Perel has spent twenty years as a couples therapist; Mating in Captivity (subtitled Unlocking Erotic Intelligence) is the result. On its pages, Perel explores what interferes with intimacy and sexuality in a long term relationship and what it takes to keep one alive and healthy.
That alone would make this book worth reading for many people who love their significant others, love their relationships but miss the passion of the early days.
But this book offers so much more than insights into keeping a long term relationship healthy and exciting. In the following excerpt, I found Perel as insightful in the area of parenting as any of the so-called parenting experts currently “selling” their ideas on rearing healthy and happy children.
Throughout our lives we grapple with this interplay between dependence and independence. How artfully we reconcile these needs as adults depends greatly on how our parents reacted to the stubborn duality (hold me-let me go) in our little selves. It is important to point out that our parents’ behavior, what they actually do, is only one part of the situation. Another part is our interpretation of their actions.
Each child brings an individual resilience to the lottery of life. What might feel good to one will feel overwhelming to another. Some of us may wish our parents had been more involved, while others may cringe at memories of their parents’ scrutiny and intrusion.
Every family has its preferred responses to dependency and autonomy – what’s rewarded and what’s thwarted. In the give and take with our parents, we determine how much freedom we can safely experience and how much our connections will require the subjugation of our needs.
In the end, we fashion a system of beliefs, fears and expectations, some conscious and many unconscious, about how relationships work.
Perhaps what Perel writes about the “…interplay of dependence and independence” rang true for me because my ex son-in-law just ran head on into my beautiful and only granddaughter, she of the artistic, capricious and oh so creative spirit.
Exercising his usual style of parenting — a combination of bluster, volume and physical size (which he used on his sons, as well), he tried to force her to do what he wanted her to do. The result was not to his liking and it certainly was not to hers. Trying to bully a 16 year old girl (who is going on 30), resulted in an explosion that tore their relationship and his “second family” in half.
If he had read Mating in Captivity, he would have read how eloquently Perel captures how different each child is and how very different his daughter, my granddaughter is. Perhaps every parent should remember what it was like to be moving from child to adult and how our parents helped or hurt us. Perel’s point is that the way this pivotal part of each of our lives is handled affects all of us in our adult relationships.
If you’re a parent, this is a golden insight.
BTW – Perel has delivered a number of very interesting and insightful TED talks which I have thoroughly enjoyed.