Esther Perel

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Esther Perel
Esther Perel 2017.jpg
Born1958 (age 60–61)
Alma materHebrew University of Jerusalem
Known forconcept Erotic intelligence and book (2006)
Spouse(s)Jack Saul
Scientific career
InstitutionsNew York University
Columbia University

Esther Perel (born 1958) is a Belgian psychotherapist of Polish-Jewish descent who has explored the tension between the need for security (love, belonging and closeness) and the need for freedom (erotic desire, adventure and distance) in human relationships.[1]

Perel promoted the concept of Erotic Intelligence in her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence (2006), which has been translated into 24 languages.[2] After publishing the book, she became an international advisor on sex and relationships.[3] She gave a TED talk in February 2013 entitled The secret to desire in a long-term relationship,[4] and another in March 2015 entitled Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved.[5]

Perel is the host of the podcast Where Should We Begin?, which is based inside her therapist's office as she sees anonymous couples in search of insight into topics such as infidelity, sexlessness and grief.

In 2016, Perel was named to Oprah Winfrey's Supersoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.

Professional career[edit]

Perel is Jewish, the daughter of two Polish-born Holocaust survivors. She was raised in Antwerp and attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.[6][7] She 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."[8]

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

Perel in Boston in 2017

Perel has worked as an actress and has run a clothing boutique in Antwerp.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Perel is married to Jack Saul, Assistant Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, with whom she has two sons.[9]


Perel is the host of the podcast Where Should We Begin?, which brings the listeners inside her therapist's office as she sees anonymous couples in search of insight on everything from infidelity to sexlessness to grief. The unique format combines live recordings of the therapy session, with Perel's reflections on what she heard, and what techniques she tried.[10][11] The New York Times writes: "it feels more like an unraveling mystery story than a relationship advice show."[12] The couples include both heterosexual and same-sex couples. The first episode aired on Audible in May 2017, and became publicly available on iTunes on October 9, 2017.[13] Three seasons have been released as of December 2018. Where Should We Begin? received a 2018 Gracie Award.[14]


  • Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence (2006)
  • The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (2017)



  1. ^ Perel, Esther. "Erotic Intelligence: Reconciling Sensuality and Domesticity" (PDF). The Psychotherapy Networker, May/Jun 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  2. ^ Perel, Esther (2006). Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Harper. ISBN 978-0060753634.
  3. ^ "Unorthodox advice for rescuing a marriage". The Economist. 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ Perel, Esther. "The secret to desire in a long-term relationship". TEDSalon NY2013. TED. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  5. ^ Perel, Esther. "Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved". TED 2015. TED. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b [2]
  8. ^ A-Fest by Mindvalley (2017-11-26), In Search Of Erotic Intelligence | Esther Perel, retrieved 2018-06-24
  9. ^ Dominus, Susan. "The Sexual Healer: The Couples Therapy Expert Esther Perel Takes On Sex and Sexuality". Fashion & Style. New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  10. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (Oct 29, 2017). "The Week in Radio Podcasts: Where Should We Begin". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved Dec 31, 2018.
  11. ^ Schwartz, Alexandra (May 31, 2017). "Esther Perel Lets Us Listen in On Couple's Secrets". The New Yorker. Retrieved Dec 31, 2018.
  12. ^ Hess, Amanda (Aug 1, 2017). "The Art of the Taboo Podcast Interview". The New York Times. Retrieved Dec 31, 2018.
  13. ^ "Where Should We Begin? Podcast - on iTunes". Retrieved Dec 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "2018 Gracie Awards". Retrieved Dec 31, 2018.
  15. ^ "Meet the SuperSoul100: The World's Biggest Trailblazers in One Room". O Magazine. 1 Aug 2016. Retrieved 5 Jul 2018.


External links[edit]