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UBT: Renegade Sex Therapists

mrNiceGuyRaise your hand if you think good sex is an important part of a good relationship. Oh, hey, is that all of you? I think most of us can agree that good sex is a Good Thing.

How do you define good? Well, that’s between you and your partner to figure out. (Enjoy those experiments, kids!)

One common assumption about infidelity is that cheaters must cheat because chumps suck at sex. Now look, some chumps may actually suck at sex or be sexless. In which case, honest conversations must be had, and ultimately, this may not be the best relationship fit for either of you. But sexual incompatibility is no excuse for cheating, which is abusive and endangering.

Inevitably when you try and have a conversation about infidelity, the battlefield is fought on sexual incompatibility. And the cheater apologist wants to argue on the grounds of Sex Is Important! (agreed) or No One Should Be In a Sexless Marriage! (agreed) That’s a Unilateral Decision! (So is cheating, and no one gets pregnant or infected by sexlessness.)

And then we inevitably spiral into Monogamy Is Not Natural. (Okay, so don’t agree to be monogamous. Problem solved.)

The New York Times recently ran an article “First Comes Sex Talk With These Renegades of Couples Therapy” featuring Dr. Tammy Nelson and Esther Perel’s thoughts on sex therapy. And it’s the same retread of chump sexual deficiencies make cheaters cheat.

In traditional couples therapy, which is about 50 years old, sex has often been shoved to the sideline. Practitioners are trained to work on underlying relationship issues, like blame or communication, many discussing sex only if the couple wants to talk about it.

But in the last decade, as coupledom itself has been legally redefined, a chorus of provocative voices in couples therapy has emerged, emphasizing the importance of good sex in relationships and sometimes suggesting the radical idea that couples fix the sex before tackling other issues.

Here’s a radical suggestion — maybe sex is not a separate compartment from communication and intimacy?

Anyway, here are a few gems from the article, which I will now feed to the UBT. Even though it is holding its nose and begging me not to.

The den mother of the group is Esther Perel, 56, the internationally known Belgian-born author of “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence,” who asserts that mystery and distance could benefit long-term monogamy.

Ms. Perel, based in Manhattan, is writing a book tentatively called “Affairs: Cheating in the Age of Transparency,” and gave a TED talk about the topic in March that has been viewed about two million times. Her newest provocation is the idea that trauma-based language around affairs is limiting.

Mystery and distance unlocks erotic “intelligence”? So, uh, does that mean I’m stupid if I like my sex familiar and intimate? I think most people would like to know a person a good long while before they trot out the leather and whips, but maybe that’s just me.

And Esther? I’d be tentative about that book title too. It sucks. “Cheating in the Age of Transparency”? Cheating is about being opaque. Deceitful. Hiding it from your partner for the frissons of delight that is getting away with it. If you meant transparent, as in honest and above board? That’s not cheating, that’s “open marriage,” which has rules too, so sorry even polyamorists can be cheated on.

Her newest provocation is the idea that trauma-based language around affairs is limiting.

UBT: I know! Let’s divert cheating away from the ugly concepts of deceit and reframe it as a CHUMP problem! Ooh, that’s good. Betrayal is not a trauma! So stop using “trauma-based language”! That’s so limiting.

You wouldn’t want to be one of those limited, unintelligent people, would you?

“An affair is an act of betrayal and also an experience of expansion and growth,” Ms. Perel said in an interview. “It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime. The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient, and often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness.”

The UBT has given up in protest.

“An affair is an act of betrayal…”

It’s not SINGULAR, Esther. Affairs are thousands of decisions to betray, one lie after the next after the next. It’s not an act (singular) of betrayal. That’s smothering the verb. It is betrayal. Period. The sentence is much stronger (and not to your point) if you write “Affairs are betrayals.” So you distance the language and say, affairs are just “an act” (one!), implied that there are no feelings of ill intent. That’s a hefty assumption.

“and also an experience of expansion and growth.”

Who’s against expansion and growth?! Chumps are idiot picketing members of historic preservation societies. Save our marriage! Don’t tear it down! Sorry, Esther needs a strip mall for the all-you-can-eat-pussy buffet. Don’t stand in the way of progress!

So acts of betrayal and expansion and growth are equivalent? In what moral universe? Bank robbery is an act of theft and also an experience of exhilaration and enrichment. You’ve got your thumb on the scale for the crime over the victim, but you’ve dressed it up nicely as being the same.

“It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime.”

Actually, it’s a crime in most world religions. Some states still have adultery on the books, and it’s in our military code. But yeah, you’re not going to get sent to jail for cheating on your spouse.

As long as the “trauma” is in your relationship, hey, it’s not criminal. Wasn’t that the old rational for domestic abuse?

“The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient…”

How’s infidelity working for everyone’s kids? Stronger and more resilient for it?

I’d say strength and resiliency come from leaving cheaters, not staying married to them and modeling dysfunction.

And WTF, Esther — you’re going to put this trauma behind you because the cheater is never going to cheat again? No, you just made cheating normal and “expansive.” A good thing! Why would the cheater want to stop when you’ve given them so many delicious excuses to continue? So, suck it up, chumps. Your family will be stronger for it!

and often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness.

For who? The cheater? But it’s okay cheater, now that you’ve expressed your unhappiness, your chump will pick me dance her/his heart out! And you’ll get more kibbles. And if you don’t, hey, cheat again. It’s your right.

Does the chump feel dead? Nah, chumps love to pick me dance. They were bred for it and have natural rhythm.

But wait there’s more!

Another emerging voice on infidelity is Dr. Nelson, 52, a New Haven-based couples and sex therapist and author of “The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity.” She encourages couples to write their own monogamy rules, which can include extramarital sex on weekends or extramarital sex but only together.

“I describe monogamy as honest, perpetual dependency of some type,” Dr. Nelson said. “It can be whatever a couple wants, but it has to be fluid and flexible, and the couple has to keep renewing it, like a license.”

Boy, you make monogamy sound so fun, Dr. Tammy. Perpetual dependency? Sign me up!

It can be whatever I want? Monogamy as a holodeck? Today I am Bluebeard the Pirate! Find me a wench! But only on weekends.

Damn, I think the UBT has broken.

This one ran before, (I’ve got some early morning stuff this week), but I welcome every opportunity to point out what an idiot Esther Perel is.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Discussing the wrongness of cheating is like playing Wack-a-Mole with a sociopath…no, it actually IS playing Wack-a-Mole with a sociopath.

    Whatever reasons you have to explain why their behaviors are wrong, they come up with some crazy new way to justify whateverthefuck they decide they want.

    The above article reminds me of a time right after Cheater had given me the “Im leaving you because you are a terrible wife but there is no one else” talk and I was Pick Me Dancing….

    Cheater: Our marriage is awful
    Me: We had great sex 2 days ago
    Cheater: sex isn’t everything

    Now apply the above conversation to every possible subject and have them throw in how great it will be when the kids see how happy he will be and have 2 Christmases.

    • Ya I do not understand how the most narcissistic people always have the mic. I guess it’s because those who chase a public platform have huge egos and tend to be sociopathic, and the people who are loving kind and helpful don’t have the overinflated ego to proclaim themselves a thought leader.

      • Omg YES!!! I helped my ex ship his book around (marketing-wise about grief, and our daughter’s death, except hello narc ALL about HIM). At the time I was of course unaware he was routinely visiting brothels for regular prostitute sec and gay saunas for glory holes etc). And wasn’t he feted and celebrated!!! So much poignancy. The ego-inflated always own the narrative, the real people are busy cleaning up the mess and trying to make it ok for the kids.

      • I’m going to weigh in from an unpopular but comprehensive perspective: I have NPD and have also been screwed over by people with bigger, heftier NPD, particularly in environments that structure themselves to look “woke” or “intellectual”. In the process, I have given the various angles of being NPD (and being NPDed on) a lot of thought. If anyone has any strong emotional reaction to this, I’d like them to read my explanation in as neutral of a manner as possible, and to try not to let my condition lend my words a sinister or malevolent edge. I’m engaging in good faith with prosocial motives.

        The primary reason for this whole NPD-always-has-the-mic is that, as you said, NPD people are generally quite a bit more bold in commanding attention and phrasing our statements authoritatively. We also, generally, have more incentive to maintain that. Second, and I think this is why a lot of “woke discourse” has become so venomous, our threshold for tolerating mistreatment is much, much lower. When someone with NPD happens to also be an oppressed minority with a genuine case to make with regards to a need for better treatment, we tend to speak up sooner, and we are more likely to articulate ourselves in flowery or passionate (or guilt-tripping) ways that people respond to, see as more morally righteous, or see as more intelligent. Because of the whole “supply” thing and needing to hone that toolkit to maintain it.

        Once the actual problem of oppression has been resolved, and often even before that, it’s difficult for any one of us to resist the urge to begin waxing philosophical on whatever nonsense is pertinent to our own INDIVIDUAL interests, at the expense of communal good. This happens time and time again in just about any discussion arena, and even as someone with NPD I think it’s pretty bad for society as a whole and I am hoping that people get better at spotting and responding to it.

        I also may or may not undermine this by rambling about my own case next, but I do think that context is beneficial to provide, so I’m gonna do it anyway.

        RE: my own NPD, because this topic is fundamentally controversial, I’d to state also that (even though this is generally believed to be impossible, and most people with NPD would rather not) I have put effort into behaving non-abusively, honestly, and I associate ONLY with people who help me behave in healthier ways for myself and others, and who are good at penetrating my NPD barrier so that we can communicate in mutually beneficial and healthy ways. I am stating this to provide context only, and I desire neither praise nor criticism, as I am uncomfortable with both. My nature and my life gave me this condition, my choices lead me in a prosocial direction, but I still have NPD and neither need nor want to become “normal” and integrate into mainstream society. Unlike most people with NPD, I also don’t enjoy most normal ways people gain “supply” or “ego kibble” so I’ve had to operate according to a different set of rules that required me to be a much, much more consistent, ethical, and honest person than most people with NPD would ever need to be.

        The bottom line is, in my perspective, as human beings we all share a planet or a “house,” and like a house we all need to pull our weight and do our chores and pay our bills so we don’t completely trash the place. So, I prioritize learning how to be socially beneficial and make the necessary changes to live that way. As everyone says, NPD is incurable, and I can speak for myself in saying that being praised for becoming “less NPD” tends to make me regress into further antisocial behavior, so I want to reiterate that praise is absolutely not what I’m after, here. My choices are pragmatic, and I am not interested in setting myself up to live as “a good person” anymore than I am interested in being “an abuser”. I’m aiming for “dude is pretty ok, minds his own business and don’t bother nobody,” and am explaining myself because I’m an individual person who would prefer to avoid being verbally abused over the abusive actions of other people with NPD, actions which I have spent my entire conscious developed life in the attempt to avoid doing – again for my own weird-ass reasons which have nothing to do with the common recovery paradigm associated with mental health issues.

        Not saying any given person in this thread (or site) is being accused of potentially verbally abusing me for having NPD, but I have been around the block enough to want to defend myself a bit whenever I weigh in from the NPD home planet perspective. I was born this way, and I am happy to continue living in a way which is both authentic to my nature and harmless or even beneficial to society. Cheers 🙂

  • Whenever someone says “monogamy isn’t natural”, I have to roll my eyes. Yes, it may not be “natural”, but that’s *WHY* it’s a commitment! That’s why you take the vow before God and/or the state, because you know that it’s something important and worth nurturing. Besides which, there’s plenty of natural stuff that’s still bad for your health!

    I know I won’t convert any cheater hearts/minds on this point, it’s just irksome to me. It reeks of “Because it’s not what I like, that must mean it’s unnatural.” It was an argument I had with Rhys early on – he tried to couch the fact that I was still a virgin in statistics that it’s not normal for a young lady (I was 22) to not be sexually active. I basically had to say to him, “Tough titties. It may not be normal, but it’s what I want to do.” I was able to stick to my guns, and I was still a virgin when Ben and I got hitched at the ages of 25 and 26. There were growing pains, sure – but it was a lot easier to handle those pains with someone who I knew actually loved me and valued my safety.

      • Cooking your meat isn’t natural but you still do it, right? I get so fucking annoyed when people compare humans to animals in the wild and say they aren’t monogamous. Wild animals do a ton of shit we don’t do. If you want to live like a wild animal go chase down your food and kill it with your bare hands, then eat it without the help of anything but your hands and teeth, don’t wear any clothes, shit in the woods, and sleep there without any blankets, pillows, or comfort. That’s natural. If you’re so concerned with being natural, go fucking be natural.

        • When they start beating that drum I often wonder if it isn’t natural then why does it hurt so much when we are betrayed? I’ve read stories from people all around the world and it’s pretty shitty here in the US and in Timbuktu.

    • LOL the “monogamy isn’t natural” argument kills me too. It’s no more unnatural than urban living, eyeglasses, modern medicine, or the million other aspects of living in the 21st century.

      Maybe polyamory worked thousands of years ago when we were living (and dying young) in the jungle. So much of human history has involved men controlling women, so it’s hard to guess what human sexuality would look like in a “natural” environment, whatever that means.

      Don’t even get me started on the rampant misogynistic abuse in the poly community. It’s like a cult. My friends and I stopped being friends with poly people because every woman is considered fair game and it’s only a matter of time before someone tries to foist their ugly husband on you.

        • Ugh, so accurate it hurts. I’ve been on the receiving end of waaaaay too many awkward “we’re poly!” conversations from coupled friends who then expected me to hook up with them, like I’m a sex toy with nothing going on in my life. No consideration for me whatsoever, no thought for what I want or that they’ve just effectively torpedoed our friendship.

      • Cam,

        No, no, no. All the guys in those polyamourous relationships are Brad Pit and George Clooney knock-offs, I’m sure. I know I am!???? It’s the guys in those relationships that are putting themselves in the vulnerable position.

        Who knows what those polyamorous women may look like? What nagging hags they may be? Cam, your misguided viewpoint is simply the result of people giving too much credit to reality.

        Here, in my fantasy world, I know my truth. That’s why I’m holding out for my Alexandra Daddario and Sydney Sweeney clones to start my polyamorous relationship. I know it’s going to happen. Soon!????????

        Young, relatively immature women love mid-fifties, dad-body guys w/significantly receding hairlines w/their own relative immaturity. It’s so true, it hurts.

        I am also sure that the mental, emotional and spiritual thingamajiggies will all work out between the three of us. That’s because unbounded love promises that. Always. It’s true. Mind blowing sex is just the byproduct. Also always, except when it’s MMF. That’s just wrong.

        Remember, when reality fails you, embrace your fantasy. It’s worked for so many others. It’s working for me. And most importantly, it can work for YOU.

        **Paid for by the Committee to Abandon Reality**

        **And Esther Perel, and all who subscribe to her super-truthful insights into relationships. Go Team Perel!**

        This rebuttal will NOT take responsibility for your inability to stop vomiting. ???????? Control your own damn reality!

      • In not so many words, Perel has insinuated that humans evolved directly from bonobos– the kinder-gentler, orgy loving, gender equality-grooving cousins of chimpanzees. In any case she barks up the bonobo alibi tree for cheating and there’s an existing school of thought that humans evolved from them. But even if carbon dating didn’t show a whopping five million year gap between bonobos and early humans branching off from the direct ancestors of regular chimps, basic human history shows that we’re more like chimps than bonobos. Among other glaring similarities, chimp lethal raiding has direct parallels to tribal and modern warfare. Even Margaret Mead’s study of Samoan islanders left out things like continuous intertribal war, ritualized abduction and rape, etc.

        It would be nice if we descended directly from bonobos. I think Perel and pop scientists like Frans de Waal know that sex sells and bonobos’ randy consensual culture appeals to certain demographics. But regular violent chimps are sexually indiscriminate too– while committing infanticide, rape, cannibalism and continuous war, which is a harder package sell.

    • The “monogamy isn’t natural” cheaters sure do have some feelings when their spouses want non-monogamy to apply to both of them.

    • I dont ever remember holding a gun to my Cheaters head and demanding that he choose heterosexual monogamy…he claimed that it was his preference. Early in our marriage, he gave me a “I could never forgive it if you cheated” talk and he had this odd look of desperation on his face. (I now think he had just cheated the first time in our marriage when he said that). If people want to play the field, why pretend to be monogamous?

    • And there are plenty of monogamous animals- I can think of bald eagles, swans, and wolves right away. Of course it’s natural. ????

  • My child didn’t come out stronger and more resilient from it and neither did I

    He said he wanted to die and self harm to take all the pain away. He’s become socially withdrawn and loathes splitting holidays

    Explain that away Esther and the bell end Andrew Marshall who says you must offer a full and genuine apology to the cheater

    FW and OW seem to be skipping along quite gleefully though

    Just saying

    • That’s heartbreaking. It’s unconscionable people do this to their families. Abandon their partner and children. Horrible people.

      • My sociopathic XH said with a laugh and smirk, “I guess I just gave the kids the Father Wound.” The Father Wound idea came from a book called “Wild at Heart” that he read years before delivering the Father Wound to his own children. Yeah, he laughed about emotionally wounding his children. When the mask drops, it drops fully, and you finally see the wolf that was hiding in sheep’s clothing. Hurting me is one thing, but hurting my innocent children is something I’ll never forget or forgive.

        • Martha, that gave me a chill. I hope your kids don’t have to spend much time with so evil a person.
          I think many FWs do to their kids what was done to them as children. They enact a twisted form of revenge on those who have done them no harm, but are meek, sivelling cowards with the FOO who actually did harm them. FWs will even form an alliance with their abusive relatives in which they all participate in abusing the chump.

      • I agree, but people will do what they want, whether it’s kind or awful behavior. It would go a long way towards the possibility of civility between partners, spouses, significant others, etc. if the one doing the leaving didn’t fuck over and abuse the person they’re leaving behind by committing adultery.

        If you’re going to act like an actual adult in a relationship, and you’re unhappy to the point of leaving the relationship, for Pete’s sake tell your partner, before you go fucking strange. Then formally end the relationship, before starting any new relationships.

        It’s not easy, but it sure as hell is the least bit of respect you can give the other person in the relationship you’re ending. Unless there’s true abuse going on, which is a whole other ballgame.

        And you’d be doing the least you can do to preserve communication with that former significant other. Which, if kids are involved, makes it a lot more likely that you can continue to work together to be there for the kid(s).

        Not like the shitshow that’s created by adultery. I always get a warm fuzzy feeling when I have to explain to various people that, no, I’m not co-parenting, I’m parallel parenting my kid.????

        Along w/explaining basic civic duties for your country, I feel this stuff should be explained to every kid growing up (in an age appropriate way, of course. Plenty of room for repetition as you grow up). Along w/basic relationship advice/information, whether you’re entering into a relationship that may or may not be romantic, or simply a friendship.

        Definitely could use a course for everybody in high school about long-term relationships. Since they could start there. Important things about starting them, maintaining them, and ending them. Would have been helpful, in retrospect. Sex and relationship education?????‍♂️

    • Even when a congenitally terse, stoic, masculine teenage boys seem to be doing “okay” in the long run, where the hell does the experience go? I gave all my kids gender neutral toys, I talked to them, welcomed sensitivity and expression equally. I like open, sensitive and expressive men so would never discourage that model. But I got stoic males.They bond over building stuff. I support who they are but getting them to talk about matters of the heart and their inner emotional landscapes is like pulling teeth. But I take hope from my sons’ tendency to express themselves through an interest in social justice. God do they hate whore-mongering politicians and Jeffrey Epstein. They hate exploitation of any kind. At least if they open up more as they mature they’ll have clean track records. Nothing shuts down reflection and introspection more than a dirty conscience.

    • Yes.
      Just about to hospitalise youngest. 5 years post D-day and the consequences of Himself telling then 10 yo that he’d lied for almost all of his life have been playing out ever since.
      Meanwhile, he’s skipping very carefree and joyously.

      • My God, I’m so sorry. I don’t know your region but maybe you can check if there’s a Soteria House type facility in your area. The model was developed in the 70s as a kinder, more holistic alternative to psychiatric in-patient services. There are Soterias scattered throughout the world. They always had difficulty maintaining funding but the model, when fully developed, has been so successful even with the most severe cases that it’s been gaining traction. I wish you both the best.

  • Just no concept of love here. If you only do what you feel like then you don’t need love. Someone I respect once said that when it’s not natural and exciting that’s precisely when the love comes in. There’s bigger things in life than sex. I guess the multiple babies and STDs people will get are all good too. I have a friend who was encouraged in sexual promiscuity and they got Hep C and nearly died. I’m not sure how people can openly promote what is factually reckless behaviour. This is disgusting humans acting like animals.

    • Yes, no mention of love. In sickness and in health. A friend’s husband had prostate cancer and now had erectile dysfunction. She says I love him and am glad he is alive.
      I loved my ex and enjoyed sex, even though he was a selfish lover.
      He just wanted fresh p***y. He is incapable of loving a partner.

  • Aside from the given that Esther Perel is an idiot (she might as well say “let’s take the trauma language out of rape” — she’s horrific), I’ll just focus on the beginning of CL’s post:

    “ One common assumption about infidelity is that cheaters must cheat because chumps suck at sex. “

    Or also that chumps are “frigid.”

    Can I just say that this was one of the hardest things for me to work through when DDay happened? This long standing belief about chumps made it hard to explain to friends and family that FW left for no good reason. It made it embarrassing. I felt ashamed. It made it look like it was my fault.

    But truthfully, it’s the worst kind of gaslighting. Because I was the sexual one. I wanted sex. I needed sex. And FW was dull and never wanted sex. I was the initiator. He withheld. I tried everything… sexy clothes. Little games. COMMUNICATING. But it was like pulling teeth. I had a 14 year sexless marriage after being in a long relationship with a guy who wanted sex several times A DAY (and I loved it).

    Then out of the blue, FW left ME? For another woman?? WTF? And the week before, he woke me out of a dead sleep and was on top of me and raping me (yes, Esther, being chumped of TRAUMA, you clueless bitch). He was taking what he wanted one last time before leaving — one more humiliation before completely fucking me over.

    But after FW left, people looked at me with pity. I was told by many that I should have “taken better care of him.” That “men have needs.” Or the unbelievable quote from FW’s elderly grandma to “lure him back with your feminine wiles.” The fuck?

    More than anything, how can we out these cheaters as the miserable self serving, lying, gaslighting losers they are? They leave because they suck. Stop blaming the chumps.

    I am at meh. But if I have one hope, it’s that AP is realizing her mistake and stuck with that sexless loser. The greatest feeling was that I had him at his prime in his 20s and he was below average then. There’s no way AP has better sex now in his 50s ????

    • I’m sorry that you endured this. The final humiliation of the rape is awful. He truly sucks.

      No doubt once the frisson of the affair is over–no more sexy secrets and naughty afternoon delights at the local motel–cheater sex is just like any old sex. Or worse. Who knows?

      I agree that it’s a common belief in our society that cheaters cheat because of a frigid partner.

      When I pointed out that fact to x in the immediate aftermath of the big affair revelation, he seemed shocked. “But that’s not true. No they won’t.”

      Clueless man.

      At first, it really bugged me that people might come to that conclusion. Now, I don’t care. I know the truth. So does he.

    • I too was in a sexless marriage with a man who reportedly thought about sex every three seconds. Yet he withheld and never initiated.

      He agreed to getting married, having three children and buying a home. Truth is I had to do just about everything. I also started up his business.

      After dumping his business he moved to Florida to get a job and never sent me money. I lost the home while in my last year of graduate school.

      Investing in him was a poor investment of time and energy. It was EASY to let go of what I had worked for as he led a double life.

      What Ester doesn’t want to mention is that we are not dependent on the cheater. We are a resourceful, kind and intelligent bunch. Yes, even the trauma fades once we leave the cheater.

    • AP realizing her mistake….I had him at his prime….

      Sometimes I laugh about that part too. We were a 6 times a week couple for the first 20 years together, she’ll never have that. He’s 64 now, she’s 31. Only sex they are having is street stimulants induced. Ewww

    • MichelleShocked,
      Girl! You and me both. Sadly I married the least exciting partner I ever sexed with, expecting live & open communication could improve that part of our lives. Nah. He made up for lack of talent (ahem) with cheap randos and worsening neglect of our intimacy. I wanted sex more often & tried to entice him lots of ways, but he ignored me. Hope mrs. Boss Hogg is enjoying his lackluster ways. I don’t miss him at all.

    • MichelleShocked,
      I am so sorry you endured that assault before you were rid of that human scum. His evil runs far deeper than imaginable. You deserve so much better!
      My experience is similar. I should have left long before I booted him. I’m glad to know you are free now.

      The fuck. Esther.

    • I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I also had a friend say the awful “Maybe you just weren’t enough for him” when I was the one who tried everything to spice up our love life. That friend’s husband hit on me disgustingly the moment I separated from FW. Did I throw that back at her? Of course not, I’m not a piece of shit. She decided to ghost me after that. 17 years of friendship GONE. I guess her theory worked for me but not for her.

    • Similar story here, Michelle. My STBX seemed half-hearted about our sex life. Everything “worked” when it happened but he rarely initiated. I asked him what more he wanted, was there anything I could do to spice things up and make things more interesting, asked him to see a urologist, asked him to initiate more, eventually I wept and said I felt like he didn’t want me anymore. He just stared back at me and said “that’s not true, I do” but nothing changed. Privately I 1) prayed that God would help me be content with a lacking sex life – my husband was good at so many other things – and 2) I longed to have a man desire me. I wrote many, many times that I wanted to have an affair. But I never would, and never did, because I would NEVER! It really did a number on me to feel not desired by the man I loved – while making myself available and like you said COMMUNICATING about it – trying to make peace with my lacking sex life, then finding out he was all about town (like, literally) with my friend.
      I’m so sorry your X assaulted you. That’s another level of pain.

    • I wonder just how many cheaters are also withholders ….I think it is pretty common…I had one of those aswell

      • My ex withheld for years, and refused to discuss it. When he finally did discuss it, he said it was because I was too unattractive to satisfy him after my breast cancer surgery and treatment. It must be more common that I thought.

        • It sounds like he used your tragedy as handy grounds to do the “devalue/discard” thing he would have done anyway. A close friend was on the cover of major fashion mags back in the day. Plus a brain and kind and funny. Her ex did the same exact thing. I swear the only reason he got near her to begin with was that she was in lower Manhattan on the morning of 9/11 and they bonded over losing people. Then he played on her already broken heart by plying her with sad sausage FOO reasons for being unable to have sex. While secretly going to massage parlors and banging the homely nanny.

          I believe he likely had severe FOO issues but just because someone can speak philosophically about those things doesn’t mean they didn’t internalize the worst of what was done to them. I think deep down he felt he was shit and anyone who loved him must be even lower shit. She fell under the umbrella of his low self esteem. Meanwhile he earned his low self esteem. Remember the Groke from Moomintroll? I hated that guy. He froze the ground around him.

      • Same here. Just tried to get used to the fact that he didn’t want sex as much as I did. Which made it even more shocking and traumatizing to find out that he was cheating. My therapist said it was a way to control me. Never thought about it that way before, but makes so much sense. Even the cheating is about control resulting in the ensuing chump pick me dance (if even for a short while). It’s a scar that fades, but never fully goes away.

    • That’s awful. I’m sorry you had that experience.

      The ex withheld sex for 10 years, and I tried to discuss but he did the sad sausage and shut down. The permanent damage caused to my confidence is taking a lot of therapy to resolve. And at 62 it’s all a bit too late, it feels.

    • “I had him at his prime in his 20s and he was below average then”… lol, lol, lol.

      But that rape. Not funny. Perelistas ride high on the lack of in depth studies on the overlap between cheating and DV and people who endure what you did fall through the cracks both in terms of legal protections as well as lack of social consensus. It’s bad enough that those dynamics increase the suffering of survivors but the effects can also be fatal. The murders of Shanann Watts and her children and Jennifer Dulos weren’t isolated cases of cheaters who were “never violent” until they were.

      I’ve seen enough research on DV to know that the overlaps are there to be mined by whoever can get the funding. But I suspect politics discourages this for many reasons. For one there are a lot of domestic abusers in positions of power who would prefer that the definition of abuse not be expanded. The single-minded thirty year battle of researchers and activists like Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft to even get coercive control covered under DV legislation and protections attests to political obstruction and the views of the “obstructors.”

      Perel’s Twitter crack to CL that CL’s personal situation involved “worse” than “just cheating” wouldn’t have been possible if that research existed.

    • I’m w/Spinach 35, MichelleShocked. That’s horrible that he raped you before he left. I can’t imagine how terrible that is to endure. I hope you’re in a much better place now, mentally, psychologically and spiritually. I hope your ex suffers for doing that in some equal fashion.

      All I can tell you is from the male chump side, I see some similarities. My FW XW, as I’ve said recently, would have probably been happy w/once a month sex. She showed a marked decrease in her interest in sex after we were married (even accounting for when kids entered the picture).

      Told me maybe I got the wrong idea of how much sex she wanted from our early days. Jesus Christ. Still loved her! Sex wasn’t everything to me, even w/my higher sex drive. She had a much lower libido relative to me, paired w/a natural external beauty (pretty girl next door, no makeup needed, natural coloration). But, add to that she’s a control freak. Oh, yeah, and in my mind a covert narcissist.

      I didn’t get raped. But I did get blamed when she got pregnant w/our youngest, our son (born seven years and change after our younger daughter). After she had abruptly and unilaterally announced that she didn’t want any more children (no discussion w/me, her supposed partner-for-life) in the wake of me asking her for years if we could try one more time (hoping for a son, but knowing that I’d be happy w/a girl, too). I love kids, in a happy, healthy way. I enjoy being a dad. You know, like you’re supposed to.

      I went cold following her announcement. Not proud of it, but she didn’t even respect me enough to discuss it w/me before deciding. Should have seen the writing on the wall for her exit-affair then (another great unilateral decision out of the blue).

      So she finally begged me to have sex w/her, and climbs on me to do it. I didn’t want to have sex w/her at that point. I was very angry w/her, but yet I still loved her, so I didn’t feel I could refuse her. But I made it clear that it was not me who wanted to have sex at that point. Yet I gave in. Most bizarre feeling while having sex w/her at that moment. Angry, frozen by that anger, yet letting her do what she wanted.

      But it was my fault she got pregnant. I can’t say a large part of me wasn’t happy, but another significant part was appalled I let it happen. I gave her my blessing for an abortion if she wanted that (not that I ever thought she needed or was dependent on it), because I saw how upset she was.

      Nope. I should have known, she said, that she would never have an abortion. Yeah, right, like I can read her mind. We’re all mind-readers, right? Looking back, I think she never wanted to take responsibility for her actions. I was a frequent doormat for her wishes (you know, to have a happy wife, you must be her doormat-for-life!).

      I know that’s not really true, but I think chumps have a tendency to be the partner that’s closer to being a doormat in the relationship, because for us, we simply want to get back the love we’re feeling towards and giving to our partner, and we frequently don’t care how we get it (giving in more often) or how it looks to others (I was told I shouldn’t have been so pussy-whipped after she left me by my coworkers. So helpful and full of truth ????????‍♂️).

      So, I was an excellent scapegoat to use in removing all her responsibility in the matter. Everything was my fault. Again, just like when she left me following her affair.

      Oh, and she told me on D-day that she wished I had let her initiate sex more often. My thought was, what the fuck was stopping you? Oh, I should have backed off more from asking for sex to give you space? So, I guess if I stopped asking for sex from her for around three to six months, she might have taken the initiative. Hey, they’re my blue balls, so they’re my problem, right?

      Yeah, it’s so much easier when we take my wants, needs and desires out of the relationship. What was I thinking?! Our relationship was really all about you, fuckwit! How stupid of me to think that I should be considered in our relationship.????‍♂️????‍♂️????‍♂️

      Finally, like you MichelleShocked, I hope the AP, her rich former boss, realizes I was w/her in her prime years. Good luck w/her in her 50’s, dealing w/her through menopause, you asshole. I can’t imagine it’s made her better.

      But even if through some miracle she is, he can have her. Those two fuckwits belong together. And I deserve the peace I’m getting in grey rock. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than dealing full on w/her sorry, never happy, disrespectful, narcissistic ass!

      • Bro, let me just say as a man who’s been through a similar experience, what happened to you was sexual assault. You said no, you didn’t want it, but you were psychologically coerced into letting her use your body against your wishes.

        Men can be, and are more often than is talked about, be sexually assaulted by women.

        Society just makes us feel crazy for even considering it. It gaslights us to make us feel like we should have been thankful cause we “had sex”. You didn’t deserve that, and it’s not your fault.

    • That is my marriage too and my name is Michelle, as well. So sadly sick when you find out you married a mentally ill person. I was the sexual one like you !! and now ? he’s oh so devoted to his new girlfriend because he told the judge, “because that’s what you do when you’re committed.” What kind of joke is this ?

  • Actually it’s the very behaviour that distinguishes us from farm animals that is natural for humans. It’s like these people think natural being like a hog. It’s our ability to love, or be evil that is the hallmark of being human and our capacity for reason and long term life planning. The it isn’t natural thinking isn’t logical – it is natural for humans to show self control and act according to values rather than sheer instinct. This is the problem with broadcast you have egocentric people who are broadcasting their dumb ideas to the masses unchallenged.

    • Absolutely, HTC. Perel seems like a huge narcissist herself, so her ideas about what is or is not natural are informed by her disorder rather than by knowledge.

  • In none of the marriages that I know of in which the couple stayed together after one of them cheated was the marriage or the family “stronger or more resilient.” In all of them, the power differential continued to tilt toward the cheater, and the chump’s overt and frantic pick-me dance devolved into lesser but no less damaging to the chump behaviors, like overlooking (or making excuses for) thoughtlessness (or worse), placating, and self denigration. In all of them, the power imbalance is permanently tilted toward the cheater. The cheated on acquiesced to becoming spouse appliances.

    • Adelante, this has been my observation as well. Cheaters get the power. It’s a sad imbalance that persists post wreconciliation.

      In all cases that I know of, the women (and all 3 are women) remain married, but they seem repressed and diminished–mere shells of their former selves. And these are wonderful, smart, capable women.

      It’s so sad. I’d rather be divorced than in a marriage/mirage (thanks, VH) like that.

      These preening husbands walk around like kings. They got away with it. They’ll do it again. They seem to have no respect for their spouses. And while their eyes wander, their spouses dance harder…or they just give up and accept their fate.

      “Expansion and growth” my ass! Hey Esther! Why don’t you address this phenomenon?

      p.s. I think these woman stay because of societal pressure to forgive and the fear of being without a companion. Eh. Not worth it. If I want to have dinner with someone, I can invite a friend.

      • I stayed for three years post d-day because I genuinely liked being married to him – the one I knew him to be before d-day. Despite his shrugging at sex with me, there was a lot of good (though I certainly have called into question how much of it was real). We’d had two decades of fun times, meaningful conversations, and multiple children. There was a lot invested. I wanted to see if reconciliation was possible. I completely understand why some people stay, wondering if any good from Before can be salvaged.
        As for me, I feel relieved to be dissolving the marriage. Just took me three years to cut the cord. Yes, it’s overwhelming – all the things. Yes, I still feel angry sometimes. Yes, I feel envious when I’m around people with seemingly healthy marriages. This is NOT what I wanted for myself or my children. (A lot of people can say this about their life circumstances, whether or not it includes betrayal.) But here I am. He’s not in my space anymore. And life feels better.

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… ChumpLady for TED Talk! You’d blow Esther’s numbers out of the water.

    I’d still be in an abusive relationship filled with hopium and pick me dancing if not for Chump Lady. I’ve learned so much here about discovering my voice; identifying abuse; setting boundaries; creating a home where my walls sing and my child thrives… thanks to CL and CN.

    Fuck Esther Perel.

    • I would love to have the CL interview Dr. Minwalla on a TED talk. Both of them have data on the damage done to chumps by cheaters, whereas cheater apologists only seem to have “feels”.

      • I’d like to see CL in a live debate with Esther so that people can see that CL has a counterpoint for all of Esther’s BS. Common sense and wisdom would reign supreme. CL would wipe the floor with her and we could all stand up and cheer.

      • Yes!! Perel should have to answer for herself on a panel with CL and Minwalla!! Reading CN comments and other sources, one thing I’ve noticed is that NONE of us seem to have a FW who fits the model described in “Not Just Friends” by Shirley Glass—a “good person” who, through poor boundaries and the social structure of work versus home life, starts out faithful, then gets lured into falling into limerence with an attractive colleague, unexpectedly violating the moral code they’ve had for years.

        Most FWs seem to be a lot more like mine:
        -*long* history of lying, sneaking around, hiding things and compartmentalizing everything into a secret sexual basement
        -maladaptive coping mechanisms and creepy, addictive self-soothing rituals that they hide
        -unusually poor and disordered communication, including using super-abusive DARVO-y techniques like stonewalling, blameshifting and gaslighting
        -unusually low levels of empathy
        -did I mention the LONG history of lying? And creepy, systematic compartmentalization?

  • Wow. There is soooo much in that. First – it’s not about sex. It’s about entitlement. Our sex life was more active than most of my friends (yes we talk about that). He told me DURING sex toward the end of the “wreck”inciliation that I was so good at one particular thing that I could be paid for it. He compared his wife to a paid sex worker while having sex. I later learned about the years of hookers so I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment as apparently he would know. I was also told that he didn’t like it when I initiated sex. That he took longer to be in the mood. Um… or maybe it was because you had sex with someone else earlier??? I’m 51, have a very active libido and am highly sensual. So… Nopitiy nope nope nope on that one.

    Stronger relationship. I have 3 close friends who “survived” infidelity. They, from the outside looking in and mostly on the inside, have families that work and are close etc. However, each of them (and they don’t know each other) told me that they have a lot of anger still, continue to have trust issues, confidence issues, continue to be the marriage police with checking phones etc, and have decided that if their husbands are messing around, they would prefer to stay in the dark. So Nopity nope on that one too. BTW, the infidelity was over 15 years ago. Your move Esther…

  • It is rare that cheating makes a marriage better. From my observation it makes the marriage harder. There is a lack of bonding/trust in the marriage.

    • Yes, Letgo!!

      Cheaters cheat because they want to.

      And apologists rationalize to make money and co-create an upside-down world where bad is good that continues to enrich them by co-signing narc bull$hit.

  • I was in a nearly sexless marriage.

    That is, I wasn’t having sex with the x.

    But he was having PLENTY of sex, with other people.

    He had the guts to tell me that he told his pickups that “my wife doesn’t have sex with me”. Typical sad sausage.

    What he neglected to say was that HE moved out of the marital bed of his own volition, leaving me alone every night just to make it easier for him to sneak out while I was sleeping. And when he hit a dry spell I was a convenient receptacle for him to plug in to. I just wasn’t his preferred option.

    I can’t begin to add up all the times I pathetically begged him to just join me while I fell asleep. He couldn’t stir himself from in front of the television for 20 minutes.

    And to be absolutely honest, he wasn’t very good at it. He didn’t listen to what I was telling him about what would be pleasing to me. He was rough and fast and it sometimes felt like a punishment vs. an act of love. So many times I would roll over after he was finished and silently cry to myself.

    But I never once thought to get my “needs” met elsewhere.

    So fuck everyone who blames lack of sexual satisfaction on their cheating. It’s a bullshit excuse and this narrative needs to change yesterday.

    • Like you I wasn’t having sex with X (but he was with his “secret second-life-wife” for 3 years). However, I chose not to have sex with him; even when he insisted it was my “duty” as his wife. I make zero apologies for refusing to have sex with a disrespecful, entitled, cruel and abusive prick (tiny to boot) as if it were his right (sometimes throwing me off and away from him afterwards); and just another household chore for me to accomplish. Sorry if I need to feel loved, respected and a connection rather than just a convenient orafice. A wife is not property for the neglectfully entitled to make unilateral demands on. His AP can have my X- an entitled, lacklustre and tiny man.

    • Conquest. You had already been conquered in his eyes and not worth the effort anymore. I lived the same exact thing. It fuels the ego, the whole chase. The newness is exciting to them.

  • Esther Repel is what I call her.

    Infidelity is actually the perfect crime, because you inflict more pain and suffering on your victim than you would if you assaulted or murdered them, you destroy their life, past present and future, all without laying a hand on them and you can’t be arrested.

    I tell people it would have been more humane if he had murdered me.

    And it hurt our daughter too.

    Infidelity is quite the party trick, killing multiple birds, from your own bird nest, with one stone, destroying the nest too.

    • Oh, and as a cheater you will have legions of people who will join you in blaming your victim.

      It’s the perfect crime.

      • So, following cheater logic, if I am cheated on and feel homicidal rage, it’s OK to blow them both away.

        Toddlers act on their feelings.

        Emotional maturity is learning to consider if and how I should respond to my feelings.

        From I forget where:

        “A friend and I were talking one day. He has been happily married to his high school sweetheart for over 20 years. He is a handsome, high-end, wedding photographer and sees rich beautiful brides and bridesmaids every weekend for the past 10 years. He travels all the time for his work. He has all the chances in the world to cheat and to trade “up”. I was young and naive and we were talking about marriage and commitment, I was asking him how you know if it’s the right one, and what if someone else better comes along, etc. He said “Someone better will always come along. There will always be someone more beautiful, funnier, skinnier, or richer than your partner. But the point is to choose someone and love them for all that they are and not despise them for what they’re not. Marriage is a create, the two of you have to create your love every day, it never runs on automatic.”
        So, there will always be someone “better” that will come along, there are billions of people. The purpose of marriage is choosing ONE and loving THEM like you are supposed to. It’s a promise to SHUT THOSE OTHER OPTIONS DOWN. That’s why you make promises before God about “forsaking all others” and even sign a fucking contract.“

        • And sex is communication.

          Cheaters have terrible communication skills. Across the board.

          Anyone can fuck. People do it for just for the money. But not everyone can communicate.

          Like giving birth does not make one a mother. They are different things.

          If I was a brain-dead doll who just did whatever he wanted, we would have had a “great” sex life.

          • And besides, cheating is about sex like rape is about sex. It’s the obvious symptom but not the cause.

            My body was onto him before my mind was. I was in the same relationship and I didn’t cheat and I didn’t lie and I didn’t have a secret sexual double life.

            If the quality/quantity of a sex life was the cause of cheating, I would be a cheater as well.

            • To clarify….my BODY knew not to trust him before my mind did. It was not for quite a while until after DDay that my body and mind synchronized.

              Cheaters/liars don’t do loyalty. They aren’t safe or trustworthy. Proceed with one, or a person who fucks around with people in committed relationships, at your own peril.

              Yesterday at the business meeting, Traitor X referred to an employee who asked for a raise as an “IDI”.
              What’s an IDI, I asked.

              “It’s an ‘I Deserve It’. In other words, Traitor X’s acronym for someone who thinks they deserve something they haven’t earned.

              If I wasn’t wearing a mask my jaw would have hit the floor.

              The boss/owner/liar/cheater/thief, the biggest IDI of them all, pointing the finger with three big fat fingers pointing back at himself.

              Just more confirmation proving how disordered his thinking STILL is.


        • “Someone better will always come along. There will always be someone more beautiful, funnier, skinnier, or richer than your partner. But the point is to choose someone and love them for all that they are and not despise them for what they’re not.”

          I love this. The stuff of marriage vows!

  • Oh yeah, that was us. We were sexually incompatible. I liked sex when I actually had time for sex, I wouldn’t be rushed, and I wouldn’t be distracted and I could take nap afterwards. Before bed, or on a lazy weekend afternoon when the kids weren’t around were good times. I wanted sex to be relaxing. Ex wanted sex at 3:00am when I was fast asleep or five minutes before I had to walk out the door. The rest of the time, not so much. It wasn’t enough to just satisfy him, I had to love it. If I failed to wake up and be instantly horny and then climax spectacularly and loudly then it proved I just wasn’t that into sex and/or I just wasn’t attracted to him (well that might be true at 3:00am immediately after being woken up from a deep sleep). Somehow we still managed to have sex about once a week despite this disconnect (often at 3:00am) although he was not always able to climax (which made being woken up at 3:00am that much more annoying). During our brief attempt at reconciliation, however, he told the marriage counselor that I had a low libido and just wasn’t that into sex. That hurt.

    Honestly, I was able to get off on ordinary sex (sometimes even at 3:00am) with the same partner I had been with for 20+ years. He is the one who needed props, awkward positions, bad timing (he had to be the priority over everything else) and, apparently, strange to get off so who really was the one with the low libido?

  • talking about sex is difficult, but i found myself in a sexless marriage related to my X’s alcohol abuse. this is because i refused to have sex with him when he drank as he was unappealing, and the sex was bad. and he drank because he’s addicted and, although he tried various ways to control drinking, it never worked in the long run. underlying issues were never addressed.

    separate of that issue, sex was always a tricky proposition because communication therefore intimacy was lacking. i see that now. although raised in a household where i did not see or hear my parents talk anything of substance through, i did the talking in my marriage. i taught myself how as a young adult. i knew i didn’t want to live like my folks. but my X couldn’t talk about his feelings.

    during the discard phase, my X said some weird-ass things about sex that lead me to believe he has a whole fantasy life that i did not know about. he wanted to choke me, etc. etc. in 30 years of marriage he’d never brought these things up. TBH these are deeply upsetting to me. that my partner wanted to choke me is beyond my comprehension. he also said a number of hateful, hateful things about me as a woman and, in doing so, was turned on.

    this is the famous basement.

    thank god for therapy.

    TBH there was always a performative nature to sex with my X. orchestration. he always said sex was visual for him. he was playing a movie in his head about each sexual encounter–but i didn’t have access to the movie. over time, it created a distance. and now, i do not wish to know about the movie. it’s simply too disturbing.

    this is misogyny.

    • I’ve read that choking in a domestic situation is definitely abuse and a sign that the partner may kill you at some point. How frightening for you that his fantasy was choking you. I’m so glad he’s your ex.

        • damnitfeelsbadtobeachumpster, I’m so glad you’re getting help with therapy. You’ve been put through the ringer with your ex and it’s good you’re taking care of you. You are so worth it!

      • This is very true for far too many people. It’s like…having a “pet” constrictor sleep lengthwise alongside you. That means they are trying to determine if they can eat you.

        Strangling someone for sexual thrills is someone who is incredibly dangerous and it’s not IF they will abuse or kill you, it’s a matter of WHEN.

        • Cupcakes, thank you for stating that it’s a WHEN and not an IF. It’s even extra chilling to read it written that way.

      • I’ll never understand the lure of choking your partner. For me, I want us both to be happy, but especially my partner, as that will in turn make me happy. So, no, never had any inclination to choke the FW XW while we were married. After she exit-affaired me? Now that’s a different story!???? No, even now, it’s a nasty thing to imagine. Just fucked up.

    • Oh my word! I thought I was alone in the choking and the horrible things he said to me that turned him on. It truly affected me to the point I became a receptacle and would look at the clock before it started to realize it was going to last less time than having a smoke. I was going to start dating and the reality hit me of being intimate with another man and building a relationship only to have it disintegrate into what I had. Can’t do it, won’t do it. I hugged my cat instead and closed that door.

  • Esther Perel is a panderer. She panders to a certain fraction (misogynist, patriarchal & the morally devoid) to sell books. And thanks to Esther, an acquaintance was outed by bringing Esther up and her “provocative ideas”. I knew in an instant that the person I was speaking to could not be trusted & therefore, not moving into my friend category. So thanks, Esther, I will now suss out my dates by bringing you up to see if they’ve ever heard of you or what they think about your message. If they have & align with you, I’m out. I’ll call it The Esther Test.

  • Oh, geez. It’s like every cheater becomes this devoted disciple of EP and spouts crap right out her playbook.

    “My marriage is sexless!” – We had sex at least 3 times a week, actually more, but it didn’t count unless he came, and I often had him stop after an hour of futile attempts in every position possible. Rinse and repeat until he actually has an orgasm. (See porn addiction)

    “You won’t do anal!” – True. I tried. And still suffer the after effects.

    “Monogamy isn’t natural!” – I call BS. He said he would be faithful when we married, then unilaterally decided to cheat and lie about it. Pointing out monogamy among certain birds/animals and, yes, people, is pointless to FWs.

    “I have a biological imperative to get my genes out there!” (I can’t help it, its that damned old imperative driving me to cheat. Oh, but I don’t want kids.) So basically admitting to no self-control.

    “I can love two people at once!” – Me, too. My family, for instance. But I don’t have sex with them. Studies of polyamory, BTW, indicate that typically at least one person is deeply wounded from the experiment.

    “I need a muse!” – I want LIMERANCE! Give me more candy so I can really rot my teeth!

    Somebody above wanted to know what EP would have to say about trauma related to rape. My guess is that there would be a lot of throat-clearing, and attempts to explain how cheating isn’t rape. What about having your SOUL raped, Esther??? What about getting STDs from somebody you thought was a faithful spouse? THAT isn’t trauma? THAT isn’t physical abuse??

    I will agree with her only in that having new friends can give a person a new way to look at life. You can learn new things, you can expand your taste in food, music, whatever. If you have a history of cheating, though, a new “friend” can be a serious red-flag. Better keep your new friends of a gender in which you aren’t sexually attracted to.

    • And about the anal thing. Um, I know that’s a weird way to start but so often I hear men wanting their spouse to agree to it. And if a woman is comfortable that’s fine. But it is painful (ask me how I know). I think if women were to say to these men, “maybe I’ll try it but you first”, as in the men would be subjected to get anally penetrated they’d realize it’s not the great experience they think it’ll be. But then they probably don’t care about the pain it can cause their spouse.

      • Anal sex is a lot like cheating – they weigh it up and decided their pleasure is more important than avoiding causing us pain.

        I sincerely hope AP finds being pestered for anal on a weekly basis just as much of a turn on as I did.

      • Since we have gone there, (no pun intended).

        I only heard of anal sex once when my ex who I shared a very full and varied monogamous (on my side) sex life, asked about it. I said no because though I was fine with oral sex, different positions etc; that just didn’t seem like something I would enjoy.

        I don’t think that is why fw cheated, in fact he likely cheated through out our whole marriage just because it was easy to put it past me. Nor do I think he had any gay tendencies. Sorry he just didn’t, he was most definitely a horn dog pussy chaser.

        Having said all this, I only learned a year or so ago (possibly on this site, can’t remember) that because men have a prostate they have a lot more feeling in that area than women. So that might explain why they think women might like it. I don’t know just musing. Maybe his whore faked enjoying it, I don’t know. She was the town bicycle for married men, so she likely did a lot of stuff to keep the gifts and money flowing.

        Had my ex asked me to use a toy, or some other way for him; I would have done that. How was I to know? I had only been with one man and back in those days there was no internet to research that stuff. There might have been books, but I never thought of it, as from my POV, we had a full and satisfying sex life. He certainly never complained. (why would he).

        Honestly for my fw, I think it was just the thrill of the strange, and getting away with it. He conned a lot of folks, in more ways than one.

      • Hence the best justice scene in all of contemporary literature: in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, where Lisbeth Salander lets her “guardian” experience what it feels like.

    • Well said ivyleague. Also, if Perel says cheating isn’t rape, who here would have continued having sex with their FW, if they had been aware they were sleeping with someone else?

      I certainly wouldn’t and had no clue about his double life

      FW said we didn’t have ‘proper sex’ and it ‘didn’t count’

      They all talk utter bollocks

      • I’ve had to work through feelings of rape and sexual violation in therapy after dday, when I found out FUCKFACE was living a double life for years, screwing randos, escorts, men, women, couples, groups UNPROTECTED. I will NEVER forgive him for putting my health and life at risk.

        And I NEVER would have agreed to sex with him (which he enjoyed and never complained, but is telling people we lived like roommates…insert eyeroll) IF I knew he was fucking anything with a hole. He is an evil sociopathic narcissistic monster void of empathy.

  • Since this column is a rerun, there’s no point in writing letters about it to the NYT.

    Perel gets this kind of coverage because she has publicists looking for media opportunities, and promoting her for interviews. It would be great if we could find those for Tracy before the stories run. When Tracy’s third book is ready to go, I hope she has a budget for marketing it to media. Maybe we at Chump Nation could help her do that. If it’s about kids, it will certainly show that cheating is not harmless or victimless.

    While looking for Perel’s publicist, I saw that her speaking fee is stated as $50,000 to $100,000, although it’s possible this amount is part of image management and that she actually takes less. She’s listed with multiple agencies. Here’s one:

    Here’s how she’s described, or described herself: Relationship & Communications Expert; Master Trainer & Emotional Literacy Advisor; Award-Winning Author & International Columnist

    I don’t know where she speaks, but I’d be furious if I was associated with an employer or organization that brought her in to speak, and especially if they paid anywhere near that amount.

  • I do think cheating can be expansive and growth…for the chump. Extracting oneself from an “Abusive” relationship and moving forward with a life of freedom and integrity is growth. Leaving FW in the dust was the best thing I have done. Of course, I would have preferred a different experience..less painful and disruptive to my family. But not my choice. My choice was how to make lemonade out of a big ole sour FW lemon. Hugs and freedom from a#%hole-induced pain!!

    • “I do think cheating can be expansive and growth…for the chump. Extracting oneself from an “Abusive” relationship and moving forward with a life of freedom and integrity is growth. ”

      Absolutely. I was taken out of my marriage by force, oh if I could have only seen just a few short months into my future; I would have run laughing and doing cartwheels in joy from that piece of shit.

  • DD#1 was 12 years before I filed. DD#2 was 11 years before I filed
    DD#3 was 4 months before I filed.

    The first 2 DDays (that I know about, looking back there were definitely more) were explained to me as ‘friendships’. After the second ‘friendship’ I was leaving but FW begged me not to go. So I stayed. I never trusted him again and was hyper vigilant the whole time. There was no growth in the relationship, no pulling us out of deadness. Just me left feeling pretty worthless.

    His reason for falling into howorker was due to my inability to trust him after the first two….

    So Esther Ferret you can fuck right off.

    Hugs to CN ❤️

    • Claire –
      Me, too! DDs#1 & 2 overlapped, and I filed within months. But after some brief marital therapy and peer pressure from our 12-step and Course in Miracles Study group, I dropped the suit & “chose” to trust him. Ugh. That was 27 years before I found concrete proof of #3. Fortunately for me, a waffling RIC poster mentioned Chump Lady & I found her, y’all, and my backbone & gtf out! Filed and followed through. Now my walls SING!

      I LOVE “Esther Ferret”. Her credentials do not back up what she purports herself to be. PR, indeed. She might as well call herself a Unicorn Whisperer. Same difference.

    • Ah yes, the “the only thing wrong with our marriage is that you don’t trust me” excuse for cheating. My first husband was shocked and incensed that I didn’t trust him after I found out about his adventures with co-workers, his boss’s wife, friends, neighbors, neighbors of friends, the woman he rear-ended at a stop sign, my sister and Sister Margaret, the nun who organized our pre-Cana classes. He was sure everything would be just fine “if you didn’t act like you don’t trust me.”

      Wonder why I wouldn’t trust such a gem?

  • What goes unspoken is sex therapy itself is a minefield. It’s not well-regulated or definitively licensed, there’s no governing body, few if any degree programs out there offer quality education on the topic, or even a mandated level of certification to practice or course of treatment to follow. So it’s no wonder the field is rife with quacks and, in some cases, even sexual abusers. It’s horrifying.

    And for the record, I was told all this by a sex therapist! I’m sure she was better than the other options out there, but she sucked too and I quit after a few months. The quality of care between her and my previous (mainstream, trauma-informed) psychologist was night and day.

    The sex therapist was nice enough and had a PhD from some new agey sounding sexology school (one of the few out there), which is more than most sex therapists have (!!), but her understanding of human sexuality was very dry textbook and lacked empathy, practical experience, or any understanding of trauma or misogyny. I don’t know if her degree program even required clinical practice. She was a total waste of time.

    It’s tough finding qualified sex experts, particularly for female sexuality. Even the medical field is in the dark ages and still doesn’t understand BASIC facts about female diseases like PCOS or endometriosis. Good luck finding quality sexual healthcare, friends. It’s tough out there.

  • Omg… someone finally calling out Ester Pearl’s bullshit. Thank you. I’ve been saying this for six years. And she’s not 56!!! She’s in her 70s now. And I’d hedge my bets that EP has never been cheated on by her spouse so she’s basically talking out her butt hole. Thank you Chump Lady. Thank you.

    • “that EP has never been cheated on by her spouse”

      That she knows of. But, yeah if she had been betrayed she could likely never write this drivel.

  • She makes my skin crawl. Google, in all of its wisdom, thinks I would probably like her youtube videos. Ugh. If google were smart they would add a box for me to click that let’s the algorythm know “which of these things is not like the others” to quote the old Sesame Street song….

  • Esther is most definitely an IDIOT. Yes, my ex husband’s affair made our family SO much stronger. That must be why last night I stroked my 9 year old daughter’s hair while she cried telling me she doesn’t want to go to daddy’s today because he doesn’t pay attention to her (because AP’s son has severe behavioral issues and requires constant redirection), and she wants to break up his and AP’s relationship so he and I can be back together. Sobbing commenced when I told her I’m so sorry to hear how she’s feeling, but daddy and I won’t be getting back together. EP must be some new breed of stupid.

  • How does she expect a fantastic sex life when on your honey moon your spouse tells you ‘your dead in the sack’? Sex with him was done out of obligation it was never something I enjoyed. I just couldn’t get over it. I was still a couple weeks away from being 18 years old. Now I am nearly 50 and sex feels kind of like a punishment I have to put up with or else he will punish me more.

  • The queen of erotic cheating-
    I’m daydreaming that we find out shortly that Esther ‘Peril’s’ spouse has been cheating on her with a different woman at every speech she’s given for decades and now is leaving her for some 25 year old that has been booking her calendar for the last three years. The Schmoop is also 3 months pregnant and Esther’s parting gift, yes, a lovely STD to contend with.
    I wonder how the ‘queen of erotic infidelity’ would react to that kind of news?!
    If she’d get on that stage and continue to preach aliveness, vibrancy, passion, exploring your sexuality, filling your existential and psychological needs by cheating on your spouse.

    Her next book could be,
    The State of Affairs: Rethinking my Thinking on Infidelity
    Instead, she continues to spread harm into the world by celebrating abuse and abusers with an air of connectedness, being a member of the club of sexual coolness.
    She makes the scum bag cheaters all feel amazing about their deep selfish entitlement ( how can it be helped in the search for aliveness?!) deserting their spouses and families to beam into the true sensual beings that they are! That’s kool-aide they can’t possibly resist and it sells a lot of books and tickets.

    Esther Perel is a peril to humanity and a pox on this planet.
    It’s so difficult and triggering to hear her selling abuse, she will never run out of buyers.
    Come follow me with your genitals, oh wandering sexual beings, and leave your consciences at home.
    Maybe we can start a “ go fund me” to get Esther on Elon’s list for first human to Mars. A cause I would gladly contribute to.

    • I’m just guessing, but how can EP have penned books that are basically justification manuals for cheaters if she is not herself one? She’s got to be a chumper, not a chump. Though she could be both, I suppose!

  • Oh my goodness. The article has the quotes all wrong, because nobody can possibly be that stupid. But yay, I found the real quotes!

    “It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime. It certainly should be, as it’s a deliberate infliction of suffering on another human being.”

    “The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient if they dump the abuser.”

    “Often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness into outright suicidal depression or homicidal mania.”

    “I describe cheating as dishonest, perpetual dependency on mistreating one’s spouse.”

    “It can be whatever a cheater wants, but it has to be creepy and abusive, and the cheater has to keep redoing it, since they have given themselves a license.”

  • My ex offered full transparency, and expressed remorse. A month or two later, she discovered Ms. Perel. And that pretty much singlehandedly put an end to any hope of reconciliation (granted, there wasn’t much to start with). Suddenly, she had the key to redefining herself as a good person who’d cheated only because she was married to a dud who didn’t want to swing from the mizzenmast in bondage gear with an entire Goth band like her new “friend!” Cheating was exuberance! Aliveness! A way to invigorate a marriage she didn’t want! Screw your transparency!

    How many marriages has Esther been a key factor in ending? We need one of those online counters to estimate the toll over time. She should be proud of her fine work.

  • “The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient…”

    Uhm … define “often”.

    By the time my daughter was 14, she’d been taken to an emergency room where she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And, that was BEFORE D-day, just from living in a home where Daddy’s tantrums made no sense, and he was always disappearing and picking fights. And here I am, some … 4-1/2 years after D-day, still having nightmares and flashbacks.

    I hate it when people gloss over it all by claiming, against all evidence, that I’m so “resilient”. I have claw marks in my scalp from all that “resilience” in the middle of the night.

    So I’d really like to hear from the “stronger and more resilient” families who are apparently so commonplace.

    • I had to check my EIGHT YEAR OLD into a children’s psych hospital for anxiety, depression, and threats of self-harm. EIGHT years old.

      No one comes out stronger.

      My son markedly improved when FW died. He remembers his father fondly, and misses him. But not having to be shuttled between two houses, or worrying about his father’s state of mind, or dealing with the fallout of OW leaving a few weeks after they set up house together taking her two kids with her, or my ex’s vitriol toward me and my family, or having to keep secrets for his dad, or feeling like he had to carry messages to me or garner information from me at his father’s request, etc. has helped his mental and emotional health so much. He no longer lived half the time with two angry, selfish, volatile alcoholics.

    • People shouldn’t even have to be resilient. I got similar dumb comments from people praising me for being so mature for my age, which is a huge red flag for child abuse and neglect. Resilience is a sign that somebody else fucked up somewhere.

      • The cartoonist/graphic memoirist Lynda Barry has a chapter in “100 Demons” called “Resilience.”
        And here’s a quote from it: “I cringe when people talk about the resiliency of children. It’s a hope adults have about the nature of a child’s inner life, that it’s simple…When you inner life is a place you have to stay out of, having an identity is impossible. Remembering not to remember fractures you…This ability to exist in pieces is what some adults call resilience.”

        Here’s a link so you can read the chapter:

      • I’m incredibly calm in emergencies and chaotic situations. People often tell me they would want me there on a desert island, trapped in an elevator, etc.. I’m also incredibly resilient, and people tell me I’m brave all the time. Seems very cool until you realize it’s a trauma response from years of severe childhood abuse and having to turn my father in at a very young age. Really awesome, right?

        Sure, it’s useful and certainly helps me in life so I take the strengths I have, use them to my advantage, and am grateful for them. What other choice do I have?

        Now I’m much more empathetic, kind, humble, less judgmental, and patient because of what I went through in my marriage with my ex’s affair. I guess all good traits, but I could’ve done without the trauma and trust issues that come along with it.

        • Interesting, Bubba. I found it made me less patient and more judgemental. I suffered a jerk for so long that I haven’t any tolerance for idiotic and selfish people left. I don’t even bother to be polite with them if I don’t feel like it.

          It’s a good point that becoming stronger for being betrayed is no compensation for what you had to endure to get there.
          I was strong all my life. After this happened to me I decided I don’t have to be so strong anymore, that it was really of more benefit to users and abusers than it was to me. I give myself permission to be fragile now, if that’s how I feel, and fuck anybody who doesn’t like it. Now nobody is likely to use the excuse that I’m so strong for riding roughshod over. I’ll never forget how after d day, people who supposedly cared about me complained I had become “too sensitive.” I had to hear that at the worst time of my life instead of words of support. Well now they just have to deal with it. I let far too many abuses and insults go in the name of emotional resilience and I’m not letting them go anymore.

          • I less judgmental about certain things, like how people handle certain situations. I used to think I would leave immediately and never look back if my husband cheated on me. Well, I did leave, but I came back. Now I realize you never know what you’ll do until something happens to you. So, I don’t judge how other people handle their lives, relationships, or marriages. If you’re a cheater, yea I’m judging the shit out of you.

            As far as patience I have more of it been certain things just aren’t worth me getting worked up over and I’m very intentional about who I surround myself with. I simply do not interact with anyone who I believe has poor character any longer. In the past I would’ve let certain things slide, now those people are just not in my life. Because of that I can be more patient with the people I know are good people. I’m also more vulnerable and not afraid to show it or say it. I don’t really care if people are bothered by that or uncomfortable with it. If they are, they don’t belong in my life v

  • What an ignorant bitch.

    I bet if the betrayed partner has a nice revenge affair the original cheater won’t see it as a growth opportunity.

    Fuck her.

  • This makes me feel terrible. I’ve gaslit myself with all of this BS for 11 months now – not totally because I’m here reading every day!

    Is it evil of me to with that EP has her heart smashed so totally by someone she trusts?

    It is. I know. But I wish it anyway. She does so much damage.

    • I suspect Esther would be the cheater. I’m sure all her good ideas come from her own marriage where she probably keeps him like a castrato in her attic. Pulls him out to torment at her leisure when it’s raining or something.

      You’re ok. You’re better than ok. Don’t direct this stupid bullshit at yourself anymore. Give yourself a massive hug and tell ESther to feck right off. ❤️

  • This Perelism really stood out because of Perel’s family history: “The family can often come out of it (trauma, betrayal) stronger and more resilient…”

    The natural question is to ask “What would you know about it, Esther?” She has no specialized credentials in victimology or areas focusing on abuser psychology. But as her Wiki page reports, “Perel grew up amongst Holocaust survivors in Antwerp, and noted two groups around her: ‘those who didn’t die, and those who came back to life.’ She observed that ‘those who didn’t die were people who lived tethered to the ground, afraid, untrusting. The world was dangerous, and pleasure was not an option. You cannot play, take risks, or be creative when you don’t have a minimum of safety, because you need a level of unself-consciousness to be able to experience excitement and pleasure. Those who came back to life were those who understood eroticism as an antidote to death.'”

    Fuck your way out of trauma? Why not shop your way out of trauma? Or gamble? Do Platonic love and filial love count as life-renewing forces equal to eroticism? Even if I’m a “daughter of war,” I’ve never been through the level of trauma that Perel’s family endured or that Perel regularly overheard so I can’t reject any solution out of hand. I’m really wrestling with this so I’ll think out loud.

    If I’d seen my entire family murdered and fucking strange kept me from suiciding myself for just one more day, you could argue that I’d found an adaptive solution. But are most cheaters grappling with the aftermath of mass atrocity? And even if it’s arguable that many cheaters and domestic abusers have childhood issues, isn’t continuing to do the last ditch thing that it took to survive traumatic experience but which has severe consequences for others (STIs, betrayal trauma, squandered finances, children left with attachment issues, etc.) “maladaptive”? Should their children continue the traditions? Is there another way to “come back to life”?

    I don’t doubt that Perel’s family history informs her work. In an interview, I don’t remember if Perel described being shocked as a child to hear her parents and their community of fellow adult Holocaust survivors casually, frequently, openly and graphically discuss some of the gruesome details of surviving death camps but Perel’s basic thrust was that it was– shrug, giggle– normalized in her upbringing. Perel then describes herself as an adult speaking openly about horrific things in front of her young son. She seems to giggle again at this point in the interview when describing her son’s shock and horror. Her attitude seems to be, yes, it’s shocking but… At that point I can’t really wrap my head around her justification for secondarily traumatizing and desensitizing children. It’s all kind of a nervous giggle-shrug to her. She doesn’t claim that it’s the healthiest way to raise children but… something hinting vaguely at modern snowflakes… and that Perel herself turned out okay… Whatever she’s saying isn’t that clear but I might guess Perel implies that being exposed to graphic descriptions of horror made her resilient. And her parents and their community managed to survive.

    It’s not clear from the interview whether the “people who didn’t die” or the “people who came back to life” were the ones who graphically discussed horror in front of children or if both types did. In any event, if you’re not a camp survivor yourself or a survivor of something equivalent, weighing in on the generational effects of something as extreme and horrific as the Holocaust is where angels fear to tread and where they really shouldn’t. Maybe Perel knows this. In that specific context, how can anyone other than a survivor or generational survivor analyze or critique the potential damaging effects vs. benefits of exposing children to horrifying descriptions of horrifying reality?

    But now that Perel is weighing in– as an expert, not claiming (openly at least) to be a first-hand or secondary survivor– on an unrelated and obviously vastly less horrific though more universal arena of victimization/survival/betrayal, can we at least ask if she might not have had some secret wish that her parents and their community of survivors had delayed her education and exposure a bit? As a child, did she ever feel something close to Nobel poet’s Wislawa Szymborska’s description of how the uninitiated generations born after war feel towards those who won’t stop talking about it? Did she ever feel torn and terrible about feeling such a thing?

    Someone, broom in hand,

    still recalls the way it was.

    Someone else listens

    and nods with unsevered head.
    But already there are those nearby

    starting to mill about

    who will find it dull.

    Szymborska experienced the Nazi invasion of Poland and escaped Nazi deportation as a Pole, not as a Jew. The final lines of the above poem, The End and the Beginning, which convey an acceptance that subsequent generations will forget the horror might not be as acceptable to Holocaust survivors and historians:

    In the grass that has overgrown
    causes and effects,
    someone must be stretched out
    blade of grass in his mouth

    gazing at the clouds.

    Personally I’m a bit circumspect about that final line that the Nobel committee and Szymborska fans find so moving. “Must” people forget? Must they be allowed to? Or can a middle ground be sought where we educate people about the principles and lessons of historical atrocity without going so far as to ravage the consciences of the innocent and desensitize them at young ages? “Never forget” and “Never again” are the contingent mottos of Holocaust remembrance for good reason– those who forget history are bound to repeat it. So I think it’s critical that people, even children, learn about this history as well as other historic atrocities. On the one hand “We speak for the dead to protect the living.” On the other, survivors have an intrinsic need to speak their truth. But whereas Holocaust survivor and historian Primo Levi describes the critical need and right of survivors to speak of their experiences, he shows by example the enormous struggle for survivors to even understand their own experience. While all first-hand accounts have intrinsic historical value, Levi also shows by example that not all analyses of experience do since his contributions stand out as masterpieces with universal application of what it means to psychically survive catastrophic betrayal and trauma and all the false analyses that create overwhelming obstacles against doing so.

    Nowhere does Levi mention fucking your way out of trauma. He only hints very vaguely at the unspeakable things that people did after being loaded on death trains to the camps and, knowing they were going to their deaths, lost control. That might have involved the condemned– couples or strangers– having sex one last time in full view of others or people rending their clothes and clawing their bodies, attacking each other in grief or, as many accounts have it, smothering infants to spare them the coming horror. Levi saw this as an uncharacteristic loss of human dignity under extreme duress and left it at that. What Levi seems to contend overall that if survivors cannot rebuild a perspective and come to grips with their experiences, they may not survive emotionally or at all. He implies by example that this is partly intellectual work because he describes himself as the walking dead in certain periods of his life and then demonstrates his process of coming back to life through historical analyses and analyses of his own experience.

    The challenge in trying to rebuild a perspective in order to survive is that it means revisiting unendurable horror. The debate still continues over whether Levi eventually killed himself or died accidentally. In any case he died while trying to delve into the often-ignored or misunderstood nuances of surviving the Holocaust and the lessons of that history in a way that only a first-hand witness and survivor could if they had neither been thoroughly desensitized to it nor so destroyed by it that they couldn’t make sense of it. No one else was addressing the questions he struggled with so he put himself up for the (possibly fatal) task. Historian Tzvetan Todorov beautifully said of Levi that (paraphrase), though what Levi wrote about was dark, the light came from Levi’s courage in describing his experience.

    Levi’s “The Drown and the Saved” is probably the single greatest exploration of emotional survival and emotional death following catastrophic trauma. It’s about the effects of mass murder, mass emotional murder and mass betrayal. Levi illustrates how the Nazis not only killed people but would systematically destroy the selves and souls of victims before murdering them. If they could get victims to murder each other, even better. One of the chief methods of destroying souls was systematically forcing victims to betray and destroy each other as the price of surviving another minute or day. Levi contends that virtually no one survived the camps without at some point being forced to turn on other victims, throw others under the bus so to speak, saddling survivors forever with the horror that they had been inculcated, ruined, corrupted. Levi had his own story of finding a slightly leaking pipe at Auschwitz during a deadly camp-wide drought and and his enduring shame over not telling anyone else about it as other prisoners died in droves from dehydration. Levi also describes how Nazis used criminal and psychotic prisoners as henchmen and informers. I think one of the messages is that it was virtually impossible to become close to others in the camp, to form allegiances. Your survival might depend on your capacity to betray. Levi felt the most diabolical goal of the camps was to dehumanize.

    But this depressing scenario seems to be critical in setting up Levi’s main point, something he believed most survivors were left to wrestle with after escaping the camps and reentering society: that even if victims are forcibly “inculcated,” it’s a “precious service rendered to the negators of truth” for bystanders to blur the lines between victim and perpetrator. In other words, bystanders could “finish the job” of entirely destroying survivors’ souls by conveying even the tiniest slivers of the perpetrators’ ultimate end of making victims appear to be, and feel themselves to be, as guilty, corrupt and dehumanized as their killers and tormentors.

    I think it’s especially the way in which Levi grapples with the bystander effect that makes The Drowned and the Saved a masterpiece and makes the message and, within reason, applicable to any form of victimization and betrayal. We don’t put domestic abusers on trial at Nuremberg nor hang them. But there’s universal wisdom in his words. He describes the ways in which uninitiated bystanders and their ignorant, arrogant or corrupt assumptions deepened the trauma of camp survivors and led to emotional death (or actual death) of survivors. He’s so exquisitely careful in doing this, for instance rejecting the tendency to cast Nazis and collaborators as somehow genetically subhuman which carries the danger of ignoring the crucial lesson that many people, given the right circumstances, could be capable of committing heinous acts and that it’s the responsibility of everyone to guard against their own baser instincts. But again, the latter sets the stage to argue that pretending that the existence of primal darkness in everyone means that victims and perpetrators are blurred is an intellectual lie. He wrote, “I do not know, and it does not much interest me to know, whether in my depths there lurks a murderer, but I do know that I was a guiltless victim and I was not a murderer. I know that the murderers existed, not only in Germany, and still exist, retired or on active duty, and that to confuse them with their victims is a moral disease or an aesthetic affectation or a sinister sign of complicity.”

    Levi left such a discouraging testimony of human nature under duress that other historians have tried to temper Levi’s depictions. The late, great political philosopher and historian Tvetan Todorov, a great admirer of Levi, tried to find examples of allegiance between death camp prisoners and heroism. But Todorov wasn’t claiming the exceptions didn’t prove the rule that Nazis sought to inculcate and dehumanize their prey, just that there could be a glimmer of hope in those circumstances, however faint. Levi himself describes his daily struggle in the camp to see fellow prisoners as “men and not things.” Journalist Chris Hedges took things in the other direction, finding more examples to back up Levi’s claims that the Nazis’ systematic effort to cause internal betrayal among victims was a great part of the horror.

    All the above is to make a simple point. Whereas all survival experiences must be heard, does what every survivor personally draws from those experiences have equal value? What if one person uses their survival experience to silence another survivor and to dictate how to survive and overlay their own perspective? I won’t accuse Perel of using her family’s horrific experiences as a credibility shield to make up for her lack of specialized credentials in her field of choice since she doesn’t mention her family’s history in every podcast, Ted Talk, etc. But I will contend that experience, even the most brutal historic extremes of experience, does not necessarily make someone an expert on all forms of survival and betrayal. It takes a lot more than that. To argue otherwise would be to argue that it was easy to psychologically survive trauma.

    If universal truth with multiple applications can be drawn from experience, I think I prefer Levi’s takeaway that blurring the lines between victims and perpetrators is a “precious service rendered to the negators of truth.”

    Perel, if anything, blurs.

    • My father was a survivor, and my uncle and aunt. They did NOT burden their children with their experiences. (I really wanted to know what my dad had gone through, but never asked, because I didn’t want to hurt him.)

      They were also faithful, loving spouses, and doting grandparents, and reasonably happy people. I get that Perel had a different experience. No doubt the intense emotional atmosphere she grew up in led to her feeling that her interpretations of what was going on around her were TRUE. Maybe they were. But they were not the ONLY truths.

      • Thank you, NT Esther.

        I saw something slightly similar growing up but not parallel. My impression as a kid was that survivors of traumatic events had more empathy, more loyalty and were more emotionally intelligent and safer than average. Because of this, I always felt more comfortable around survivors of “something.” But I eventually found out the principle didn’t always hold. Some survivors internalize their own perpetrators. I later concluded that this must be maladaptive and not true survival. They may not have acted afraid and withdrawn, could even be “exuberant” and charming and appear deeply insightful, but it was the internalized betrayal and lack of empathy that made them the walking dead.

        Because of my attraction to survivors and probably the narc-filled industry I worked in, I’ve seen that duality more than a few times. A therapist told me that some people who endure severe trauma develop something akin to a split personality but instead of wall-to-ceiling partitions between different fragmented personae, it’s like they have office partitions. Each fragmented “self” knows the others exist. They harbor a central, organizing and sometimes evil self that “trots out” the different personalities opportunistically to get what they want from various audiences and targets. Now they’re charming and funny, now they’re serious and philosophical, now they’re vulnerable and caring, etc. Their “former victim self” may seem very real and reassuringly empathic because they genuinely had been victims at one time. But when the mask drops, the sharky organizing self can emerge.

        I figured that the “victim self” artifact was like the light from a long dead star reaching earth after millions of years. It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t mean the person had real empathy. But they fool a lot of people to the extent that these various fly trap personae were once authentic.

        It took me a long time to process that contradiction. I even worked in advocacy as a kind of continuing education program. My dad was a disabled WWII combat vet who saw enough that he didn’t want to bring children into this terrifying world until he was well over fifty and felt he’d at least come to grips a bit. He was a compulsive reader and seemed to mine books to unravel the skein of humanity (cough, apple doesn’t fall far. I’m a chronic unraveler). My mother had a busy career and was patient until she hit 45 and gave him a ultimatum about having children, then he was almost manic about fatherhood. For better or worse, he was trying to prepare the next generation to navigate an unsafe world. A lot of sports and culture activities and lectures on social justice, history and ecology. It was exhausting but I could probably survive in the jungle for months with a sewing needle and a pack of matches.

        Part of long term recovery for my dad (a lumbering agnostic Irishman) may have been hanging out at the synagogue around other veterans and camp survivors who had the same unspoken sadness about the war but also tended to use object humor and a love of culture and art as escapes. He was accepted as the odd duck and we were invited to a lot of weddings, dinners and events. I never heard a single war story until I was an adult. I don’t think he encountered a lot of survivors using “eroticism” to “come alive” either because he had a notion that Jewish men– at least the ones he knew– were better husbands and fathers.

        Not always I guess. There was one Dutch art professor and Auschwitz survivor my dad was leery about. He never said why but would look askance and say nothing while the professor played the lively intellectual. Then one day at some house party when I was a teen, the professor tried to pull me on his lap. He was enormous, had a trancey expression and I was horrified. I’d always felt perfectly safe around my parents’ circle of friends. I pried myself loose and steered clear from then on but didn’t tell anyone because it would feel like attacking a survivor. I’d had admiration and sympathy for the guy because of the stories he told (everyone) about the war but he had to be in his sixties and his wife and children were only yards away. Was that an act of exuberant defiance” or compounded betrayal and attempted sexual assault of a minor? I later thought that trancey, empty look was like peering into a tomb. He hadn’t truly survived. He only pretended to. I don’t know how my father could tell the difference but I wanted to be someone who eventually could as well.

        Perel isn’t specific whether it was one of her parents cheating or whether the ones who dragged along in life and “didn’t die” may have also been revictimized by betrayal in their marriages on top of surviving horror in the camps. The thought of it makes me profoundly sad. I can’t imagine barely surviving atrocity on that level and then enduring personal betrayal from someone who was supposed to understand but it seems likely it would feel like a fragment of the previous trauma, complete with one victim throwing another under the bus to survive. So I can’t help feeling that Perel took the intense things she witnessed and somehow codified embodying the perpetrator “a little” and is now selling it to the (mostly) sheltered masses as therapeutic. Pathological reenactment of trauma and betrayal but with the former victim playing the offender and victimizing others?

        It gives me such a chill. I need to re-read Levi to cleanse my brain.

  • An entire industry based on creating chumpery through suppressing righteous anger and honesty. As for non monogamy, if you want to agree to spread your energy via multiple partners so you don’t have to focus on creating intimacy with one… Knock yourself out. After all, jealousy and coming to prefer an outside partner, or pregnancy and STDs are concerns of lesser minds. What’s a little Monkey pox between friends? After all…. Can’t we all be both married and single? Why make limiting choices? Where’s the expansiveness?

    • To each their own, I’m with you, I’ve always been far too concerned about STDs to engage in that kind of relationship. I don’t judge, but it’s not for me. The thing I enjoy most about monogamy (when I thought I was in a monogamous relationship) was not having to worry about that stuff. When I get to a certain point with someone, I require testing and the condoms come off. I like that aspect of monogamy.

      Besides, ethical non monogamy should not be put in the same category as cheating. They are two completely different things. One requires trust, transparency, openness, and honesty. The other is all about cheating, lies, deception, and manipulation.

      I do think it’s insulting to the people who engage in those relationships to put them in those categories because it seems they’re not trying to deceive anyone. They’re not cheaters. It’s also insulting to those of us who have been cheated on to suggest it like “Oh just open up your bedroom to people and that will fix the problem” as if the problem wasn’t the person we were with being a lying snake in the grass. They don’t belong in the same discussion. Cheating isn’t about sex anymore than rape is, it’s insulting to keep having that control like it is. It’s about power, control, entitlement, and so much more.

      • The reality is that polyamory and open marriage/relationships are lies. They are delusions. They almost never work. Why do this if you want to be married? It’s the way cheaters create an “ethical” platform for having cake and….having cake. They don’t have to make choices, they get it all…until it falls apart as it always does. I don’t see poly couples staying married 30 years….20 years….10 years….even 5 years. Because it’s against human nature and it’s based on a lie. The first thing every single couple needs in every relationship is honesty – and someone has to answer the basic question…why do you want to be with other people sexually if you want to be in a relationship? Because….you DON”T want to be in a relationship. Not really. I just hate all the bullshit games that have been created to destroy traditional marriage which actually does work if people invest time, commitment and honesty and learn to make CHOICES. I don’t care if I am seen as judging people. I DO JUDGE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. How else can society work without our judging people who do destructive things to themselves and others and erode our societal institutions. We tolerate WAYYYYYY too much.

        • Yea, they never last but a lot of marriages don’t last. I would rather my ex just left instead of cheating. If everyone is aware of what’s going on they’re aware. It’s certainly a recipe for disaster but what the fuck do I know? I married a cheater. I didn’t do much better.

      • Bubbachump,

        I’m going to slightly disagree about the person who wants ethical non-monogamy. They may not be cheaters, per se, but they do (in my mind) have a big thing in common w/cheaters, which is immaturity.

        Makes me think of it as kind of a gateway state of mind on the way to cheaterhood. Simple, transparent monogamy builds intimacy skills and empathy, and tends to protect you from spreading disease.

        I don’t think ethical non-monogamy does much for improving you as a human. More likely I think, it encourages you to stay in teenage mode. Just my two cents.

        • Oh I think it’s bullshit and never works but at least they’re open about their activities. I think these days most poly people are not married. I think they just have a main person or two. Idk, I just think it’s weird but if everyone is open and no one is being deceived it’s not cheating. It’s certainly not something I would ever want but the people who want it both agree, so who am I to judge? If they’re all happy, great.

    • One statistical study reported that people in open marriages are less prone to getting and passing STDs than cheaters. It was concluded that cheaters tend to display many high risk behaviors. It might be why they also happen to croak sooner than average. Silver lining.

  • Being cheated on is traumatic and did it make me stronger? I guess, if you mean I’ll never be the same and won’t marry or live with a man ever again because I don’t ever want to commit in a way that won’t allow me to leave at the first sign of trouble. So, yes I’m stronger because I can do it all on my own. Did it make my marriage stronger? I’m divorced and he’s a lying, cheating pos so, no.

    Having PTSD makes you a fucking mess, it takes a lot of work to heal and overcome. I’m hoping I eventually will. I’m getting better, but it sucks and it’s a long road. You know what helped a lot? Getting rid of my source of trauma. So, that made me stronger, almost immediately, but I think I’d be better had I never experienced this at all.

  • My xw refused to apologize for her cheating and instead sent me a you tube video of an Esther Perel TED lecture. My ex and Esther are both worthless POS people.

    • Wherever there’s demand, someone’s going to try to profit from it and even create demand where it didn’t previously exist. From the rates of cheating, clearly Perel can depend on a large market for rationalizations and it looks like she’s trying to expand. But in a way it’s great because people expose themselves when they parrot this crap. Sort of like the old sport of parking outside the town brothel and flipping on the high beams whenever a john came or went, watch who’s lining up to buy Perel’s alibis. Then don’t hire them as accountants, don’t lend them cash or expensive machinery and don’t date them.

    • Got Played,

      They definitely are. All these cheaters are, and the people who make excuses for them.

      In the early days of my FW XW’s exit-affair oh me, I flipped between the pick me dance and wanting to do some type of damage to her and her AP. Never did the latter (but thank you karma bus for him losing his chancellor’s position and her losing her big local politician status! ????).

      The best I came up w/was realizing I still had access to her online photo library, which was updating daily still to our family computer. I found she had taken a picture of EP’s new book Rethinking Infidelity at a local bookstore (it was 2017, right when it first came out). Confirmed for me what the FW XW was thinking: she could do no wrong. She was ENTITLED. Esther Perel wrote a book about it so it must be true!

      It certainly didn’t make me think any better of either the FW XW, or EP. And that’s being very polite about how I felt (and feel) about both of them.

      I’m so sorry your FW XW actually sent you the YouTube video of EP’s TED talk (btw, what idiot at TED talks thought that was a good idea, giving EP a TED talk?). I think I would have gone ballistic. The picture of the book I discovered in the FW XW’s photo library was enough to upset me.

      Wishing you a better future without your ex, leading to peace and meh in your life, and anyone else affected by you ex’s shitty actions. I’m w/you in spirit.

      • I smell wag the dog sponsorship in Perel’s career ascension. She’s so banal other than the goofy moral relativism. Maybe the porn industry behemoth has seen a profit angle in tilting at pesky American apple pie prohibitions against adultery (which remain steady according to Gallup even as the public increasingly embraces gay marriage and single parenthood). Maybe it’s backlash to #MeToo driven by the Roger Ailes-ish and Weinstein-ish media types who pathologically try to create the world in their own pervy images. I just sense that Perel’s nonsense fits a broader agenda and she’s gotten a boost she wouldn’t have mustered on her own steam.

  • I wanted to have better & more sex with xFW, but his behaviour was never loving enough & he just couldn’t turn me on enough as a result. He tried to make me jealous that he was getting lots of sex from the AP, but him & I were hot in the sheets in the beginning too because I bought into his loving & caring image he presented in the beginning. In other words, it doesn’t last!

    • I know for a fact the sex my ex was and now is (maybe is I think he tried again and cut it off) having with his AP was terrible. He couldn’t get it up and tried viagra but still no dice. He never had that problem with me. I know this not only because he told me but because I saw the order for viagra the first order being placed the night after they first tried to have sex and failed. I threw it away when I left the house and he ordered more after they tried again and failed. I also saw the messages where she suggested multiple other options to help them and him get off. Toys, him remote controlling a vibrator for her, other stuff to make him feel more comfortable, etc. He turned it down because he was uncomfortable talking about it (of course he was). He told me she just laid there. Of course she did she’s a child, 20.

      He didn’t realize the reason why sex was great with us was me. He had become a lazy and selfish fuck over the years due to his porn addiction, so I did all the work. I was the one getting us both off. He figured since I was so great in bed he must be too. He quickly found out that wasn’t the case.

      We’ve been divorced 5 months now and the last 2 years of our marriage he wasn’t seeing sparkle puss anymore. He’s seeing her again. About a month ago he told me he really missed having sex with me and that he had sex since we divorced and it was bad. I put two and two together and realized he was seeing her again. That’s when I finally told him how much he sucked in bed and that he was doomed to have bad sex for the rest of his life. If he was having sex with anyone else I wouldn’t really care. We divorced pretty amicably after trying to work it out and I thought we got to a better place. I really just thought it was about me realize I would never feel the same way about him again and not trust him so it was best to call it quits. Once we divorced he was free to date whomever he wanted, but going back to her proved he didn’t change one bit and we didn’t get to any better place. He’s the same scumbag who cheated on me. I told him to fuck off and die and to never contact me again and have been FW free since. It feels pretty damn good.

  • Hey, Casual Geographic’s videos on YouTube have also been viewed 2M times and they also feature hilarious animalistic behavior! I’d start there and, if they don’t phase you, try Perel’s nonsense after that.

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