“But when we reduce the conversation to simply passing judgment, we are left with no conversation at all.”
One of the most controversial books in the last two decades, Ether Perel’s The State of Affairs quickly joined Mating in Captivity on my bookshelf. Her first book primarily addressed sexuality in the twenty-first century. The State of Affairs tackles the second biggest relational issue worldwide: extra-marital affairs. When it was released, Perel took a lot of flack for purportedly condoning extra-marital affairs. But, having actually read the book with an experienced critical eye, she does not attempt to excuse the wanderer but rather seeks to help the couple review the relational context that led to the affair.
“The best ideas rarely arise in one isolated mind, but rather develop in networks of curious and creative thinkers.”
Much like Mating in Captivity, I read The State of Affairs twice and took a lot of notes. I kept comparing relational betrayals to types of trauma. When you place trust, loyalty, and your body in the care of someone and there is a betrayal, it fragments the relational schema that you live by. Perel does say quite often that individuals find out who they are in relationships, as a by-product of relationships of all kinds. It goes without saying that affairs are heart wrenching when romantic relationships are a place in which most modern individuals allow themselves to be vulnerable. The beast of burden is to overcome the consequences.
“But one theme comes up repeatedly: affairs as a form of self-discovery, a quest for a new (or a lost) identity. For these seekers, infidelity is less likely to be a symptom of a problem, and is more often described as an expansive experience that involves growth, exploration, and transformation.”
The State of Affairs lays out several case examples and Perel’s commentary on them. Oftentimes I read books that don’t capture the speaking tone and style of the writer, I’m glad to report that her books do. What’s even more interesting? She explores the works of the professionals she cites on her Sessions Clinical Training platform, which I had the pleasure of sampling not too long ago and wouldn’t mind returning to some day. Even as a English Literary Arts professional, I think it would be of great help. Not only is it invaluable educationally, psychology and relationship wise, but she is creating a community open to exploring questions with answers that are rough to capture for the average person. In any case, read The State of Affairs because it’s better to know a little relational first aide right from the start than not.
Perel, Esther. The State of Affairs, HarperCollins Paperbacks, 2018.
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