[Review] A State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Author: Esther Perel
Sourced: Amazon for the win – $17.41, read for June’s book club.
Meows: 6 out of 5 for pushing me beyond my comfort zone, allowing me to rethink my own experiences, and maybe finding a new way to view relationships in general


Esther Perel takes us on a journey with her patients (names changed, of course) to outline the various types and factors of infidelity. Everything from sex addiction to emotional abandonment to it didn’t mean anything, Perel pulls back the curtain on infidelity and asks us to take a closer look at monogamy. It’s not just understanding why infidelity happens, but rather the role we all play and if a relationship can survive what society deems as the ultimate betrayal.


“Love is messy; infidelity more so. But it’s also a window, like none other, into the crevices of the human heart.”
page 14

“Monogamy used to mean one person for life. Now monogamy means one person at a time.”
page 41

“We used to get married and have sex for the first time. Now we get married and we stop having sex with each other.”
page 50

“We would love to think that pain is pain, democratic and universal. In fact, an entire cultural framework shapes the way we give meaning to our heartbreak…Gillian may be socially more emancipated, but her identity and self-worth have been mortgaged to romantic love. And when love calls in its debts, it can be a ruthless creditor.”
page 67

“…romantic love literally is addiction, lighting up the same areas of the brain as cocaine or nicotine. And when a lover has been rejected, the addiction remains…”
page 104

“If in the process of getting even you end up hurting yourself more than you punish the other, you gain nothing. The art of restorative justice is to elevate yourself rather than simply denigrating those who hurt you.”
page 126

“Sometimes, when we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t our partner we are turning away from, but the person we have become. We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves.”
page 156

“Can love be plural? Is possessiveness intrinsic to love or is it merely a vestige of patriarchy? Can jealousy be transcended? Can commitment and freedom coexist?”
page 262


When I first started this book, I didn’t feel as though this would be one for the permanent collection. I felt mostly horrified and very sad at what I was reading; however, as Perel shared more cases of infidelity my views started to shift–that maybe this would be a good book to come back to every year or at least after every relationship ending. As someone who has been on both sides of infidelity, many of Perel’s words resonated both in that they were uncomfortable but also true of my own feelings. Many of the quotes above capture that and while I’d love to never find myself in another fidelity issue, I know I can’t forge a guarantee.

A State of Affairs forces a perspective change because of the many types of infidelity and the volume of betrayal portrayed throughout the book–it’s not just the stereotypical scenarios (though there are plenty). In some instances, I even felt myself asking what I would do if in that situation or rethinking my own parents’ divorce as a result of cheating. However, the most important part of the book (for me) was not understanding the stages of an affair or the aftermath, but rather what a committed relationship looks like and if love can be plural. I’ve often wondered if it’s possible to find a partner who could provide the emotional and physical support I desire, but until I read this book I had never thought that maybe the answer is plural instead of singular. I’ve never been in an open relationship, I’ve never wanted to be in an open relationship, but I love that Perel has asked me to open my mind to a different type of monogamy in a very different world.

For everything written above and more, I’m giving A State of Affairs a 10 out of 10 toe beans value. Buy it, read it, keep it, mark it up, talk about it, be open to bigger ideas. I think that’s the greatest gift any author can give a reader, so thank you Esther.

(now…brb, off to read Mating in Captivity)


Has anyone else read Perel’s books? Thoughts? Like and leave a comment, please! 

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