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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
This review is from: Mating in Captivity (Paperback)
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. The 3rd is the forbidden- what lies outside the fence, who's presence is a fact of life. To refuse to acknowledge anyone else, even in fantasy, as a result of insisting on perfect love, implies a fragile relationship where monogamy is enforced compliance rather than a free expression of loyalty. We choose to renounce others- but we don't need to deaden our senses to protect our relationship. Acknowledging the 3rd reinforces the erotic separateness of our partner. We shouldn't choke freedom of thought if we want desire to breathe within marriage.

Temptation is normal, as are injunctions against temptation and infidelity. Knowing that it is possible for our partner to be unfaithful keeps us sexually interested and reminds us that we shouldn't take them for granted. Pretending that there are no attractive people out there doesn't make the relationship more safe and certainly not more honest. This other person, the 3rd person, shouldn't be a threat or a shadow but something to add spice, make our partner a little mysterious, make us slightly unnerved, and increase our desire for them. Renouncing others reaffirms our choice. We admit our roving desires and reject them. There's no need for fear or moral outrage.

So can we always want what we have?... We don't actually own our partner. Separateness is undeniable. We should have erotic intelligence and revere the erotic, embrace our fantasies and the existence of 'the 3rd'- someone else who catches our eye or that of our parner. Esther Perel says desire resists confinement, we should be both separate and together, cultivating intimacy that respects privacy, and bring lust home.

Great book. The monogamist's essential read!
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