a rare lucidity and a genuine compassion.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "..And they all lived happily ever after?" 12 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered why affairs are so common? Have you ever actually questioned why the whole -"meet someone you fancy, fall in love, live happily ever after" kinda doesn't really happen and noticed that adult relationships are actually way loads more complicated than this - then this book is for you and will help you address much of your resultant confusion. Its an exceptionally well written book - it is clear it has been well researched, considered and thought about, and the author clearly has considerable expertise in this area.

As a therapist and clinician I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of what was written - I noticed how much of my own knowledge and experience mapped exactly with her findings and many of her observations resonated powerfully for me: speaking truths and realities so seldom mentioned in our society and so often specifically avoided in our education about relationships.

The primary focus of the book is exploring and seeking to understand how sex, sexuality and erotic desire exist within an intimate relationship and how sexual desire and emotional intimacy are not necessarily compatible. In clear and straight forward language she both illustrates and explains the mechanisms by which sexual desire and passion are ignited or indeed damped (or potentially extinguished) and goes on to show how many of our thoughts about emotional closeness and emotional intimacy fly in the face of raw sex desire.

She makes the point that monogamy was historically a patriarchal mechanism to control the fertility and reproductive capacity of women: yet in the 21st century we need to wake up to new ideas around male and female sexuality and indeed on the value or purpose of monogamy against other models of sexual relationship.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a listen!
Fascinating stuff. Great theory and insights for anyone struggling to understand the sex in their relationships.
Published 1 month ago by Richard M, Derbyshire
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Wonderfully written, Esther Perel's book is a life line for those wanting to think about such an under-discussed subject. Her writing is so perceptive. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Chloe Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and helpful book
Very clear, readable and useful. She has a good, pleasant style and puts over her points with sympathy and humour. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Norman Savage
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I bought this book after following Esther on twitter and watching her ted talk. I am not disappointed. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lola Kane
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing clarity to intimate relationships
A wonderful book with so much clarity concerning the difference between love and desire. Can we want resp. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ange1953
3.0 out of 5 stars its ok
there are many areas that I felt were not discussed, or explained. I do sometimes wonder why these types of books miss so many fundamental and important things - such as areas of... Read more
Published 12 months ago by popsicle
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
This book is well written what forced me to reach for dictionary and expand my sexual terminology. Book about how challenging modern couples life now days is. Read more
Published 14 months ago by aleksandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book on couples relationship
Amazing book! This book has answered many of many questions. Questions that I wasn't even aware of... It's a must read, if you want to understand yourself and the one next to you. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ella
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and thought-provoking
Really like this book. I'm a therapists and often see couples for whom the 'spark' has gone, sexually speaking, from their relationship. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Self-help junkie
5.0 out of 5 stars Real and truthful analysis of long term relationships and how to...
I don't find it easy to give books a five star rating - I know how much I myself am influenced by reader reviews, though only the ones that are written well of course. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
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