TU46: Redefining Infidelity – Guest Esther Perel on Love and Desire in Modern Relationships

by | Oct 24, 2017 | Episodes, Guest Interviews, Relationships, Sexuality & Gender

Show Notes

Let's talk infidelity with Guest Esther Perel

Update your model of healthy relationships in the digital age and widen your perspective on the erotic, which is the difference between a relationship that just survives, and one that thrives! Guest Esther Perel shares her research on love, desire and infidelity in modern relationships.

Patty Olwell, former co-host of Therapist Uncensored, returns for a meaningful conversation with Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. In this episode they discuss concepts such as infidelity, consent and betrayal in the modern digital era.  In addition, learn how sexual education differs in the United States versus Europe.  Find out what the best way to handle the “crisis mode” of a betrayal in a relationship and how can we avert it by openly communicating early on. Also discover how we can cope with trauma within a relationship and how to make sense of the connection between love and desire.

Thank you to Patty Olwell for this incredible interview!


Introduction, Esther’s study of love & desire, research in infidelity, definition of infidelity today

Defining Infidelity: 1) Secret 2) Emotional Involvement to some degree 3) Sexual Aura

Defining “cheating” traditionally and in the modern era of smart phones and social media: where do we draw the line?

Contradictory feelings in crisis mode of relationship

Important issues with betrayal trauma –

1) Ability of person who crossed the agreed upon relational lines to recognize the injury

2) Questions will keep returning and getting deeper and the inflictor will need to continue to manage and help the other person heal

3) Help decide if you really want details because you can’t unknow them once shared

15:00 – 30:00

Different types of couples -t hose with ability to empathize with the others through buffers, those who can understand accountability, those who can reconnect sexually, etc.

Esther’s background growing up in community of Holocaust survivors. Idea of having survived versus being alive in couples and how that relates to eroticism.

Curiosity and eroticism – engaging in trust into unknown. Must find balance of security and adventure.

Esther’s research findings. Existential problem of love and desire relating but conflicting. Data-driven.

Sex addiction as the “medicalization of affairs”

Doug Braun-Harvey and out of control sexual behavior

30:00 – 45:00

While there are people with out of control sexual behavior, not everyone who has strayed from their relationship repeatedly has an “addiction.”

Implications of 12-step program for those diagnosed with sex addiction. Just because a person has a problem doesn’t mean they have an addiction. When it becomes an excuse, it’s a problem.

Pornography (or the use of sexually explicit imagery) as primary form of sexual education for those in the US versus starting education that emphasizes health and pleasure in Belgium starting at age 4.

Educating for online adult images, relationships and responsibility at an early age.

Emotional intelligence and empathy in the digital age.

In the US: sex is risk factor. In Europe: irresponsibility is risk factor.

Messages from Esther as a non-US citizen: treat issues globally; troubles are not that different. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with fellow therapists. Psychotherapists shouldn’t be recluse in their offices but should feel welcome to bring psychotherapy to the public sphere.

45:00 – 60:00


Making couples have difficult conversations for the overall improvement of the relationship.

Defining monogamy over the decades. New ground of defining monogamy. Monogamy needs to be defined in relationships BEFORE a crisis occurs.


If you liked this episode you’ll love these: Related episodes mentioned in today’s podcast- Doug Braun-Harvey interviews Part 1 and Part 2 start here for Part 1!

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“Stop bickering it’s killing your relationship” blog by Esther Perel

The State of Affairs, Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

I’ve Had Better Audiobook by Esther Perel

Sessions – a community for Couples Therapists Coaches and Educators

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life – Emily Nagoski

Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior, Rethinking Sex Addiction by Doug Braun-Harvey

Sexual Health and Recovery A Professional Counselors Manual, by Doug Braun-Harvey

See more resources here!


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