Lust and love. Safety and risk. Trust and curiosity. Boredom and novelty. Monogamy and polyamory. Familiarity and excitement. Picking up dirty laundry and sex binge weekends. 24 hours in pajamas and wild nights out for months. Three children and rock climbing. Unpaid bills and erotic lingerie. If you associate the first words in the above sentences with marriage and the second with dating or hookups, welcome aboard. You are one of the millions of humans who struggle with the mess of modern-day relationships. 

Our (Somewhat) Broken View of Love

It is almost impossible never to have come across Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity since it is a widely popular book and highly acclaimed by leading newspaper book clubs and bestseller lists. It is a bestseller because it touches upon an important aspect of modern life in which expectancies from marriage grow and spouses are no longer seen as mere partners in the economics of a household and family. 

True, nowadays we want a lot more from a partner, for two reasons mostly. One is the brainwashing done by the mainstream media with the romanticized idealism of the “happily ever after” and the other is our own incapability to love as adults because we simply don’t know how to. We love as we have been taught in our families. Most adults, with rare exceptions, have more or less kept aspects of their small child persona when they show up as adult partners in a relationship. But regardless of the distorted stories about love we have been told or accepted, the hookup culture, the inability to articulate what we want unless we text message,  true love has a bit of that magical quality which is difficult to describe yet keeps bits of the romanticism and the deservingness of a small child inside. 

How to Rekindle a Relationship or a Stale Marriage 

“Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” is a book about all of this. Many problems in marriages or long-term  “serious” relationships come out from one of both partner’s inability to comprehend in themselves and the other, and manage and communicate their needs, wishes, and desires. 

But a huge part of the issues modern couples struggle with is down to pointing the mirror to the partner rather than turning it inwards for self-reflection. We expect from the partner to be our everything – we give them an impossible task which no one can fulfill. We want them to tick all the boxes in our expectation minds. We want them to act in a way, and when they don’t, we take that for a fault of character. 

Mating in Captivity book review old couple
Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

We all have our narrative of how to love. No two people have the same. Often, partners in marriage share a crime – they both have a dysfunctional pattern for bonding which attracts the other and glues to them like a fly to honey. Sometimes, marriage failure is due to accepting societal spousal roles without questioning whether they fit.

There is plenty to be said about the skyrocketing divorce rates and the declining marriage wows that marked the noughties and beyond. Happiness seems to remain an illusory quality for many marriages that involve an affair and fail in overcoming it. 

Can You Survive the Betrayal of the Affair?

What Esther Perel is talking about in “Mating in Captivity” is not the subject of serial affairs, a more complex problem, although it can fit in the context of this book partially. What she talks about is the affair that rocks an otherwise stable marriage. For some people, when the excitement of the novelty wears out, the easiest way to look for fun is outside of their marriage. Having an affair seems like a wonderful solution – there is someone new who can stir your juices, make your trip, entice you to look forward to meeting them, and, simultaneously – overwhelm you with guilt. 

An affair is not the only exit. Here is what other exits I took for myself and what you can from this book: 

  1. You CAN develop excitement within marriage. You just need to get creative. 
  2. When your partner has an affair it is never about you. It is never about you in the similar sense that nothing that anyone else does is about you. People have a subjective worldview and are driven by selfish reasons. Selfish doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad in this context. It can simply be related to the personal, the self. But in a way, it can mean selfish in the “bad way”, too, because it doesn’t take care of the relationship as a whole. An affair is a betrayal to the relationship more than it is a betrayal to the betrayed.  
  3. The more we know someone, or think we know someone, the less attracted we are to them.
  4. You can bring in novelty into our relationship or marriage by doing something new yourself or for yourself.
  5. The new thing that sparks erotic novelty doesn’t have to be sexual. 
  6. Your relationship is a whole with two parts. You don’t need to change the other for someone else to revive the relationship. 
  7. Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes the affair is the final red flag for the love that is long over. 
  8. You don’t need to feel obligated and continue the relationship after an affair. But it will do you an immense amount of good to know what went wrong and use those insights into a new relationship. 
  9. Some relationships have overcome the trauma of an affair. They are those that have grown stronger. It is possible. 

If you are struggling with keeping your marriage alive, if you want to redeem it after an affair, or if you are on the verge of committing one and in a desperate need of a quick solution, then you should get this book. It is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

Things that are kept stale, stagnant, without new energy – wither. It is so easy to do that when you get into the role of a long-term partner, parent, or breadwinner in a marriage. Recollecting the initial excitement and looking at our partner with new eyes is helpful. But nurturing the excitement within us by getting out of our comfort zone and, in turn, igniting the fires in the relationship, as well, is a rare find for modern companionships who want to rekindle the same love all over again, and many times in the future. 

Stories about Dogs and People participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Unless I've bought them as hardcover/paperback editions, I read most books on the Kindle app, but reading them on a Kindle device is a much better experience.

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