Letters From Esther #55: Welcome to my office. No, really.

By Esther Perel and Mary Alice Miller

Shall We Begin?


This is often the first phrase I say to people, no matter how much “the office” has changed. It’s a way of saying “I’m glad you’re here. Let’s begin.” But it’s also the perfect response to the many people who meet me, immediately share their relationship dilemmas, and then apologize when they realize that we’re not having an actual therapy session, we’re just sitting next to each other on a plane.

"It's okay," I tell them, smiling. "Welcome to my office."

I’ve had offices on trains, in the back of cabs, on long walks, and in women’s bathrooms (especially in women’s bathrooms). And starting this week, I’ll have offices on stages in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco as I travel to each city on my theater tour. (If you'd like to join me, there's still time. Click here to view the full schedule and purchase your tickets.)

“My office” can take the shape of a park bench, a 2,000-seat theater, or my podcast Where Should We Begin? which features one-time anonymous therapy sessions. I have always loved how radio invites listeners to be co-conspirators in the realm of the imagination: I provide the sound; you make the pictures. You envision the office. You paint your own portraits of its occupants. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, you often see yourself.


It helps that this tool is travel-friendly and impossible to misplace. I encourage people to imagine a better future for their relationship. I ask them to explore their sexual fantasies and their unmet desires. And I invite them to reconnect with their childlike sense of wonder. The free sense of play that transforms the woods into a fairy kingdom or a pirate’s den is the same quality that alchemizes the mundane into the extraordinary in adult life. Add some imagination (and put down the phones) and the bed you lie in with your partner every night can be a massage table, a beach blanket, or a dungeon. Play is a container for permission to explore and imagination is the source energy that fuels it.

That is the energy that has fueled what my team and I have been calling our “theater project,” for the last year. We’ve worked so hard and learned so much. When we began, we knew we wanted to do something that would shift perspectives, touch people deeply, and be fun. A few months in, a dear friend (a theater director) asked us: “There are so many different mediums that could accomplish your goals . . . Why a theater tour?” His tone indicated a sense of protectiveness: of us (it won’t be easy), of the audience (they will need to be held), and of theater itself, the sanctity and complexity of it.  


We took turns answering—everything from facilitating in-person experiences for countering social atrophy to meeting more members of my community. “It’s because Esther is a ‘theater kid,’” one of my colleagues said. I had never heard this phrase, but I understood it. I grew up recreating my mother’s romance novels in the parking lot behind our house. I studied psychodrama. I was a puppeteer. Come to think of it, it’s clear why I was drawn to a narrative approach in my clinical work. (By the way, I share more of these stories about my theater background on this week’s subscriber-only podcast episode. Click here to subscribe and listen.)

When I began the podcast, I remember saying that couples therapy is often the best theater in town: the power, the poignancy, the drama, the truths revealed. With the podcast, I bring you into my office. Now, I’m bringing my office to you. Why a theater tour? Because, we need to play together. I can’t fit you all on my couch but, in a theater, we can gather to immerse ourselves in the intricacies of love and desire. Too often, we grapple with it alone. As always, the experience I seek to create is both intimate and communal. I want “my office” to be in the middle of the public square—in real life, together, co-created, improvised, risky, and safe.

So, welcome to my office in a city near you. The show is about to begin. Get your tickets today.

Let's Turn the Lens on You

  • What was your favorite form of play as a child?
  • How has that informed your adult life?
  • What is your favorite form of play now?
  • If you wrote a thank-you letter to your imagination, how would it start?
  • If you wrote your own theater show, what would it be about? Who would be the main characters?
  • If you’re coming to one of my shows, what is a question you will bring with you?

More from Esther

This week on Where Should We Begin?, Esther sits down with her close collaborator, Mary Alice Miller, journalist, writer, and Esther’s head of content. There comes a point where the people who work closely with you sometimes end up knowing you better than you know yourself, which is very much the case here. Together, they went back to Esther’s childhood to discuss the importance of play, what makes stories so essential to us all, and why Esther has made the decision to embark on her first-ever live U.S. tour.

There is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone is often a condition for peaceful solitude and introspection. Feeling lonely, on the other hand, is an emotional, existential, and social experience that can be profoundly debilitating. Read on to learn how cultivating curiosity can make all the difference.

  • Esther Perel Gets Ready for a 3,000-Person Group Date / NYLON

An excerpt: "It comes as little surprise that [Perel] says she views each leg of [her] tour as a ‘3000-person date’ rather than a one-sided lecture. Perel even likes to source feedback on the spot from her audience, which is something her podcast fans will recognize. ‘I actually need the permission to not feel good when that's the case,’ she says. ‘And at other times, I like the permission to just be really elated because I feel that it was a beautiful, creative, rich evening. Like a perfect meal.’”

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