Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

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Summary

Love and desire are not fueled by the same things. What makes you feel cozy and loved is not the same that makes you feel turned on and desired. Eroticism resides in unpredictability, spontaneity, and risk. Sex is about loss of control: it is fraught with uncertainty and vulnerability.

Not just that, the erotic imagination is fueled by a host of feelings that are far from proper: aggression, raw lust, infantile neediness, power, revenge, selfishness, and jealousy.

How to introduce uncertainty and gentle imbalance in a relationship to keep it alive? In truth, it is already there, given the transient nature of things. The mistake is believing the fantasy of permanence and security. As soon as we acknowledge that our partners are never granted, sustained desire becomes a real possibility.

Book Notes

⇾ Eroticism requires separateness.

We all have an equally strong need for security and adventure.

⇾ Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy.

⇾ Desire is an enigma; it’s insubordinate, and it chafes at impositions.

Love and desire are not the same. Cozy is not the same as sexy.

⇾ It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.

⇾ Eroticism resides in unpredictability, spontaneity, and risk.

⇾ Sex, a harbinger of loss of control, is fraught with uncertainty and vulnerability.

⇾ How to introduce uncertainty and gentle imbalance in a relationship to keep it alive? In truth, it is already there, given the transient nature of things. The mistake is believing the fantasy of permanence and security.

⇾ Madonna/Whore: for long, women's bodies were controlled, and their sexuality was contained, in order to avert their "corrupting" impact on men’s virtue. Two options: seen as a Madonna through association with purity, sacrifice, and frailty; or as a whore if you were earthy, sensual, and lusty.

⇾ Today we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, continuity.. but also novelty, romance, sexual and emotional fulfilling.

⇾ The emphasis on egalitarian and respectful sex—purged of any expressions of power, aggression, and transgression—is antithetical to erotic desire for men and women alike.

What makes sustaining desire over time so difficult is that it requires reconciling two opposing forces: freedom and commitment. It belongs to the category of existential dilemmas that are as unsolvable as they are unavoidable.

⇾ Erotic imagination is ingenious in undoing, transforming, and redressing the traumas of the past. The experiences that caused us the most pain in childhood sometimes become the greatest sources of pleasure and excitement later on.

⇾ Erotic intimacy is an act of generosity and self-centeredness, of giving and taking. We need to be able to enter the body or the erotic space of another, without the terror that we will be swallowed and lose ourselves. At the same time we need to be able to enter inside ourselves, to surrender to self-absorption while in the other’s presence, believing that the other will still be there when we return, that he or she won’t feel rejected by our momentary absence.

⇾ Female eroticism is diffuse, not localized in the genitals but distributed throughout the body, mind, and senses.

One of the great elixirs of passion is anticipation. You can’t force desire, but you can create an atmosphere where desire might unfurl.

⇾ The erotic imagination is fueled by a host of feelings that are far from proper: aggression, raw lust, infantile neediness, power, revenge, selfishness, and jealousy.

⇾ The exclusiveness we seek in monogamy has roots in our earliest experience of intimacy with our primary caretakers.

Fidelity is defined not by sexual exclusivity but by the strength of your commitment. The boundaries aren’t physical but emotional.

⇾ The more we choke each other’s freedom, the harder it is for desire to breathe within a committed relationship.

The grand illusion of committed love is that we think our partners are ours. In truth, their separateness is unassailable, and their mystery is forever ungraspable. As soon as we can begin to acknowledge this, sustained desire becomes a real possibility.

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