Mating in Captivity: Book Review

Image by Matthew Paulson via Creative Commons.

Emotional intimacy can suffocate sexual excitement. Sometimes, it’s important to objectify the one you love. Verbal communication is often less effective than the language of the body.

These are a few of the counterintuitive and challenging ideas in Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel’s fascinating book about sexuality in long-term relationships.

The author is a therapist and an expert on human sexual connection. In her book, she describes some of the couples she’s worked with, the problems facing them, and how she helped them find solutions.

Perel explains that as we become more emotionally intimate with a partner, the distance between us shrinks until we become less and less distinct from one another. The problem is that eroticism and arousal are dependent on a certain amount of mystery and separateness. When we allow emotional intimacy to erase the distance between us and our lover, it smothers the flame of attraction.

In long-term relationships, we’re drawn in two directions. We crave stability, but we also crave novelty. These opposing desires often create issues. After all, can we desire what we already have? How can we balance the search for sexual adventure with the desire to deeply know one partner?

This book is essential for anyone who’s interested in human sexuality, especially in how sex plays out in long-term relationships. A great pre-Valentine’s Day read!

Unhook your belly

Image courtesy of Steve Dorsey, via Creative Commons on Flickr.

When I was taking the train from New Hampshire to Boston after Christmas, the phrase “Unhook your belly” came into my head.

I’m not sure what it means. When I do a Google search, the results are about how to remove a belly-button ring (which is not the type of piercing I got over the summer).

Still, when my brain talks to me, I listen.

Having a hook in my belly is a disturbing image. First thing it makes me think of is a fish floundering on the line.

Is there something I’ve swallowed, hook, line, and sinker? A lie that’s trawling me in a wrong direction?

It also makes me think about belly breathing. When I teach meditation, I talk about how to breathe into the belly, rather than the upper chest. This helps calm the body and mitigates the “flight or fight” response.

And the third thing I think of is pregnancy, which for me would be the ultimate hook. You are never disconnected, after you’ve had a child.

That can be a bad thing, or a wonderful thing. But either way, moms carry their kids long after they’re out of the womb.

Is there an internal stowaway hijacking my confidence? Have I made a commitment that’s slowing me down?

After viewing “Unhook your belly” from several angles, I’ve chosen a meaning that draws from all of them. The phrase means I should disconnect from anything that doesn’t serve me. It’s a reminder not to hold pain and worry like time-release capsules in my gut, but to let them dissolve.

Anyone else have an interpretation of what my unconscious was saying to me?