Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

Book Review

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

by | Jun 4, 2020

Perel shares her amazement about how much people are willing to experiment sexually while they are single or outside of their relationship parameters. She mocks the often puritanical nature of sex within the marriage bed, especially once the honeymoon has worn off or once the couple become parents. Years later, at their wit’s end, couples who seek counseling plead for some solution that will rejuvenate their lost connection. Though they seem committed to “making things work,” many find themselves stuck behind a veil of stress, anxiety, insecurity, work, and children, to name a few. At this stage, working on the relationship, or working on their sex life can feel like one more chore.

“In our erotic life, work does not work…trying is always trying too hard. We glorify efficiency and fail to recognize that the erotic space is a radiant interlude in which we luxuriate, indifferent to the demands of productivity; pleasure is the only goal.”
– Esther Perel

Great sex requires ingredients. Perel states you must have vulnerability, trust, creativity, and patience. Sometimes, distance and independence from your lover are needed before you can return to their embrace with excitement. For long-term relationships that have relegated sexuality to routine pattern or worse, to ambivalence, stronger measures may be needed. Perel recommends that couples reinstate a courtship. They can plan to meet each other at a bar or restaurant, pretending it is their first meeting. They might indulge in a weekend getaway and promise to leave all domestic conversations behind them. Another tactic is to find arousal in the shadows. They might seek to find their lost libido with someone new, through having an affair. They might agree to invite a third into their bedroom. They may elect to open the relationship altogether, seeking thirds or even fourths on their own or together.

Dubbed, inviting the shadow, Perel challenges couples to find the spark they think they lost by looking in new and exciting places.