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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 listeners say about The State of Affairs

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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.

5 people found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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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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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.

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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.

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Saved my marriage

As I listened I heard so many identifying feelings I was hearing from these stories that I was also feeling.
Listening to this book helped me become more clear about many things.
And I was able to share openly with my husband about them.
He was very receptive and I can’t thank this book enough.
Highly recommend!

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Must read for anyone in any kind of relationship

This book is incredible. Esther does an amazing job of showing care and validation for those who have been hurt by infidelity while at the same time offering important insights into monogamy, people who have affairs, modern love, culture, trauma ect.
I feel I am better equipped to provide understanding and support to my family and friends and dispel my long held judgmental views on monogamy, love and affairs.
In short, I have learned so much from this.
Thank you Esther

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very helpful

loved it! very insightful!!! helped to look at situations differently and rethink love in general!

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Wonderful Listen

An inspiring audio book filled with powerful messages for personal and professional journeys. Read by Esther herself and sharing her clinical experiences made this book even more impactful. My favourite message was ‘one size doesn’t fit all.’ There are different approaches and perspectives for each couples unique situation.

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So insightful and real

Challenging subject to talk about…so much to learn. She breaks through this multi faceted experience people face with a compassion, curiosity and acceptance. Her book shares her many strengths as a brilliant communicator, therapist and writer.

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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.

108 people found this helpful

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  • L. McDonald
  • 2020-07-20

Anecdotal. Arbitrary and narcissistic.

The negative review is not due to the fact that I disagree with the author's "conclusions", but that the conclusions are vague, anecdotal, and represent a "study" of perhaps the most hedonistic culture in human history (and ponder why they are so selfish)? Geoffry Miller or even Kim Tallbear have written more objective, even objectively biased works that have examined infidelity and socio-sexual relations in much greater detail, examining both the individual and the impact on the collective.

The State of Affairs draws upon ideas and opinions regarding fidelity and monogamy that are not rooted in science, sociology, anthropology, or evolutionary biology. There is no comparison to other contemporary or even ancient cultures, as an analysis of their attitudes, if applicable, might cast light upon the viability of the author's thesis. Instead, we know at the end of the book exactly what we did when we started it: Relationships are hard, period. Some will survive infidelity and some will not. Every intense (be it sexual, over a long period of time, or name one) relationship is by definition difficult, and difficult to compare to any other. Add the release of oxytocin and now one has perhaps the most emotional experience in mammalian culture other than childbirth. This should have been combined with a rational approach, considering a longitudinal multivariate analysis of applicable individuals and groups. Forgiveness is wonderful if it can be achieved, but here the subtle downplaying of infidelity is where the book's narrative inches closer to, "Let do as thou wilt, be the whole of the law". And if you have made it to age 30 without unironically endorsing Alister Crowley, well, good for you. The "evidence" that infidelity should be "reexamined" as provided by the author is purely anecdotal, with about 40 examples of specific affairs filling out the second half of the book. They could have been picked arbitrarily - 40 all positive (ie the affair brought the partners closer and examined their failings in the relationship), or 40 all negative (if you have children or anyone who cares about your well being - you fit into this category), or 20 positive and 20 negative. Pick a thousand examples - it does not matter at all. The concepts drawn from Mating in Captivity extend here but do not approach a rational look at rethinking polyamory/forgiveness outside of the tired me-generation "forced monogamy is not natural" theme. This is obviously true to some degree, but the nuances are not discussed, much less fleshed out. If monogamy is not natural then why do so many of us humans do it? Brace yourself - but the results, the growth, and development socially, physically, and dare I say emotionally, of groups that practiced monogamy were noticed....and copied.

Enovid was/is not natural either. In SoA there is not one thought given to the greater cultural context of how or why we react to infidelity. Societies, cultures, social cohesion, trust, are irrelevant at the alter of feeling. There is no discussion as to the effects the author's subtle narrative might have on a tribe, culture, or nation-state. This is truly bizarre as the author's husband is a clinical psychologist who specializes in collective trauma (see Jack Saul). To borrow from Miller, "there is no polyamory without the pill". If we accept (and we all do not) that society or the quality of life of the individual has moved in a positive trajectory since monogamy evolved in the species, roughly 10,000 to 100,000 years ago: this was in part due to monogamy and it is a good thing. All of our greatest discoveries of the universe have been unlocked, life expectancy, health prolonged, mental capacity has exploded since then. If we remained "natural' and polyamorous we most likely would still be living in grass huts, dying at age 23 with 3 teeth and not smelling very good. In western culture, the nuclear family has been in decline since the adoption of the pill, with intergenerational families (the way the species evolved over the last 100,000 years) simply dead

- Pearl's approach is regressive, it is not a "new look", it is indeed the same selfish "old perspective" that the species rejected in order to evolve - to become better. But - screw all that noise, "I am going to do what I want to do." If one is looking at this book with an idea of possible justification for their hopefully future actions, think again and go to marriage counseling instead. Alternatively, if this is a subject you are genuinely interested in, there are much better academic and scientific works even for that justification. Individually or collectively, if we are "unfulfilled" emotionally or sexually, then wake up sunshine and look in the mirror. Our collective feelings and actions DO affect the world in very tangible ways. Finding balance and responsibility, individually and collectively is a better message than the endless pursuit of "happiness". Hopefully, the Me Generation's self-involved ideology too shall pass. The biggest fans of this book: divorce attorneys. But one last question to Perel: who in the hell decided our feelings were the center of EVERYTHING?

-A Sociology Professor

13 people found this helpful

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  • Nadine Fish
  • 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.

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  • Scott Herring
  • 2018-09-02

More Depth, More Clarity

After working through Mating in Captivity, I wasn't sure if this book would add anything... I was mistaken. Case after case had me rewinding the audio to hear the lesson again for complete clarity. Esther Perel is onto something - the world of relationships has clearly changed and she's helping shine the light on it. Well worth the read/listen if you want to get a grip on what is happening in the world of sex and intimacy.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Chas
  • 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.

8 people found this 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.

6 people found this 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.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Susan Pease Gadoua
  • 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.

16 people found this helpful

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  • T. Mazerolle
  • 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.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Jeff
  • 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.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Legueult_k
  • 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.