Review of the book: ‘State of Affairs’

An affair can be one of the most devastating events to occur in a monogamous relationship.  Perhaps  it’s that potential for devastation that causes people to view it in simplistic, black-and-white terms.  Many expressions abound about affairs that supposedly contain some element of truth in them. ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater’.  ‘Affairs only happen in couples where there are already troubles’.  I myself have even found myself thinking in simple, reductionistic terms, about affairs.

And yet, affairs happen with striking frequency.  Over one-third of both men and women who are currently married admit to having had an affair.  The rise of online relations has given way to more women partaking in both emotional and sexual affairs in a transgression that was once committed mostly by men.  Most individuals who perpetrate such a violation feel tremendously guilty and even destroyed by their own actions.  Almost no one sets out to cheat on their partner.  It is easy, even for a therapist, to approach an affair as inherently bad, or immoral or harmful in some way.  However, Esther Perel, is brilliantly capable of nuancing supposedly most treachorous-seeming actions . ….. People do not fall into neat categories of victims and perpetrators.  Even decent people cheat and this needs to be acknowledged and understood.  Perel provides a framework for doing so.

Esther Perel as a modulated thinker with a hefty brain.  She has spent years conversing with couples in long term relationships about their cheating and also their ability to sustain a sexual relationship over time.  She has a unique ability to both see the couple and also see a bigger context that includes patriarchal norms, and  Jungian archetypes.  I quite literally could not put her book down.

Perel has the unique ability to take psychodynamic/sociological concepts and translate them into terms that every day English speakers can understand (even though she herself hails from Belgium).  If you want a interesting read about the whys and wherefores that people commit adultery, this is your book.