Infidelity What Makes a Perfect Marriage

Why we cheat

In the non-fiction book ›The Power of Affair. Why we cheat and what we can learn from it ‹writes the author Esther Perel not only about the nature of the affair, as the title promises. Rather, she writes about what defines human relationships in the 21st century and why partnership is currently so difficult. BASTIAN BUCHTALECK read the book on the hot topic

Perel should know. She is a trained psychotherapist and specializes in couples therapy. All of their experience, all of their knowledge is therefore nourished from their everyday work with real couples and their real problems. One notices this daily preoccupation with the subject in the book.

The power of the affair - that's why the title is so well chosen

Perel identifies the current relationship narrative as the central point that makes the affair so powerful. Accordingly, one leads a number of monogamous relationships today, so one is constantly on the lookout, and when one finally makes a decision (mostly connected with children and marriage), the partner must be right for us at all levels and in all areas of life - why else should we have chosen this one person? This is accompanied by an idealization that cannot be fulfilled in the long term. Our partner should offer security and be exciting; it should be reliable and surprising; erotic and suitable for everyday use. The expectation that such opposites can be fulfilled is paradoxical and must fail.

"Our romantic ideas are too much mistaken that a perfect connection makes us insensitive to the unsettling rush of eros." cancels. In this respect, the current relationship narrative is: all or nothing and the sober conclusion is: "Our emotional and erotic needs are sometimes incompatible".

The power of the affair - that could have been the title

So the power of the affair lies in the fact that it shatters our current ideal of relationships. Accordingly, infidelity is outlawed in the partnership. But Perel makes a different proposal in her book. How about if we adapt the relationship narrative to the 21st century? In any case, according to Perel's observation, an affair creates change, but it does not necessarily have to be destructive. Unfaithfulness in the relationship is usually just the symptom that draws attention to a problem - "a disturbance in the individual or in the relationship". The unfaithful man is seldom just a pig and the unfaithful woman is not just a slut.

“Paradoxically, many people move out of their marriage in order not to have to give it up. When relationships become ugly, infidelity can be a transforming force.
Cheating can be the wake-up call to finally pay attention, or the death knell of a relationship in the last legs. "

The affair is not wanted because one would like to hurt the partner. It happens because the relationship has problems or you have problems yourself and change is necessary. To initiate this change - that is the power of the affair. Often enough, people cheat because they can no longer stand each other in their current role as husband, wife, partner or partner.
You want to change, not the partnership. Understanding infidelity in this way can point the way to a better, more honest relationship.

Faithful, unfaithful - a question of perspective

Infidelity is a matter of definition. For some, watching porn is infidelity, for some it is touching the private parts, and for Bill Clinton it is something else. Perel makes the intelligent suggestion that infidelity begins where there is erotic tension and this is followed up. This erotic tension does not have to be exclusively sexual in nature, but can also be spiritual, emotional or energetic. If another person speaks to me spiritually more than my partner and I therefore devote myself spiritually to him - then I am unfaithful to my partner on this level.

Perel uses this broad definition to make it clear that affairs are often not about sex as such. Rather, it is about getting the attention that you haven't felt in your everyday life for a long time. One wants to desire and be desired. It's about excitement and freedom. After all, the main motivation for infidelity is to feel alive again. It seems like relationships tend to make people feel like they are buried alive, and the affair is the breakout of it. Exciting.

Jealousy, secrets and other thoughts

In addition to this conceptual core, which always revolves around infidelity and affairs, the book contains many other insights, all of which are worth reading. The chapters “Monogamy and its Limits” or the one about jealousy are as open as they are exciting. In contrast, the representation that love and relationship are culturally conditioned is almost conservative in terms of content.

The book is well researched and the content is very well prepared. In addition, there are always little truths that can be passed on like aphorisms. "Respect does not necessarily mean telling everything, but rather considering what this knowledge means for the other."

"It's cozy for two, but three are a couple"

Overall, ›The Power of the Affair. Why we cheat and what we can learn from it ‹around 360 pages of knowledge on a topic that is as relevant today as it has always been and will probably always be. Anyone interested in the subject area will be given a rich gift of reading.

It is a very apt book about the difficulties of relationships in the digitized 21st century and for everyone who is interested in relationships, marriage, sex or lack of sex, infidelity or loyalty.


Title information
Esther Perel: The Power of the Affair
Why we cheat and what we can learn from it
Hamburg: HarperCollins 2019
384 pages, 22 euros
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