Sexual issues and difficulties in relationships are a common topic in my online counselling practice. In 2019, I wrote an article on the subject of sexual issues and recommended looking into psychotherapist and bestselling author Esther Perel’s work regarding relationships and sexuality. Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of her older works that many of my clients struggling with issues related to intimacy, passion and desire in their relationships have found useful – Perel’s first book:Mating in Captivity – Unlocking Erotic Intelligence.



Mating in Captivity - Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

Photo: Ba Tik via Pexels


Book recommendation: Mating in Captivity


“Mating in Captivity” explores the complex interplay between love, desire and intimacy and offers practical tips for reigniting the spark that may have faded over time. It can help couples become more aware of the challenges and common issues that arise in long-term relationships, such as the tension between love and desire, helping them navigate these challenges more effectively. The book encourages individuals to reflect on their own needs, desires and beliefs about relationships, encouraging personal growth and increasing self-awareness. This can, in turn, improve their relationships by fostering a stronger sense of self and an increased ability to communicate their needs to their partner. 



Practical tips for a fulfilling sex life


In “Mating in Captivity”, Esther Perel offers a variety of practical tips aimed at improving couples’ erotic life:


Prioritise intimacy: be intentional about creating opportunities for intimacy. This could mean scheduling date nights, setting aside time for physical touch, or finding other ways to connect emotionally.

Embrace novelty: to keep things fresh and exciting in your relationship, try new things together. This could mean exploring new hobbies, trying different types of physical touch or experimenting with new sexual experiences.

Create a sense of separateness: some level of separateness in your relationship allows you to maintain a sense of individuality and independence. This could mean pursuing your own hobbies and interests or spending time apart from your partner. 

Practice mindfulness: pay attention to the present moment and stay fully engaged in your interactions with your partner. This means putting away distractions like phones and other devices and being fully present when you’re spending time together. 



Who Mating in Captivity is for


Over the years, I have recommended this book to many of my counselling clients, but before you go ahead and buy it, I’d also like to highlight some of its limitations to make sure it is the right fit for you:


  • The examples in the book are largely based on the experiences of Perel’s Western, middle-class, heterosexual clients. Therefore, the applicability to a broader range of people is limited.
  • While it tries to include LGBTQIA+ and nonmonogamous relationships, it only mentions them briefly.
  • Some passages may reinforce gender bias. The author assumes that men are more focused on desire and women are more focused on emotional connection, reproducing traditional gender roles.
  • The book focuses heavily on sexual attraction and eroticism and oversimplifies the complexity of human relationships, although the author briefly mentions that sexuality may not be of central importance in some couples.


So, this book might be a good fit for you if you are part of a heterosexual, monogamous couple and are looking to improve your relationship and deepen your connection. Despite its limitations, “Mating in Captivity” is a valuable read because it takes on tough questions and offers a comprehensive introduction to the topic of sexual issues. By examining the intricacies of love, desire and intimacy in committed relationships, it provides valuable insights and practical tips that can help couples build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

While “Mating in Captivity” focuses on the challenges of maintaining desire and intimacy in long-term relationships, “The State of Affairs”, Esther Perel’s second book from 2017, is about infidelity and its impact on relationships. If you’re dealing with the aftermath of infidelity and are interested in exploring why people cheat, what it means for the relationships and how couples can move forward after an affair, I suggest looking into that one as well. I also highly recommend checking out Perel’s podcast “Where Should We Begin?” in which she talks to real couples about the most intimate and personal struggles of their relationships. 

Finally, you may also want to listen to Esther Perel’s famous TED Talk: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship






If you enjoyed this post, you can find a list of resources that I frequently share with my online counselling clients on the topic of sexual issues in this blog post. For more reading recommendations and regular mental health advice and exercises, sign up for my monthly newsletter!



Book recommendation: Mating in Captivity

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