I am a relationship enthusiast, and my new philosophical crush is Esther Perel. So I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops (isn’t that what people do with crushes?)! Daughter of Polish holocaust survivors, she feels like the badass aunt I never had (oh, and she speaks 7 languages! That makes my 3 feel a little less impressive…)
I find Esther to be an exceptional couples and sex therapist, and really just a relationship guru that I think everyone ought to get acquainted with. Why do I appreciate her so much? First of all, I couldn’t agree more with her therapeutic process of having the freedom to work without a rigid sense of what’s right, instead operating from an open curious place, and not necessarily from a single fixed therapeutic model.
What also attracts me to her is how she beautifully articulates the intricacies of working with today’s couples, including acknowledging the issues of sexlessness, polyamory, emotional disconnection, shifts in gender roles, infidelity, economic imbalance, the effects of trauma on a relationship, you name it.
As she points out, these are concerns unique to this period in time and are much different from the kinds of concerns brought to therapists even 10 years ago. Fascinating, right?? I myself often speak about how “individualistic” and entitled we are as partners in this day in age, and while this is neither “bad” nor “good”, it simply is, it is a distinct feature of coupling today that as therapists, we must integrate into our framework so that we can better help our clients.
Esther most certainly echoes my views, and she really stresses the importance of having the big picture, where context is very important and not to be overlooked when working with a couple. For example, an effective sex therapist will not pathologize an individual, nor simply focus on “fixing” their body parts so that they work better in the sexual relationship.
The goal is often to shake up the status quo, and a technique could be to role play right there in the office to show a couple that they can actually experience fun together. Isn’t it refreshing that we are not broken and that instead our issues are a product of something greater and more entrenched that we could benefit from acknowledging? The problems are often not even about the anatomical act of sex at all!
Esther also encourages the therapist to really hone in on the clients’ body language which is sometimes more important to observe than what is actually being said—process over content, as it were. All of these things to me are brilliant and insightful.
SO back to the crush: Could Esther BE any more of my soul sister (or soul “aunt,” might be more fitting)? I have already recommended her interview on “The Armchair Expert” https://armchairexpertpod.com/pods/esther-perel as well as her own podcast, “Where Should We Begin,” https://www.estherperel.com/podcast where she effectively offers a glimpse into her initial couples therapy sessions to the listener, to multiple friends and acquaintances of mine, so as to enrich their curiosities about relationships, or at minimum to feed their natural thirst for some human drama which we all find interesting, right? Seriously though, I believe Esther’s perspectives are so valuable and liberating, especially with how fraught the topic of sexuality has been and still is today (that’s for another post). Let’s just learn a little bit more from this extraordinary lady, and we can all benefit as a result.