If the relationship experts on Married At First Sight have knocked your confidence in practitioners in the field, Esther Perel is here to restore your faith. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, it’s likely you’ve heard of Perel, listened to her podcast, or perhaps even read her books. With her astute observations, keen eye for detail, and ability to get couples plagued with turmoil and all manner of accusations to open up, Perel has garnered something of a global fandom, followers from around the world who take her insights as gospel (and believe us, they are that good) and are committed to using her knowledge in their own relationships – be it in the workplace or romantic.
As one of the world’s most famous couples therapist, it’s understandable that 2020 was a particularly busy period for Perel. While most could say the opposite about the Great Garbage Fire that was 2020 – the year that saw most of us confined due to lockdown – Perel was in high-demand, as the pandemic saw couples suddenly spending every minute together in lockdown, with little to divide their time and nowhere to go to have some respite from one another.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Perel opened up about just how significant the pandemic has been for relationships. “We know that disasters and crises often function like relationship accelerators,” she told the publication. “A disaster heightens our sense of mortality, of precariousness, of ‘life is short’. And when life is short, you may say suddenly, ‘Let’s move in together, let’s have a child, let’s get married.’ Like, ‘What am I waiting for?’” But you might also say: “If life is short, I’m not doing this for another 20 years.”
Perel refers to eros, a term she doesn’t simply use sexually but rather one that encompasses a “feeling of curiosity, aliveness, exploration – the happenstance, the chance encounter.” For Perel, she believes that as the pandemic begins to subside and more people get vaccinated, we’ll see a return to connecting to a healthy relationship with eros.
While some suggest that the post-Covid era will be a time of great hedonism, Perel is more cautious, believing it will be more complicated than simply giving in to all forms of decadence. Having worked with people around the world during this time, she believes people will once again seek spontaneity and surprise, but need to learn to trust again. As she suggests, we’ll come out of Covid with varying degrees of risk tolerance and each of us will be psychologically changed in different ways.
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