Esther Perel explains how to have hard conversations with your partner
What is clear is that today there are a lot more conversations that we need to have than ever before Because so many things that used to be dictated by rules and regulations are at this moment a matter of negotiation You know, do you want children? When do you want children? How many children do you want? Whose career matters most?
That was always very clear Who is going to wake up to feed the baby? That was always very clear Who is gonna pay for the restaurant? That was always very clear Who has a right to demand for sex?
That was always very clear All these things that used to be quite codified and that are normative, that are now all a matter of conversation And that's why we have many more difficult conversations that we need to have And a lot of us are still hanging onto those old ways And sometimes people are surprised by how entrenched some of the old thinking lives
Inside of them Earlier this season in our podcast we spoke to a woman whose husband was more or less impotent Mmhmm She'd tried really hard to talk to him about it; tried lots of like getaways, Viagra, sexy lingerie, and he got mostly angry and defensive It's so sensitive for both of them, and how, how do they have that conversation?
That's a great question I mean I, I spend many, many sessions with that What does it mean he's impotent? It means that we look at male sexuality through the penis If the penis doesn't perform, we define an entire man's sexuality as a result of that Is that fair? So maybe he's rapid ejaculation, but at the same time he's a wonderful kisser, he's a
Wonderful giver, he can make her come through oral sex or through manual sex or you know? I think that to take one feature of a person's sexual behaviour and to define it, and to name it as the sum total of an entire person's sexual, you know, being is a catastrophe And I say this to the man, and I say this to the woman Because that same man I want to say to him, leave your damn penis aside for a second the penis doesn't make decisions people make decisions
If the penis doesn't collaborate that doesn't mean your tongue isn't working, your hands are not working, your hair is not working, and your skin which is way bigger than your penis, it's a whole body So, I say the same thing to the woman I say, you know, if all he wanted was just penetration or just, you know, genitally driven sex, you would find that very reductionistic Why are you doing the same thing that you would actually be against?
We are entire bodies, why do we only play one string? So, I would say stop trying to make his penis obey Now let's explore what kind of sexual connection you can have together Do you see that in your couples work where a person thinks if I could just fix this one thing everything else would be OK? Yeah, I just say where did you learn that? (Laughs)
What if it's your partner and it's the way he kisses? It's a very tough one 'cause what often happens of course is that people have waited a long time before they want to say it, when they could have said it when the stakes were lower, right in the beginning They are uncomfortable because they think we just met, maybe it's going to change, it's going to get better or they don't want them to be uncomfortable or I don't know yet how
To say things And in fact, the sooner you say things the better The idea that it's going to become easier later is not always the case Because then when you say the person first of all thinks, "Why did you never tell me that before? You used to like it" "No, I didn't like it then then"
Then you're bound to say, "No, I didn't like it, but I just took it because we were just starting out and I figured, you know what, I can't be choosy for" So now then they start to think, "Well you've been lying to me the whole time" Then you say, "No I wasn't lying, I was being accommodating" "Well your accommodation is my mistake" Woah I think that some things sometimes are better said in writing
You write a note and you just say, "This is hard for me And this is probably hard for us Because it's something that I have never said and that's been with me And whenever you hear something that the other person has been thinking for a long time and never said, it's bound to kind of create a mini shock I would feel no different if you were doing this to me And yet, I believe in us and I believe that we can do better
And I believe that we have the capacity to be more honest with each other But I'd want to say it in utter respect and love for you Because there's so many things I adore about you, and I would want to say a few of them before I even write the rest" And so, then you talk about the things that you really love "And I love the way you touch me and I love the way you hold me, and I love the way you
Open the door for me and yet, there's something that I would love to love and I don't And that is the way we kiss There's something in the way that we kiss It's not about how you kiss, it's because you could kiss some other woman and she would be perfectly fine with that – or another man But you, when you kiss me, I would like something stronger, harder, softer – whatever it is
And I don't know how to say it to you because I don't know if you would accept this as, I'm trying to really say something that I think you would want to know, or if you would be offended by it and hurt by it, because maybe that's how I would feel if you were to tell me that you don't like to kiss So I'm writing this to you so that you can take this in And you're welcome to answer or not answer
But I want, I felt that I really needed to say this for us, because I think that us is stronger than my fears"