• The State of Affairs

  • Rethinking Infidelity
  • By: Esther Perel
  • Narrated by: Esther Perel
  • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (4,131 ratings)

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The State of Affairs

By: Esther Perel
Narrated by: Esther Perel
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Publisher's Summary

Iconic couples' therapist and best-selling author of Mating in Captivity Esther Perel returns with a groundbreaking and provocative look at infidelity, arguing for a more nuanced and less judgmental conversation about our transgressions.

An affair: It can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, and so, too, the prohibition against it - in fact it has a tenacity that marriage can only envy.

So what are we to make of this time-honored taboo, universally forbidden yet universally practiced? For the past 10 years, master therapist Esther Perel has traveled the globe and worked with hundreds of couples who have been shattered by infidelity. In The State of Affairs she asks, why do we cheat? And why do happy people cheat? Why does infidelity hurt so much? And when we say infidelity, what exactly do we mean? Is an affair always the end of a marriage?

Affairs, she writes, have a lot to teach us about relationships. They provide unusual insight into our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment. Betrayal hurts, but it can be healed. An affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage - with the same person. With the right approach, Perel argues, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.

Fiercely intelligent, The State of Affairs provides a daring framework for understanding the intricacies of love and desire. As Perel writes, "Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it is also a window, like no other, into the crevices of the human heart."

After listening to Esther read The State of Affairs, continue on as she opens the door to her office and invites you to listen in on actual couple sessions. These are unscripted conversations of real, anonymous couples grappling with infidelity from her Audible Original podcast Where Should We Begin Begin? (courtesy of Audible Originals, LLC). As you enter this raw, intimate space with Esther, we hope you find the vocabulary for the conversations you may wish to have.

©2017 Esther Perel (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The State of Affairs

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A compassionate approach

The timing of this book was perfect for me. I am going through my own story of infidelity and this book has helped me put the issues and problems that led to my partners infedelities in perspective and into a clearer context. Ester's compassionate and non-judgemental approach to infidelity helped me come to terms with the hurt my partner caused me but also my role in the crisis. I started this book thinking that I would find strategies and ways to bring the relationship together again but in fact what Esther has done for me is help show me that the relationship is over and can't be repaired. But, more importantly, she has helped me see that there can be a happy life after infidelity and it is up to me to find a way to take the sadness out of my life and move on to a happier future.

113 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Waste of money

Her podcasts and her other book mating in captivity are both five stars and awesome however this book is just listing off all the different affairs that she's come across and then ending it with one of her podcasts. Her podcast is excellent but I already heard it.

81 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Re-victimizes the victims in infidelity and almost praises the cheater for their journey of self discovery.

I never write reviews but felt compelled to do so for this book. I am someone who is in the business of listening to couples grapple with infidelity on a near daily basis. This book takes an incredibly tolerant View of the cheater. The author talks about the great things a cheater must’ve learned in their affair. The author is very empathetic and forgiving of the cheaters actions. At times I almost felt like the victim in infidelity was The person who committed the terrible act. I doubt this was the authors intent, but it was one of the major things I took away from this book. If you have been betrayed in your own personal relationship, I would definitely not read this book. Especially in the early stages of affair recovery this book will cause much more harm than good. It will be incredibly painful to hear that something that has caused so much hurt and pain was a great and even amazing thing for the person who cheated. Given my line of work, I have read over 20 books on the subject of infidelity and this particular book is definitely the most “pro cheater.” I suppose if you are a cheater who wants to justify your terrible actions, this is the book for you.

54 people found this helpful

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Anecdotal. Arbitrary and narcissistic.

The negative review is not due to the fact that I disagree with the author's "conclusions", but that the conclusions are vague, anecdotal, and represent a "study" of perhaps the most hedonistic culture in human history (and ponder why they are so selfish)? Geoffry Miller or even Kim Tallbear have written more objective, even objectively biased works that have examined infidelity and socio-sexual relations in much greater detail, examining both the individual and the impact on the collective.

The State of Affairs draws upon ideas and opinions regarding fidelity and monogamy that are not rooted in science, sociology, anthropology, or evolutionary biology. There is no comparison to other contemporary or even ancient cultures, as an analysis of their attitudes, if applicable, might cast light upon the viability of the author's thesis. Instead, we know at the end of the book exactly what we did when we started it: Relationships are hard, period. Some will survive infidelity and some will not. Every intense (be it sexual, over a long period of time, or name one) relationship is by definition difficult, and difficult to compare to any other. Add the release of oxytocin and now one has perhaps the most emotional experience in mammalian culture other than childbirth. This should have been combined with a rational approach, considering a longitudinal multivariate analysis of applicable individuals and groups. Forgiveness is wonderful if it can be achieved, but here the subtle downplaying of infidelity is where the book's narrative inches closer to, "Let do as thou wilt, be the whole of the law". And if you have made it to age 30 without unironically endorsing Alister Crowley, well, good for you. The "evidence" that infidelity should be "reexamined" as provided by the author is purely anecdotal, with about 40 examples of specific affairs filling out the second half of the book. They could have been picked arbitrarily - 40 all positive (ie the affair brought the partners closer and examined their failings in the relationship), or 40 all negative (if you have children or anyone who cares about your well being - you fit into this category), or 20 positive and 20 negative. Pick a thousand examples - it does not matter at all. The concepts drawn from Mating in Captivity extend here but do not approach a rational look at rethinking polyamory/forgiveness outside of the tired me-generation "forced monogamy is not natural" theme. This is obviously true to some degree, but the nuances are not discussed, much less fleshed out. If monogamy is not natural then why do so many of us humans do it? Brace yourself - but the results, the growth, and development socially, physically, and dare I say emotionally, of groups that practiced monogamy were noticed....and copied.

Enovid was/is not natural either. In SoA there is not one thought given to the greater cultural context of how or why we react to infidelity. Societies, cultures, social cohesion, trust, are irrelevant at the alter of feeling. There is no discussion as to the effects the author's subtle narrative might have on a tribe, culture, or nation-state. This is truly bizarre as the author's husband is a clinical psychologist who specializes in collective trauma (see Jack Saul). To borrow from Miller, "there is no polyamory without the pill". If we accept (and we all do not) that society or the quality of life of the individual has moved in a positive trajectory since monogamy evolved in the species, roughly 10,000 to 100,000 years ago: this was in part due to monogamy and it is a good thing. All of our greatest discoveries of the universe have been unlocked, life expectancy, health prolonged, mental capacity has exploded since then. If we remained "natural' and polyamorous we most likely would still be living in grass huts, dying at age 23 with 3 teeth and not smelling very good. In western culture, the nuclear family has been in decline since the adoption of the pill, with intergenerational families (the way the species evolved over the last 100,000 years) simply dead

- Pearl's approach is regressive, it is not a "new look", it is indeed the same selfish "old perspective" that the species rejected in order to evolve - to become better. But - screw all that noise, "I am going to do what I want to do." If one is looking at this book with an idea of possible justification for their hopefully future actions, think again and go to marriage counseling instead. Alternatively, if this is a subject you are genuinely interested in, there are much better academic and scientific works even for that justification. Individually or collectively, if we are "unfulfilled" emotionally or sexually, then wake up sunshine and look in the mirror. Our collective feelings and actions DO affect the world in very tangible ways. Finding balance and responsibility, individually and collectively is a better message than the endless pursuit of "happiness". Hopefully, the Me Generation's self-involved ideology too shall pass. The biggest fans of this book: divorce attorneys. But one last question to Perel: who in the hell decided our feelings were the center of EVERYTHING?

-A Sociology Professor

33 people found this helpful

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A compelling and novel look at infidelity

The State of Affairs is an insightful, layered, thought-provoking, thorough and original piece of work, and Esther Perel is pleasure to listen to. The author provides a compelling and novel exploration in an area that rarely gets an unbiased look. It takes courage to offer new perspectives on topics as contentious as infidelity, and where deeply entrenched absolutes exist. Perel's erudite, empathetic, steadying voice manages to pierce the veil of the collective unconscious and invite deeper consideration and intelligent discourse. This book, agree with the conclusions or not, will permanently broaden the landscape and our thinking around infidelity in a way that only Esther Perel can.

32 people found this helpful

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Interesting, NOT PRACTICAL, but somewhat useful

I found the front end of the book to be pretty useful, when the Author provides a nice overview of the questions surrounding the issue of "affair": what it is, why it is hard to define what constitutes an affair, how the definition and attitudes towards "affairs" have been changing over time, etc.

The second part of the book degrades to stories of affairs which may be entertaining to hear, but I did not find this part particularly useful. So what someone had this experience and someone had another experience? Not quite clear what to do with it.

Particularly the closing chapter - I found it to be not only useless, but a bit annoying. Some client talks about his or her story. The Author (being a counselor in this case) tries to frame it in terms of some fancy theories. It felt very Freudian to me. Nice theories to make it sound more complicated and scientific, none could be tested or proven.

Anyway, definitely a worthy read, but don't expect any guidance from the book. It gives very useful definitions and typologies, it tells (not very useful) stories of how things went for others, and it gives no guidance whatsoever on what to do about it.

20 people found this helpful

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This should be required reading for every relationship

There is something that is both scandalous, intriguing and upsetting about infidelity.

The question I get from this book is that infidelity depends on what a relationship is. I don’t think that many relationships really consider what the nature of their commitment and their boundaries really are.

An open mind is required when listening to this book, and a little patience given the author’s accent.

18 people found this helpful

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Disjointed not a story at all or clear direction.

Disjointed not a story or clear direction of one. Recites client experiences without any clear suggestions. Would think it would or should have more meat. Reader flat.

17 people found this helpful

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Chock Full of Great Points

As usual, Esther Perel, has a strong message that merits paying close attention to. Her keen insights to all angles of an affair was enlightening. There is no judgement in the tone of the book and no over-empathizing with the partner of the one who cheats. We need books that encourage more open conversations like this one. It acknowledges our humanity and fallibility and makes no promises that humans will ever do better. I appreciate how Esther addresses the sex addiction question. I am a believer that this is a real and debilitating disease. Perel draws no conclusion, rather she points to research and to the individuals to determine how to view the behavior. I highly recommend this book.

16 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary Peace and the Need for Book 2

Would you listen to The State of Affairs again? Why?

This book is a lifesaver and should be shared.

What other book might you compare The State of Affairs to and why?

This work stands on it's own.

What does Esther Perel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Esther's passion and commitment to touching people with views from all sides of infidelity via her own voice on audible is personal, intimate and upfront.

What did you learn from The State of Affairs that you would use in your daily life?

Wisdom on this topic to help others by referring them to the book and being there if they need an empathetic ear.

Any additional comments?

Esther's work is honest, non-judgmental, empathic, edgy, holistic, and brings forth deep unexplored feelings. It's like a thousand therapy visits in 1 book; yet what it really does is set an incredibly strong foundation/framework for you to resolve or at least come to terms with, your own personal challenge. Her research doesn't justify affairs; it instead shows empathy from all angles. Anyone who chooses to be introspective, can better understand themselves; their behavior, choices, reactions, impact and feelings. For me, Esther gave me control and power back. 18 years of stoic repressed sadness and anger was lifted because her wisdom gave me permission to feel pain. I was finally honest with myself and then with my ex-husband in a heartfelt 5 page letter that followed. Thank you Esther. No doubt you'll touch many lives in many ways with your work of art. I would only ask that your next book be for the audience of children who have had to live through the divorce of their parents; split homes; step-parents; siblings, etc. They carry extraordinary pain as noted in much research. They need feelings validated; some sense of understanding; to not feel alone; and to have a framework to express themselves. Forgiving and asking forgiveness alone doesn't fix things for people. Your talent is that you provide a powerful foundation to think deep and create a conversation. That's the medicine that heals. Your masterful talent would again touch a whole new group of people who need the insight, compassion and understanding only you can bring in your special way of research and communication.

14 people found this helpful