This is very scary to write and to admit. But, I’ve now seen news programs and several different blogs discussing Esther Perel. While I’ve hinted at it in previous posts, I felt I needed to talk about this in more detail.
A while ago I read something from Peggy Vaughn essentially stating that she and her husband promised each other honesty, not monogamy. She described how promising monogamy was encouraging secrets, which then laid a path toward infidelity. She described how talking about temptations, opportunities and the like actually helped to defang them. It did make a lot of sense to me.
Then, while MC was away for that year, I became very good friends with a couple who were/are quietly in an open marriage. Their youngest and our youngest were best friends from school. I still don’t exactly know why they told me about the status of their marriage, but after soaking it in for a bit, I shared just a few things about what had happened between MC and me, but none of the nasty details. They introduced me to Esther Perel.
MC and I talked so much about this couple, about Perel about our previous learning through AR and everything in between. Since discoveries, I have had a longing for butterflies. MC told me he did not want an open marriage, he does not want another intimate partner other than me. He tells me about every instance where in the past he may have looked for an opening. We talk openly and honestly about it all.
I was in a very vulnerable place when I was introduced to Perel and I worry about others getting so deep in, while also still being in a vulnerable place. Luckily, I was also in place where honesty between MC and I had really come to be a safer, comforting and supportive place. We talked for hours every day. I told MC that though I’ve been faithful our whole marriage, there were times I longed for a more passionate, free experience, but I didn’t cheat. Even though his self-pity is being addressed, his anger and jealousy are being addressed, I no longer know how to be free. I do want that with MC. I am working on it. We are working on it. But, sometimes, I do wish for an experience where I could be that free person just to see what it is like and maybe even bring that back into our marriage. MC tells me it makes him sad to think of me being in this place, but he understands. Hearing him say that was such a wonderful thing for me because it really did show how far he has come in regard to his jealousy and self-pity.
So, I do get a small bit of what Perel is saying in her less publicized works, but am also a little scared by that fact. Still, talking about it, has defanged it — mostly. It is not out of revenge, nor wanting to cause MC pain, but wanting to experience something new, to feel alive, like Perel describes in her works. I think these thoughts are a natural curiosity to many of us who have been betrayed. And, I think it would be foolhardy to pretend that these thoughts and feelings do not exist. I am going to be open and honest with my husband about such thoughts and feelings. And, with being so honest together, I do feel we defang the temptations for both of us.
ETA: Here were my thoughts on Esther Perel versus Rick Reynolds that I made to Kat’s blog:
Perel has many fundamental points that ring true. Her messages about a) expecting our partner to meet all of our needs being unrealistic and b) looking to someone other than our partner to find something different within ourselves are similar to the message of Rick Reynolds from Affair Recovery. The difference is, if you look into both of them further, is what each prescribes to do about it. Perel in other writings discusses that this is why as a society we should be open to allowing couples to redefine monogamy in their relationship, together, on an on-going basis. We, as a society, should encourage and support couples to redefine their boundaries and definitions several times in their life together, with each instance essentially creating a new marriage, together. This should be done openly, honestly and together (not forced by one party). She supports the idea of allowing other secondary partners to help fulfill needs that no one partner can meet. She supports the idea that we can find something missing within ourselves by opening ourselves up to other intimate relationships, other partners, while maintaining the marriage as the primary relationship.
Rick Reynolds agrees that it is unrealistic of us to expect that one partner could meet every need, want and desire. He also agrees that affairs are about looking to feel better about ourselves through they eyes of someone new. But, he goes in a different direction than Perel on how to handle that. Where as she encourages society supporting non monogamous or “almost monogamous” marriages, he does not believe that adding in new partners is helpful or healthy. Reynolds main premise is that truly loving is after limerence and the fantasy wears off, after you are faced with knowing that your partner cannot meet your every expectation, you faithfully choose to love them anyway. Reynolds also describes that after time with one partner, we see the true reflection of ourselves from our partner. It is often not that we are turning away from our partner, but turning away from that true reflection of ourselves. He goes on to point out that with a new partner, with the limerence and fantasy in place, the reflection we see from our new partner is based on a fantasy version of ourselves and we prefer that reflection to the true reflection seen in our partners eyes. Reynolds wants us to look within ourselves and our marriage to learn to feel good about who we are and would state that adding in other partners simply fuels an unhealthy fantasy.
Though they start with very similar premises, they go in completely different directions on how to resolve these issues. It is certainly up to the individual couple to decide how best to proceed. Maybe she is the wave of the future. I don’t know? I would just encourage those interested in Perel to look into her other work and understand where she intends to lead this conversation.