MEDIA: TED talk by Esther Perel on “the secret to desire in a long-term relationship”

Esther Perel is a Belgian-born psychotherapist and writer who specializes, like I do, in sex and intimacy for couples and individuals. We did a little bit of training together many years ago, and I like and respect her very much. She made a big splash with her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. In fact, her TED talk is pretty much a digest of her book’s main ideas delivered in less than 20 minutes. She asks provocative questions: can we desire what we already have? does good intimacy always make for hot sex? She empowers people in long-term relationships to understand that it’s asking a lot of your partner to fulfill every single one of your relational needs/wants/desires. Every relationship requires a tricky balancing act between the solidity of love (all about having) and the excitement of desire (all about wanting), between autonomy and connection, between stability and adventure. Of all the ingredients that add up to what she calls erotic intelligence — mystery, playfulness, novelty, curiosity — she prizes imagination above all. I like the way she encourages people to investigate deeply and honestly how they actively turn themselves on and turn themselves off. The language forces you to reclaim the power of erotic imagination, rather than making it your partner’s job to turn you on. My favorite thing she says: “Desire requires selfishness in the best sense — to hold onto yourself in the presence of another.” Check out the video and let me know what you think.

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