Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • You've just entered my office and

  • These clips are from the podcast where should we begin?

  • I'm Esther Perel, and I am a couples therapist

  • For the past 35 years I've been helping couples and people navigate the challenges of

  • relationships and

  • Until not too long ago. There was no such a thing as a couples therapist

  • Basically you got together with somebody you married, and that was it you were stuck for life

  • If you didn't like it well you could concern yourself with an early death

  • It was till death do us apart

  • Not as we have it today as till love dies

  • Never before has the survival of the family dependent on the happiness of the couple and

  • This has made the couple such a central unit

  • also

  • The unit of relationships that is probably undergoing the most changes in a very short amount of time

  • Never have we invested more in love and

  • never have we divorced or broken up more in the name of love I

  • Imagine a world in which we can experience

  • our

  • relationships with a sense of vitality and aliveness and vibrancy

  • Because I live with one perennial truth

  • the quality of your relationships is what determines the quality of your life and

  • The bonds and the connections that we make with other people that we established with them

  • Gives us a greater sense of meaning of happiness of well-being than any other

  • human experience

  • So let me ask you just for a moment

  • How many of you are in a relationship at this moment a romantic relationship, let's put it like that

  • And how many of you would like to be in a relationship

  • And now I would like some more light on the house for the next question

  • How many of you would like to be out of the relationship that you're in at least sometimes

  • You can leave the lights on at this moment

  • So we we can actually really relate to each other to

  • Do here what we're talking about

  • Relationships at this moment are undergoing such a massive shift

  • The norms are literally changing under our feet, and we have to make up the rulebook as we go

  • You know for a long time

  • Our relationships were pretty simple because they were dictated by rules

  • Religion had clear strictures, and it had structure and it had incentives and it had

  • prohibitions and

  • Social hierarchy was also very clear and it told us

  • how parents had to talk to the kids how children had to

  • Respond to adults her husband's had to talk to their wives and how wives didn't have to answer their husbands

  • Things were clear

  • All the decisions were made for us the big decisions

  • Who was going to be the breadwinner?

  • Who was going to wake up at night to feed the baby? Who has the right to demand for sex?

  • What you did is what you father did and at this moment we

  • have unraveled this system, and we have created a world of options and choices and

  • unprecedented freedom

  • But as a result we have to negotiate everything. It's all up for grabs

  • It's no longer clear who's gonna be the breadwinner in fact whose career is gonna

  • Take priority at this time who's gonna wake up tomorrow morning to feed the baby

  • Who's responsible for anything sure initiating sex next time who's going to plan the date?

  • What gender should I be dating how many people should I be dating at the same time?

  • Should I tell them about the others?

  • Am I ready to have children do I even want to have children should I move east should I move West?

  • Where am I going to go on vacation next

  • Am I in mind my needs, but getting met in this relationship?

  • Am I happy am I happy enough?

  • All these big decisions that have burdened the selfs like never before we have to figure it all out and

  • because of that

  • Conversations have become the heart of relationships

  • We have to talk about stuff that we've never talked about that

  • We don't know how to talk about that we don't have the vocabulary to talk about and most of the time

  • We've even never said it to ourselves

  • Are we up for the right people

  • So I want to unpack this conundrum with you

  • and

  • The way I think is this I'm imagining you sitting there saying so what is she going to tell me?

  • What are we going to do?

  • You know and I'm gonna tell you right up front so that you can relax in your anticipation

  • I do not have three easy steps for what you need to do

  • And I don't feel bad about it

  • because as you may have heard I have an accent which means that I'm not from here and

  • one of the things that non Americans sometimes say is that for some reason Americans think that every problem needs to have a solution and

  • I don't have a solution because many of these things are not a problem that we have to solve

  • but these are paradoxes that we need to manage.

  • For me to understand the confusions and the pains that we are experiencing in our relationships at this point

  • Demands that I kind of put it in context. How did we get there? What has happened?

  • What have been the big social and cultural shifts that are directly entering our sheets at this moment?

  • So allow me to take you on a quick tour in history

  • For a long time as social animals we lived in tribes. We lived in villages

  • We lived in communities and in those villages

  • we were told what to do and things were clear in return for allegiance and for obedience I

  • Would get a sense of belonging I would get a sense of continuity. I would get a sense of identity I

  • Got a lot of certainty. I got very little freedom, but I was never alone and

  • We moved to the cities and in our urban lives

  • we are for the first time so much more free, but also so much more alone and

  • For the first time we are turning to our romantic partners

  • To help us with that aloneness to help us transcend that existential aloneness

  • We still want all the same things that traditional marriage was about we want family life some of us we want

  • Companionship we want economic support we want social status

  • but now I want you also to be my best friend and my

  • Trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot and all for the long haul and the long haul keeps getting longer

  • What we have created in a romantic ambition is one person to give us once an entire village used to provide

  • As I have sometimes said you don't solve this problem with Victoria's Secrets

  • And since there is no victor secret. We all know where the responsibility has lied

  • This shift from

  • The collective life where we had belonging

  • But very little freedom to where we have a lot of freedom, but everywhere we talk about relationships today

  • We hear about the fact that we no longer have a deep sense of

  • anchoring and belonging in rootedness like we used to have and that we are facing a modern massive epidemic of

  • Loneliness which in America today has become the number one public health crisis

  • more than obesity

  • A few other major changes took place in the old model when marriage was primarily an economic Enterprise

  • Intimacy had to do with sharing the life together you milked the cows you water the land. You'd raise the children

  • It was about economy

  • but today when I talk about intimacy I talk about it as into me see and

  • What I bring to you is not my dowry. It's not my

  • commercial assets I bring to you my inner life I

  • Bring to you my wishes my feelings my aspirations my anxieties and when I talk to you

  • I want you to look at me. No this (typing)

  • I want contact. I want connection. I want you to make me feel that I matter. I want you to reflect and

  • validate me and I want to transcend this life of growing atomization.

  • I also want you to

  • Help me or to help together actually

  • Achieve what is probably one of the most amazing

  • challenges of

  • Relationships today, this is where we want to bring under one roof

  • contradictory ideals and contradictory needs on the one hand our need for

  • security for rootedness for belonging for Anker for predictability for safety and on the other end our

  • Need for adventure and novelty and change and mystery every living organism

  • straddles this

  • polarity between change and stability

  • every person every relationship every company and

  • Thriving relationships are the ones who know how to reconcile these two fundamental sets of human needs

  • If you think for a moment all of you

  • Have grown up needing both

  • Security safety and adventure exploration

  • And some of you may have come of your childhood

  • needing more protection and

  • some of you may have come out of your childhood needing more space and autonomy and

  • If you think about how that enters into your relationships

  • You will notice that very often

  • in a couple

  • there is 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 afraid of abandonment and one person more afraid of suffocation

  • Reconciling security and adventure

  • reconciling love and desire in one relationship has become one of the great challenges

  • We today when we look for that person with whom we want to have everything we call that person the soulmate

  • Have you heard of the soulmate?

  • How many of you think that you're looking for a soulmate or have found a soulmate or are living with your soulmate?

  • You know the thing that really interested me about the soulmate is that

  • It's called the one the one and only all of that

  • But the soulmate was an interesting concept because for most of history the soulmate meant God

  • not another human being and

  • In our secularized society in the West we have basically taken romantic love

  • to replace the role of religion many times we look to our partners to give us transcendence and

  • meaning and

  • ecstasy and wholeness all these things that we used to look for in the perfect world of the divine and

  • Not only do we bring this zeal for the soulmate?

  • But the way we are looking for this soulmate is mired in a romantic consumption economy

  • I am going to look for the one and only

  • Through that thing where I have a thousand people at my fingertips

  • What does it mean to look for the one and only in the swiping culture in the village you have two choices?

  • Later you had six choices

  • Now you have a thousand choices

  • Do you know what it means to meet the one?

  • The one means that this is the one that's going to cure you of your case of FOMO

  • When I find you I no longer think I could do better

  • Phenomenal you know

  • For you my beloved I will delete my apps

  • Is the new ritual of commitment

  • And all these decisions by the way, you know that we have to make is it time to delete my apps and we study

  • Enough at this point. You know

  • If your parents didn't know any of this, but your grandparents. They would be turning around in their graves

  • you know

  • We have very few guidelines and a lot of options and all these options are giving us quite a bit of uncertainty

  • And quite a bit of self doubt as well

  • How do I know?

  • How do I know that I have found the one is a question that people ask me all the time?

  • When we talk about sex

  • Which is really an enormous series of changes that have taken place in relationships

  • First of all there are three primary sexual revolutions the advent of contraception

  • Without which women could never experience sexuality without women and men could never experience the freedom of

  • separating sex from reproduction

  • the women's movement

  • Which took on the abuses of power and the gay movement which introduced the concept of sexual identity?

  • For most of history sexuality was seen as a part of our biology

  • Today we have socialized it it is a part of who we are of our identity of how I see myself of how I

  • Express myself. It is a sovereign piece of my eye of who I am and for that matter it has become a fundamental human right

  • We no longer just have sex for reproduction neither is it in long-term relationships or in

  • Relationships that are with some some length

  • And it is no longer just a woman's marital duty today

  • sexuality especially after two kids if you have two or three which is the average Western thing, it's

  • basically for pleasure and connection no other motive

  • So it better be good

  • Because in order to want sex it needs to be sex that is worth wanting

  • This is really a major shift to have sexuality that is based only on my wanting

  • Which is the definition of desire is to own the wanting

  • And hopefully I want you and you want me and it happens to be at the same time

  • Tell other conditions to fulfill

  • But we have taken this now

  • Recently to yet another level a very very important and promising level

  • Because we are taking on for the first time

  • Again, maybe not for the first time, but again one of the oldest power dynamics

  • Related to sex and power

  • Where men have historically

  • leveraged their social power

  • in order to gain access to

  • sexual favors and

  • Women have leveraged their youth their beauty their sexuality which often was the only power they had

  • in order to access

  • Social power that was otherwise denied to her

  • This

  • examination of this power structure is

  • concurrently under intense scrutiny

  • And it is also giving us a unique opportunity to finally open up the narrow

  • boxes in which masculinity femininity

  • male and female have been locked up for way too long for

  • The last 40 years

  • We have done in the West and everywhere else a little bit of the beginning work, but very

  • significant work to help women

  • Find their power in their voice

  • But we have often left men stuck in a complete

  • definitional void of manhood

  • Patriarchy doesn't just hurt women

  • it hurts us all and

  • To take four year old boys and stop touching them less than we touch our daughters and begin this

  • Systematic dismantle ment of their emotional lives so that we can make the making of modern

  • masculinity highly performance-based

  • rooted in self-reliance and autonomy and

  • fearlessness and competition

  • All kinds of things that have actually made men way more vulnerable

  • Less likely to live long and not always the best partners

  • If we are going to work towards true equality

  • We will match our intense efforts in helping women find power and voice

  • With our intense efforts to help men be able to share their heart and their vulnerability

  • and in such

  • We will give people

  • People human beings the opportunity to be more whole

  • rather than defined in this very narrow binary gender constructs

  • so

  • for that when paradigm changes happen

  • Things are difficult. It gets messy. It gets confusing there are misunderstandings

  • There are judgments and more than ever we need

  • conversation and we need nuanced

  • conversations and

  • As it