Can an Affair Save a Marriage? Esther Perel’s Interview and New Book

If you’ve been reading any of my blogs, you will see I often refer to the sometimes controversial work of renowned couples therapist Esther Perel.  She is controversial for her curious as opposed to judgemental stance on affairs in marriage.  Many see her as condoning affairs — she says she does not.  Her thoughts however, are worth exploring — particularly as she outlines what she characterizes as the near impossible expectations we place on our partners, in contemporary, Western marriages — where our partner MUST be our everything.  In this recent interview about her new book “The State of Affairs”, she says “Today, we look at infidelity as the shattering of the gran ambition of love. It is the ultimate breach of trust.  It is a crisis in which you experience the loss of self.  Infidelity redefines the entire marriage and divorce is the only solution”.  She suggests the problem with this is that it means that those who have been cheated on not only carry the hurt of the affair, but also the shame that comes with staying — or wanting to stay in the marriage and work things out, which does not exist in the same way in other parts of the world.  She suggests that “staying” holds the same shame that “leaving” once did.  We know that those who are cheated on, often feel alone in their experience as a result and may even be blamed or seen as “weak”.  The other drawback with such a stigma, is that it leaves no room to discuss the quality of the relationship (where both partners share responsibility), which may have contributed to the affair.