Mating in Captivity

By Kendra Holliday | August 9, 2014

Mating in Captivity, by Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity, by Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity is a great resource for anyone who is unhappy in their traditional, monogamous marriage.

The author and therapist Esther Perel notes that her husband is also a therapist, but he works with people who are refugees and have been tortured and have PTSD. She says her husband deals with pain, and she deals with pleasure. I say she’s also dealing with pain, just on a different level. And yes, pain and pleasure are intimately connected. Both make us feel ALIVE.

How do we get more pleasure in our lives, and less pain? Ultimately, we are in control of our lives, and can make choices that will lead us to a happier, healthier place. These choices can be difficult, and take a lot of work. They take courage and strength.

I was counseling a couple recently who have been married for over 40 years. Their relationship is spectacularly dysfunctional. I gave them real advice on how to change things (as opposed to a pep talk), and it fell on deaf, stubborn ears. Neither of them want to make the first move. They don’t want to leave their comfort zone, even though it has pot holes and bear traps. So frustrating.

Esther very patiently takes an entire book to break down what we all want – we want EVERYTHING. We want adventure, security, passion, love, independence, to be appreciated and desired, comfort, happiness… and guess what?

It’s really difficult balancing all of those things, especially if you are counting on one person to fulfill all of your physical and emotional needs. Most people cannot have everything. And if it is your goal to have everything, it’s really challenging finding the right balance.

For instance, Esther gave some couples some pretty hardcore advice. Going beyond the usual tips of scheduling dates on a regular basis and cute relationship exercises, she suggested one couple get divorced, but still live together. She advised another couple to live in separate homes.

You can wallow in the known and complain about it and let resentment build, or you can take a risk and make real changes. Sometimes happiness is handed to us, but more often than not, it takes hard work and courage to obtain.

I love this quote she shares in the book:

“We bitch about our difficulties along the rough surface of our path, we curse every sharp stone underneath, until at some point in our maturation, we finally look down to see that they are diamonds.” – Frank Jude Boccio

Pretty please?

Pretty please?

Adding to the mundane daily tasks of chores, finances, child rearing, work, is the element of sex and intimacy. Some people see sex as the cherry on top, but I see it as the ice cream bowl. It is the foundation that keeps everything from melting off the table.

Sex is an integral part of our lives and affects every aspect IF it is something that is important to you. One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is the dreaded mismatched libido – one partner would like sex on a daily basis, while the other partner doesn’t have a need for it at all. Or someone who feels ashamed of what turns them on and is afraid to share their “dirty” thoughts with their partner.

Sexual fantasies can be hard to reconcile because they are so very different from other types of fantasies. They often showcase Opposite Day – we want happy, consensual, sane romantic lives, but that’s too boring – our brains like toying with the dark, twisted stuff – gang bangs, control, rape, incest…

As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our erotic fantasies – we should be patting ourselves on the back for being so badass and creative.

Mating in Captivity is about unlocking erotic intelligence and making it work in our intimate relationships. Don’t take your partner for granted. You think you know them inside and out, but you don’t. Take a step back and view your partner differently, as if you just met at a party.

Try getting to know them all over again.


St 2014-08-09 19:52:22

I really enjoyed the book. I also enjoy what she has to say on twitter.


rphman 2014-08-26 14:34:49

I have not read the book but will. I did watch a 19 minute talk she did on TED talks. Take home message was asking two questions of your self.
1) I turn myself on when………………..
2) I turn myself off when……………….

This is an internal journey we must have the courage to take. The core message is the same one we get when we get in a jet.: “please put the oxygen mask on yourself before you do your loved ones that may be with you”. Society teaches us that the “good person” is the selfless person that thinks first of others. This message in the jet tries to re-program our social values and tell us that survival of ourselves and ultimately others must be a “selfish act” of putting yourself first.
Said differently; “to be us I must first be me”.


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