Esther Perel’s Guide to Happy Relationships

This Valentine’s Day we’re focusing less on chocolates and roses, and instead, examining what makes relationships special – with our partners, and (perhaps more importantly) ourselves.   

Esther Perel, renowned relationship psychologist, author and therapist, firmly believes that “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives”. We love her suggestions on how to create meaningful change and get the most out of our interactions. 

Here are some we’re holding close to our hearts:

*START* New Relationships

For those not in committed long-term partnerships, it can be daunting to start something new. With the modern dilemma of myriad choices, we’re plagued by the question of ‘is this the right person, choice, decision?’ 

Perel says that we should embrace this uncertainty: “There is only the unknown. The mystery of meeting someone new. There is no way to be certain.” She urges, “The only way you’ll know is by being with the person – by discovering, communicating, exploring… allow yourself the uncertainty, the curiosity, the vulnerability of it all.”

Recommended: ‘Finding The One

 *LEARN* To Fight Better

It’s easy to lose sight of the positive qualities of your partner whilst in a fight. However Perel says the question is not so much the conflict, but the repair. 

“When couples bicker about the same things on loop, it’s usually a sign of underlying issues – about power and control, closeness and care, respect and recognition.”

She highlights ways to de-escalate the tension, like consciously pausing the conversation, or taking the time to write a letter rather than immediately reacting. “When you’re alone and sit with yourself to process your thoughts, you can express yourself in a totally different way, and allow the person to listen to you in a new way.”

Recommended: “Unsent Love Letters”, her collaboration with the Boston Globe, exploring relationship themes through personal letters of others.

 

Illustration credits: Natalia Ramos

*TAKE* Control Of Your Desire

Perel sheds light on the fundamental conflict that exists in relationships today – the balancing act between our innate needs for security and adventure. It’s impossible for one partner to be everything we need, rolled into one. Rather, Perel says, 

“We carry the responsibility of our own desire, as it’s an expression of free will. So if it is ours, then it is also our responsibility to activate it.”

She urges us to question what parts ourselves we are connecting to, and what we are seeking to express through desire. In other words, “The central agent of eroticism is our imagination.”

Recommended: Making Eroticism a Part of your Self-Care Plan

 

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