When Esther Perel, shared her thoughts about relationships at A-fest Ibiza, there was an undeniable shift of energy in the room.
Her fascinating talk stirred up the same question in everyone sitting in the audience: Why has nobody told me this before?
Sex & relationships is a field where, as Esther said, there are no experts — there are just people who thought about it more.
And if this is the humble truth, she has definitely thought about it more than anyone since she has just published her second New York Times bestseller, The State of Affairs. Not to mention her viral TED talk that received more than 10 million views.
Yet, no one has figured it all out, as she says, her intention is to simply question failed models of relationships and uncover the uncomfortable truth.
She has done so with plenty of couples as she helped them find aliveness again and she has done it on the A-fest stage as well while sharing her secrets.
Here are 7 facts about relationships from Esther Perel that puzzle everyone, yet no one talks about:
1. Passion and security cannot exist at the same time
We come to this world to find belonging. We want to feel content, secure, and satisfied and share our vulnerabilities with the people we trust. We find it in moments when we feel we are enough and there is nothing more we need.
But you see, we also come to this world with a desire for novelty. We want adventure and recklessness. We go out to discover the unknown and we take risks to feel the adrenalin.
Both of them exist in all of us but you might find that you lean towards one or the other. Maybe you seek more stability and your partner is craving for excitement — or the other way round.
When Esther spoke on the A-fest stage, she gave an interesting explanation to this: It seems that we all carry a blueprint of what we seek based on what we wanted to fulfill as a child.
An unstable childhood creates a need for security in a person. A strict upbringing triggers a desire for freedom. Do you start to see now which one you fall closer to?
The funny thing is that we often fight with our partners for the very thing we have chosen them for.
A relationship is a dynamic dance between desire and intimacy and you can create both with your partner. You just need to explore which one you are more drawn to.
2. We can’t date an entire village
Let’s go back in time. Our ancestors had lived in tribes and in these communities, everyone had a clearly defined role.
For a lifetime.
We married for the sake of reproduction and our options were quite limited. You had to choose from 2-3 partners and live happily ever after. Delightful simplicity, isn’t it?
Then we moved into cities and we suddenly had to share our life with about ten thousand more villages. We are clearly dealing with a paradox of choices.
And if that was not enough, the more people we are surrounded by the lonelier we get because we are starving for real connections.
Once we find “the one” (or at least a temporary one), we put all the pressure on them hoping they could fulfill our need for connection that, once upon a time, an entire village used to provide. To be our best friend, our advisor, the one who takes care of us, and so on.
Isn’t that a bit too much to ask?
Instead of raising our expectations towards our partners, we need to take a close look at what is missing from our social life. Do we feel we belong? Do we have people to rely on? And finally, how is our relationship with ourselves?
Find these answers, and you will see your love relationship in a different light.
Esther Perel sharing the stage with Vishen Lakhiani, Marisa Peer,
and Dan Savage at A-fest, Ibiza.
3. Monogamy is highly misunderstood
“For most of history we married and we had sex for the first time. Today we marry and we stop having sex with others.”
— Esther Perel
I hate to break it down to you but the original meaning of monogamy is to live a lifespan committed to a single person. But as longevity multiplied the years of our lives, we started to mistake monogamy with having one person on our side at a time.
So yes, in this sense we are monogamous in all our relationships. Which is completely fine as long as we understand that we cannot live the same way for 90 years as we did for 30 back in the day.
As Esther Perel says, most of us in the West are going to have at least 2-3 marriages or committed relationships during our lives — and some of us will have it with the same person.
Whether you are monogamous, polygamous, gay, straight, or anything that works for you, you will need to reinvent yourself and the relationship you live in over and over again.
No relationship lasts for a lifetime. You can have the same relationship with a thousand people or you can have a thousand different relationships with a single person. It’s up to you to decide.
4. How to find long-haul desire
Now I got your attention, haven’t I? It is the ultimate question in long-term relationships — and the answer is simpler than you think.
We cannot want what we already have.
What this means is that our desire is nothing else but an intense longing towards something or somebody we see from a distance. If that somebody is always present in our lives, we might need to walk a few steps away.
When Esther asked the audience at Ibiza about when they feel most drawn to their partners, A-festers gave different answers.
It is when they see them dancing, singing, creating art, and being present. When they travel, when they act in a surprising way, and when they shine in the light of others.
But most of all, when they radiate which Esther defines as confidence with illumination. If we want to feel passion in a relationship even after decades, we must keep the passion alive in other areas of our lives as well.
It’s time to wander away and express your creativity, travel, find people who inspire you, or do anything that makes you feel alive.
So that when you return, you will be that person your partner fell in love with in the first place.Esther Perel sharing the secret to a successful relationship on the A-fest stage.
5. Sex is not something we do, it’s a place we go
The sexual revolution had freed us from our limitations. But as we got free, our focus shifted to the act of doing sex instead of making love.
We fool ourselves if we think we can quantify sexuality with how long and how many times we experience pleasure.
Eroticism is more than just sex. It is a playful dance, a screenplay, a piece of art. And it goes beyond the bedroom.
In Esther’s words, tell me about your sexuality and I see the person you are.
Those who live life like a passionate love affair focus more on playing than achieving and embrace the excitement of the journey. Both in bed and otherwise.
6. There are only two types of people in a relationship
There is a pattern Esther has recognized after she coached several couples and helped them create fulfilling relationships.
They are either alive or they are merely not dead.
Those who are surviving their relationship tend to live outside of it. They basically try to show their best selves in their career and invest energy into building social connections.
Once they come home to their partners, they feel that they have already put out all their energy and they just want to chill. They don’t want to make any effort in their love relationship.
And this makes them simply lose their passion for their partners altogether. Not a nice place to be.
The ones who maintain a vibrant, fulfilling relationship are those who understood how to reinvent themselves. And they do so over and over again.
They actively create and build their relationships and so they keep the energy alive.
7. A powerful aphrodisiac forgotten in the modern age
It is interesting how we, human beings are thrilled by mystery, yet our curiosity always pushes us to discover more.
Not knowing everything gives us space for imagination and creativity, and this is true for our relationships too.
We don’t need to hide our truth in order to evoke the delightful feeling of mystery — we just need to keep some things to be uncovered.
And with that, we don’t just discover our desire for our partners but we wake up a new found passion for life in ourselves.
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