Our original audio series takes you into the antechamber of intimate moments.
The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives - both at home and at work.
We first met them three seasons ago in the painful aftermath of an infidelity. She was diagnosed with an STD during a routine visit to her OBGYN, leading to the revelation that her husband had been visiting sex workers. Four years later, they’re still together, but old wounds persist.
In this latest episode of Esther Calling, we meet a young woman looking for advice on how to stand up for herself in a fraught and traumatic relationship with her mother. She worries the trauma and violence she experienced in upbringing is dictating how she responds to authority figures elsewhere in her life.
In this episode of Esther Calling, Esther meets a man who’s never been in a relationship for more than five months. As he approaches age 40, he knows the reason lies with him, and not the women he’s dating. Esther encourages him to look back and see if the clues can be found in his early parental relationships. Perhaps the work starts there.
Esther says in this session, “a love story is between two people, a marriage engages an entire community of people. “ Here we see how that plays out when the relationship in question is the result of an affair; when it means the dissolution of two prior marriages and the breaking up families. How does this couple write their own two-person love story when there’s "an entire community of people" with a stake in the plot?
He prides himself on being an empathic confidante to his friends…but is it to a fault? In this episode of Esther Calling, we meet a man fed up with being the container for his friends’ relationship woes. But, he wonders, can put up barriers without losing the intimacy of those friendships?
She longs for a child, but her partner isn’t there yet, and as a trans woman she already faces other barriers to parenthood. She worries she’s letting her partner’s indecision dictate her own future happiness. She and Esther navigate the delicate dance between exerting her own wishes within the relationship, without letting the pressure shut down the conversation altogether.
When Esther first met with them two years ago, they’d recently opened up the marriage. At the time only she had ventured out, and after a lifetime of feeling her sexuality wasn’t her own, she felt an awakening. But at what expense? Her newfound freedom seemed to result in his misery. This time around, they are both exploring elsewhere, but the subject of their non-monogamy takes a backseat to other foundational stories within their marriage.
He’s in a new relationship and wants it to be exclusive, but he can’t get a read on his partner's feelings. It’s hard for him to have an open honest conversation about his needs without feeling weak, especially when he’s met with silence from her. Esther encourages him to feel confident in his vulnerability and to not mistake having needs for “neediness”.
They were married, divorced, and then married again. And with four kids between them, tensions run high. They fight about everything: the chores, the cats, who gets to tell who what to do. They come into the session with one story and Esther helps them write an alternate version.
Her new boyfriend’s wife died four years ago. Reminders of her are all over his house, from her clothes in the closet to her photos on the wall. It makes the caller feel uncomfortable and inadequate. She wonders if there’s room in his house — or his heart — for her.
In another episode of Esther Calling, he worries his desire for a serious relationship is putting women off. But early in their phone call, it becomes clear to Esther that he’s talking about a particular woman from his past. He describes his feelings for that woman as “intense”, whereas she was more ambivalent. Esther and the caller explore the question: when is yearning for someone’s unreciprocated feelings more about pride and getting what you want than it is about that other person?
As Esther says, love is at once an affirmation and a transcendence of who we are. But when one partner grows up as the child taking care of his mother is it any surprise that he experiences the romantic needs of his partner as a repeat of that same responsibility rather than an affirmation of love.
She has no boundaries, he’s walled off. And their opposing communication styles cause immediate tension in this explosive session. So much so, that Esther finds herself adding to the chorus of angry voices. There might only be three people in this session, but Esther realizes she needs at least more chairs for the in-laws whose voices and opinions are always playing in the background of this marriage.
You are invited to an intimate evening with Esther Perel. In place of this week's session we gather for a few rounds of Where Should We Begin, A Game of Stories. Over the last year to curtail the loneliness and isolation we all felt, Esther and team created a game out of the questions you often hear her ask on the podcast. So please come play a few rounds with her anonymously, of course.
Before they got together, he identified as straight and they identified as gay. What does it mean to make space for their queer identity while they date a straight man? And is that possible as they move into a more serious phase of their relationship?
For the first time on the podcast, Esther invites a couple back to her office for a second session. 10 years ago, his first wife took her own life. A year later he met his current wife and she became an overnight stepmother to four children. Three years after they first spoke to Esther, she asks them what has changed? Have they been able to revive and sustain their love despite all of the obstacles?
In a Where Should We Begin first, Esther sits down with two friends. They’ve been close for so long they feel like brothers, with all of the baggage that comes with family but none of the certainty. There are things that go unspoken between them, issues they have skimmed over in their two decades of friendship. Esther creates the space for the conversation they didn't know quite where to begin. This session was recorded in collaboration with NPR's Invisibilia and a sibling episode with Esther can be heard on their podcast this week as well.
In this second episode of Esther Calling, we meet a woman who feels she is losing her best friend. The caller feels that her friend is rushing into a marriage to someone she doesn’t approve of. During the call Esther talks her through a new way to see their relationship and where to go from here.
As a way of being able to connect with more of you, I am trying a couple of new things. Esther Calling is one of them. You write to me with a relationship concern and I call you to talk through it. These are not full sessions but conversations that I hope lead to many more after we hang up. This time there is no couch, but instead an unexpected phone call from Esther to a woman who is struggling with the differences between her and her partner's upbringing. He grew up in a comfortable suburb, she grew up having less, much less. She loves her boyfriend but wants to get past the resentment she feels towards the opportunities he’s had. Esther helps her think through how these differences might also play into new strengths between them.
Listen to the incomparable therapist Esther Perel counsel real couples as they reveal the most intimate, personal, and complicated details of the conflicts that have brought them to her door. This season Esther speaks to a constellation of new relationships: A couple wrestling with the guilt they feel over the happiness their infidelity created. Another trying to make space for their queerness in an outwardly appearing hetero relationship. A set of friends trying to sort out if their childhood friendship needs to continue into adulthood. And Esther checks back in with couples from seasons past to see where they are now as she creates a space for us to hear our own lives and struggles articulated in the stories of others. So....where should we begin? Seasons 5 episodes begin November 4, 2021.
They grew up with traumatic backgrounds, met in college and immigrated to the U.S. together. They've built stability and security, and now one of them longs for more freedom. Programming note: This conversation was recorded before the COVID-19 lockdown.
They met as religious teenagers and married as virgins. It’s the age old story -- once you’re allowed to be intimate, you no longer want to be. Deciding to open the marriage has brought about huge changes in their sex life, and ruptures in their emotional one. Esther guides them towards a new conversation without labels.
In this special series of Where Should We Begin, Esther connects with couples under lockdown around the world. In the fourth and final episode, she speaks with a couple in Lagos, Nigeria. Last summer they left everything they'd built in Seattle for a dream opportunity to expand his company and be closer to home. As the threat of COVID-19 reaches Nigeria the couple must decide if they leave and walk away from everything or risk staying.
In this special series of Where Should We Begin, Esther connects with couples under lockdown around the world. In this episode, she speaks with a couple in New York City. Two weeks before COVID-19 forced New Yorkers to shelter in place, they filed for divorce. Now they feel trapped.
In this special series of Where Should We Begin, Esther connects with couples under lockdown around the world. In this episode, she speaks with a couple in Bavaria, Germany. While others might complain about the close quarters, this couple hopes to find themselves in each other again.
In this special series of Where Should We Begin, Esther connects with couples under lockdown around the world. In this episode, she speaks with a couple in Sicily, Italy. They left each other emotionally years ago, but with three kids they have been trying to keep it together.
Almost two years ago her husband was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease. They have three kids, a mortgage to pay, and he has developed some compulsive behaviors he isn't proud of. Esther helps them learn how to turn off the caregiver, and remember they are much more than that to each other.
After a discovery in her doctor's office, a woman realizes her husband has been unfaithful. While betrayed and angry, she still feels a desire to stick it out for the sake of the kids. He, meanwhile, is desperate to find a way back to her. Esther takes them back to their upbringings and the years before the infidelities to find a place of mutual compassion.
They’ve been together for more than a decade, but this isn’t the first time they’ve separated. Stuck in a cycle of explosive escalations, a husband and wife want to make it work but can’t break their habit of going for the emotional jugular. Esther encourages them to start their conversations differently.
What began as an eight-year affair between two women has stretched into a 19-year partnership. But despite their private commitment to one another, they’ve never quite managed to move beyond the shame of their origin story. Esther takes a novel approach to revealing a long-held secret.
A young couple has endured a series of crises early in their marriage, from a benign brain tumor to a serious car crash to the husband’s near-fatal heart attack. Following his recovery, he’s adapting to new physical limitations, while she says the children bear the brunt of his frustrations. Esther coaches them through an honest conversation on anger, parenthood and the power of apology.
An on-again, off-again couple in their fifties, dating in a post-divorce landscape, are struggling with different world views, priorities and sexual interests. Recognizing that their polarized dynamic takes the fun out of spending time together, Esther guides both towards less rigid perspectives.
After ten years, a husband tells his wife he no longer wishes to be married. A month later, stuck in limbo, they come to Esther. She helps them have an honest conversation about their expectations, desires, and the ways in which their role as parents has left little room for intimacy.
A husband and wife are united in their desire to help their daughter, two years after she suffered a breakdown and moved home, shutting herself off from her family and friends. Esther urges them to examine the way pressure and expectations – no matter how well-intentioned – can shape a child’s upbringing.
A couple with two small children are at physical and emotional odds in their relationship. One has given herself over entirely to the children, while the other struggles to find her place within the family dynamic. Esther helps them reframe each of their roles in terms of what they uniquely contribute.
One is the creative guy, the other runs the business. While their bakery is thriving, their relationship is falling apart. How much of this has to do with the fact that they don't show the same love and attention to one another that they show to their macarons? Esther helps them sort our their romantic selves so they can sort out their business.
They are identical twins, inseparable since the start of life, now too in business. One brother has dreams of pursuing a career on his own, but is afraid of being left behind. While the other has never realized quite how much he leaned on his twin. Esther helps them rewrite the history of their partnership so they can move forward on a new path.
A large and scattered network of journalists meet for a virtual session with Esther. Over the past year, they've reported on the biggest stories of their careers, but they are burned out, isolated, grieving, and disconnected from the very thing that supports and energizes them all: their newsroom.
From day one, they’ve described their relationship as “tumultuous." One is new to the workforce, the other is new to this particular workplace. One manages the other. And while they like each other on a personal level, they clash over their fundamentally different approaches to getting the job done.
Married for ten years and co-owners for seven, they bring their home dynamic to work with them. Their employees are sick of the fights and the struggles for power and control, and so are they. Meanwhile, she also worries their roles at their gym have been divided along gender lines.
He’s a doctor, she works for the government. Her job is one thing on paper, and another thing in secret. He wants to leave his job, but doesn’t know how. When their busy careers come crashing to a halt because of the pandemic, they face a new reality at home. Who gets to be the one to leave a job during uncertain times? And can they rely on their 19 year marriage for stability and support?
Husband and wife who are co-owners of a winery and restaurant. He loves the colleague that she is at work, but he likes less the wife she is at home. As their marriage ends, they wonder if the future of their business depends on the future of their marriage.
They’ve been hairdressers for many years in a job that feels like a cross between salesperson and therapist. They vie for new clients and commissions while absorbing the anxieties, frustrations, and burdens of their regulars. How they each handle this balance is a study in contrasts.
She’s been unhappy at her job for more than 20 years and doesn't know how to leave. Her sister, a successful entrepreneur, wants to help, but this only makes her feel less-than. Family tensions and resentments, both at home and at the office, keep her frozen in place. Esther walks the sisters through an exit plan.
She owns a successful restaurant. He was her bar manager for six years. Now they’re going into business together as co-owners of a taqueria. They turn to Esther for guidance on how to transition from employer-employee to partners in a new venture. But they walk away with a deeper understanding of the ways their different cultural backgrounds and previous working relationships influence their partnership.
They were mates in university before co-founding a successful communications company. They still work together from different coasts, but they barely speak. One wants to move on; the other is grasping for his former friend. Neither can find the words to talk about it.
She started a real estate company 30 years ago. Her son, who calls himself a Mama’s Boy, recently joined the business. They think their close mother-son relationship hurts the brand. With Esther’s help, they start to explore the many gender and familial biases at play...both in the office and around the family dinner table.
Friends and fellow dancers at a strip club: one brings years of experience, the other a youthful energy that turns angry at times. They’re here to talk about boundaries that are crossed, educating “civilians" about their work, family acceptance, and how they'll transition from the sex work industry into professional careers. Can sex work be a bullet point on a resume?
They flew fighter jets together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then they co-founded a successful business. Now, for the first time in their adult lives, they’re ready to part ways professionally, but they don’t know what their lives would look like without their "brother of choice." Side-by-side on Esther's couch, they talk about letting go of the fierce loyalty bonds forged in the cockpit.