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Esther Perel

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Known for
Erotic Intelligence

Jack Saul


Esther Perel

Esther Perel The closer the couple the better the sex Not so Telegraph

Family Studies UnitDepartment of PsychiatryNew York University Medical CenterInternational Trauma Studies ProgramColumbia University

Mating in Captivity, Mating in Captivity: Introduction

Sala Ferlegier, Icek Perel


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Esther Perel (born 1958) is a Belgian psychotherapist notable for exploring the tension between the need for security (love, belonging and closeness) and the need for freedom (erotic desire, adventure and distance) in human relationships.


Perel promoted the concept of Erotic Intelligence in a best selling book (Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence) which was published in 2006 and since has been translated into 24 languages. A talk entitled The secret to desire in a long-term relationship which she gave at TED in February 2013 has received more than 7.5 million views on TED's website as of January 2016. A talk entitled Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved which she gave at TED in March 2015 has received more than 2.7 million views on TED's website as of August 2015.

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Professional career

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Perel is Jewish and the daughter of two Polish-born Holocaust survivors. She was raised in Antwerp and attended Hebrew University. Perel grew up amongst Holocaust survivors in Antwerp, Belgium and noted two groups around her: "those who didn't die, and those who came back to life". Her observation was 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."

Esther Perel WATCH Can You Feel Love and Lust for the Same Person

Perel subsequently trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy before finding a professional home in family systems theory. She initially worked as a cross-cultural psychologist with couples and families.

Perel has worked as an actress and has run a clothing boutique in Antwerp.

Select discussion topics

TED: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

  • Why does good sex fade even for couples who continue to love each other as much as ever?
  • Why does good intimacy not guarantee good sex?
  • Why does sex make babies and babies spell erotic disaster in couples?
  • Personal life

    Perel is married to Jack Saul, assistant professor of Clinical of Population and Family Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, with whom she has two sons.


    Esther Perel Wikipedia

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