Marriage truths, Esther Perel and Mating in Captivity (book recommendation)

I love books.

For the bigger part of my life I could spend a whole day devouring a novel and while I still enjoy them before going to bed, my interest shifted in the past couple of years.

I am now attracted to books which help me understand myself as a person. Books which leave me with at least a few major “a-ha” moments. They are usually in the safe-help section, although not exclusively.

One of those books is Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel.

Before I discovered this book, and subsequently Esther’s work, my relationship with my husband was slowly dying. So slowly that I hadn’t even noticed.

One day I looked around and I found myself married, with a child, a loving partner, a beautiful home, career on the rise… actually everything a woman could want. Except I wasn’t happy.

I had days when I felt dead on the inside, on others I was full of resentment and anger.

Divorce was not an option.

I couldn’t just walk away from 12 years with someone I love. “I’m not happy” doesn’t seem like a good enough reason for me to cause pain to someone I love and who loves me back.

But staying and being unhappy in our relationship wasn’t an option either.

To say that I told my husband how I felt, we talked and things miraculously worked out would be a big fat lie.

I went through a phase of blaming him for everything and making huge, even impossible demands. It was around that time I remember once reading Esther’s book Mating in Captivity. So I picked it up again.

I read her words and I cried.

Then I discovered her podcast “Where should we begin?”

I listened to the sessions and I cried.

You know nobody had told me that there is no “and they lived happily ever after, end of story” in real life. Nobody had told me that love is not effortless. Maybe falling in love is but even that requires you get out of the door and meet people.

And that was a major A-ha moment for me - you work on your relationship, marriage, etc. If you don’t tend to it, the weeds will take over that garden.

The next phase for me was to accept responsibility for the state of our relationship and how I felt. it takes two to tango, baby.

Somehow it had escaped my attention that there are two people in our marriage and while I’was vigorously pointing a finger at my husband and blaming him for my unhappiness, there were significantly more of my own fingers pointing at me.

We both worked (and still do) a lot on ourselves as individuals, as well as together as a couple. We finally allowed things we both had denied ourselves for a very long time to come to the surface. We expressed our desires and needs. Probably for a first time we dropped the expectations we had for ourselves and each other. We learned how to communicate with each other and how to listen.

Again that wasn’t a smooth process.

Reading Esther’s book, listening to her podcast and watching interviews with her was like a crash and intensive course on relationships.

I’m telling you, Esther is like the Tony Robbins of relationships.

Funnily enough when I first heard of Esther I thought of her as a sex therapist, probably due to the subtitle of the book “Unlocking erotic intelligence”. Big, big mistake.

I assume it’s for the same reason I didn’t fully get “Mating in Captivity” the first time I read it either. This is not a book about sex.

Esther’s work is for everyone - straight, gay, married, people in open relationships and any other type of relationships which I’ve forgotten about or don’t even know yet.

I am currently rereading Mating in Captivity again and I’ll be sharing more about my A-ha moments from it on social media, probably here as well so make sure we’re connected. And if you have a chance, get a copy of it.

Have you read any of Esther’s books or listened to her podcast? What are your favorite sources of information and inspiration in the realm of relationships?

xo Rayna