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The State of Affairs – Esther Perel

The State of Affairs – Rethinking Infidelity.

An affair: it can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet, this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. What are we to make of this time-honored taboo—universally forbidden yet universally practiced? Why do people cheat—even those in happy marriages? Why does an affair hurt so much? When we say infidelity, what exactly do we mean? Do our romantic expectations of marriage set us up for betrayal? Is there such a thing as an affair-proof marriage? Is it possible to love more than one person at once? Can an affair ever help a marriage? Perel weaves real-life case stories with incisive psychological and cultural analysis in this fast-paced and compelling book.

For the past ten years, Perel has traveled the globe and worked with hundreds of couples who have grappled with infidelity. Betrayal hurts, she writes, but it can be healed. An affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage—with the same person. With the right approach, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.

Affairs, she argues, have a lot to teach us about modern relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. They offer a unique window into our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment. Through examining illicit love from multiple angles, Perel invites readers into an honest, enlightened, and entertaining exploration of modern marriage in its many variations.

Editorial Reviews

“Sexologist Perel, a marriage crisis ‘first responder,’ excavates the messy psychology of infidelity, digging into such charged topics as the ‘new shame’ of wives—staying with a cheater—and why even happy partners sometimes stray.” (O Magazine, 10 Books To Pick Up Now)

“The State of Affairs examines infidelity from all points of view – the person who cheated, the person who was cheated on, and the third party – in an attempt to understand how to make modern relationships more resilient.” (Washington Post)

“It’s fascinating, sometimes on a human-drama level, sometimes on a helpful-to-us-all level.” (New York Times on podcast Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel)

“Unfailingly empathetic…. The State of Affairs is packed with such sage insights…. Through her formidable elegance, Perel manages to infuse some dignity into the pettiness of most betrayals.” (Bookforum)

“Ms. Perel uses this sensible book to dispel these myths and to show that affairs can sometimes even fortify relationships, so long as they spur a couple to discuss what has long been left unsaid.” (The Economist)

“Ms. Perel doesn’t recommend that couples be unfaithful—far from it. But she thinks that affairs can happen in stable, happy marriages, and that they often have more to do with a person than a relationship.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Perel takes an unconventional look at infidelity.” (Associated Press)

“Perel suggests that one factor driving infidelity in otherwise happy marriages is the fact that we rely on our spouse for too much, particularly too much in our own quest for self-discovery.” (New York Post)

“Through her research, [Perel is] able to dive into the sordid history of affairs, the modern prevalence of romantic love, and why, exactly, infidelity doesn’t always lead to the dissolution of a marriage. As it turns out, the widely accepted reasons for why people cheat don’t always apply — and the list of potential reasons is ever-evolving.” (Refinery29)

“Esther Perel is one of the most influential and well-known psychotherapists in the world. Through TED Talks, best-selling books, a podcast (Where Should We Begin?), and her clinical practice in New York City, she explores the one subject she believes interests every human: relationships.” (The Cut, New York Magazine)

About the Author

Esther Perel is a couples and family therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is on the faculty of the International Trauma Studies program at Columbia University, is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and has appeared on many television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Day New York, CBS This Morning, and HBO’s Women Aloud. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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