Esther Perel is a renowned relationship expert.
For the past 10 years, she has travelled the world working with couples who, as she says, “have been shattered by infidelity.”
The word “infidelity,” Perel reveals in her TED talk “Why Happy Couples Cheat,” can mean many different things.
“The definition of infidelity keeps expanding,” Perel explains. “Sexting, watching porn, staying secretly active on dating apps. So because there is no universally agreed-upon definition of what even constitutes an infidelity, estimates [of infidelity] vary widely, from 26% to 75%.”
Here’s how Perel defines an affair: “A secretive relationship — which is the core structure of an affair — an emotional connection to one degree or another, and a sexual alchemy.”
But Perel says cheating is not just about sex.
“Contrary to what you may think, affairs are way less about sex and a lot more about desire,” Perel continues. “Desire for attention. Desire to feel special. Desire to feel important. The very structure of an affair — the fact that you can never have your lover — keeps you wanting. That in itself is a desire machine.”
Perel says the reasons people cheat today are different than they have been in the past.
“We have never been more inclined to stray, and not because we have new desires today, but because we live in an era where we feel we are entitled to pursue our desires,” says Perel. “Because this is the culture where I deserve to be happy.”
The relationship expert adds that when a spouse cheats on their significant other, it’s more about themselves than the other person.
“When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner that we are turning away from — but the person that we ourselves have become,” Perel notes. “And it isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person, as much as we are looking for another self.”
Watch Perel’s full TED Talk below:
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