This is a rehash of things of I’ve said before here, there and everywhere. But, I just wanted to make it as a stand-alone post, as opposed to an addendum or comment to another.
Esther Perel appears to be all the rage over this last year. She has some valid thoughts and generalizations that I think ring true to many of us in part, at least. What worries me about her, however, is what she prescribes to do about it in her greater works.
You probably all know we are big fans of Rick Reynolds, but he can be a bit Jesus heavy for us Jewish people. Still, obviously we like so much of what he has to say. And, it is clear to me that Perel and Reynold’s fundamental underlying principles share some common ground, yet how they proceed from there is very very different.
Perel has many fundamental points that ring true. Her messages about a) expecting our spouse to meet all of our needs being unrealistic and b) looking to someone other than our spouse 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 spouse cannot meet your every expectation, you faithfully choose to love them anyway. Reynolds also describes that after time with our spouse, we see the true reflection of ourselves from our spouse. It is often not that we are turning away from our spouse, 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 spouse’s eyes. Reynolds wants us to look within ourselves and to a higher power 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 understand where she intends to lead this conversation.