Mileyda Menéndez Dávila | email@example.com
Published: Friday 07 April 2017 | 09:46:07 pm. Updated: Friday 22 September 2017 | 12:38:34 am.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The bonds of wedlock are so heavy that it takes two to carry them, sometimes three.
—Alexandre Dumas, père
Being unfaithful has a tenacity that every marriage would envy. Its charm lies in the forbidden, but also in the intoxication of capturing a new passion, just as when the betrayed relationship began.
This is revealed by Esther Perel, a Belgian psychologist specializing in couples’ intimacy, who is visiting Cuba these days and agreed to give a series of talks on the future of femininity, an initiative of the Abanico project and its producer, Rafael Lavín.
Monogamy is concretized on a daily basis, but reality is a small portion of the human mind, where fantasy has much more space. That is why those who cheat almost never have the intention of hurting, says the expert.
More than distancing oneself from one’s partner or seeking pleasure from others, what is longed for is one’s own essence, what was left behind when assuming an exclusivity based on love, although desire is what drives these types of choices.
When it comes to light, what hurts most is not the contact with other bodies, the time or the resources “diverted” from the common desire, but the betrayal of that idealized mission to build the unique, indispensable and irreplaceable love that led them to unite in the first place.
But therapeutic practice confirms that after having an affair, many people reinforce their interest in their stable bond, improve their erotic commitment, and are ready to make up for it in a thousand ways.
Facebook that does not see…
In this digital era, it is easier and at the same time more difficult to hide infidelities. On social networks, you can meet many people, but there is also more risk of being caught in the crossfire.
Today a woman who decides to forgive is not looked at with the same condescension because there are more facilities to not depend economically on anyone and she can have all the sex she wants, says the expert. If it were not for this social pressure (always exerted on men), many people would recognize that their love is even stronger than disenchantment and would give their story another chance.
Esther is neither for nor against infidelity. Each case is a lesson and it takes courage both to break up and to rewrite the plot.
She shares two keys to achieve this: the first is that the unfaithful partner sincerely regrets the damage done to his or her partner, even if he or she does not feel remorse for the experience, and the second is to approach the conciliatory dialogue not from the sordid details (who, where, how), but from what they have learned about their own bond: Why you? Why us? What did you feel when you saw me every day? What did you discover about yourself? How do we get out of this together?
Passion vs. contract
Marriage has been, and still is in some ways, an estate agreement: which family to nurture and who gets the assets in the event of death or breakup. That is why the magnitude of the deception depends both on what is done and how it is received by the other party.
If infidelity were generated because something is missing within a relationship, all marriages would be condemned to suffer it, because no one always has everything for the other: the couple is built between two imperfect beings who dream of something dialectically superior and live in permanent challenge, negotiating power and seduction inward and outward.
The unfaithful person violates the collective faith in a romantic model that we still defend, and that violation does not begin when he gets into another bed but before, from the chatting, the compliment in the street, the gesture of attention towards other people….
It is said that men are unfaithful for fear of commitment and women for hunger of intimacy, but life is a more complex equation, especially now, that we do not marry to have sex with someone, but to stop having sex with other people, Esther points out.
Even in open couples there are clear rules about when, where or with whom you can’t experiment, but going beyond the contract is exciting: transgressing the limits gives a sense of autonomy and can become addictive, no matter how traditional or modern the couple is.
Sexual alchemy is important in this experience. After a certain time, a few minutes of fantasy sex generates more endorphins than the daily exchange with your partner. In surveys carried out in different countries, the
Mileyda Menéndez Dávila |firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Friday 13 April 2012 | 08:52:24 pm. Updated: Thursday 21 September 2017 | 09:34:28 pm.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
“Sexuality is a window to enter society,” says Belgian psychologist and anthropologist Esther Perel, with whom we spoke last January during the Sexology 2012 congress.
This New York-based therapist defines the human couple as a microcosm where cultural ideas penetrate and then are passed on to the children. A sort of portal in space and time that, like everything that responds to society, tends to change its model as the times change.
In her opinion, modern marriage left behind the old sexuality of reproduction and obligation to open the way to a new sexuality centered on erotic desire and governed by principles forged with Romanticism, that cultural movement that transformed the world from the 17th century onwards.
However, that romantic notion of the “passionate marriage” that is so much pursued today carries in its essence a historical contradiction: passion and commitment is a dialectical pair that we try to reconcile in order to satisfy in one person very different needs, such as adventure and stability, surprise and comfort.
“Today we women ask for more… and we divorce more because we get disillusioned very quickly. Although we still see a partner as a partner to raise a family and achieve economic security, in this century we are looking above all for our man to be our friend, our lover, our confidant.”
Modern women lead a life more open to individual projects, to social protagonism, to the decision to have fewer descendants and to fulfill themselves outside the home, but this takes a heavy toll on their intimacy, she says.
“It is an existential dilemma that all couples who manage to be stable go through: eroticism is our way of feeling alive, but without realizing it, we redirect it towards those who follow in our footsteps in the family and we neglect our erotic world,” she says.
“Many women stop grooming themselves to look beautiful, but they get satisfaction from watching their daughters do it. Others stop ‘taking care’ of their husbands to be jealous of their teenage son, and most adult married couples barely organize outings a couple of times a year, yet financially and materially support the weekly recreation of their young offspring.”
Esther has traveled to dozens of countries studying couples in their own historical and cultural context to try to answer those questions that everyone has ever asked: “Why is the forbidden so erotic, and after it is obtained it no longer excites us? Why is everyday sexuality, done with love, usually not as passionate as a casual encounter? Why does sex make children, and then children kill sex?”.
In fluent Spanish and full of metaphors, Esther talked to several Cuban journalists about the success of her book Erotic Intelligence, published since 2007 by several publishing houses, in which she tries to discuss these questions. [In English, the book is called Mating in Captivity]
According to what she told us, the term came up as a joke from her husband (she has been married for 30 years), but then they both made sense of it: if we are already talking about emotional intelligence, why not accept that sex demands its own share of knowledge and intuition?
In this day and age, a sexually “intelligent” woman with a secure attachment style looks for men who want her, not need her.
The difference is easy to detect, Esther assures: “In the first case they say “I love you”, while in the second case they ask “Why don’t you love me?”, even when you have given all the proof of love they have asked for throughout the relationship… And this is also true the other way around: emotionally dependent women who demand too much from their partners.
The diversity of manifestations of this dependence is above all cultural: in women, open complaint predominates; in men, it is more hidden or it emerges with a lot of aggression, especially in countries with a macho tradition.
Desire is fire, and to grow it needs space. Things will go better in many marriages when they understand that this is not a conflict to be resolved, but a paradox to be managed, like so many in this century: “You can be happy in a stable marriage, but the way to that happiness is the balance between individual freedom and mutual commitment”.
Be smart with your partner
If you want to apply erotic intelligence to your life as a couple, here are several tips discussed on the Terra site as a marital “survival list”:
-Be interested in your partner’s hobbies and show him/her what you like.
-Remember that you are not Siamese twins, you don’t have to go everywhere together.
-Work activities must be compatible for life as a couple.
-Avoid erosion in communication: get out of the house to talk about intimate things.
-Don’t fight against your partner’s quirks, incorporate them into your routine.
-Don’t try to change the other person, accept their bad side along with their good side.
-Balance the balance of roles, don’t try to be always and both the dominant voice.
-Put yourself in your partner’s shoes before judging why he/she acts one way or another.
By MARTA MARIA RAMIREZ
January 23, 2012
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Esther Perel is a psychotherapist and specializes in couples therapies. Born in Belgium, she studied in Israel and has her practice in NY where it seems she has many celebrities as patients.
Talking with Esther Perel is a privilege. Her personal story, as the daughter of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors, refugees in Belgium, could be the plot of a novel or a movie.
But today we talk about the couple, after the workshop “The dilemmas of desire and clinical work with couples”, which she offered to specialists at Havana’s Casa de la Amistad on Saturday, January 21.
On Monday January 23, Perel will conduct the workshop “Emotional intelligence, erotic intelligence: new conversations about the sexuality of life in couples.”
What is the body for Esther?
It is the house in which we live. Some of us live well because it is a house, which has been respected, caressed, cared for, and which we care for.
Others see it as the central place of our inhibitions, restrictions and it turns out to be a prison. But the body is the foundation: if you are not inside your body, you are not present and to have desire or satisfying sex, you have to be present and your partner too.
If the body is dissociated, you are not there. If the body is not a place where you want to invite someone, where you are going to enter, because you don’t just enter an orifice, you enter a person, a world, a space.
For me, the body that enjoys, that feels good, is a base. At the same time, the most important sexual organ is the mind.
So, are the images of ideal women presented to us by the mass media a place of torture also for our sexualities?
It is torture for women that is expanding also to men, in consumer societies, where youth and beauty can be bought.
Since always, in every civilization, the body has been adored, decorated… This is not new. But the idea is that if you are not the ideal model, you have to feel less, diminished, because you don’t make it. That is slavery.
This is a way to control and every society controls sexuality, abstinence and license. We can no longer control so much what people do sexually, so we have started to control the body, how it dresses, how it takes care of itself, how it beautifies itself.
How does Esther see sexual pleasure? For you, is it a sexual right?
I never thought of pleasure as a right. But I am interested in this point of view. It seems logical to me.
I see pleasure more as a fundamental need in life. Not only sexual pleasure, to have pleasure, to enjoy, to feel alive.
Pleasure is the antidote to anxiety. It is play. When we see a child who does not play, we say that he is depressed, that he is anxious and that he is not living well. Adults also need to be able to play and have pleasure.
Sexual pleasure is a part of sexuality, a sexuality of desire, not of reproduction or obligation. So, desire comes with pleasure.
Why do we tend to deprive ourselves of pleasure, even though our sexuality, after the appearance of the contraceptive pill, is no longer for reproduction?
We are the first generations to have and want long-lasting sex. We think it can be achieved with only one person, based on the modern couple model, which is romantic. We want sex anchored in desire and this is, fundamentally, an expression of individual freedom.
As a consequence, pleasure cannot be forced; yes, sex. There is no pleasure without freedom. You cannot feel pleasure when you are anxious, when you are afraid, when you are forced or controlled.
Is there a lot of discussion about monogamy and infidelity? What do you think?
Monogamy is going to be the main issue for couples from now on. The next frontier will be sexual exclusivity and developing other ways of thinking about monogamy. Perhaps a monogamy not seen as sexual exclusivity, in the same way that we could not conceptualize premarital sex, with more than one person in life or non-pathologized homosexuality.
Infidelity is one of the main reasons for divorce because it breaks the romantic contract.
Have you ever said that having to take care of the other person in the couple is the most antiaphrodisiac? Why?
Love takes care, has responsibility, mutuality, reciprocity. But need does not give desire. Desire gives desire, invitation gives desire, wanting gives desire; need does not. When people talk about situations of desire they don’t feel responsible for anyone.
There is no element more successful than the independence of the other. When you ask men and women what turns you on the most, they answer self-sufficient and independent people. The fully sexualized woman is a free woman who does not need a man; same with competent men. There is no dependence on desire.
This is a contradiction with the model of femininity imposed by the patriarchy….
The submissive woman, with a double standard by the privileged man, that he can be unfaithful or can have passion because she does not, is a model is failing, even if it continues.
Why is there a crisis of the couple? Is it true?
It is true that there is a crisis of the couple. But I don’t know if the couple was so good before. I do know that expectations have changed. Today we want a person to give us what a whole community used to do: belonging, continuity, stability, independence and at the same time I want you to be my best friend, my passionate lover and even my confidant. Never before have we tried to have the same person give us continuity and novelty, surprise and stability?
Also today we want to be happy today. Before it was something for after death, not for the here and now. Not only do we want to be happy, but we are unhappy not to be happy. Happiness is a mandate.
So, the crisis of the couple is because we have carried within a unit a number of needs that are perhaps too many.
What is the meaning of the bed in today’s times?
Couples talk about their problems and their erotic problems in bed. Many fights are located there because we have a bed.
Today’s bed we want be sensual, passionate, affectionate, affectionate and when it is not so, there is an emptiness, anguish, longing… The bed becomes a place of intimacy and not only to go to rest.
Why Cuba, after two years?
Today the family is maintained only if the couple is happy. Today the focus is no longer: we stay together for the children, the community… I think we are all with the challenges of couples therapy, which I think is the most difficult. I am part of a global conversation and I came to have it with Cuban compañeros .