Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel [Book Summary – Review]


Recall those heady times of early romance with your partner – the lovely eagerness you felt before a date, the excitement of your first kiss? Also, how lovely it was when both of you confessed your love for one another? That developing emotional intimacy led you to the following stage of love: a home together, maybe some children.

However, day-day demands made your sex life weak. You basically lack the time or energy for passion. Just with a sigh, you resign yourself to this new kind of love, the kind of love where you’re emotionally –however, not physically – connected. You’re pondering it’s unavoidable that passion disappears in a long-term relationship, right?

No, it isn’t. Long-term commitment doesn’t need to be the end of eroticism – that burning, sexual urge you felt at a time. As soon as you know what makes your passion burning, you’ll get sufficient fuel to feed the fire for your remaining life.


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Chapter 1 – When we expect our partner to be our key source of security, the passion fades.


People are contradictory beings, yearning for security as well as passion. When our relationship is stable and reliable, we feel secure. However, passion is allergic to these abilities. It needs risk, mystery, as well as unexpected.

Life is not predictable and getting a supportive infrastructure around us relives our anxiety. However, a lot of us have left the institutions –such as marriage and religion – that provided our ancestors with a sense of security. Nowadays, we want our partner to be our everything: like our lover, confidant, best friend, and our rock. However, this put a big amount of stress on them. Also, stress is lethal to passion.

A 38-year-old Adele saw herself in this circumstance, seven years after her relationship with Alan. A successful lawyer as well as a mother to Emilia a 5-year-old, was glad in her marriage, most times. However, she didn’t feel like a sexual person–just a mother and wife. Also, she didn’t consider Alan as sexual as well. Passion in their marriage was destroyed by the safe routine they’d formed to handle their busy life together.

Therefore, how do spouses get a balance between security and eroticism?



We have to begin by putting a stop to the fantasy of security. All relationships are at risk of loss. We wish to believe that love will remain for life. However, death could terminate even the greatest loving relationship. By embracing the impermanence of life, we can put a stop to holding on the routines in our relationships that allow us to feel safe. This leads us into a spot where we can find mystery again in our partner. Also, mystery stimulates excitement.

On one occasion, during a work function, Adele experienced a breakthrough. She noticed that Alan was discussing with some colleagues and realized how attractive he was. At that point, she forgot the entire dull communications that occupied their lives –such as their arguing about the chaos he left in the bathroom. Rather, she notices his smart, sexy vibe. He was more than only her husband, and that got her turned her on!

It can be difficult to see our partner with eyes since viewing them as an individual puts our sense of security at risk. However, by discovering the courage to do that, we’ll regularly see new things in our partner to explore, and this can assist us to reignite our passion as well. 


Chapter 2 – In order to keep the passion thriving, couples have to maintain their individuality.


If you’ve heard the radio today, you’ve probably listened to a song about two lovers turning into one. This is a popular story. This might come as a surprise to you, then, to know that while closeness nurtures love, it chokes eroticism.

When we begin dating a person who is new, we adventure into “otherness.” We enjoy getting findings– our girlfriend plays the guitar, our boyfriend knits. This finding process drives passion without letting us feel claustrophobic since we still have a sense of ourselves. Our lives haven’t combined yet; therefore, we still possess a sense of space.

However, as we get more intimate emotionally, we wrongly think that both emotional, as well as physical intimacy, are the same. As a matter of fact, they are two different stories that rise and fall independently of each other. Being overly emotionally intimate can really hinder physical intimacy, rather than boosting it.

Let’s examine the reason why this occurs. 

Experiences from childhood can greatly affect our ability for passion in our adult relationships. For example, John, a stockbroker, lived and grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father.  While he was still a child, he accepted the responsibility of being the light in his mother’s life, attempting to relieve her pain and loneliness. 

Moving forward to adulthood, and John’s relationship with Beatrice began with six months of steamy lovemaking. After a year, they’d moved into a harmonious life together. However, they’d weren’t having sex anymore. John felt accountable for Beatrice’s well-being, similar to how he had for his mother’s. Also,  due to that, he no longer desired her sexually anymore.



Additionally to this, Beatrice became very available. She’d left her autonomy, happily combining her life with John’s. However, this entailed there was no longer any sense of mystery and otherness anymore between them. By “becoming one” with John, Beatrice had essentially put a stop to the fire of passion rather than igniting it

To restore John’s duty as a lover – not caregiver – the couple decided to live apart for a little time. Beatrice was able to re-establish her independence, registering in college, and reconnecting with friends. Soon after, she and John reignited the passion they’d had at the start of their relationship.

Making the passion alive by nurturing selfhood can be difficult for individuals who were brought up to be selfless. In order to defeat this, see your independence as a means to create a sense of otherness that pleased your loved one when you first saw each other. Both of you will end up being more satisfied – in the bedroom and beyond.   


Chapter 3 – There are other languages of intimacy aside taking. 


Modern society is obsessed with the relationship. Social media is evidence of that. As a matter of fact, we’ve developed to associate intimacy with sharing. We think that by sharing our words, we’re communicating our real nature, which will form significant connections with others. Also, although that is true, we’re neglecting a vital fact: there’s over one approach to form an emotional bond.

From an evolutionary outlook, it was vital for women to become proficient socializers. If they couldn’t wrestle their way through a hindrance, they uttered their way around it. Honest conversation – a core value of feminism – is vital to nurturing healthy relationships in our busy and difficult world. However, where does that put the people of us who don’t have– or haven’t been taught – the skills to speak verbally?

Nowadays, the gender roles assigned to boys dissuade them from communicating themselves with words. Male identity looks to be tied to hiding vulnerability and exerting self-control. This makes boys and men explore other means to show their feelings – usually through a physical connection. Their bodies usually utter the words in their hearts.

Eddie who is a close friend of the author – falls into this group. The woman he dated would get disappointed by his incapacity to share, describing it as commitment phobia. This frustrated Eddie. He thought his day-day acts of care and love showed his feelings. 



Eddie didn’t wasn’t aware that some women can be confused when love is shown physically. Women –just like men – have felt their own negative social conditioning. They’ve learned to privilege the relative safety of words over sexual deeds, which bear the risk of unwanted pregnancy, disease, and humiliation.

Eddie ultimately found happiness with a Japanese woman called Noriko, who spoke just a little English. Because he doesn’t speak any Japanese, they spoke through miming and signs. Eddie thinks that the absence of verbal communication was an important factor in the couple’s success. They had to learn how to express their intimacy in other means.

Knowing that there’s over one approach to express intimacy opens us up to a different love language. Rather than saying, “Tell me how you feel,” we can say, “Can you reveal to me how you feel?” A touch, a carefully planned date, or a night of passion can be read as a profession of profound love.


Chapter 4 – Our current ideals around egalitarianism as well as safety have reduced our ability for eroticism.


Think of the last love scene you saw in a film. Certainly, it included increasing pulses, a dance between resistance and submission, and, lastly, the joyful yield to sensual abandon. Meaning, it most likely wasn’t a scene of respectful courtship. However, this is basically at odds with Western beliefs.

In order to accomplish a real erotic experience, we need to get into the realm of seduction – which is a place of temptation, power play, and role reversal. The features of this realm are power and aggression. Due to this, a lot of couples who value equality are reluctant to partake in it. However, when it’s accepted in a consensual manner, the more dangerous parts of eroticism can be redemptive.

Let’s look at Elizabeth who is a feminist, and she feels good pleasure in sexual submission. As an extremely task-oriented school psychologist, her day-day life is organized and fruitful. However, anytime she is with Vito, her partner, she’s glad to give up control. Because the couple has decided to see their equitable marriage as quite different from their sex life – where dominance has a role – they’re allowed to explore the darker parts of passion in a loving and safe manner.

In the context of this illustration, feeling safe is significant since it aids to play. However, some cultural messaging around sex and safety is really harmful. Particularly, American teens,  are informed that no sex is the only safe sex; on the other hand, in Europe sexual exploration is regarded as a normal aspect of teen growth. Allowing teens to get scared if sex doesn’t really prevent them from having sex. The teenagers of America are eight times more likely to fall pregnant by accident than European teens, and, averagely, they begin engaging in sex two years before.



Shame is as well used to curb American teens from engaging in sex. When we take this sense of shame into our adult relationships, it makes it hard for us to talk about our sexual desires without feeling guilty. However, if we can stop seeing our passion as an issue or abomination, we can start relishing the self-expansion it gives us, especially when we surrender ourselves to its power.


Chapter 5 – How we went through dependence and independence as kids mold our capacity to engage with eroticism.


When Dylan, 12-year-old eyes were filled with tears at his mother’s burial, his father said to him not to fall apart. From that moment onwards, Dylan covered his feeling in order not to disappoint his dad. He never anticipated the effect this would have on his sex life as a grown-up.

The first educations in our lives are our primary caregivers. We learn how to love from them and how we ought to feel about our bodies, sex, and sexuality. This mold our views and expectations, as well as when it comes to sex. For example, unable to tolerate feelings that make him feel vulnerable, Dylan carried men at clubs two times in a week. Anonymous sex defends him from the disgrace his dad made him feel like a child.

Our erotic blueprint – or the thing that turns us on – is a strong tool we can make use of to explain childhood trauma. Its design is made on how our primary caregiver fulfilled our childhood desires. As a child, if we felt emotionally ignored, we’ll probably wrestle with vulnerability as an adult, just like Dylan. Also, if we’re scared of being vulnerable, we won’t have the ability to let go and surrender ourselves to the strong tide that is eroticism.

This was the circumstances James saw himself in. in spite of being in a good marriage with Stella, James was sexually restrained. In bed, he used the entire time stressing about his performance, extinguishing any hope for eroticism. This entailed that Stella was not satisfied, as well; James usually felt missing during sex.



In therapy, the author traced James’s urge to please back to his relationship with his mom, who depended on James for emotional support to relieve her own anxiety. One time James recognized that it was OK to think about his needs during sex, as well, he got less consumed with satisfying Stella. This entails that he started relishing himself more, which allowed him to be more present at the moment. The outcome? Stella too started enjoying sex once again.

A powerful relationship with our lover reassures us. If we can defeat our childhood worries of separation, we can safely lose ourselves in the moment to completely feel eroticism – and be assured that our loved one will still be there when we get back, accepting us back without rebuke.


Chapter 6 – The only means eroticism can survive parenthood is when couples actively decide to prioritize it.


There’s a harsh irony in that babies – nearly usually the outcome of sex – lead to the end of a lot of parents’ sex lives. Also, this occurs regardless of how a baby gets into the family or the sex or sexuality of their parents. Whether or not you’re genetically linked to your baby, your baby will put your eroticism at risk, regardless of how good your sex life was before.

Therefore, what is the reason why sex gets deprioritized really fast when lovers turn into parents?

Parenthood is the biggest difficulty a couple will ever experience. When a couple turns into a trio, security takes on a new meaning. It is overwhelming, being accountable for a little, helpless being. Therefore, we do anything we can to make them –as well as ourselves – safe. We change professions from artists to administrators. We sell a motorbike. We put an end to partying and turn into reliable, responsible adults. However, eroticism flourishes on a threat, the unpredictable, the wild – things that are not compatible with safety. Therefore, we give it up in order to protect our little one from danger.

For a lot of women, this is complicated by the social myth that responsible and good mothers are selfless. For instance, Stephanie, a mother, has a really endless to-do list that sex with her husband, Warren, never looks as significant as the laundry or the dishes. This is partially due to the stress of being a good mother, and partially as a result of ticking things off the list gives a sense of control amongst the pandemonium of parenting. 



In order to reconnect with her innate eroticism, Stephanie needed to accept guiltless pleasure. Her first phase of recovery didn’t even include her husband. She took a weekend away with her sister, leaving behind the children in Warren’s care.

In order to keep the passion burning during parenthood, couples as well have to remember that the act of pursuit is constant during a relationship. Pursuit kindles desire. For instance, for busy parents, planning dates can help make sure that physical intimacy isn’t ignored. Some couples might view this as not having the spontaneity that spurs passion; however, what it really does is form anticipation – a strong element for eroticism.

If you’re a stressed parent yearning to reconnect with your sexual self, plan some consistent intimate time with your spouse. It could be just a short drive or a quiet meal with each other. In the lead-up to your date, allow yourself to dream about it. By doing this, it will recreate some of the enticing eagerness you felt during the time you started dating. 


Chapter 7 – Seeing sexual fantasies as a window into our erotic desires assists strengthen passion.


Sexual fantasies have a negative reputation. Seen as sinful by a lot of faiths – or even perverted by contemporary psychology – fantasies are an abomination we hide away in our personal vault, afraid of the humiliation we’ll face if they’re found. However, if we put our cultural outlooks aside, we can consider fantasies in a new direction. 

It is a totally normal thing and also a healthy aspect of adult sexuality to have sexual fantasies. Beyond that, fantasies are transformative. They can assist us to put aside the boundaries enforced on us by society – the good mother, the good husband – and free us from emotional burden. We turn into the high-class escort in the safe space of fantasy, pursued after by all potential suitors, releasing us from the pain we experienced as the sidelined teen. In this manner, fantasies both express our vulnerabilities and assist us to defeat them.

Because our fantasies reside in the realm of the erotic, we’re usually not comfortable showing them to our spouse, afraid of criticism or rejection. At times, this is due to the reason that they are at odds with our public identity, making us more uncomfortable about revealing them. The feminist doesn’t want to accept to dreams of being controlled. The dedicated father is extremely humiliated by lusting after the 17-year-old babysitter. However, when we get the boldness to talk about our fantasies with our partners, we form opportunities.

For example, Joni fantasized about being overpowered by cowboys, who contested with one another to provide her the strongest orgasm. During Joni’s therapy session with the author, she confessed that she was scared that her fantasy signifies that she was a masochist, or a person willing to be a sexual offering.



The author considers this in a different manner. While fantasizing about being passive, what Joni actually wanted being for her tender partner, Ray, to be more assertive. Although she was not comfortable disclosing her fantasy to him, Joni still asked Ray to take the lead in sex. Also, she learned about speaking up on what she wanted him to do –which is a thing she hadn’t done before since she concerned about weakening him. However, Ray got turned on by her desires, taking them to a place of unfathomable passion and satisfaction.

By discovering our fantasies, we become more conversant with our sexual desires. Unlike being a source of embarrassment and shame, our fantasies are a beneficial tool that can restore us and fuel the flames of passion. 


Chapter 8 – Accepting the existence of temptation assists refute the risk of infidelity.


What is the number of individuals that are into a monogamous relationship? Two, right? incorrect!

Accepting to abandon every other person and commit romantically – and sexually – to only one other individual doesn’t make temptation disappear. In order for a long-term relationship to last long, it’s vital to accept that being committed doesn’t make every other person unattractive.  

Therefore, what is the number of people that are into a monogamous relationship? The answer to that question is three. This third-person signifies the personal fantasies that you as well as your spouse have. They might be in existence–such as your child’s attractive teacher. Or maybe they might exist in your memory –such as your high school crush. Perhaps, they might even be a fantasy– cue Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt. Also, even though we don’t communicate with our third person in any emotional or physical sense, their existence is strong. Our third person is the forbidden fruit – stirring our spouse’s jealousy and weakness.

Because the notion of being our spouse’s everything is really attractive, we usually don’t like to accept that there is a third person. However, accepting them proclaims our liberty as well as our commitment to the relationship. We can say to our spouse, “that doctor is sexy to me; however, I still pick you.”

Some empowered couples add their third person into their relationships. This doesn’t signify welcoming your lusted-after doctor to spend the night over. It entails partaking in erotic roleplay. For example, Wendy was aware that George is attracted to blondes. Therefore, on one occasion, she used a platinum wig and surprised him at his place of work for a lunch date. Relishing their in-joke, George and Wendy pleased in visualizing how jealous George’s coworkers would be, assuming he was having an affair.



Being truthful about our third person in this manner changes them from a threat into a game. This change hinders the type of anxiety that brings about suspicious and controlling actions, such as looking at our partner’s emails and restricting who they can socialize with. These actions never provide us with the security we wish for. Rather, they push our loved one away, as our paranoia increases.

We don’t have to try to find the third person outside of our relationship if they are part of our relationship. We don’t long for them since we can interact with them, together with our partner. Play is an intoxicating aphrodisiac. If we use Wendy and George’s illustration, we’ll immediately see ourselves with a passion really abundant, it’ll last a lifetime.  


Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel Book Review


Couples in devoted relationships have a tendency to accept that passion vanishes with time. The stresses of contemporary life and the demands of parenthood exhausts us, leaving us with small-time or energy for sexual intercourse. Our spouse changes in our eyes as well. As we get more connected emotionally, the enticing mystery diminishes. We do not see our partner as a source of excitement and discovery anymore. However, it’s not only the routine and stress of life that suppresses the flames of yearning. 

Our reluctance to be vulnerable makes us hold on to the responsibilities we’ve carefully formed in our relationship, to form the illusion of safety. However, safety quenches passion. If we can trace back the foundations of our insecurities to childhood and allow our sexual imaginations lead us back to the past pains, we can heal them. This assists us to know our sexual deeds and yearnings and can even empower us to accept the risky however blissful pleasures of the erotic. By doing that, both you and your partner can relish a more thrilling as well as satisfying sex life together.  


Add the “e” in “erotic.”

If respect for your spouse is hindering you from seeing them through an erotic lens, create two new email accounts, kept just for erotic massages. Make use of the accounts as a place for play, sharing your imaginations with one another. This will assist you to defeat your inhibitions because you can share without having to talk in person. Eventually, this will allow you to feel bolder about saying your sexual desires.



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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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