Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More | Esther Perel | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More | Esther Perel | The Tim Ferriss Show".
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optimal minimal. I did this altitude. I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I also do a personal question? Now what is it? I'm from Pentime. What is it like to be out of this? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over a metal anthoscour. Me, Tim, Paris, show. This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish folks, young entrepreneurs, very talented after a acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which is Mushroom Coffee. This specific one includes Chaga and Lion's Mane. And it knocked my socks off. I highly recommend if you try it, you start with half a packet. It's very strong and lights you up like a Christmas tree in the best way possible. People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement. And for right now, this is the answer. I try to force this on all of my house guests. It is a hell of a thing. If I have employees or people come over who are working on projects with me, I always try to feed it to them, because I'm going to get the limitless effect and get a lot more out of them. The first time I mentioned this product and Four Sigmatic on the podcast, their products sold out in less than a week. So you may want to check them out soon if you're listening to this. And the coffee tastes like coffee. It takes just seconds to prepare with hot water. And oddly enough, only includes 40 milligrams of caffeine. So it has less than half of what you'd get in a regular cup of coffee. I don't get any jitters, acid reflux, or any stomach burn, any of that. It's very unusual and very, very cool. So if you don't like caffeine, they also offer a very strong, but caffeine free mushroom elixirs, which I will sometimes have in the evening. I find shaga specifically to be very, very grounding and earthy. So that is another option. And then I have a cupboard full of their products at the moment, which is right around the corner of my kitchen. You can try something. You can try a sample pack, which is great also. Right now, by going to foursigmatic.com/tim, that's foursigmatic, F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C.com/tim. And use the code TIM, T-I-M, to get 20% off of your first order. And they're not that expensive anyway. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you'll be disappointed. So try them out. This episode is brought to you by Audible, which I have used for many, many years. I absolutely love audiobooks. And they are one of my favorite ways to pass the time when I travel. I'm on the road all the time. And Audible allows me to consume many more books than I possibly could otherwise. I have two audiobooks to recommend right off the bat. The first is perhaps my favorite audiobook of all time. And it's the only audiobook I've wanted to listen to twice in a row. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It's amazing, and you will thank me. There are a few different versions. I like the version that Neil narrates himself. One of the most soothing voices of all time. The second book is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, P-O-T-T-S, which had a huge impact on my life and formed the basis for a lot of what would later become the four-hour work week. So go to audible.com/tim, and you can choose one of these two books or any of many, many other options. That could be books, magazines, and much more. As a listener of the Tim Ferriss Show, you can also access a free 30-day trial. Just go to audible.com/tim. You can't make more time, but you can make the most of it. So turn your travel or your commute into something more with a free trial at audible. Go to audible.com/tim to start now and get your free 30-day trial. Hello, ladies and gerams. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. Madag Molly is staring me directly in the face from about three feet away. But that is not relevant to this particular introduction. The Tim Ferriss Show, what is it? Well, my job is every episode to deconstruct world-class performers, people who are the best at what they do to give you tactics, routines, habits, et cetera, that you can apply immediately and test in your own lives. This particular episode has been requested and requested. People ask me, "Tim, why are you talking about relationships? "When are you going to talk about relationships? "Why are you so private? "Why are you dodging the questions?" Well, no longer, folks. I am going to speak with Esther Perel. I've wanted to speak with this particular psychotherapist for many years and for good reason. She has been called the most important game changer in sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth by the New York Times, who featured her in a cover story, her TED Talks, one of which she actually basically winged off the cuff, which is amazing to me. Her talks on maintaining desire and rethinking infidelity of more than 17 million views. And she's tested and been exposed to everything imaginable in 34 years of running her private therapy practice in New York City. In this episode, we explore everything imaginable. We talk about her life story, how to find and convince mentors who can change your life, for instance, what she's learned from Holocaust survivors. But then we get into what she's very much known for. We discuss topics like polyamoring in all of its close cousins. Is there such a thing as too much honesty in relationships? We answer or attempt to answer questions like, "Can we want what we already have? "Why do happy people cheat?" And much, much more, she has many, many case studies because she's been practicing this in the real world and messy reality for so long, a little bit of background. On Esther, who I've had a chance to spend time with in person now and is just more impressive the more time I spend with her, she's the author of the International Best Seller Made in Captivity. Many of you have heard of this. It's been translated into 26 languages. She is fluent in nine of them. I've heard her in person, do this in a crowded room, going from person to person in different languages. It blows my mind, has a language, not. This Belgian native now brings her multicultural pulse to a new book, The State of Affairs, and a subtitle, "Rethinking Infidelity," which is out October, 2017 through HarperCollins. Right now, though, what you can check out of hers and you should check out is a brand new Audible Original Audio Series, "Where Should We Begin?" And she's co-creating this and hosting it with Audible. And this looks at specific couples and walks you through their issues and how she would recommend they address them. So check that out, "Where Should We Begin?" You can say hello to her on the socials at Facebook, for instance.com/sther.perl, P-E-R-E-L. But I had to blast with this. It's going to expose my sensitive, vulnerable underbelly, for those people who've been asking for all this relationship stuff. So feel free to ridicule me on the internet. Usually don't even have to ask. That just comes with this job that I've created for myself. So without further ado, please enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Esther Perrell. Esther, welcome to the show.
Esther'S Personal Journey And Perspectives On Trust, Vulnerability, And Eroticism
Esther’s background (07:20)
- Thank you. Hello. - I am thrilled to finally have connected with you. And you have one of the hottest possible areas of expertise, imaginable. And there's so many questions that I would like to ask and so many questions that my fans would like to ask, but I thought we could start with a bit of background. And if you could tell us just a bit about where you grew up and what your childhood was like, I think that'd be good as context to get us started. - So I grew up in Antwerp in Belgium, mostly. Antwerp is the Flemish part of Belgium. And I was there till I finished high school. I grew up with, I have a big brother who is 12 years older than me. So I was the young girl and my parents who were actually Polish refugees who came to Belgium after the war. From Belgium, I moved to Jerusalem and I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And I lived there for almost six years. And then I came to Cambridge, Massachusetts to finish my master's degree. And I really thought I was coming for one year to America. But that one year became two years in Cambridge. And then after that, I came to New York and I thought I would do that for one year 'cause I wanted to have the New York experience. And I never used my return tickets. Here I am. - You're still having the New York experience. - I'm still having the New York experience, exactly.
Daughter of Holocaust survivors (08:58)
- So you, as I understand it, drew up among Holocaust survivors. And I would love to hear you elaborate on that experience and what it was like, what you learned from it. And then we can talk about, I'd like to talk about Jerusalem. But I am very interested as many people are in the history of the Holocaust, but even more than that, the personal. - The lived experience. - The lived experience. And there's a book called If This Is A Man. And there's another book called The Truth, both are written by Primo Levy, which was recommended to me by the illusionist David Blaine who actually has Primo Levy's inmate number or prisoner number tattooed on his forum. And it was one of the most impactful books, I would say I've read in the last 10 years. But I have no direct experience with Holocaust survivors. What was that? What was that like and what did you learn? - So interesting that we're starting from there. So I think that If This Was A Man by Primo Levy is one of the most powerful books one ought to read. I think it's a unique, unique testament. So it's very simple. There were 60,000 Jews in Belgium before the war. The vast majority of them were decimated throughout the war and in camps. And so after the war in group of Eastern European Jews basically came to Belgium for all kinds of means. That's kind of where they arrived. And my parents who were both the sole survivors of their entire family, which means 200 people lost, I guess, on every side. They were both the youngest in their families. My mother was in the camps from 18 to 22. And my father from 25 to 31, actually, because the war started very early for them. So they came with nothing. To be there for three months, they were illegal refugees. No, they were illegal refugees for three months who were meant to continue from there to other countries where they had been given refugee statues. But they chose not to leave. And so they stayed for another five years as illegal refugees in Belgium, which is very telling for me right now with what's going on in our country here. And I am born later. So when I am born in '58, they already found a way to legalize themselves to become Belgian citizens. And I grew up in a different environment, but I am growing up in a community of 20,000 Jews that are all Holocaust survivors. That's basically all we knew in the Jewish community. Of course, there was the larger Belgian community around. And you saw numbers, you asked, why don't we have grandparents? You asked whether these numbers, you, you, you know, it was kind of in the, it came with mother's milk is the best way I could say. It was so ever present. We spoke Yiddish, German, Polish, French and Flemish in my home. Depending on the subject matter, we changed. And depending on who was speaking to whom, the language changed, but there were five vibrant interchangeable languages going on the whole time. And if you can imagine that a language is a door to a world, then you can imagine how many worlds were coexisting at the same time that had nothing to do with each other, actually. I grew up above the store. Because most of the Jews of Antwerp were actually are in the diamond business. My family was among the 2% that were not. And so they had clothing stores and I grew up in a neighborhood where they were two Jewish families. So it's like the daily store with the foreigner in the neighborhood, you know, and you know who they are, the two foreigners and they have an accent and they look different and the whole thing. And I lived above the store and in this very popular neighborhood, lower middle class neighborhood. And where we spoke, actually not even just Flemish, but we spoke dialect Flemish from the street, like from the hood, the equivalent of the hood, basically. And I would straddle back and forth, you know, the one of the ways I can describe it is my father when he turned 50 had two birthday parties. One birthday party was for his Jewish survivor friends that took place in Yiddish and in Polish and with a lot of vodka. And one birthday party was with his Flemish friends and that was in dialect and with a lot of beer. And by the code, by the drinks, you knew exactly which world you were traveling in and how you had to behave and how much you could show that side of you versus the other side of you. And, you know, and there was a sense, I think maybe more than anything, when you grew up in that kind of a community, you grew up with a notion of impermanence that what is today could disappear any moment. I think that's probably one of the strongest experiences. You don't ever think that there is a notion of, you know, what is now will be there tomorrow. You'd never know. And so you learn to adapt to that notion of impermanence, of insecurity if you want. And my parents were Bovivaugh, you know, they loved life. They didn't survive for nothing. They were gonna enjoy it best. And as I have often said, they understood the erotic as an antidote to death. - Okay. - And they knew how to keep themselves alive and enjoy, they were not everybody was like that. You had very different kind of moods. They were storytellers, so people would come from everywhere and they would tell about their life and their experiences. And they were good storytellers, which means that they knew how to screen out and could make you laugh and they didn't make you completely tense when you would listen. And everybody wanted to know their stories. They were amazing, amazing, amazing stories of survival, of subversion, of, you know, my dad was illiterate. He spoke five languages, but he was basically illiterate. And he was a grand, grand human being, you know, who had done a lot and had saved quantities of people. Because I would say maybe the strongest value in that community or not the strongest, but one of the very strong values. One was definitely decency, you know, how you behave towards your fellow other people. And the other one was, how would you say that in English? To manage, street smart, to be street smart, you know, to know to survive basically, to find your way out of situations and to be able to survive. Survival was the central organizing experience of all these people. And then the second experience was revival. - And I have so many different directions that I would love to take this. So I'll try to do it one at a time. Dialect to Flemish from the hood. Could you give us any example of what street Flemish sounds like? Or are there any experience? - Yeah, I think that is it. 'Cause in Antwerp's, we're telling. - So what did you just say? - Yes, dude. Do you want me to say this in Antwerp dialect? - How would you say, how are you? In like, what's up in... - Portage. - Say that one more time? - Who taught it? - Oh boy, yes. I'll save my embarrassing rehearsal for when we meet in person. - I can't get that animal when it's Antwerp's clapper. And I can't cook animal with Zuis with Tellimo. - I'm gonna get talking in Daniel's F. - I think you might have just insulted my ancestors. But I'm not sure what just happened. - I said, I could say all of this in Antwerp dialect, but in order to be sure we all understand it, I'm gonna tell my stories in English. - That is a fantastic idea. So thank you for that. I love languages. So I just wanted to hear something that I had never heard before. You mentioned that your parents were sole survivors in their families, if I heard you correctly. When you look at your parents, and I don't know if it was simply because of their age or other factors, but when you look at your parents, that would be the primary focus, but at end at other sole survivors, what did they credit the survival to?
Chance and choice (17:35)
- Oh, that is a great question. I did get to ask them these questions. So my mother, she first spent one year in the woods at 18 running from farm to farm, hiding in the woods of Poland. And then she was so terrified that she actually surrendered by herself to a camp, to a labor camp, to a man's camp. Because she thought if I am in a camp, at least they probably will put me in the kitchens or in the laundry, and I could at least wake up every morning in the same place. My mother ended up going to nine different labor camps. Now labor camps were generally next door to the concentration camps, and as long as you could work, you were in a labor camp, and if you were not selected that morning for transport, then you could continue work. But the distinction is often a very narrow distinction. And my father was in 14 camps. And my mother definitely, so the rest of their families was either gassed in Treblinka or in Auschwitz, basically. His family in Auschwitz, her family in Treblinka. And my mother would say it was a combination of premonicious dreams. She was very, very superstitious, and she really believed her dreams that would tell her, "Tomorrow don't go there. "Tomorrow be a little bit late there. "Tomorrow make sure to have an extra layer of newspaper "on your feet 'cause it's gonna be really, really cold." She had all these premonicious dreams of her father talking to her and things like that. And she will always say, "Chance came first." My father too, I think ultimately both of them said, "Chance came first." And then there was what you did with the chance that was given to you, right? And so there was always a mixture between choice and coincidence, choice and chance. And my mother said, "She always made sure that she was clean, "that she was groomed, that she was mending her socks, "that she maintained her humanity, "that she didn't allow herself to become dehumanized "and degraded the way that she was being treated by the Nazis." And my father, when we went to visit Auschwitz, actually ended up telling me a story of Dutch convoy that arrived of women. And he somehow picked a woman out of the crowd, and he decided that he would help this woman. And basically, the next day they were shaven, and so he couldn't even recognize her. So he asked the Capo, who is the other woman that he had noticed the day before, and they began some correspondence, which I have no idea how he wrote, 'cause he couldn't write, and I never bothered asking him who wrote for you. But he fell in love with this woman, and he just decided that there were certain things that the Germans couldn't take away from him. And that had to do with feelings and with love in the most dire of circumstances. And then he basically developed this black market in one of the camps where he was with his best friend, where they were for almost a year and a half, where he ended up feeding 60 young men, who would otherwise not have had enough to eat, and therefore to work, and therefore to survive. And he ended up feeding the Nazis too. So when he got caught with those letters, one of the Germans basically sent him back to the factories and said, "You're not staying in here." And factories meant that you have one week to live, basically. And, but he had been feeding the German guys so well that the guy said, "I eat better when you work in the kitchens," and he put him back in the kitchen. And so he always said, "It was a combination of chance and ingenuity, street smart, what he would call, and doing for others. Doing for others gave you a purpose to stay alive and to wake up in the morning." - And if you look at then the survivors, whether by chance first, like you mentioned, choice, some combination of those factors and others, you mentioned survival and revival. When you look at the survivors, who ended up being able to revive themselves, and who did not? - So the third reason my mother always said is that she always thought that they wanted her to stay alive, 'cause if the others were not gonna make it, they needed to be at least someone from the family. And she always thought that she would somehow be reunited with somebody. So she maintained this very deep connection inside of her that they were waiting for her somewhere. Then they realized that there was nobody. So it's an interesting question that I organized in my mind like this. And I organized it when I was actually writing mating, my first book, "Mating in Captivity." At the time I had a conversation with my husband and who was working with survivors of torture and political violence. And I would ask him, when do you know that people come back? Like, what does it mean to come back, right? Come back from different war zones, to come back from having been kidnapped, to come back from solitary confinement. And what does it mean to come back to life? And then as we were talking, it became very clear that when you reconnect with life, not just when you are surviving, but when you are living, it means that you're once again able to take risks, able to broach out, to go into the world, able to play, because you cannot play if you are in a constant state of vigilance and guardedness, and able to trust. And then I thought to myself, oh my God, this is so much what I saw in Antwerp. I remember, since my entire classroom where children of similar families, that there were always two groups of families in my community. And then I decided that I would call this, there was one group that did not die, and one group that came back to life. And the did not die, you could feel it, when you went to their houses, they often had plastics over the couches, and the curtains were pulled down, they was morbid. It was just, you know, you're not dead, but you're not celebrating your life. You certainly are not enjoying, because if you enjoy, then you are not being careful, and you have guilt, you often have survival guilt. Why am I here, and none of the others made it? And you are weighted down, and the world is a dangerous place, and you are not to trust anyone outside the family, and all of that. And then I thought there was those who came back to life, and that's what led me actually to really want to explore, what is eroticism, what is this antidote to death? How, in the face of adversity, do you continue to imagine yourself, you know, rising above it, connected to joy, to love, to pleasure, to beauty, to adventure, to mystery, to all of that. And those people, you know, it was very interesting. You had people who came together because they were the survivors of this camp, and the survivors of that camp, and then you had people who came together for this kind of holiday, or that kind of celebration, and they never discussed their experiences. It was all implicit, but they were together, and they were charging ahead at life. You know, the first thing they did when they would come out of the camps, by the way, is have a child, because I'm alone, you're alone, I have nothing, you have nothing, let's get married, and let's have children, 'cause if we have a child, then we know that we are still human, we are able to procreate, and we create legacy, and they didn't kill everything off. And so my parents, you know, they planted trees in all kinds of places in the world. They put plaques in the memory of all the other people of their families. My mother at one point received $10,000 in the years, in '99. She received $10,000 from one of the factories of slave labor, and then decades later. And she took the $10,000, and she went and planted an entire forest that had just burned, and she replanted a forest, because it was like a firming life, you know, and a firming in a life with a sense of defiance. You didn't, you know, it didn't all die inside. And I think it's that energy, that life force that really, I think defines, and this is true for my community, but I would apply this to any large-scale trauma that communities experience. I don't think it's unique. - I agree, and I don't know why I wanna ask you this question right now, but I mentioned trust as one of the elements, one of the ingredients in the group that was revived, that was living and not just having avoided death. Do you think that, and these are not mutually exclusive, but does trust come first and then vulnerability, or does vulnerability come first, and that's how you develop trust?
What comes first: trust or vulnerability? (27:12)
- That depends on your theory of trust. This is the big debate on trust theorists. You know, Rachel Butzman will tell you that trust is an active engagement with the unknown. And therefore, you, you know, so that's one direction. And the other direction is that it is the actual experience of vulnerability that allows you to then trust, and it goes in both directions. It really, I don't think there is a definitive answer for that. And maybe it's not an either or, but it's a both hand. - Both hand, right. - You know, for some people, it's like, do you need to know in order to taste, or do you want to taste first, and then be told what it was? - Definitely depends on what type of cuisine and what type of chef. But I understand what you mean. - So, I need to be able to trust in order to get off from your lap and to run into the world and to become, and to explore and discover and play and be gone in their own space. And at the same time, it is the act of doing all of that and coming back to base and sitting themselves, popping themselves back on your lap that reinforces the trust. I actually tend to think more in dialectic terms in both hand rather than either or. But I think it's a fantastic question, the question of trust. You know, does the act of trusting release the option, the possibilities to experience the vulnerability, or is the vulnerability of the unknown that you actually engage with ultimately what builds the trust? - Right. This is something I've been thinking quite a lot about, but I want to also ask you about impermanence.
Impermanence and living a full life (29:03)
And I've tried to focus much more in a sense on things that are impermanent in my life in the last year, year and a half. And in part, that was a result of a conversation I had on this podcast with BJ Miller, who is a hospice care physician. So he's helped more than a thousand people to die. Great guy, he lives here. - We were at Ted together. - Yes, so fantastic guy. I was actually, so I went to Princeton undergraduate and he was one of the warning stories because he lost three of his limbs in an electrocution accident a few years before I went to school there. I asked him what the most, what purchase of less than $100 had most positively impacted his life in the last six months a year, whatever he could pull from memory. And he mentioned a bottle of wine and it wasn't an expensive bottle of wine. And the reason he mentioned it was, and I'm gonna paraphrase here, but he said it was the fact that it went away and how that encouraged you to enjoy something that you knew was impermanent. And so I've thought about that a lot since and how to not fear things being impermanent, but really use it as a source of leverage to maximally enjoy those things while you can. And I'm curious how your parents' ability to savor impermanence impacted you, or your behaviors, or your routines, or anything. If it did, I don't know. - Oh, I would say in two ways. First of all, I'm rather voracious in living. It's, you know, if there's one more experience I can have, one more thing I can discover, one more place I can travel to, one more conversation that could be interesting. I am quite voracious. I, not because I'm insatiable, but because I just, because a part of me always says, who knows what will be tomorrow? - Right. - So I don't live with that there is always a tomorrow. I live with who knows if there will be a tomorrow. And that's very simple. And then the other thing I would say, and that's maybe something that's not always so known about me, but, you know, I also live in a bit of what we call in my jargon a counterphobic way, which means I act as if I'm fearless, but I'm actually petrified with dread.
Esther’s counterphobia (31:25)
- Okay, please elaborate. Counterphobic. - I act as if I'm fearless. Counterphobic means like I like like nothing, like it doesn't, not nothing, but like there's a lot of things I do that could be very scary sometimes to other people anyway. And I leave it as if I have no fear, you know, even today I was driving down on my bike. And I was thinking like last week it was filled with snow here, why am I always just pushing the edge and seeing if I can get away with it? And, you know, the truth is I got on my bike in the snow and I realized there was no way I was gonna be able to do this and I put the bike back. But I was thinking how many times I do things, thinking nothing's gonna happen. And at the same time as I do it, I think at some point something bad is gonna happen. It's the boat, it's that what I mean. It's like I live, you would think that I wouldn't do it. If I think something bad can happen, it would stop me. But no, I do it and at the same time I think something bad's gonna happen. Every day I think something bad's gonna happen. - Do you wish that we're different or do you think that helps you in somewhere? - Oh God, I wish it was different. I mean, yes, I'm sure it pushes me and stuff, but there must be a way to live without that constant fear like that. It prepares me very well for the modern times we live in. I can tell you a lot of uncertainty. And the political climate we're in, all of that. But today in Antwerp there was another car that drove on the main drag, driving into people. It's like that's not a surprise to me. I expect it. That's what I mean. It's like I live with that expectation. It's just a matter of when, not a matter of if. But I think it creates a level of anxiety that I don't wish on anybody. No, I don't think it's normal. I actually don't think, I think it's normal given the history I come from. I don't think it's a good way to live.
Studying in Jerusalem (33:53)
- Well, let's talk about this antidote that you mentioned earlier. So the erotic isn't antidote to death. But actually I'm going to interrupt myself and before we get there, how old were you when you went to Jerusalem? - 18. - 18. And why did you go to Jerusalem? Was that your choice? Someone else's suggestion, why did that happen? - So before I went to Jerusalem, I actually came to the States and I hitchhiked across the country for seven weeks in 1976, calculate. But in the bicentennial, and at the time you could steal hitchhike very freely. And I had one of the most formative experiences of my life because I saw America, like I don't think I will ever see it again. Since I had zero reference, I had no judgment. And I just was welcoming of anybody who was willing to pick me up and take me in. I really saw the country in and out in ways that I don't think, I wish my kids could have an experience like this, but I don't know that this is happening these days. And then I went to Jerusalem because I didn't want to study in Belgium. I didn't like the university system in Belgium. - Why not? - Why not? - Because we have a system where you have to study a curriculum that is prepared by the teacher and you have to regurgitate it and study it rather by heart. And I thought it was a 19th century system. It really was not at all, a useful way of learning. And I had done that already for 12 years before. I studied Latin, I studied Greek, five, six hours a week. I mean, I have the whole classic education, humanistic education. And I told Jerusalem was mysterious, mystical, beautiful, complex, you know, in the middle of these hotbeds of all religions. And we were going to Israel a lot with my family. So that was not, it's not like it was a place I didn't know. And I thought it was the one place that I could leave to study abroad with my parents blessing. So it was very, very easy. It's like for them that, you know, you didn't come to study in America at that time or, and I had a choice between, I was very passionate about theater. And my mother said, if you want to do theater, you stay in Belgium. And if you want to travel, then you have to go to university. I want you to have a structure. And I thought if it's university, the Hebrew university is a great university. The city is magnificent. And at the time it was really a spectacular place. And it was much more open than it is now. And I thought, what an adventure. I mean, I didn't need much explanation at that time. It made, it didn't make sense and it made perfect sense. - Did you have any, if you look back at your time in Belgium and Jerusalem, were there any particular mentors who leap out at you if you had to give them credit for helping steer your life in the direction that it's gone or help you to make any very important decisions? Is there anyone who really jumps out at you besides your parents? - Yeah, yeah. So it's interesting you're asking me today because I am going to Washington tomorrow to a big psychotherapy conference called the psychotherapy symposium. And I am doing an homage to my mentor, but the mentor from America who is 95. And I've been asked to be one of three people to be the person to thank him. So I'm in the midst of this experience right now. - Oh, perfect. - And I'm going to say to one of the most influential teachers of my life. I would say in Jerusalem. - We could also talk about that 95 year old mentor. That's totally fine as well. Or both. Both that. - I mean, it's an interesting question. I am the product of mentorship. This is true throughout. From the Hebrew university to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to studying with Salvador Minuchin. That's the name of this mentor. I have been mentored pretty much throughout, but even in my adolescent to my theater teacher and dance teacher, I part mainly because my parents couldn't always help me with any of these things. They had zero reference to the world I lived in. I sought teachers. I sought mentors. I sought people who could help me integrate in Belgian life, who could help me trust, believe in myself as well, guide me. My brother was definitely one of them. And he, every book I read was recommended by him. But I am totally the product of mentorship. It's like I sought them out. One after the other, I, this man that I'm going to be commemorating tomorrow is alive, but Salvador Minuchin, who is one of the fathers of the field of systemic family therapy. How do you spell Salvador's last name? Minuchin, M-I-N-U-C-I-C-H-I-N. Got it. Minuchin. Thank you. I mean, you know, you're anointed when you have studied with him. It's like, it's like studying with Freud, but a century later. And I knocked at his door. I arrived to New York. I was here. I knew I have a year to be in New York. I knocked at his door and I said, can I come and observe? He looked at me like, who are you? And that's the story I'm going to tell tomorrow. Like at the time, you could still knock at somebody's door and say, I want to learn from you. You inspire me. And then he let me stay there's 10 weeks. And then after 10 weeks, he said, that's it. That's about as much as one can learn from observing that you can go now. And I said, no, no, no, no, no. I have to, you know, please, please let me stay that kind of thing. And then he always says, I entered through the window, you know? So I actually want to start to interrupt, but I want to dig a little deeper on that because I am constantly asked by-- To mentor. Well, I'm asked to mentor, which usually means unpaid consultant for life.
How to approach a mentor (40:06)
So I don't often say yes to that. But the question of how should I approach mentors? Or how should I seek people out like Salvador? And someone along the lines of your story, a little bit different. But I remember a professor who had a profound impact on me, Ed Shao, who was at Princeton. And it was a very eclectic character. He was similar in his appeal to me as Richard Feynman, because they were so-- they were so diverse in their interest. So he was a competitive figure skater, had taken several companies public, was the first-- I believe the first computer science professor at Stanford, because the person who was supposed to teach it didn't show up. And then the administration asked if anyone would volunteer, and he did. I was a congressman for a few terms, and I really wanted to be in his class. But I came back from overseas, and I was late to apply to this class, which had become very, very popular, called high tech entrepreneurship. And so I went to the first class, and I peeled him, and I said, I'll sit on the floor, I'll clean the erasers, I'll do whatever's necessary, can I just sit in on a few classes? So it was a somewhat similar approach. But when people ask you, and I'm sure they do, how should I seek out mentors? How should I approach people I want to learn from? What advice would you give them, and maybe any specifics from what you've done in the past? Did you just knock on the door of his classroom, or was it his office? His classroom. I mean, I called, I said, I'm in New York, and so and so suggested that I commit with you, I would love to learn with you. I had nothing, no credentials, I had no reason to be there. Could I please? No, it was like, get my foot in the door. I like you, I would have done exactly what you did. I would have said, I'll do anything, I'll bring you coffee every morning, can I just be here? Because I just needed my foot in the door. And then I thought, you know, then I can start thinking, and now what? And I admire the people who do that with me, I have to say. When they come and they fly and they write and they say, you, I've been reading you, I've been, you know, and then they show me, not just I'd like you, or I admire you, but also they say a few things that let me know that they get what I'm talking about. So I also feel deeply understood. And then I feel like, oh man, I was there, I was that 21-year-old, you know? And I had no papers, I had no visa. I mean, I was, I came here with love and fresh water, really. And that's what I mean, street smile. It's like, you know, refugee, go for it, knock at the doors. And if they say no, come back again, at the third time, if you don't act crazy, they will understand that you are deeply motivated. And that, and if you do it with somebody who did it too. That if you don't act crazy is a really important, bolded part of that sense. That's very important. You know, you have to be really, you know, you're not a cuckoo. You're not like just some loose screw, but you really show that you, I see you and I want your trajectory or I want to learn from your trajectory. After 10 weeks, when he said you're out, I said, please, please, he said, you can be a fly on the wall. And I said, fine, I'll be a fly on the wall. You were, I will melt in the wall. You know, let me be as invisible as can be. And then one day there was a couple that was there, a family. And it was actually a Holocaust survivor family working with the, with the therapist behind the one way mirror. That's how we were learning at the time. And then some, suddenly he looks at me and he says, you there in the back. Don't you know something about this? And I said, he said, what would you do? I, you know, and then I've like spouted something out. And then he says, that's an interesting thought. Go tell them. And he literally sends me to the other side of the mirror, into the session. You know. And, and I thought, oh, I'm no longer invisible. I exist. And, and that was the beginning. Then I worked with him for the next four years. That's amazing. So who spies the word in Yiddish? Oh, yes. Khutzpah. Khutzpah. Khutzpah. Khutzpah. Good, healthy, creative, imaginative Khutzpah. Yeah. Need more, more Khutzpah. I'm not saying it correctly. And less. Yeah, it's perfectly worth it. Less, less Michigan's, right? Is that a Michigan? Yes. It's a big question. That's crazy. But you know, I think that mentors, I, I agree that sometimes it's kind of a consultant gig for life. But sometimes it's just you must have had authors or books or musicians. Those that you read when you were young that kind of really shaped you. And it's a very strange thing when suddenly you become a shaping force in someone else's life. For some reason you speak to them. And I am always curious. Why me? Like, what is it that I say? Because other people talk about some of these things that touches you, that you would want to come here from far away countries just to meet with me. And on occasion, I'll go and have a cup of coffee with these people or, you know, glass one. I have responded more than once just by the way they write the letter. It's all in how they write that nail to me. I can't explain. You know, it's no logic. Are there any key ingredients that you can think of? I'll share from my side as well. So one of the things that, and I mean, we both get, I'm sure, a lot more inbound than we could possibly ever respond to. But one of the things that I would say, certainly there's a, there's, it can't be 10 pages long, but that's obvious. I would say that very often people think that it is a form of optimism that'll be rewarded if they end with, and I look forward to your favorable response or how about next Tuesday. And I'm not personally someone who generally responds to that very well. I'm more likely to respond if they close with something like I completely understand if I never hear from you because you must have an incredible amount of inbound requests like this. But if you've read this far, thank you, at least for reading this far. And it's, it's, it lets me off the hook counterintuitively, maybe that makes it more likely that I'll respond because I perceive they have some empathy or ability to understand the situation that I'm in. So that would be one contributing ingredient for me. And then the other, I remember I ended up hiring someone years ago to work on, help me work on the four hour body and some other projects because he heard me talking about things that I needed or read about certain projects I was going to be working on. He said, Oh, I just went ahead and did ABCD and he hears the work. You don't have to respond. I just thought this would be helpful. And I was like, wow, okay, that's very proactive. What about yourself? Yes, it's a combination. I mean, what you just described for me, it's a combination between boldness and humility. Right. You know, the boldness is I'm going to do this. I've been reading, you have been listening to you something in the way you say it strikes it right for me. But I don't expect it. I totally know when I'm asking you and it would mean an enormous amount. You have no reason to do this. But if you were to do this, it could change my life. It would mean so much. And it's not so much that I can say no, or yes, it's that they really understand the vulnerability of the request. You feel that they are prepared for you to say no. And they are so if they were to hear a yes, it would mean so much. And I have been there. I remember, you know, I've been that person. So it's a it's you can't write to me as if you already know everything. But at the same time, you have to be bold enough to want to say, what do I have to lose? What do I have to lose? And then they say sometimes I have never written something like this. I I and then I would probably say one thing for me that makes a difference is if they just say, you know, I've always wanted to be a therapist who works with sexuality and couples. No, but if they say in the way if they reflect back something about me in which I recognize myself and it's a mirror that I like to look in at, then I feel like they know what they really get what I'm about and what I'm talking. They're not just projecting on to me, you know, and that that helps. Then I feel also really understood. It's a variation of what you're describing in terms of the empathy. So I think it's similar. It's a different wording for something that's not that's quite similar to what you describe. That sounds similar. So I promise to get back to this and I know people are going to want to dig into this will continue to bounce all over the place. But you mentioned you mentioned the the erotic as an antidote to death.
Eroticism as the antidote to death (49:32)
What is eroticism? And can you explain what you mean by it being an antidote to death? Yes, yes. Animals have sex and we have the erotic and the erotic is sexuality that is transformed by our human imagination. The erotic is the meaning that you attribute to sexuality. It's the poetics of sex. It's not nature instinct primary force. It's everything that gives it a meaning and in a context. It's everything that turns sex not into an act, but into a place you go. Not just something you do, but a place that you go. And that place that you go is a place where you connect with vibrancy, with aliveness, with renewal, with life force, with vitality, with mystery. And that's why it becomes an antidote to that. That's why people often talk about it in spiritual terms, in religious terms. It has a transcending quality to it. It's really the more mystical meaning of the world, erotic, you know, eros zoha, life force. It's really modernity that narrow the meaning of eroticism to something that is more blatantly sexual rather than life force. But that life force, you know, often expressed through the sex takes on a whole other dimension. So for me to understand that I wasn't just working on sexuality, because I'm not interested in what people do, the act, you know, you can do sex and feel nothing. Women have done sex and felt dead for centuries. You know, it's really that other side of it. And that you don't have to do much of anything. Your own imagination, you know, we are the only ones who can have sex for hours, you know, blissful sex and a wonderful connection and orgasms and all the like and never touch anybody just because we can imagine it. And that imagination is ability to transport ourselves outside of this moment that we are in into something completely different. That is the erotic alone. And I am very interested in that because because I work with people who come and complain about the loss of desire and the loss of that energy and they want to reconnect with that force and they don't know why they lose it and they confuse it with arousal and it has not much to do with that. And, you know, when people complain about the listlessness of their sex lives, they sometimes make them want more sex, but they always want better. And that better, when you analyze it with them, it's about that life force, that vitality, that vibrancy, that mystery, that imaginative play, that curiosity, curiosity is an essential ingredient of the erotic. And that's what they want to reconnect with. So then that metaphor that I talked before about not dead versus alive, survival versus revival, that's, you know, you can survive and have sex and have children, but you may feel dead. Whereas you can have an experience in which you feel utterly alive and you're in your 80s and you do whatever 80 year old people do. It doesn't really matter because because the force transcends the act. And that's for me, the interest of working on eroticism. I work with people who want to feel alive. If you say, look at your group of patients and you then look at a subset who are what they would consider happily married in the sense or happily in a committed relationship, maybe committed is too loaded a term.
Ethical options for sexual listlessness (53:08)
They're happily in a relationship and they don't want to leave that relationship. There are many incredible elements of that yet they've they've hit that point, which many people have hit. Certainly I've hit before. I've done very good. Let's make this personal. So I'm very good at monogamy. I can do it. Very, very good at it. But after say a year, a year and a half, I have to where I feel like I have to suffocate a part of myself that subjugates my sex drive so that I don't wander. And that ends up affecting sex with my primary partner with my partner in this case. So if you have if you're talking to these people and they hit a point where they feel sex drive decrease or listlessness, what do you view as the the ethical options that are on the table to address that? OK, but they are like four sub sub topics. Yes. No, exactly. There's there's there's there's a lot. A lot of that that was probably far too complex. A question, but I suppose making it personal is leading me to do that. No, no, no, it's it's, you know, so, you know, mating and captivity for me was really a conversation on that very question that you just asked, right? People would come to me and they would say, we love each other very much. We have no sex. Oh, we love each other very much. Where is the desire? Or, you know, which was very different from the traditional model that you would normally learn in school, which was, of course, if there is no sex, people must not love each other because when one leads automatically to the other and therefore sexual problems are always the consequence of relationship problems. And you should fix the relationship and the sex will automatically follow. That was the premise. And I decided to question that premise because it didn't really work like that in my office. I saw people who got along much better and it still didn't change anything for the desire. And so I began to ask, what is the relationship between love and desire? Yeah. So that's the first one is what does that mean? This is desire fed to degrade, you know, is the degradation of desire inevitable? And what does it mean? And how does one rekindle it and can one rekindle it? And can you want what you already have, which is the fundamental question of desire? And then there is the second part, you are asking, which is the question of monogamy, you know, and when you say, I can do monogamy very well for a year, then you are defining monogamy by one criteria only, at least in the way I've understood the way you speak, is that you're defining monogamy as a sexual exclusivity. Sure. In this particular case, that's what that means. But that's one definition of monogamy because, you know, monogamy is a term that has continuously evolved in its meaning, right? I mean, for most of history, monogamy was one person for life. At this point, monogamy is one person at a time. Right. Right. And everybody goes around saying, I'm monogamous in all my relationships. You know, it just, well, that doesn't mean I had like an orgy in it every five minutes. It was one person at a time. You didn't know, I know I'm kidding. But we have a bottle of sequential monogamy. Right. You know, plus we don't arrive, we don't, we don't arrive monogamous to our relationships. We've had previous ones. So at this point, where does monogamy exist in reality? But not in your history and not in your fantasies. So that's another consideration. And then there is, you know, maybe if we stop just looking at monogamy from the exclusivity model, because the exclusivity model is an economics model. Monogamy generally, throughout history, has been an imposition on women. It has not necessarily been a requirement for men. In fact, men practically had a license not to be. And they have had all kinds of theories to justify why they shouldn't have to be because we needed to know about paternity and about patrimony and lineage. So monogamy had nothing to do with love. It had everything to do with an economic system. That word has transformed since romanticism so much that at this point, I think that the conversation about monogamy should probably be less a conversation about sex and sexual boundaries and sexual exclusivity and more about the multiplicity of relationship configurations. In which monogamy may be more emotionally determined rather than just sexually determined like gay couples have done forever, I think we need to loosen up the term, not totally trash it or not totally bind it, but suddenly, untie it, loosen it up and redefine it. Now, within that, it's a choice monogamy. It's something you choose to practice when you keep it in the definition you want. And then the question is, what do people do with their towards desires, with their other attractions? Definitely they have them. They can acknowledge them. They can have a relationship in which they negotiate with each other. What to do with these other desires? They can hopefully not always interpret them as you're not enough, which is the most powerful reaction that people have today to this to that term. And the majority of people have practiced proclaimed monogamy and clandestine adultery. I mean, that's been the dominant model. Sure. You know, the question is simply do people want to have a negotiation with themselves that is private and secretive? Or do people want to incorporate this as part of the conversation of couple making at this point? We're not meant to have desire for one person for life for 60 years. That is not how we were conceived. Neither way we have a conceived of having 60 year relationships with the same person either for that matter. So we are left with a host of new questions about the nature of erotic desire, given first of all, that for until very recently, we didn't have sex in relationships just because of a desire. We had it for procreation and generally for women, it was a marital duty. So sex that is rooted in free will for pleasure and connection, just because we want it and with you and hopefully at the same time and so forth is a very new model. And we are all grappling with it. Everybody's wondering, you know, what do you do with the loss of desire? How important is sex anyway? Can the relationship sustain without sex? Can the relationship sustain with sex with others while having a relationship? What are the boundaries? I mean, this is the conversation of modern love, one of them anyway. There's a few, but this is one of the dominant conversation of modern love. So I don't know if I've answered you, but I hope I've kind of highlighted some of the flash points. No, you have. And I think we can, I mean, we've got the time. So we're going to keep going. I have. So you mentioned and I think this is a very important observation that, you know, adultery used to threaten economic stability. Now it threatens more so emotional stability, although in some sense, as certainly if you're within the legal construct of marriage, there can be economic ramifications, certainly. And I'm going to bring it, bring it home to San Francisco for a second. So I live in San Francisco.
Is there such a thing as too much honesty? (01:01:04)
That's home base. And I've tried different relationship configurations in the past. I'm not married. I don't have kids. And I've had some, some wonderful relationships. I'd say for the last 10 to 15 years, I've, I've done a better job of setting my own boundaries, understanding other people's boundaries, making sure that all those are very explicit, so that whatever agreement we have, at the very least the, the agreement is, is clear. So I've had some really good relationships. What I've seen in the last, say, let's call it five years, it certainly existed for longer than that, but whether it's books like more than two or opening up or others, there is a trend, at least in the Bay Area for people to try what they would consider monogamish or polyamorous relationships. And I have just in the cohort that I've observed, and there are a lot in the Bay Area, the always honest, all the time, radical, candor approach seems to implode with pretty spectacular fireworks on a regular basis. So the question I want to pose is, is there such a thing as too much honesty? And how do you think about that when you are advising, how do you think about it, whether yourself or in your own relationships, or how do you advise your clients when they're grappling with this? You know, should we, because for instance, I'll give you and for you out there who are sensitive ear muffs, cover your ears, but there are people out there who can have a high tolerance for, say, what they would call, "completion" for people who are, who don't know that word, that is, at least the way it's been explained to me, getting gratification or pleasure from someone else's pleasure. So if your partner is having sex with someone else, you derive a certain amount of pleasure from that. So I've, I've, I know couples who have tried this because they've been told it's a more highly evolved approach. And so they'll sit down to dinner and the, the, let's just say in a heteronormative relationship, the male will say, "So what was it like having so and so inside you last night?" And they'll try to have that conversation and everything blows apart at the axles. And it just doesn't work. There are some people for whom it works very well, but how much honesty is too much honesty? Is there such a thing as too much honesty? Are there other parameters that you've seen work for people? Yes. Yes. But you see, I think that you want to, there are two different cultural systems here. So when it comes to the Polyamorous model and San Francisco, it is, you know, it is a bit of a growing movement in the hotbeds of startup cultures like, like Silicon Valley because it's people who choose a lifestyle that has to do with an entrepreneurial mindset that aspires to greater freedom of choice, to authenticity and flexibility. And, and so there's a kind of a marriage between the community that lives there and the appeal of, of a more polyamorous life. But for me, the question of honesty is actually much broader than it extends way beyond. And I think, look, you live in the United States and America prides itself on being a pragmatic culture. And as a pragmatic culture, it likes unvarnished directness. And it has all kinds of expressions for conflating honesty with factual truth. Say it as it is, don't beat around the bush, get to the point. I mean, there are so many expressions in this culture that favor explicit statement versus more opaque communication, you know, that that conflates the concept of the moral cure of honesty has to do with truth telling and transparency. That's the definition. There are many cultures in which honesty means something very different. Honesty is not about, you know, laying it all out there. It's actually about living, thinking about what the consequences will be for the other person to live with the truth. It's not a confessional, it's not rooted in Protestantism. And so, so honesty is not about, I have to tell you everything I feel or everything I've done. It's about what will it be like for you to live with the consequences of knowing. And so you don't say certain things because you want to say face for the other person or because you just don't see the point of it because there's almost something slightly almost aggressive about it a little bit, you know, it's like, what am I supposed to do with all of this now? You feel better, you've unloaded, what about me kind of thing? And I think it's very cultural for me, certainly coming from Europe. We don't necessarily think that saying everything and putting it all out there and true telling and transparency are the only markers of importance. I think we think that sometimes keeping things to yourself is just as important. Not everything must be said. And here, this notion that connects with that is also that intimacy is about saying everything. It's kind of wholesale sharing, you know. And if you don't say everything, then you must be keeping a secret because the opposite of transparency is secrecy and there is a complete loss of privacy. And this is true in the intimate realm of relationships as it is true in many other sectors of our society. Privacy is at risk. And so people respond either with the other extremes. Yes, I do think that there can be too much sharing. It's not too much honesty, but it is too much sharing and the sharing is problematic when you think that that's the definition of honesty. So this is a really important. Was that clear? What I just... It was clear. No, it was clear. And I think the honesty, it is does honesty or 100% sharing always equal caring for the other person or fostering intimacy, I think is an interesting question. And the answer is no. The answer is no. Yeah. Sometimes, of course, it is, but it's not a given. It's not a dogma. You know, I think that actually holding back, I think making space for the other person, I think dealing with your own feelings, I think this idea that because I love you, I should be able to tell you everything. And if you don't tell me everything, you know, then maybe you're not close. And this telling as becoming almost like a bit of a... I deserve to know. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Why don't you want to tell me? Like, no, those are invitations. Those are not rights. Right. No. I have a right to enter another person you're invited in. And for those people listening who want to have a very illuminating, but entertaining read, short read on this type of question and radical honesty, there's a great article. I think it's called, I think you're fat by AJ Jacobs at Esquire, who is hilarious and a good friend. So you should read that. But I want to bring up an anecdote and get your advice on or how you would hear how you would advise someone. So I remember having lunch with a close friend of mine, about two years ago, I would say, and he had a friend approach him who had cheated on his wife.
Disclosing infidelity to a partner (01:08:39)
He had had an affair and he was grappling with whether to tell his wife or not. And my friend's advice was he said, no, that is your burden to carry and you carry that with you. It's not fair to inflict that on her because you want to make yourself feel better after a very, very long conversation. That was his conclusion. And so I'm curious to know in a, say, patient setting, if you have someone, male or female, because certainly women cheat and I've been cheated on before. I mean, it happens certainly. When someone is grappling with whether to tell their partner or not, how do you walk them through that decision? What is it that you want to tell your partner? Do you want to? What is it that you want to tell? You want to tell that you fell in love with someone else? You want to tell that you realized in having a fling with someone else, how much you loved her or him. You realize that you have been lying to yourself all these years. You realize that it's time to get back into gear because you've become lazy and complacent. You realize that you have been keeping all kinds of sexual secrets that have nothing to do with non-monogamy, but more with your history. What is it you want to tell your partner? You want to tell that you, you know, that's the first thing. And do you want to tell something about what happened to you in the meeting with the other person? Do you want to tell what that meeting with the other person made you think about your life? Do you want? You know, we're not just talking about a series of facts. We're talking about the meaning and the motives of the transgression. So that's the first thing I ask. What is the meanings and the motives? Why did you do this? How did this happen to you? Where are you looking for it? Did you choose it? Did you just stumble into it? Did you resist it? Did you not resist it? Did you hope it would not, you know, are you living with conflict? What is the guilt that you're feeling? What is the guilt? Is the guilt that you've realized that you don't have desire for your partner? Is the guilt that you realize that your partner must have been really terribly frustrated because you've been a terrible lover to your partner? What is it? And so before I ever wouldn't, I don't have to tell people, do or don't tell or don't tell. I help people figure out what it is that they would tell. Why would they want to tell it? And what do they think will happen to the other person when they tell it to them? I think the notion that sometimes not to tell is kinder than to tell the way that your friend did is also one of the many options. It's not the only one, but it is definitely in the repertoire. That sometimes you tell for your own conscience, and then the other person can share in the whole night, you know. So there is the positives and the liabilities and the positives of telling, and then there is the liabilities and the positives of not telling. What do you think your partner would want to know? That's the other thing. And when you want to tell, do you ask yourself, do you think your partner would want to know? Are you speaking because of your thoughts to the other person, or are you thinking of speaking because of how you feel about yourself? You know, there's a full spectrum of dishonesty, right? There's simple omissions, there's partial truths, there's white lies, there's blatant obfuscations, and there's mental hijacking. I mean, you know, the secrecy can be cruel and secrecy can be benevolent, you know, and sometimes you lie to protect yourself, and sometimes you lie in order to protect your partner. And then there is the ironic role reversing in which sometimes you realize that you've been lying to yourself, and it was you that you were deceiving. And it's all of that that you want to unpack, all those twists and tangles of lines before you'd send people out, because you can never take anything back. Right. You know, and the next thing that's going to happen, you're going to say, I slept with someone, and then they want to know how was it? And then they want to know, did you fall in love with that person? And then they want to know, maybe they don't want to know. So slow down, sit with this, ponder it, figure out what this was about for you. If it really meant nothing, what does that mean when you say it meant nothing? You mean to say it does not supposed to threaten the future of your relationship, this is not a person with whom you want to live, but even something that is meant to mean nothing has psychological valence. So, you know, there's a lot of effort goes into making something not mean anything, paradoxically. For sure. So, you know, sit with that, and I will sit with you for whatever time it takes, till we figure this out. And then maybe we'll write a letter. You're not just going to go there and sit. Yeah. And we'll write a letter, and you're first going to hand write that letter, and you're going to get your first version out, which you probably won't send, in which you just cleanse your soul. You do your own conscience cleaning. And the next letter will be the one in which you're less thinking about you, and more thinking about your partner and your relationship. That's the steps. No, that's very smart. The next question I'd want to ask, which is actually from the audience, do you think it's possible for a partner in a non-monogamous marriage, could be a relationship, to get over the fear of being left by opening that door? I think this is a very, very common question, because maybe one person is more enthusiastic or feels the need for some form of non-monogamy, meaning sexual monogamy than the other, or they're both open to it, but they haven't experimented or experienced this for an extended period of time, or maybe they haven't, they've been burned.
Navigating Relationship Dynamics And Overcoming Fear
Overcoming the fear of abandonment (01:14:09)
Do you think it's possible for someone to get over that fear of being left by opening that door? And what are some of the strategies or coping mechanisms, if so? But what if I told you that the person who experiences that fear more openly, and is able to say, "For me, this triggers the fear of losing you altogether, is actually experiencing a lesser fear than the one who is wanting to have other partners?" Could you say that again, please? Yes. See, couples have a setup, right? In a setup, every couple has a setup, it's an organization, right? In every couple, you will often find one person who is more in touch with the fear of losing the other, and one person who is more in touch with the fear of losing themselves. One person more in touch with the fear of abandonment, and one person more in touch with the fear of suffocation. And that tells you which is the one that is more interested sometimes in experiencing open boundaries and non-monogamy or non-exclusiveness anyway. But the person who wants the open relationship presents as the one who doesn't have the fear of abandonment. I see what you're saying. But that doesn't mean that their strategy isn't in fact one that is meant to address an even bigger fear of abandonment, that the other, it's just that in this relationship, the other one is the one who gets to fill the quota. Okay, sure, okay. You understand? Couples have complementary systems, so I don't at face value would believe that the one who says I'm afraid to lose you is the only one with that fear. I believe we all have it, but I believe that the one who expresses it in the couple isn't always the one for whom it is actually the most intense. Sure, that might not agree with that. That's the secret of a lot of relationships. No, I agree. I agree. You understand, the person who gets to voice it is actually sometimes only voicing a fear that the other one doesn't even voice. Oh, no, I agree. I agree. Okay, well, that said, I think it really depends. I would not have a set answer for this. There are plenty of people who at first felt very scared and then have learned to trust differently and have learned to understand that their partner really comes back to them. And in fact, the more they feel free, the more they want to come back to them and they really have learned to trust that. And then there are others for whom it's excruciating. It just feels either a replay from childhood, either a sense that they're not enough because they have really the notion that you would need more than me and that I can't feel all your needs. It's very, very painful to them. And they bought into that idea and very powerfully. Sometimes there is the sense that you allow yourself something that I don't. Why can't you stop yourself? There are other things that I don't get and I don't go and get them elsewhere. Compromise should be a part of what both of us do in the name of our relationship. I've seen it go both ways. I've seen people for whom it really became a way to live that they never knew existed. And I've seen people for whom this is just not the way they want to live. They don't want that fear. They don't want to remember every time their parents went out that they didn't know if they were coming back. They don't want that notion of what if you will fall in love somewhere else, which of course in and of itself would happen no matter what. That threat is always there. That reality is part of any couple. But somehow I don't want to have to know it with such vividness. Or because I feel that there is something lacking in me or I feel my own insecurities and therefore every time you go my insecurities get awakened. It's a complex system. I would just say that it generally works better when both people are from the same tribe. When both people have that same curiosity. When both people experience the fluidity as something that is additive and not something that's an axialitic. Then it becomes an enhancing experience rather than a dreadful experience each time. It's very complicated when one person says to the other, I really want this. And the other one says, this is hell for me. I can't live with this. There's very little flexibility sometimes in that system because both people feel it very intensely. More than one relationship has had to end on that basis. What I'd like to ask following up on that, because I think this question is, and I'm going to stop hedging all my comments. Obviously everybody listening, there are a million different ways to organize relationship and a million different sort of combinatorial approaches to it. Whether it's homosexual, heterosexual, unisexual, I have no idea. You're right, there are a million different ways to go about it. So I'm just going to assume for the sake of simplicity that a lot of people are in heterosexual relationships. This question is very common, I think, from women who are, you have a male in a relationship who wants more sexual variety. And the woman in many cases, not all cases, is at least for San Francisco, potentially open to that, but doesn't have the same sexual drive necessarily as the male. So the male is going to exercise that option more than she will. And that leads to or contributes to, perhaps fostering some degree of insecurity. If he's going to be seeing X number of other people, and I am not seeing Y number equivalent of people, then the likelihood of him disappearing is higher. And the number I was told once by someone, they said, "Well, no one can take the person you're meant to be with." Now, the way that the context in which that was provided was to underscore the fact that, like you said, whether you're married, not married in a relationship, have an explicit agreement or not, the potential and the risk for digression or meeting someone else is always there. But I guess the fuel and the fire here is that when you explicitly give someone the option, the fear is that it's more likely to happen. And that's just more of an observation. I wanted to mention two things that I've been very curious about recently that seem, at least in the group that I've observed to work pretty well, even though I think they are, at least one of them is viewed as pretty unfashionable. And so I wanted to get your take on it. So the first one is an arrangement. And this I've only heard once, but I thought it was very clever. Actually, no, not once, twice, was an older gentleman who's in his 60s and married for, I want to say, 20 plus years, has a number of kids.
The quarterly relationship report card (01:22:08)
And I was asking him about his marriage and he said, "Well, we have an open relationship, okay, when we're having some wine, tell me more." So we continued talking, he said, "The way I asked him, how do you prevent it from causing problems?" And he said, "Well, every relationship has problems, so it's not like one is immune and one is not, but his wife gives him a report card. Every quarter, so every three months he gets a report card." I think it was one to 10 scale in four categories. Lover, husband, provider, father. And he's allowed to have a low score in any one of those, as long as his average is high enough. So they agreed on what his average had to be. So he might say, "The overseas for a period of time on business trips." And he might also sleep with other women, so he's going to get a low lover score, a high provider score, and then the other two are sort of up for debate. But I found that very, I found that appealing, maybe just because I like measuring things as a way of course correcting and keeping things in check. The second, which I particularly like your thoughts on, although we can go anywhere with this, is that looking at maybe a contrast to the, "Tell me everything, I'll tell you everything." "Bread of polyamorous relationships where radical honesty is an underlying tenet." I've run into more than a few people who effectively have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Don’t ask, don’t tell” and polyamorous relationships (01:23:44)
And it pains, not doesn't pay me to say it, but I suspect I'll get a decent amount of backlash from my audience. It seems to work pretty well in the sense that more than a few couples have said, "Look, that whole polyamorous tell everything." And I know those are not mutually dependent, is not for us. But as long as you're safe, as long as you don't embarrass me, then you can do what you want, and the policies don't ask, don't tell. That seems very old fashioned. I mean, maybe the fact that it's a two-way street makes it less old fashioned. But what are your thoughts on that? Because it seems to me just intuitively to be, and maybe it's highly dependent on the person, but to be less prone to supernova destruction versus the radical honesty piece, to for most people. Do you have any thoughts? That's a mouthful, I know, but I've been thinking about a lot of this stuff for a long time. So I think that I would start, and I would say that trust, loyalty, and attachment come in many forms. And when you describe this example, and you like it because of its measurements, I would say I like it because of its creativity, because there's thoughtfulness, because there's a shared complicity, because it seems to have worked, because there's imaginativeness and resourcefulness in it, and because I think that couples often lack a lot of that. Every other system gets innovators and gets new ideas and put into it all the time, and it is extraordinary how much relationships enter into a certain mode and then stay in it for decades. So anything where I see couples coming up with their own imaginative solutions to various situations and then be flexible about it and review it and change it, to me is great. That's it. I think that unfortunately, couple them does not benefit from the same innovative spirit that every other company, an entrepreneurial space, these days gets to benefit. There isn't one model fits all, and a certain couple may have lived for a while in a monogamous arrangement and exclusive arrangements, but then decided at some point because of all kinds of issues having to do with age, with illness, with success, with your name it, with children leaving, with a new awakening, with loss of weight, you name it. There's lots of triggers that make suddenly people want to change their relational arrangement. And I think that if people are going to stay together a long time, they need that ability to review their relational arrangements and to negotiate it and then to try something and then to see if it works and to change.
The value of relationship innovation and flexibility (01:26:32)
I mean, I can't enough emphasize my desire for flexibility to become part also of couple them so that it doesn't just be, it enters a groove, it goes until it can't, and then it just kind of ends there. There needs to be something a little bit more enriching there. So, the first thing I think for some people, Don't Ask Don't Tell, works extremely well. It gives them enough privacy, it makes them both know that there is still a primary loyalty and commitment. There is an implicit sense of knowing where one can go, how far one can go, etc. And there needs to be ample, continuous investment and reassurance and building into the relationship itself. The point is not that you should have the leftovers at home and everything else that is meaningful and exciting and interesting and engaging elsewhere. By definition, you still want to be able to put some logs in your own fire. For other people, transparency and radical honesty has become an ideology. The problem is ideologies generally are rigid. They don't lend themselves to being adaptive and fluid to what's in front of you. It becomes a matter of principle rather than in matter of what makes sense. I still, I may be a little bit of the school still where does it make sense? Does it work? I don't care if it's true or if it's right. Does it work? Is it decent? Is it caring? Is it warm? Has it been adapted? Does it fit both people? Those are the criterias you go back and forth like a light escapé, not just like two ideas. For many people, the notion of radical honesty, transparency, truth-telling, authenticity, those have become the values of the economy of today and so is it in the economy of the home. We want experience, we want purposeful, transformative experiences, we want them at home, we want them at work everywhere. For other people, home is a different thing and home is meant to satisfy other needs, etc. And there is a segmentation that is accepted. We share these kind of things, we share other things with other people.
Every relationship is a power dynamic (01:29:00)
And to me, it's really a matter of, does it fit this particular couple? Does it work for them? Or is there one person who is quietly hurting over a long time and kind of giving in, but there's a power dynamic? Because the word we haven't used is that in all these negotiations, there is an element of power. There is power when you bring in other people, there is power when you feel that the other person can leave you, there is power when you have faced with the hurt of a person who is constraining you. There is a dynamic of power in all of these issues. And the question is, is there an equity in the decision-making? Do both people feel that they have equal power in their ability to say what works for them? In this instance that you describe what's beautiful is you feel like, you know, whatever he does, she gets to evaluate him. And so the evaluation is power, it's authority. In a good sense of the word, I use the word power. And so they are calibrating power. You get to do things, but I don't want to have to suffer because of it. I want to know that I still get the primary goods. I want to know that I come first. And so, yeah, you want to go play, go play. But don't play on my behalf and don't play on my account. I don't want to devaluation of our assets because you are accruing other revenues somewhere else. And they play with this. And so for this couple, to me, I'm putting my script onto it. But when I listen to the description, I'm looking at what is the power distribution? Because the power is the sovereignty, the power is the dignity of this. Otherwise, you know, all these things become not power, but power maneuvers. And that's a whole other thing that has nothing to do with just sex alone. You know, these things take place in a... All every relationship is a power dynamic. I think that that has to be laid out first. Inside of that, we can come up with so many different arrangements that people will live for a while and then switch. I want to just say that. I would say that to the polyamory people as well. I mean, it's like, you know, there is a beautiful proliferation of non-monogamy thinking that is taking place. Okay. And they're very different from the field of pioneers of the '60s and the '70s. But then, of course, you know, many of those people are the children of the divorced and the disillusioned. And they're not rebelling against commitment per se, but they're looking for more realistic ways to make their vows last. And they've concluded that that includes other lovers. And I think that the form takes, you know, can vary enormously. You can have occasional hall passes. You can have swingers who play with others. You can have established threesomes, forsomes, complex polyamorous networks. All of these things have one purpose, to reconfigure love and family life, which we have done from time immemorial. Right. No, it's-- and you're coming on power, reminding me of-- I think it was Oscar Wilde. He said, "Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power." Yes. Yes, yes, yes. So now, you've spent so much time with people grappling with these issues. What was the research process for your new book?
Historically condemned and universally practiced” adultery (01:32:36)
And that is-- I mean, really, kind of fresh on the mind, I would think, at this point for you. What was the drive behind-- why do another book? And what was the research process like? Huh. So, you know, mating and captivity looked at the dilemmas of desire inside the relationships. And the state of affairs, which is the menu, book looks at what happens when desire goes looking elsewhere. And I had gone to 20 countries on book tour for mating, and in many places, the only chapter people wanted to talk about was the shadow of the third, the chapter on monogamy, which was only one chapter in that whole book. And I thought, there's no way that I can do a thorough study of desire without looking at desire that goes wandering. You know, what is roaming desire like? What is the power of transgression? Why is the forbidden so erotic? And what is this thing called adultery, which has been historically condemned and universally practiced? Yeah. And so, seriously, it's like-- and so, it took me a while. This is 10 years since I wrote mating and captivity. I take a long time to think, and I only write if I feel I have something to say. And something to say means that I want to change the conversation on the subject. I don't want to just add one or two thoughts. I want to really frame the conversation. I want to take something and make a cultural shift around it. So for the past six years about, I began to travel the globe and have conversations about the subject of infidelity, transgression, threats, love affairs, infact bodies, betrayal, trauma, lying, deception, cheating, gaslighting, from both sides. What is gaslighting? I've heard this expression before and I don't know what it is. When I say, "I know you are seeing somebody else." I know it. I feel it. Or I've even-- and you say, "No, you're crazy. This is because of what your father did to you. You're just paranoid." And you literally destroy the coherence of my reality. Got it. Okay. It's when you're accused of something, you turn it around and then sort of fracture someone else. Yes, but you also literally begin to make me feel like I have no longer a grasp on reality. I say. Got it. It's a real mental torture. Mm-hmm. You know, it's not just that you're denying, it's that you're also saying, "What's wrong with me that I'm thinking this?" And then you basically make me doubt myself. And you make me doubt that I actually-- that when I think the T is hot, it's actually hot. You know, I no longer know to trust the world that I live in, my perceptions, my thoughts, my feelings. And that becomes an internal breakdown. It drives people crazy. It's really cruel, actually. It's a very common, but it's a cruel thing to do. And I saw, you know, I'm 34 years, a couple of therapists. I have a fascination for couples. I work in seven languages. I can take them from all over the world. And I began to only see couples who have been affected by infidelity in one variation or another. I also did a TED talk on Passon, which has, you know, seven and a half million people in a year or two. And I thought, "Okay, I've got 1500 letters." I thought, "My God, I'm a walking confessional. The world is pouring their secrets onto me on this subject anyway. And let me try to think it through. Let me really delve into this and look at it from a systemic point of view." Meaning, if I ask an audience, you know, have you had any experience with affairs or infidelity? You know, nobody's going to lift their hand. Nobody's going to say, "I cheated or I've been cheated on so easily." But if I ask the same audience, "Have you been affected by infidelity in your life?" I probably get 90% of the fingers up. It's an amazing thing. As the child of, as the friend of, as the boss of, as the lover, as the other woman, as the partner, as the person who went out, you name it. And now it becomes really a collective experience. So I wanted to look at it from all angles. And I see couples two, three hours at a time. And I delve into the labyrinth of passion, all of it, you know, from both, from all sides. And then I collected all the data. I wrote, I transcribed hundreds of hours of sessions. I transcribed all the letters. And I began to gather and then decide what are the main assumptions at this point about this subject? How does our culture think about this? Because no matter, and by the way, infidelity happens in polyamorous couples too, you know, the fact that you get an open license doesn't prevent people from climbing the fence. Something about transgression is deeply human. And you've also observed the definition of cheating continues to expand, right? Where you have sexting, texting, dating apps, watching porn. I mean, the wall is getting, the inside of the wall is getting narrower and narrower in some respects also. Absolutely. The definition is elastic. It's unbelievable what people today, how many more ways that we define something as being outside of the boundaries. And we consider them infidelities. And you know, it is one of the experiences that encompasses the entire human drama. Everything, jealousy, hurt, betrayal, pain, lust, love, passion, all of it. It's like every opera. There's a reason. And it is one of the most complex human experiences to really delve into. But it is endlessly fascinating. And so I wanted to rethink infidelity. What does it mean today? Why does it happen in any kind of relationship? What does it mean to know that your partner never really belongs to you? They're only alone and with an option to renew or not. So related to that, I get asked about marriage and kids a lot, even though I feel very unqualified to comment on either. But what is the argument for marriage these days?
Exploring The Nature Of Marriage And Infidelity
Is there still an argument for marriage? (01:39:22)
Because I have trouble coming up with one. The argument that comes to mind, because the legal construct, the financial consequences, the difficulty in the sort of unraveling, if you want to change direction or a new chapter means a new partner, whatever it might be, there are a lot of consequences. Now the argument, the only argument that I can come up with for it is related to loss aversion, where maybe if you really want to make a strong committed effort to maintain a relationship for a long period of time, that if you have something to lose, if you don't enforce that, that in this case takes the form of a legal construct that you're not going to put in the requisite effort. So okay, but it just seems to me that there's so much downside that prevents flexibility. How do you think about that? Or is there an argument for the legal construct of marriage? Because I have more and more difficulty as I see friends' marriages imploding, exploding, good people, often faithful people. That gets harder and harder for me. Yeah, but Americans love to marry. You know, once, twice, three times, you know, part of the way that I began the project of writing about infidelity came out of the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal, because I was very intrigued. Why was this country so tolerant about multiple divorces and so intransigent about the slightest transgression? Right, right. Fair enough. But how much sex becomes open, they remain intransigent about the subject of infidelity. And the rest of the world, by the way, that is more family-oriented, has always upped the other way around. You protect the family, you know, and you don't divorce. So there is, why Americans love to marry? I have never fully understood. I mean, I have my thoughts, but it's not like I have a definitive answer to that. I think there's two questions. There is, why do people, you know, why is a deep, meaningful connection with another human being with whom you weave a story, you know, along the stages of life? That is one thing. Does it need to take place within the construct of marriage is a very different thing? Agreed. So, you know, in Europe, we marry much less, but we have families and we try to create families with what modernity has given us, which is a rather nuclear model of family, which is a very difficult model for family and a terrible model for couples. We were not meant to be two adults with four or two or three or four children all alone in cities. I mean, none of it is the way we were meant to do it. And so it's extremely taxing on the couple. And at the same time, the only reason families today survive is if the couple is doing relatively well. Right. That's the only thing keeping families together. So we're facing a very interesting thing. At the same time, if Apple sold you a product that feels 50% of the time, would you buy it? And yeah, that's what happens to marriage. Right. You know, if you think that that's a guarantee, think again, because at this point, it is really not doing that well in terms of guaranteeing new things. But I think there are very few rituals at this moment. You know, with the loss of traditional religion, there are very few rituals. There are very few structures, very few institutions to which we can adhere. And I can see that in that sense, the importance of marriage as a ritual that is rooted in a tradition and that comes with a code of conduct and with an official norm to it. And so that's where I place marriage. I don't think of it in legal terms at all. I think of it very much in terms of its cultural meaning. So it's like a spine, there are very few things people can hang themselves on these days. You know, everything is about the self and the burns of the self are very heavy at this moment. So marriage has become that institution that still tells you how to go about doing these things in life. To me, the very interesting thing when you ask about why Mary, I think about gay marriage. Gay marriage really was one of the ways to try to understand what does it mean to legalize, to give rights, to queer families, to allow people to adhere to a norm when there are so few norms at this moment. Everything has been reevaluated and redefined. And I think people are sometimes very desperate for norms, structures, pillars, architecture, you know, everything else is fluid, fluid, fluid, you know, but we all need solid as well as we need fluid. And marriage has remained one of the last solid constructs, even though it fractures way too fast and way too often. Can you do it without marriage completely? I think that, you know, but for some reason people feel that commitment without the structure isn't buttressed in the same way. You know, the marriage is the buttress, it's the fulcrum. And I don't know if relationships, actually, that would be an interesting thing to look at numbers. Do relationships that are not held together by the contract of marriage, do they dissolve anymore in Europe than they do here? I'm not sure.
Divorce rates for second marriages (01:45:16)
You know, it's 52% or 48 at this point, maybe it's gone down a bit on first marriage, but the fascinating data is not first marriage. It's 65% divorce rate on second marriages. 65%. Yeah, that is the much more interesting data. Yeah. Why? Yeah, why? Why do you find it interesting? Because it touches on something else that I think is much more interesting as a son, as a couple of therapists is that, okay, let's assume the second time it's easier, you've done it the first time, you may not have the young children, et cetera, et cetera. But to me, the more interesting thing is that the first time you still actually adhere to the model. You know, I think that often the divorcees are the true idealists. They believe in the model, they just chose the wrong person and they'll do better next time. The second time, they begin to think that maybe it's not all about the other person, and that maybe it's time to take some responsibility for themselves. Everybody at some point has some relationship things to work out, and the only question is with whom? Who are you going to do it with? But it would seem that at some point, you should also ask, wait a second, if the people are coming out of the same factory, meaning the structure that has a 50% failure rate, perhaps the structure should also be a variable under consideration, I would think. Absolutely. But that's coupled them. That's not just marriage. I would say that's... Sure, I agree. I think that to me, I'm really fascinated by how creative, having just written a book about infidelity, I can tell you, if people took 1% of the creativity that they put in their affairs and brought it to their marriages or to their relationships, it's astounding.
Woes of marriage (01:46:57)
It's the same people change context, and they suddenly are filled with imagination and attention and focus and generosity and kindness and desires. So it's not marriage per se as coupled them. And for some reasons, the expectations of coupled them have never been higher. But what people invest in it hasn't really measured up. Mm-hmm. They bring the best of themselves not to their partner. They bring the best of themselves at work, to their friends, to their colleagues, to their hobbies, to their children, for that matter, much more, not to their partner. And that is a much more interesting thing to me than marriage per se. I don't ask so much, "Why do people marry?" I ask, "Why do people so often bring the leftovers to their partner while at the same time wanting their relationships to be so glorious?" Something doesn't click. What do you think the answer is? You know, it's like when people say, "My partner is my best friend." And sometimes, especially in my office, I have to say, "Do you treat your best friend like this?" Right. What kind of BS is this? I mean, no, no, that's not how you know. Would you say this to somebody else? Could you imagine being that critical with your friends? What is the idea? And this is where marriage comes in. It's because you really think that because you married, the other person is just going to be there and take it by subversive. This is in both directions, right? It's like that there is something about the seal underneath that has locked this that allows people to then behave subpar. Right. And maybe if there was more of a fear of losing it because your friends won't take it, certainly your boss won't take it, your colleagues won't take it, you behave that way at work, you're out. Mm-hmm. But at home, you think you can do these things. You can treat people really poorly. You can put them down, you can disqualify them, you cannot listen to them, you can shout, you can kick, you can neglect them, you can be indifferent. I mean, my God, there is so many ways to not behave well at home and then call them, you know, it's like, to me, this is where I call people, make people accountable. It's like, "Excuse me. Excuse me." You can't interrupt another person. This is like, you know, marital sadism. So you have, we get to offer hours and you have a number of different venues and vehicles through which you're exploring these topics. The book is one, of course. And what, can you say the title of the new book one more time, please?
Relationships through the lens of infidelity (01:50:00)
So the book is The State of Affairs, rethinking infidelity. And I suspect that that will be as your talks and previous work has been very, very popular and topical. And you- So I would say this. I would say, why do people cheat? Why do happy people cheat? Is infidelity always a deal breaker? Why do we think that men need variety and are born, whereas we think that women are hungry for intimacy and lonely? Why do we have such complete different ideas about why men and women cheat? What do we do with jealousy? Can love ever be plural? Is possessiveness an arcane vestige of patriarchy or is it intrinsic to love? Tell these questions that I'm taking on. And you're also going to be exploring that in your own program on an audible channel soon, as I understand it. So if you wouldn't mind describing that just a little bit. Yes, I'm very excited about it. I mean, it's really different ways of exploring. You know, the book The State of Affairs is not really a book about infidelity. It's really a book about what do we learn from infidelity about the human heart and the human condition. So I use that lens to enter and to excavate many, many subjects. And I wanted to also have the opportunity of letting people come into my office and actually be in those conversations that I have with couples because most of the time we have no idea what happens in a couple. You know, couples are isolated islands. Sometimes the women may talk to somebody and the men talk to very few. And so we have no idea what's in the anti-chamber of the couple. So I did a series with Audible and we're going to do a second one already that of 10 couples therapy sessions covering a range of subjects where you think you are actually entering into the intimacy of these other relationships and you very quickly realize that you're actually looking inside, you're looking at your own mirror and you're looking at yourselves. And you start to talk with the persons and the people of your life, your partners or others about where you are in relation to these questions. So then they ask stories of infidelity and stories of sexuality and stories of raising children and stories of infertility and stories of unemployment. And it's a very, very poignant experience because it's intimate in your ear. You don't see them, but you hear them, 10 couples who have volunteered to come and have a session with me like I do generally in my office. It's exactly what I would normally do, but this time recorded and told as stories to share and stories to invest ourselves in. What is the name of the series? Where should we begin? Where should we begin? Isn't that what every session starts? Indeed. Where should we begin? So there are only, and for people listening, in the show notes I will have links to everything that I can get links to that we've discussed. The podcast comes out May 18 and at first it will be on Audible and on Amazon Prime. And then the book comes out in September, will be in stores October 10 and then the podcast will also be released on iTunes and so it will be re-released at the same time as the book comes out. So I have just a few more questions. I want to let you get back to your day, but just as we wrap up a few quick questions, one is what books besides your own have you gifted the most to other people? Or the book I've probably gifted the most is Victor Frankle the search for meaning.
Most gifted books (01:53:58)
Very, since I'm 16. That is a fantastic book. And what about reread the most yourself? What book have you reread or books, anything that any books that come to mind that you've reread? I recently reread The Art of Loving by Eric From. I reread The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin. I reread for this book, I reread Madame Bovere which was very disappointing. How? I'll tell you what I reread that I love because one of my kids was reading it in school, crime and punishment. You know, you can reread the Russians. But I don't, they are timeless. And if you had a billboard, this is a metaphorical question, but if you had a huge billboard where you could put a short message on it, non-commercial, but a short message up could be one word could be a sentence could be whatever to get out to millions of people.
Esther’s billboard (01:55:05)
What would you put on that billboard? Or what might you put on that billboard? There's always more you can do for another. Do something for the, you know, just don't have your day without having done something for someone that you don't know for that matter. Not just for the ones that are in your little circle. I don't know. And a billboard it would say, do your part. I love it. And any, any parting comments, requests of the audience could be the same thing. That you just said, but any, any parting thoughts, questions or suggestions for people who are listening, any, any ask of the audience. You know, the reason I see do you part is because so much of the culture we live in is about doing things for ourselves, on enhancing ourselves, pushing ourselves, being more successful, being more held, you know, and it is the most powerful, anti-depressant. I know that you do something on the depression front as well. And I think that the curse of today is isolation. There's a lot of other things we have gained, but we have lost something. And isolation and disconnection is really, is a curse. It's a curse of modern life. And I think that there is no more powerful anti-depressant and nothing that will give us more meaning in life than to know that we matter for others. And that means to do for others, which is a little bit what couple of therapy is about. You know, most of the time people come to go to therapy, they don't come in order to say, I came to check myself out. They've usually come to be an expert on the other and they say, fix it. Do something, you know, or I came to drop off, you know. So I'm all the time thinking, you know, and what are you doing? Take responsibility. You know, it's freedom, responsibility. And for the rest, it's like, if any of you are inspired by what I say, join me on all the platforms where you can find me so easily. And there's nothing I think I value more than to be in conversation. Like I've so enjoyed our conversation. And I, and to talk about these things, it's part of everybody's life all the time. Love, sex, trust, loyalty, commitment. What else is there, you know? Absolutely. And where is the best place on social media for people to say hello to you? If they wanted to say hello, is there any one preferred place? I would say my fan page on Facebook, probably, but I am on Twitter and I'm on Instagram and I'm on YouTube. I'm doing this whole beautiful series, actually, of videos that I'm putting up on YouTube on relational intelligence that I think kind of has snapshots of what I say in short, what I often say long. I'll tell you what I want is we have often these days tried to simplify things. And I think what I try to do is create a conversation on relationships and love and all of that at work, as well as at home, both levels of relationships in business, in companies, etc. That embraces complexity, that's multicultural and that's inclusive. And I think that the more people join this, the more I will, you will help me do my piece of social change. Mm hmm. So everybody definitely say hello to Esther, Esther.parell on Facebook, Instagram, Esther Parell official, YouTube, Parell, Esther. Switch now, put all of these in the show notes. Esther, thank you so much for taking the time. This was a real joy and tremendously stimulating and thought-provoking. I have a lot to think on. So I appreciate you sharing your expertise and your experiences with us. Thank you. It's a treat. Thanks a lot. If you're listening, you can find links to everything that has been mentioned, the books, the podcast, everything imaginable. In these show notes, as usual, with every other episode, you can just go to tim.blog/podcast. And until next time, thank you for listening. Hey guys, this is Tim again, just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Phyble at Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Do you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? And Phyble at Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to fourhourworkweek.com. That's fourhourworkweek.com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by Audible, which I've used for many, many years. I absolutely love audiobooks. And they are one of my favorite ways to pass the time when I travel. I'm on the road all the time and Audible allows me to consume many more books than I possibly could otherwise. I have two audiobooks to recommend right off the bat. The first is perhaps my favorite audiobook of all time and it's the only audiobook I've wanted to listen to twice in a row. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It's amazing and you will thank me. There are a few different versions. I like the version that Neil narrates himself. One of the most soothing voices of all time. The second book is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, P-O-T-T-S, which had a huge impact on my life and formed the basis for a lot of what would later become the four-hour workweek. So go to Audible.com/Tim and you can choose one of these two books or any of many, many other options. That could be books, magazines and much more. As a listener of the Tim Ferriss Show, you can also access a free 30-day trial. Just go to Audible.com/Tim. 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