I've had a really busy fortnight. So busy that I haven't even attempted to blog or do any kind of social media posts.
At first, I started to feel guilty for not posting, not sitting down to write when I needed to be doing other things, travelling, scheduling, doing admin. It wasn't a great feeling. It brings about anxiety, concern around taking time off. But I'll talk about that more next week.
So on the 5th June, I took a trip up to London to see Esther Perel speak on the subject of lasting love at The School of Life in London .
The talk began with an introduction from the organisation's founder Alain de Botton, (his book "Art as Therapy" is a mainstay of my office's therapy book collection) to Esther's background and the subject matter of the evening.
Esther took the stage and introduced herself and gave some context to her talk, mentioning her books "Mating in Captivity" and "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity" as well as her work and research of over a decade into relationships and couples' therapy.
Seeing her speak after so many years of reading her words, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts was almost surreal and it was endearing for her to begin her talk with openness and honesty around her own marriage stating:
"We all have our own relationship stuff to work out. The only question is with whom... not if... the question is who will it be with?".
This kind of honesty is something that I often try to bring to my own sessions with couples and individuals alike, remembering that we are all people, with issues to work upon. We are all fallible. I mention this because I'm no great fan of a hierarchy. I enjoy the privileged role of facilitator in therapy, but I remind all of my clients that I'm not there to advise them, or tell them what to do.
Esther talked about the difficulty that humans have in reconciling the two fundamental needs of security and desire in one person. That what nurtures love is not necessarily what serves desire - and that is something that many of those who choose long-term monogamy must learn to balance if a relationship is to survive decades of familiarity.
Love comes with care and responsibility. Desire needs movement, wanting what we don't have. To balance these Esther recommends that we do our best not to think of our partner as belonging to us. Not to take for granted that they will always be there. That a little anxiety keeps us wanting the other - it reminds us that we can't be sure that we will always have them.
She went on to talk about infidelity and how affairs happen not just in relationships that are beyond help, but in good relationships too. Often as a result of a feeling of emotional deadness that has crept up on us. That we might not want to leave our partners - but that through an affair we want to find a new self.
Affairs are about longing and loss. And sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a relationship which might feel like we are playing a role that we did not audition for - and thinking upon how different our lives might have been. We should remember that no-one has an affair to take care of someone else. That it is about resolving our own needs and longings, resentments and sadnesses. We are responsible for all of those things.
Finally, after some questions, talks around childhoods and how the attachment styles that we adopt as a result of our upbringings affect our choice of mates - Esther was asked if she knew any of the secrets to long and loving relationships. She replied:
"Firstly, monogamy is not natural, it's a societal construct. The system that we have set up demands from us certain boundaries. Secondly, we must know that we never truly know what is going on with the other person and that they need to remain "other" for the relationship to survive".
Wise words indeed. Does any of that resonate with you? I know it does with me.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.