We would all like to believe that affairs are the refuge of the discontented, that only people in unhappy marriages cheat. But “happy,” it turns out, is not a sufficient antidote to affair.
We may be in a golden age of marriage, when elites at least are more likely to report that their marriages are “very happy” than ever before. But the tight, companionable, totally merged nature of the modern marriage is one of the factors pushing people in happy marriages to have affairs, according to therapist Esther Perel.
In a recent New York Times profile, Perel is described as the nation’s “sexual healer,” an updated Dr. Ruth. She is the author of Mating in Captivity, which argues that in seeking total comfort, the modern marriage might be squashing novelty and adventure, which are so critical for a sexual charge. She is now working on a new book, provisionally called Affairs in the Age of Transparency, which she considers a sequel, a picture of what the stifling marriage might lead to.
I recently met with Perel in the downtown New York apartment she shares with her husband and two sons. In person, the only thing she has in common with Dr. Ruth is a strong accent, which in Perel’s case is a combination of French and Israeli.