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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I got this book a long time ago and did not pay it much attention. I thought I would revisit it now that I am in a different place emotionally and see if I get anything new from it.

Who else here has read this book and what were any good takeaways from it? From reading it long ago I remember two primary concepts:

  • Desire needs distance. The closer you get to someone, the more challenging it is to desire that person. As a result of this concept I have always made it a point to help create and respect personal space in my marriage as something that serves to make the relationship stronger. At the end of the day there is more to share with one another.
  • Sexuality does not play by democratic rules of fairness. This is an interesting one that to me comes across as the idea that one always has to be adapting to challenges in life. Sexuality in marriage is perhaps unbalanced by design as a way to make sure that there is always a personal challenge to help push self development forwards as a couple. Confronting these challenges is the key to unlocking passion while avoiding/protecting ourselves from these challenges only serves to kill romance in favor of keeping things calm and peaceful.

Combining that with Schnarch's books that discuss concepts of improving differentiation and marriage being a crucible that will melt stubborn gridlocked emotions (or end the marriage), it seems to be parallel to Esther's concepts. But written from different perspectives.

So I am reading this book again and will share my thoughts here. Feel free to chime in!

Cheers,
Badsanta
 

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I haven't read the book. I should, it's been on my list for a long time.

Perel has her detractors (where's @Marduk when you need him?), but I always thought that she tried to find some of the underlying hard-core truth about sexuality in marriage. Not everyone wants to hear those truths, especially when they don't comport with the Western ideal of utopic monogamy, but I always gave her credit for seeking difficult answers to difficult questions.

How's that for a non-answer?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Not everyone wants to hear those truths, especially when they don't comport with the Western ideal of utopic monogamy, but I always gave her credit for seeking difficult answers to difficult questions.

How's that for a non-answer?
My wife always asks me about what I am reading, I showed her this book the day it arrived. She skimmed through it and landed on the chapter about "rethinking fidelity" and how historical views on monogamy have changed over time and continue to do so. Once it got into "inviting the third" she threw the book down and questioned if the author had ever finished college or gotten a real degree. Unfortunately my copy of the book does not give any indication of the author's educational background, so she told me to stop reading it. At the time I just glanced through this book and ordered a few others making sure the authors had a Ph.D. next to their names.

The author has some interesting videos on Youtube, so I watched those before diving back into this book. She comes from a background of working with community trauma and how it impacted relationships. I think if she had one thing to say it would be, "don't destroy your marriage by being overprotective" is the notion of what she is trying to say.

When she talks about having children and how that impacts the intimate lives of the respective parents, she claims that it is not the child that causes that issue. Instead she points out that as adults that is the time where most couples begin to focus on safety and become overprotective about everything. It is that behavior that in turn sacrifices the fun and excitement of passion in favor of a lifestyle that is overly safe, routine, and very predictable.

@Cletus from what I have read of your posts, you have been living in a sexual world of extreme safety, routine, and predictability and are fed up with it. I am curious if anything, what advice you might find useful in this book. If I find something that fits your situation, I'll point it out...

Cheers,
Badsanta
 

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@Cletus from what I have read of your posts, you have been living in a sexual world of extreme safety, routine, and predictability and are fed up with it. I am curious if anything, what advice you might find useful in this book. If I find something that fits your situation, I'll point it out...

Cheers,
Badsanta
Hot damn, now I have someone doing my homework for me!

Thanks.
 
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I read the book and largely liked it. A lot of what she said made a lot of sense. I'm a little critical of Perel's seeming advocacy for affairs, but aside from that it was a good book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hot damn, now I have someone doing my homework for me!

Thanks.
If you let me do your homework, the results will probably make for a good plot in the next movie by the Duplass Brothers.


The first thing I need you to do is travel to the countryside with your wife to a strange empty house and smoke some pot. :)

Badsanta
 

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At the prompting of members here I read it. It was a bit of a slog.
The helpful truth I got from the book is that no relationship, even a marriage exists in a vacuum. There is always someone interesting just around the corner. Or even someone interested. Once you accept this idea: that you are looking, your partner is looking, people are looking at you, people are looking at your partner, then you can use that energy either to break your relationship, or to build it. It is up to you. You do not need to isolate your partner or yourself to have a strong relationship. You do have to be strong people, But, you knew that.
You can get all of the distance you need from that alone. The chapter on rethinking fidelity was an exception to the rest of the book.
 

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If you let me do your homework, the results will probably make for a good plot in the next movie by the Duplass Brothers.


The first thing I need you to do is travel to the countryside with your wife to a strange empty house and smoke some pot. :)

Badsanta
Eh, we already live in a strange (mostly) empty house in the countryside. But the pot? She's about as open to that as to a long list of sexual practices. So I guess we get a C- on our assignment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I read the book and largely liked it. A lot of what she said made a lot of sense. I'm a little critical of Perel's seeming advocacy for affairs, but aside from that it was a good book.
Part of me wonders if Perel's approach to infidelity is the notion that a relationship can survive or even benefit from the dynamics of an affair. Historically once a woman married it would be virtually impossible for her to divorce and remarry. Today divorce and 2nd marriages are widely accepted. In most discussions here on TAM, once a marriage reaches a certain point many folks advocate that being able to end a marriage is sometimes the only thing that can fix it. Obviously it is implied that ending a marriage implies that one is ready to move on and find someone else.

I guess that boils down to the idea of what makes us the best that we can be? Is it competition or cooperation? One might argue that being too competitive does not give us a fair chance to fail and learn from that. On the other hand being too cooperative tends to make us complacent and allow things fail without consequence. So the answer is neither and that we must manage both competitiveness and cooperativeness in order to be our best.

So being faithfully monogamous with the underlying threat of divorce or an affair should one become too complacent in a relationship is likely why Perel advocates keeping the door open to infidelity in order to strengthen a relationship.

I am still reading and digesting, so I could be wrong about this stance. But this is what I am gathering.

Badsanta
 

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Part of me wonders if Perel's approach to infidelity is the notion that a relationship can survive or even benefit from the dynamics of an affair. Historically once a woman married it would be virtually impossible for her to divorce and remarry. Today divorce and 2nd marriages are widely accepted. In most discussions here on TAM, once a marriage reaches a certain point many folks advocate that being able to end a marriage is sometimes the only thing that can fix it. Obviously it is implied that ending a marriage implies that one is ready to move on and find someone else.

I guess that boils down to the idea of what makes us the best that we can be? Is it competition or cooperation? One might argue that being too competitive does not give us a fair chance to fail and learn from that. On the other hand being too cooperative tends to make us complacent and allow things fail without consequence. So the answer is neither and that we must manage both competitiveness and cooperativeness in order to be our best.

So being faithfully monogamous with the underlying threat of divorce or an affair should one become too complacent in a relationship is likely why Perel advocates keeping the door open to infidelity in order to strengthen a relationship.

I am still reading and digesting, so I could be wrong about this stance. But this is what I am gathering.

Badsanta

Threats are meaningless if you're unaware of the follow-through. A threat of divorce makes sense because you'll be aware that it's happening. Most people in an affair don't announce it at dinner (Skyler White notwithstanding).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Threats are meaningless if you're unaware of the follow-through. A threat of divorce makes sense because you'll be aware that it's happening. Most people in an affair don't announce it at dinner (Skyler White notwithstanding).
Correct, but many spouses often question openly or secretly if the other might be having an affair. So over dinner a suspicious spouse may very well ask that question.

The next question becomes if that suspicion can be used in a positive way to help benefit the relationship to improve intimacy.
 

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Correct, but many spouses often question openly or secretly if the other might be having an affair. So over dinner a suspicious spouse may very well ask that question.

The next question becomes if that suspicion can be used in a positive way to help benefit the relationship to improve intimacy.
I think once it gets to a point of suspicion, it's actively doing harm. Things may or may not be able to be repaired after that, but I don't think an explicit or implied threat of an affair is healthy for a relationship. You can't threaten someone into trusting or loving you more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I think once it gets to a point of suspicion, it's actively doing harm. Things may or may not be able to be repaired after that, but I don't think an explicit or implied threat of an affair is healthy for a relationship. You can't threaten someone into trusting or loving you more.
I would tend to totally agree with you on this!

But for arguments sake perhaps there is another side to this. One thing I have read about is the topic of hysterical bonding. Here is an old discussion on TAM about how it skyrockets the intensity of sexual intimacy for couples after it had been otherwise problematic:


So this would possibly lead one to conclude that intense and erotic sexual intimacy is NOT about trusting someone. There needs to be some kind of risk or unknown threat in order for things to get exciting. I think this is what Perel is trying to convey. It is counterintuitive. And it also gets right into her stance that intense and erotic sex does not play fair or by any set of democratic rules.
 

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So this would possibly lead one to conclude that intense and erotic sexual intimacy is NOT about trusting someone. There needs to be some kind of risk or unknown threat in order for things to get exciting. I think this is what Perel is trying to convey. It is counterintuitive. And it also gets right into her stance that intense and erotic sex does not play fair or by any set of democratic rules.
I remember from WAY back a Playboy article (yeah, yeah, I know...) about how a smart woman would take a man to a party where he could be surrounded by beautiful women, then take him home and be the one to bang his brains out.
 

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Between Perel and Schnarsh, I think they have captured the root and truth behind much of modern human sexuality. Perel has another book as well, although seemed not as robust. Her book can also be fairly summarized in her YouTube/Ted Talks.

One thing I think is for SURE true (and mentioned in replies above), is that sexual excitement is driven by a sense of risk. People may perform better sexually once they get to know each other deeply, but the "excitement" part actual can diminish as people get closer, hence her idea of creating distance. I lived this, when a spent two years working 400 miles away Sunday night through Thursday night. My wife still recalls that her desire was greater during the times I was home, due to us having some level of distance each week.

Another think Perel touches on that is interesting, is the concept that when a spouse sees the relationship as being that of a caregiver, it quickly becomes non-sexual.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
One thing I think is for SURE true (and mentioned in replies above), is that sexual excitement is driven by a sense of risk.
This is an interesting concept because there are often a lot of risks when a relationship is new:
  • Risk of not knowing if the person will be committed long term to the relationship
  • Risk of not knowing if the person has a another sexual partner still interested
  • Risk of getting pregnant
  • Risk of STDs
  • Risk of not having a private place for sex (get caught by roommates or parents)
  • Risk of not knowing how to perform sexually for a new partner
  • Risk of not knowing if the other person will be judgmental about your body
  • So on and so on...

However later in a long term relationship those same risks do not always serve to maintain excitement over time. For example the prolonged risk of getting pregnant can actually create problems for a couple in the form of anxiety. It is not until you remove a prolonged risk that it allows for things to get exciting again. Like when a form of reliable birth control is implemented, things get much more intense and frequent. The same could be said for when a young couple gets apartment and for the first time have absolute privacy alone together. Removing the risk of being caught by roommates or parents actually creates more opportunities for better sex.

Now that I am thinking about it.... It seems as though while eroticism needs risk in order to thrive, it is actually the act of removing that risk that serves to create the erotism. Once the risk is removed long term then the eroticism is gone. Like not having to worry about pregnancy for many years and almost always having plenty of privacy for many years. ...meh!

In my opinion life is so messy and full of risks that there is no need to invite more people into the equation. Instead of stopping to smell the roses, perhaps we just need to stop and realize the risks we all take in day to day life.

Schnarch would advocate for the risk of not truly knowing one another as the primary thing to work on. We all have imperfections that we hide from our significant other in an attempt to "protect" the relationship. It is not until we "risk" the relationship by revealing our imperfections/faults that there is an opportunity to remove that risk and become closer.

Badsanta
 

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Correct, but many spouses often question openly or secretly if the other might be having an affair. So over dinner a suspicious spouse may very well ask that question.

The next question becomes if that suspicion can be used in a positive way to help benefit the relationship to improve intimacy.
That actually happened to me. The wife invited me to dinner which was very unusual at the time. I was thinking, awesome shes finally putting effort into our relationship, man was I wrong! About 30 minutes into it she asks me to confess to the affair I wasn't having.
 
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