They started out full of hope. Now, two years later, the slightest hint of conflict leads to, This isn’t going to work. Time for greater nuance beyond their fight-or-flight response.
Episode 5 of Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel features a gay, interracial couple spiraling out of intimacy as they reenact family traumas of mistrust and abandonment. One partner fears he’s not equipped for being in a relationship. For the other, the dread is not being enough. Following their ever-escalating arguments, they fight, attack, defend, pursue, and withdraw.
In I Can Be Strong And Be Taken Care Of Esther invites a more layered look at the legacy of racism, homophobia, family violence, leaving, and caregiving that today entraps them and risks rending them apart.
What to listen for in this episode of Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel:
- Relationship anticipations—Am I good enough? Is this really going to work out?—can manifest as black or white, this or that. Yet our relationships are much more dynamic. Ditch the binary and create a layered lense of “this, that, and something else” to enable greater flexibility in shaping responses when conflict arises.
- When are clashes a healthy part of learning and unlearning behaviors to build compatibility, and when are they a sign of incompatibility? How to differentiate? The answer isn’t stonewalling.
- How good am I at loving? How lovable am I? Does my past control me? At first glance, asking these questions may send some straight to the eject button. With a simple reframe, they become three fundamental questions that push us to look at ourselves and continue to grow and change for the better.
- The longing to meet someone who will love your authentic self is invested in self-acceptance.
- For children who became the parents of their parents or grew up taking care of themselves largely alone, love is sometimes experienced with burden—and the words I want to feel closer can sound like take care of me.\
- One partner requires emotional connection in sex. The other desires physical intimacy without the responsibilities and worries conflated with caregiving. Where to go from there? The first step toward squaring away such primal differences and sustaining the relationship is to develop a new understanding around sex and how it reflects our deepest emotional needs.