Here's Why Legendary Relationship Therapist Esther Perel Says The Perfect Relationship Is "a Myth" - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Here’s Why Legendary Relationship Therapist Esther Perel Says The Perfect Relationship Is “a Myth”

The iconic relationship therapist, Esther Perel, gives her relationship advice that will help deconstruct the myths surrounding romantic love and change your outlook on intimacy.

When it comes to describing Esther Perel and her work, the English language proves woefully inadequate. The woman has come to be regarded as a guru of sorts, a legendary thinker whose captivating storytelling has seen her become one of the most sought-after speakers at any event. With her thoughts and expertise on modern relationships, Perel has helped many an individual to find love and romantic connection while not losing sight of their own identity. Rather than sell you on an idea of romance that borrows from Hollywood, Perel is known for her ability to deconstruct the myth of romantic love, while also looking beyond initial connection to the reality of infidelity and erotic intelligence. 

As any fan of Perel’s will know, her podcast Where Should We Begin? sees her knowledge play out in real time, as she helps consult with couples who are processing infidelity, grief, or dissonance within a relationship. We, as listeners then, are able to simply sit back and soak up her wisdom on everything concerning intimacy, passion, non-monogamy and love. These are topics she’s explored in her best-selling books, The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity. The central themes see Perel present something of a roadmap for couples in today’s society, where we both crave domesticity in the form of security and belonging, but also want heightened sensuality in the form of freedom, the erotic, and desire. Though the ability to balance the two can be particularly tricky, Perel is never shy to offer her advice. 

If you’re new to the world of Perel or simply feel that relationship advice is something you need not gloss over, consider the fact that Perel never comes at the topic with judgement, but rather that her work is always grounded in empathy. It’s particularly apparent now, as she looks to tackle not only the idea of intimacy in a world still grappling with Covid, but also the challenges faced by men as they come to unpack this idea of masculinity. 

In a recent interview with Men’s Health US, the famed relationship therapist gave her advice on all things related to dating, masculinity and eroticism. Here are some of our favourite learnings from Esther Perel herself. 

Esther Perel on the rise of consensual non-monogamy

“I think that relationships, especially romantic relationships, have evolved continuously. I mean, committed relationships used to be primarily an economic enterprise. Then they became a romantic enterprise. Now they are an identity economy in which we look for people to help us become the best version of ourselves. 

“We turn to relationships to give us thing that we used to receive from religion and communal structures. So, consensual non-monogamy is one more iteration that is currently under investigation by a number of people, primarily in the west.

“Consensual non-monogamy necessitates a point of departure—a modicum of choice and freedom. And that means equality. It’s not about a relationship being 50/50; it’s about people being able to experience a sense of sovereignty over their choices, and that demands equality, be it economically or in the terms of consequences. So, the question is: How do you equalise and experience choice as a truly free choice? And that’s one of the questions that consensual non-monogamy invites us to answer today.”

Esther Perel on masculinity

“I’m very interested in writing or thinking about masculinity because I think that the 20th century is when women made tremendous changes, and the 21st century will be when men adapt to those changes that women have made. Throughout history, we’ve seen masculinity as natural, uncomplicated, a given. But if it was that much of a given, I don’t know why masculinity always has to be defined, redefined, and proven. Men are constantly told to “show you’re a man,” “prove you’re a man,” and “don’t be emasculated.” 

“So masculinity isn’t often a given, but rather, a very fragile identity that is often hard to acquire and easy to lose. [This perspective] puts us in a very different conversation about men, women, gender, power, and all of those things.”

Esther Perel on the romantic idea of “the one” 

“That’s a question that doesn’t just plague men; it plagues everyone. But the problem actually comes with the concept of “the one.” So learning how to grapple with relational ambivalence is part of this as well. I think everyone these days is swimming in a large confusion on relationships, primarily because a lot of the stuff used to be codified. People knew where they met, how many times they should meet before they slept together, how they should marry, the fact that they can’t divorce, or what it takes to be able to separate, et cetera.

“At this point, all the big questions in relationships are [and need to be] negotiated. Who’s gonna wake up to feed the kid? That’s a negotiation. That’s not a given. Who has a right to demand sex? That is no longer just a given. Whose career matters more? These are fundamental questions that you see in all relationships at this moment, and it’s all a frequent negotiation. It’s having difficult conversations nonstop because there are no big structures that tell you how to do it. That, mixed with the fact that people believe in something called “the perfect relationship,” which is a myth. People [erroneously] hold the idea that there is this kind of trouble-free relationship somewhere in the universe that hasn’t been discovered yet.”

By Jess Campbell

Hobby jogger and pickle enthusiast, Jess is a writer committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport. When not staring down the blank page of a word document, you can find her getting a little lost and a little cold out on the trails. Previous work featured in GQ Australia.

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