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The State of Affairs

Rethinking Infidelity
Written by: Esther Perel
Narrated by: Esther Perel
Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
5 out of 5 stars (125 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Iconic couples' therapist and best-selling author of Mating in Captivity Esther Perel returns with a groundbreaking and provocative look at infidelity, arguing for a more nuanced and less judgmental conversation about our transgressions.

An affair: It can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, and so, too, the prohibition against it - in fact it has a tenacity that marriage can only envy.

So what are we to make of this time-honored taboo, universally forbidden yet universally practiced? For the past 10 years, master therapist Esther Perel has traveled the globe and worked with hundreds of couples who have been shattered by infidelity. In The State of Affairs she asks, why do we cheat? And why do happy people cheat? Why does infidelity hurt so much? And when we say infidelity, what exactly do we mean? Is an affair always the end of a marriage?

Affairs, she writes, have a lot to teach us about relationships. They provide unusual insight into our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment. Betrayal hurts, but it can be healed. An affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage - with the same person. With the right approach, Perel argues, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.

Fiercely intelligent, The State of Affairs provides a daring framework for understanding the intricacies of love and desire. As Perel writes, "Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it is also a window, like no other, into the crevices of the human heart."

After listening to Esther read The State of Affairs, continue on as she opens the door to her office and invites you to listen in on actual couple sessions. These are unscripted conversations of real, anonymous couples grappling with infidelity from her Audible Original podcast Where Should We Begin Begin? (courtesy of Audible Originals, LLC). As you enter this raw, intimate space with Esther, we hope you find the vocabulary for the conversations you may wish to have.

©2017 Esther Perel (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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A Romantic’s View

I have never felt more comforted by vague abstractions of love and its place in sexuality and marriage. This was poetry. I have felt inspired by harsh truths. Esther’s work is all encompassing, balanced, and fair. Her insights into the hearts and minds of people is unprecedented.
Yes, it would seem as though she may wax poetic, but I am entirely appreciative of the soul she brings to her work. Her passion is inspirational. She disregards nothing. It seems her intention is to truly see her clients and honour their individuality.

Please read. Her work has helped me be okay with not knowing what life can bring and what love can be. I’ve felt in the past that I am so anxiously attached to my partners, it’s been an unhealthy journey. Perel’s work has helped me move beyond my boundaries and beliefs around what a relationship should be.

To those of you that might be working with her, I hope you find what you are looking for. Thank you for your stories.

From a twenty something Canadian female.

This is so much more than sex.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Sexy and honest

I’ve been a fan of Perel for a while, but I had only listened to her on podcasts or seen her videos. Her book was fantastic and really got to the heart of the issues that lead to infidelity, plus what happens after its discovery. She was never prescriptive and acknowledged that every relationship was unique, highlighting this with actual couples from her practice. I think that nearly everyone could stand to learn something from this book, regardless of whether there is or will ever be an issue of unfaithfulness in their relationship. I love it when an author reads their own book, especially someone with such a presence as Perel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Although I found the beginning of this book to be quite interesting, I found the ending chapters quite disappointing. The overall conclusion of this book is that non-monogamous arrangements are the solution to infidelity. To me this is akin to saying the cure for obesity is to indulge and eat even more. Controlling sexual impulses is just like controlling the appetite. Sure indulging feels great at first, but over time you sacrifice the character building that only comes from telling your immature amygdala “no” in the face of temptation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very eye opening

Esther takes a taboo topic (infidelity) that is often depicted in moral black and white terms and paints for us all of the shades of grey, allowing for a more nuanced, compassionate and understanding conversation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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loved it

Very thought provoking, excellently written. I highly recommend this to everyone especially those in relationship (regardless if there was an affair or not!)

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Amazing Times Two

I listened to this book and feel proud about the fact that l now understand that what l feel and believe is quite normal.

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Impactful Mosaic of a Multitude of Considerations.

This book is AMAZING, life-changing even! So relatable and thought-provoking. Such great storytelling, paving the way to vulnerability as I have never experienced before. Such a beautiful gamut of input and perspective! I am not alone; you are not alone; we are not alone! Esther Perel, the author, is also the one reading and her examples, lessons, and thoughts come alive through her voice. I am so, thoroughly, enthralled with this comprehensive work that she has written.

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just what I needed!

fantastic perspective, gave direction on how to move forward and validated my process, incredibly helpful.

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Self esteem, relationship saved by Esther

Granted me to understand the wider picture of his transgression, removed my shame and allowed us to rebuild with mutual self respect.

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Thought provoking & challenges the social norms

Great listen and would recommend.
The author does a fantastic job questioning feels and real time situations from her unbiased clinical perspective. Not specific to the cheaters or cheated themselves, but the author expands beyond and makes you self reflect on the harsh social stimga associated with everyone involved.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2017-10-16

A compassionate approach

The timing of this book was perfect for me. I am going through my own story of infidelity and this book has helped me put the issues and problems that led to my partners infedelities in perspective and into a clearer context. Ester's compassionate and non-judgemental approach to infidelity helped me come to terms with the hurt my partner caused me but also my role in the crisis. I started this book thinking that I would find strategies and ways to bring the relationship together again but in fact what Esther has done for me is help show me that the relationship is over and can't be repaired. But, more importantly, she has helped me see that there can be a happy life after infidelity and it is up to me to find a way to take the sadness out of my life and move on to a happier future.

82 of 88 people found this review helpful

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  • Nadine Fish
  • St. Joseph, MI United States
  • 2017-11-02

Waste of money

Her podcasts and her other book mating in captivity are both five stars and awesome however this book is just listing off all the different affairs that she's come across and then ending it with one of her podcasts. Her podcast is excellent but I already heard it.

64 of 70 people found this review helpful

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  • joshua
  • 2018-08-21

Revealing

Amazing book, and I love when the authors read. If you've been through a divorce or similar relationship, parts that apply can be tough to get through because she goes into depth about where our behaviors exist and come from and I needed time to reflect. I will absolutely be listening to this one several times. I recommend to everyone who truly values their relationship and wants to improve the way they conduct themselves with their partner/partners.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • V. Taras
  • 2018-07-09

Interesting, NOT PRACTICAL, but somewhat useful

I found the front end of the book to be pretty useful, when the Author provides a nice overview of the questions surrounding the issue of "affair": what it is, why it is hard to define what constitutes an affair, how the definition and attitudes towards "affairs" have been changing over time, etc.

The second part of the book degrades to stories of affairs which may be entertaining to hear, but I did not find this part particularly useful. So what someone had this experience and someone had another experience? Not quite clear what to do with it.

Particularly the closing chapter - I found it to be not only useless, but a bit annoying. Some client talks about his or her story. The Author (being a counselor in this case) tries to frame it in terms of some fancy theories. It felt very Freudian to me. Nice theories to make it sound more complicated and scientific, none could be tested or proven.

Anyway, definitely a worthy read, but don't expect any guidance from the book. It gives very useful definitions and typologies, it tells (not very useful) stories of how things went for others, and it gives no guidance whatsoever on what to do about it.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan Pease Gadoua
  • Northern CA
  • 2017-10-25

Chock Full of Great Points

As usual, Esther Perel, has a strong message that merits paying close attention to. Her keen insights to all angles of an affair was enlightening. There is no judgement in the tone of the book and no over-empathizing with the partner of the one who cheats. We need books that encourage more open conversations like this one. It acknowledges our humanity and fallibility and makes no promises that humans will ever do better. I appreciate how Esther addresses the sex addiction question. I am a believer that this is a real and debilitating disease. Perel draws no conclusion, rather she points to research and to the individuals to determine how to view the behavior. I highly recommend this book.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Charles H. Lo
  • IL
  • 2017-10-21

Refreshing look at an old problem

I think that this book is an honest examination of problems typical in any marriage/ long term relationship. Various scenarios and types of betrayal of ones partner are examined fo help one understand the factors that contribute to the betrayal. It offers hope that the problems can be identified and understood,bringing some comfort to both parties in the relationship.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • T. Mazerolle
  • St. Paul, Alberta
  • 2017-10-15

This should be required reading for every relationship

There is something that is both scandalous, intriguing and upsetting about infidelity.

The question I get from this book is that infidelity depends on what a relationship is. I don’t think that many relationships really consider what the nature of their commitment and their boundaries really are.

An open mind is required when listening to this book, and a little patience given the author’s accent.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer C.
  • Red Bank, NJ
  • 2017-10-10

A compelling and novel look at infidelity

The State of Affairs is an insightful, layered, thought-provoking, thorough and original piece of work, and Esther Perel is pleasure to listen to. The author provides a compelling and novel exploration in an area that rarely gets an unbiased look. It takes courage to offer new perspectives on topics as contentious as infidelity, and where deeply entrenched absolutes exist. Perel's erudite, empathetic, steadying voice manages to pierce the veil of the collective unconscious and invite deeper consideration and intelligent discourse. This book, agree with the conclusions or not, will permanently broaden the landscape and our thinking around infidelity in a way that only Esther Perel can.

32 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • South Lake Tahoe, CA, United States
  • 2018-09-22

Disjointed not a story at all or clear direction.

Disjointed not a story or clear direction of one. Recites client experiences without any clear suggestions. Would think it would or should have more meat. Reader flat.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Maureen
  • 2018-03-23

Extraordinary Peace and the Need for Book 2

Would you listen to The State of Affairs again? Why?

This book is a lifesaver and should be shared.

What other book might you compare The State of Affairs to and why?

This work stands on it's own.

What does Esther Perel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Esther's passion and commitment to touching people with views from all sides of infidelity via her own voice on audible is personal, intimate and upfront.

What did you learn from The State of Affairs that you would use in your daily life?

Wisdom on this topic to help others by referring them to the book and being there if they need an empathetic ear.

Any additional comments?

Esther's work is honest, non-judgmental, empathic, edgy, holistic, and brings forth deep unexplored feelings. It's like a thousand therapy visits in 1 book; yet what it really does is set an incredibly strong foundation/framework for you to resolve or at least come to terms with, your own personal challenge. Her research doesn't justify affairs; it instead shows empathy from all angles. Anyone who chooses to be introspective, can better understand themselves; their behavior, choices, reactions, impact and feelings. For me, Esther gave me control and power back. 18 years of stoic repressed sadness and anger was lifted because her wisdom gave me permission to feel pain. I was finally honest with myself and then with my ex-husband in a heartfelt 5 page letter that followed. Thank you Esther. No doubt you'll touch many lives in many ways with your work of art. I would only ask that your next book be for the audience of children who have had to live through the divorce of their parents; split homes; step-parents; siblings, etc. They carry extraordinary pain as noted in much research. They need feelings validated; some sense of understanding; to not feel alone; and to have a framework to express themselves. Forgiving and asking forgiveness alone doesn't fix things for people. Your talent is that you provide a powerful foundation to think deep and create a conversation. That's the medicine that heals. Your masterful talent would again touch a whole new group of people who need the insight, compassion and understanding only you can bring in your special way of research and communication.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2019-01-09

Exceptionnel

Le travail d'Esther Perel est exceptionnel par son intelligence, son empathie et sa richesse d'enseignement. Ce livre est un chef d'œuvre dans son genre. Elle a construit un récit explorant l'infidélité et ses conséquences sur le couple, le tout illustré par des anecdotes, fruits de plusieurs décennies d'expériences. Un livre qui fait vraiment progresser l'humanité vers le haut.

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  • Bajorque
  • 2018-01-25

Enlightening !

A very mature analysis of affairs and infidelity, not in a black and white vision of victim and culprit but more looking into the reasons behind the need for an affair with people that are still in love with each other and discuss other forms of relationship beyond monogamy while respecting the needs and identity of individuals.