Esther Perel with Abby Wambach & Glennon Doyle, and Tamika Catchings & Parnell Smith | 2018 MAKERS Conference
Esther Perel, Psychotherapist and Author, talks sex and relationships with Abby Wambach, Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup Champion, and wife, Glennon Doyle, Author and Founder and President, Together Rising, and Tamika Catchings, former WNBA player and Co-Founder, Catch the Stars Foundation, and husband, Parnell Smith IT Solutions Analyst, HealthX
- So, just quickly, Esther-- most of you know who she is-- she's a Belgian psychotherapist from New York, a "New York Times" best selling author of the "State of Affairs" and "Mating in Capitivity"-- sounds so fun. Her celebrated TED talks have garnered 20 million views and she's also the host of the popular Audible original podcast, "Where Should We Begin?"
So where should we begin? By bringing our on up! Esther Perel!
[MUSIC - CAMILA CABELLO, "HAVANA"]
ESTHER PEREL: OK. So let me ask you very-- can I get a little bit more light in the room. And tell me, just very briefly, how many of you would say that you are currently in a relationship, in a primary relationship? Just raise your hand. And how many of you would like to be in a relationship? And how many of you would like to be out of the relationship you're in? At least once a month, let's be honest.
So you see we all live in networks of relationships. We all live in network of connections and the bonds and the connections that we make with others provide us the greatest source of happiness, of joy, of well-being, and of meaning. And so what I would like for us to have this evening is a conversation about one of our relationships, which is our intimate, our romantic relationship.
It's not the only one that we are in, by far, but it is the one that has undergone the most extreme makeover in the last 100 years. Friendship hasn't particularly changed too much. Sibling relationship hasn't altered too much, but the couple is undergoing such a rapid shift. The norms are literally changing under our feet.
And for so long, things were rather clear-- relationships were regulated by duty and obligation. And we knew how we had to talk to each other, what was expected from every gender, how the husband talked to the wife, the wife to the husband, and the others didn't have a chance to marry.
But now we have more choice and more freedom than ever and we also have a lot more uncertainty and a lot more self-doubt. And for the first time since we are not ruled by the rules, the only thing we have available to us are meaningful and brave conversations.
So I would like to invite Glennon Doyle, and Abby Wambach, and Tamika Catchings, and Parnell Smith to join me for a conversation about relationships.
[MUSIC - EMOTIONS, "BEST OF MY LOVE"]
ABBY WAMBACH: Hey everybody.
ESTHER PEREL: You know, I thought I would give you first a basic question, just to kind of get us in the groove. But the rule is going to be this, everything can be said and nothing must be said. So this is the way it is in my office. I'm a couple's therapist, I'm a practicing therapist. I ask all kinds of questions and sometimes people say, that's a weird question and I say, let me ask another one.
So, you know, but my mind runs wild. And the classic question in light of what we talked about today would be to say, how do you balance between your work lives and your relationships, between the personal time and the time for the couple, or maybe there are other members of the family. What's the balancing dance? And between your other endeavors that you may be involved in. So that's the basic question.
And here's what we're going to do-- we're going to do it short, because on all of these things one can tell a long story and we live in our stories, right? So on occasion I may just say, I got it. When I say I got it, it just means you made your point. Sometimes we repeat ourselves three times--
ABBY WAMBACH: Oh man, I am in trouble.
ESTHER PEREL: I'm right next to you, I'll help you. So how do you balance? We have this whole day of people doing all these amazing things, they all have a home life of some sort-- some of them with others at home. What's the balance?
ABBY WAMBACH: That's a good question. Glennon and I, we've been married since May and we have three children, Glennon had three children before I came into the family, and I think that the balance thing is something that I'm now learning with family. I was always on the road playing on the national team. I played soccer and traveled the world and now that I'm more grounded-- you know, we still do a lot of work on the road-- but having the family is been something for me that I've had to really continually train myself to remember that I have to be home and when I'm home, I have to be completely present. And that's definitely something that's a value of our family, a foundation that we're trying to shape.
GLENNON DOYLE: Yeah, and we have an amazing situation because I'm divorced, so we have three parents-- like, I don't know how the hell anyone does it with two parents anymore. We have this situation where we get to be really on an amazing parents with the kids and then they leave, right? And I feel like I'm supposed to be really upset about it but sometimes I'm just like, bye.
I feel like Macauley Caulkin, you know, I'm like, I made my family disappear. I made my family disappear. Too much information. Go ahead.
ESTHER PEREL: Got it.
PARNELL SMITH: Tamika and I have been married for going on two years tomorrow.
PARNELL SMITH: So she travels a lot with her job and I'm pretty busy with mine as well, so I believe the balance that we have comes at night whenever she gets home and when I get home as well to spend that time together. But it's pretty tough, but I think we do a good job of making it work, so--
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: And I would agree. I think the biggest thing-- can you hear me? Yeah, I think the biggest thing is when I get home, finally like being able to put my computer away, which is very, very hard for me and I'm always on and I got like 10 jobs right now. So trying to keep up with everything, trying to keep up with email, but then also making sure that I spend time with them and that I'm available and care for him, because I think that's really important too.
ESTHER PEREL: Knowing what you know about you, Tamika, what would you say is something that makes it hard to live with you?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I expect a lot.
ESTHER PEREL: So let me frame it a little more. It's not what he would say. It's not what Parnell would say. It's what you who knows yourself. What do you know would make it hard on occasion, let's say on occasion.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I expect a lot. I think I'm a higher achiever in every single thing and I think just Abby, that's what you as an athlete, as an elite athlete, every single day from the time that I was, I don't know, sixth grade, seventh grade, I made the goal to be a professional athlete--
ESTHER PEREL: Yeah, but that doesn't mean you're hard to live with because you expect a lot. You're hard to live with if you expect too much from others who don't do as much as you. You're hard to live with if when they do it, it's not good enough, not because you yourself expect a lot. So is it hard to live with that? Or is it--
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Interesting.
ESTHER PEREL: I'll be back.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Let me think about that.
ESTHER PEREL: And you can all think about that question too.
PARNELL SMITH: Yeah, I'll defer.
GLENNON DOYLE: She's deferring, that's amazing. I think that in my previous relationships that I have been-- I thought I was just being like a really good leader of my family, but I've come to understand that it might be a little bit controlling. I feel like I have really good ideas about how everyone should behave.
ESTHER PEREL: And you let them know.
GLENNON DOYLE: I do and it's always worked out for me and it suddenly has stopped. And I'm not the boss of Abby. And it's been really interesting because-- and she knows all of the things that I do when I don't think other people know that I'm manipulating the situation to control it-- she knows all the things.
And so it's been an interesting experience for me to try to take control out of love, which has made me realize that I don't think I've ever really loved before because I've been shaping things. I actually have considered that maybe love is just the opposite of control.
So it is a huge journey for me. My sister actually was saying that she's noticed it in other parts of my life, that I'm like letting other people be the boss of themselves too. So I find it a beautiful exercise and I also just exhausting to let things be. But I love you.
ABBY WAMBACH: I love you too.
GLENNON DOYLE: So much. And you have good ideas.
ABBY WAMBACH: Well, a little bit different--
ESTHER PEREL: And she's the expert on those ideas, too.
ABBY WAMBACH: Yes.
GLENNON DOYLE: Apparently.
ESTHER PEREL: But that's not the definition of letting other people know.
GLENNON DOYLE: Wait, what?
ESTHER PEREL: If you are the one who tells them when they have a good idea, that is not exactly the definition of letting them know.
GLENNON DOYLE: OK, well I'm sorry. I'm just doing the best I can, a little bit at a time. I'm not trying to be the GOAT of not being in control. Not trying to be an Olympian about it, just trying to be sweet.
ABBY WAMBACH: That's good. I think something really small that has come up for Glennon and I, that I am finding myself really frustrated with myself about, you know, I think that whenever we talk about higher love, Glennon and I want to try to, we're always trying to attain a different way. We've both come from previous marriages and having this sense of higher love is really important to us and cultivating that feels almost impossible in moments.
But I am a totally non-confrontational person and so sometimes I have a way of trying to get my information across to her by teasing her and making jokes in front of other people. I mean, it's not funny, right? Because first of all, sarcasm is just like a mean way of trying to tell the way you really feel about something.
And I found this really interesting that she's kind of pointed it out to me that that's a way that I've kind of lived in the sport world. It's how I was able to get information that might be a little bit hard for people to hear across the table or across the field or whatever because it's faster, it's a little harder, a little harsher. But that's something that I'm really trying to work on not doing. I want to have this higher love with Glennon and that's something that I find myself doing too often. And for me, it's like a moment of uncomfort, like a silent moment usually when I'm trying to fill a space.
ESTHER PEREL: But you know, I was teasing you Glennon, but there's two things I was thinking when you were talking. What is initially attractive, because it is different, is often the source of conflict later because it is different. But even when you look at the thing that may make us harder or difficult to live with, it is often also from that same place.
If I was to ask you what is a resource about relationships that you bring with you, I could imagine you talking about that careful attention to detail as to how things are done, to how other people are feeling, and you would not call it control, you would call it attunement and care and attention.
GLENNON DOYLE: That's all I'm saying.
ESTHER PEREL: You understand?
GLENNON DOYLE: I agree, 100%.
ESTHER PEREL: If I ask the question as a resource, you answer the same data with a different affect. If I answer the question as it's hard to live with, you're turning it into an issue of control. Context makes all the difference. This is for all of you. They're just here to facilitate your session.
ABBY WAMBACH: You're welcome. You're welcome.
ESTHER PEREL: But you know, but that is a question I'd love to ask. You know, and maybe even Parnell for you to start. What's a resource about relationships that you bring with you?
PARNELL SMITH: Well, let me start by one thing that I need to work on, which is communication. I get in trouble every now and again because she'll be overly detailed, you know, in something as simple as a text message, and I don't give enough information in mine and I get in trouble for that.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Not in trouble, just communication.
PARNELL SMITH: Yeah, but as far as what I think I bring is the love aspect. I think I really do a good job of supporting her with, you know, whatever it is she's trying to do and, you know, just be that rock for her. And I think that's the biggest thing that I bring to the table.
ESTHER PEREL: They say that what doesn't kill you strengthens you. What would be a challenge, if any, that you have gone through in your relationship?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Challenge?
ESTHER PEREL: Yeah.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think challenge for me is sometimes being vulnerable. You know? Being able to express everything that I feel and, you know, the likes and the dislikes and being superficial, I can communicate, but when I really get to like topics that really matter, I shy away and kind of like Abby, you know, sarcasm. Yeah, I think just being more, being able to talk about deeper stuff and not shy away from it.
ESTHER PEREL: Any challenge, you would say?
GLENNON DOYLE: Yeah, I'll go. I feel like just getting to each other was a huge challenge because I had to get through a divorce to get to Abby and I had this narrative in my head that divorce was going to be the worst thing in the world and should be avoided at all costs that would screw up my kids forever. And so I didn't do it because I thought it would break my middle daughter.
And I just remember one day looking at her and thinking, OK, I'm staying in this marriage for her but would I want this marriage for her? Which just kind of shifted everything for me and I thought--
ESTHER PEREL: Sorry, can I repeat that? I'm staying in this marriage for her, but would I want this marriage for her? I think that's a beautiful nuance.
GLENNON DOYLE: Thank you. And so, you know, I just decided, OK, so it's not my job to like show her how to slowly die. You know, it's my job to live for her. What? What happened? Did I say something wrong? Am I being controlling?
ESTHER PEREL: No, you just spoke truth.
GLENNON DOYLE: Oh, OK.
ABBY WAMBACH: Am I being controlling.
GLENNON DOYLE: So, anyway, the wild part about that challenge is that this little girl that I thought would be broken by this, I walked her through it and it was as hard and traumatic as you would imagine it would be for a little one and she's come across the other side just this like fierce little thing. Just this challenge that I thought would break her has made her. You know, she's a kid who now doesn't have to avoid every fire of life because she is fireproof.
ESTHER PEREL: But you know, it's interesting because you everybody laughed, but I said you speak truth when you say it's not my job to teach her to die slowly. I have always thought when I see couples that there are couples who are not dead and there are couples who are alive. And to not be dead doesn't yet mean the same as to experience a sense of vitality or aliveness in your relationship, which is kind of what I've devoted my life's work to.
So that notion led me to think of a question that I want to try it out with you, because it's a question that I find is very dear to me when I try to understand relationships. I find that often in a couple there is one person that is more in touch with the fear of losing the other and one person that is more in touch with the fear of losing themselves.
GLENNON DOYLE: Damn, Esther.
ESTHER PEREL: Let me continue. Meaning, that often there is one person who is more in touch with the fear of abandonment and one person who is more in touch with the fear of obliteration. Or one person came out of their childhood needing more space and one person came out of their childhood needing more protection.
Of course, these people find each other, right? We all have both, but we sometimes farm out the harder part to the other person.
ABBY WAMBACH: That's good.
ESTHER PEREL: So we often we partner with someone whose proclivities will match our vulnerabilities. Which one would you say you are if this applies to you?
ABBY WAMBACH: I'm clearly-- I am very overt in saying this, I'm fine saying this aloud-- I have a total fear of abandonment. I grew up in a massive family, I'm the youngest of seven kids. And I feel sorry for Glennon at times, because whenever we get into some sort of fight, she's taking care of maybe the issue, but she's also having to worry about my deep, deep, deep, stuff that I'm so afraid that she's going to leave me, so she can't really ever be super mad at me. So I feel bad for her a little bit. So that's for sure mine.
GLENNON DOYLE: It's a good strategy for her. Well, I think it's interesting-- I have a little bit of fear of losing myself, but that's because the second I married Abby I became Abby Wambach's wife, so actually did lose a little bit of myself. I don't know, I mean, I think that we do have that moment in every fight or argument where I have to say this is not about this-- no one's leaving anyone ever. You know, yeah, I don't know. Do you think I have a fear of losing myself? I'd get lost a lot.
ABBY WAMBACH: I don't know. We'll have to-- what did you say? Mine that?
GLENNON DOYLE: Yeah. We'll mine that. How about you guys? Little quiet over there. So just wondering.
PARNELL SMITH: I would say that I have more of a feeling of losing myself more so because I'm the type of person that I like to have my space. So when I get home from a long day at work or whatever, I just need some time to clear my head and, you know, go to the basement, just hang out.
But often times--
ESTHER PEREL: How long do you stay in the basement?
PARNELL SMITH: No comment. I would say roughly an hour or two hours.
GLENNON DOYLE: Two hours.
PARNELL SMITH: But I'll get in trouble for that. So I think I've done a good job. But I would say myself.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I would say for me, it's losing myself too. I think a lot of it is because we come from a divorced family and so, you know, one of the things, and looking at my mom. It's weird because when we did the people's supper yesterday, we talked about it at our table, but our mom and dad were divorced. My sister is here as well. And so I think just watching her, you know, my dad was a professional basketball player and so, she literally stopped her life to cater to him.
And so, you know, when you think about female role models and you think about your parents, you know, it was really like she cooked and cleaned and took care of us. And so it wasn't really that she put herself out there and so I think for we have grown up as strong women, but more than that, more than that, we will never rely on a man.
And so you know, trying to find that balance-- so like he is an amazing guy. And, you know, I'm so lucky to be his wife and that he chose me, but also being conscious of, you know like I have always been like, oh, I'm superior, and I can do this and I can do it all by myself. But really trying to take a little bit off of that of being able to lose myself for him.
ESTHER PEREL: I'm aware of time. So I'm going to as you one last one. In the previous session, they were talking about sex and at one point they kept talking about, you know, what you do, what you do. And by the way, for the pleasure thing for the women, the CDC took the word pleasure out of the definition of sexual health in the past three years, which WHO still has.
But I was thinking, I actually think that it would help us if we didn't think so much about sex as something that we do, but more about sex as a place where we go. And where we go inside ourselves and where we go with another or others, i.e., it's a language, and so the question is, where do we go? Where do you go in sex? What parts of you do you connect with there? Is it tenderness? Is it surrender? Is it aggression? Is it power? Is it spirituality? Is it a transendence? Is it naughtiness? It's like, what's the language for you?
ABBY WAMBACH: I think that for me, I've never been uncomfortable or insecure talking or talking about body parts or sex, I think for me and Glennon, I find myself recreating a whole world in and around the subject. It's not about what we're doing in the bedroom, it's like what's happening throughout the entire 24 hours of our day. You know, she brings me coffee every morning, like, that is sex to me. I'm serious and I value that. And that's the kind of thing that's like foreplay, whatever you want to call it, that will lead into something at some point.
So I feel like sex for me is just the world that is continually a creation with every action, with every decision, with every moment.
ESTHER PEREL: I typically say that foreplay starts at the end of the previous orgasm.
ABBY WAMBACH: That's good.
ESTHER PEREL: Are you OK if we let other people into the conversation?
ABBY WAMBACH: Sure. Are you guys OK?
ESTHER PEREL: And maybe we can add a little bit more light so we will see each other as we speak.
ABBY WAMBACH: I don't know how they all got off from answering that question.
GLENNON DOYLE: I know. I was so excited to talk about sex. I just figured it out like a hot minute ago. That's OK.
ESTHER PEREL: Do it, do it. I just-- go ahead.
GLENNON DOYLE: Oh no, I'm just really excited about sex in general. I didn't understand it my whole life and I just figured it out like a year ago. So like I've been thinking something was wrong with me my whole life because I hated sex, but I think that there was just something wrong. There wasn't anything wrong with me. I just had the wrong outer circumstances.
ESTHER PEREL: But before a woman thinks there's something wrong with her, I typically would say start first by trying out a different partner.
GLENNON DOYLE: That's what I did.
ESTHER PEREL: Then we'd say--
GLENNON DOYLE: All fixed. No more therapy needed.
ESTHER PEREL: With a different partner, comes a different story.
GLENNON DOYLE: Just marry a girl, it will be fine.
ESTHER PEREL: Ladies and gentlemen, join us, your questions and keep them as questions. Yes? I suppose I have to come to you.
ABBY WAMBACH: Who is going to brave this?
ESTHER PEREL: All right. Yes?
ABBY WAMBACH: Anybody have a question? This is now awkward. I'll give you an autograph. Oh, god. Sophia!
- I'll take one for the team. These are my friends. OK, wow, there's a lot of people here. Hi guys. Yeah?
ESTHER PEREL: Here's what we're going to do, we're going to take four or five. And then we'll have a theme. We'll see what are the themes. We're not just going to do one one. So--
- So you mentioned that the CDC took pleasure out of the definition of sexual health. And as everybody's talking about it, you come to your definition of pleasure as you age, as you go through experiences, as you eventually find the right partner. How do you think that we start to distill some of the hard won wisdom that we've gained with age and start figuring out how to weave it more into our societal fabric so that girls aren't feeling so ashamed and so embarrassed in their teens in their 20s. It's not taking them until they're 35 or 45 to figure it out.
ABBY WAMBACH: Good question.
- You know, what are the ways that we support this simple yes of sexual pleasure because I think that's what's really tied into the relationship health and romantic safety as well.
GLENNON DOYLE: Thank you, Sister Sophia.
- Glennon, first and foremost, you should know I too was confused and figured it out much later in life. That my wife. We got married in October.
GLENNON DOYLE: We once were blind, but now we see.
- And for Abby, she brings me coffee every morning. I'm completely in line with you. I would love to just hear from you guys. It took me a long time to figure out what intimacy meant for me, which had a lot to do with actually holding hands with my wife and just random things like that. Would love to just hear from you guys, from your perspective, how you guys define intimacy and how you guys stay intimate because you're all so busy with your careers and what not, so would love to just hear that from you from all of you.
ESTHER PEREL: One more.
- How do you know that you found the one?
ESTHER PEREL: OK, so we have a question about how do we come into our own before we without having to wait 50 years about it and develop a different confidence that is maturation and developmental, but start earlier on. How do you define intimacy for you and how do you sustain it? And how did you know that you were the ones, if you ever thought about each other as the ones? Which or a one? Or the one for now?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: We can answer any of them?
ESTHER PEREL: Yes.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: All right, I think for us even thinking about intimacy, you know, because I'm so busy and he's busy too, but really it's just I like to touch him and like he's probably more touchy feely, but even if we're like laying on the couch, you know, just like our legs will touch or our arms will touch, or something will be touching. Like I enjoy that, of course, that kind of leads into other things down the road, but sometimes, but I think, you know, for me it's really about feeling him and him being around or even if I'm on the computer, like I still want him to be right there and not downstairs in the basement. I don't want to go in the basement for two hours.
ESTHER PEREL: That basement will never be the same.
PARNELL SMITH: That's true.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: We should've never got it done.
PARNELL SMITH: I agree. We do have different love languages, which can be a little bit difficult sometimes. I am more of a touchy feely type person and she's more, she likes to hear words of affirmation and something else, but-- It's the little things for me. You know, guys are more visual, so things throughout the day can, you know, make me feel a bit more intimate, which leads to more things down the road, so.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: So I'm not doing a good job, basically. So this is a great conversation.
PARNELL SMITH: No, not at all. You're doing a great job.
GLENNON DOYLE: So sweet. Do you want to answer one? What do you think?
ABBY WAMBACH: Go ahead.
GLENNON DOYLE: Well, I mean, I think of intimacy as attention, like any time when we're actually paying close attention to each other and not phones, not kids, not TV, whatever. But the one, how do you know it's the one, the way that I knew that Abby was the one was I think like the year before we met, I went through this really hard time in my previous marriage where there was infidelity and a lot of things that went on and it happened all very publicly.
And so everyone had an idea of what I should do, you know, what I should do, what I should do. And in order to stay sane I had to like get really still and for the first time hear my own voice and stop looking outward for other people to tell me what I wanted and what I should do but to start hearing from myself for the first time.
And so I practiced that every day for a year to decide how to walk through my infidelity and divorce. And so I just practiced it and I started actually hearing from this voice inside myself for the first time and trusting that voice and doing whatever the hell that voice wanted to do without explaining myself or asking permission first.
And I started trusting myself so much that, you know, when Abby walked into a room I had never, ever kissed a girl before and I had never even considered that this would be a possibility in my life and she walked into the room and that voice, I heard in my body, my soul, everything, there she is. It's just there she is.
And I was like, OK. I just trusted-- it made no sense-- and I just trusted that voice because it hadn't led me wrong yet. And so I've-- I didn't even believe in love, much less love at first sight, right-- but I knew from the first, I don't know, maybe minute that I met her that we would be together forever.
So good luck, I don't know, find an Olympian and just get divorced and--
ABBY WAMBACH: Yeah, I mean just to answer Sophia's question a little bit, a little story. We actually, when I first got into our family unit, you know, we have these three children, Chase is 15, Tish is 11, and Ammon's 9, and as a biological parent you have like your way of parenting and I just kind of got thrown in, I was like insta-mom. This is intense. And I remember having this conversation with Chase one day on the couch, and the word dildo came up.
GLENNON DOYLE: Oh god, I remember that. Jesus.
ABBY WAMBACH: And the look on her face was like, oh no. And I was like, well, am I not supposed to talk about this stuff?
GLENNON DOYLE: The word dildo came up because you said the word dildo. Somebody was yelling dildo in our house.
ABBY WAMBACH: Here's the deal, what I said to her, I said would you rather have him learn this stuff here at home and be educated on it and know what's to come whether it's from him or his friends, so that he has the information to make the decisions that he wants to make. I mean, it's a lot like what Jessica and Sandra were saying earlier, the more you can talk about your bodies, the more you can talk about the actual acts of sex or the way you're living your sexual lives, the less shame it will have. And that is the most important thing because we all have the same stuff, essentially, and we're trying to figure out how to co-exist and sex is a part of that. And I think that the shame is what, you know, what Glennon always says, is what takes us out of the game.
ESTHER PEREL: So I'm going to take a quick stab at those three as well. I was thinking Sophia when you asked the question, but now when Tamika was saying, you know, and I touch there is an intimacy in that touch and sometimes that touch leads to more and you were all laughing.
And I thought, the day that confidence that you're talking about is there, there won't be that kind of laughter. It's a laughter that is uncomfortable. It's says, oh, what's happening afterwards. You know, and there is a that transgressive quality of the forbiddenness of it all that you want but can't really admit that you want and yet in long term relationships, the only thing that will preserve sexuality is that it is willful and intentional and premeditated. It doesn't just happen. Whatever's going to just happen already has.
So intimacy, I think one of the very interesting things about this word in the recent years, is that it really has taken on a whole new meaning and it's kind of into-me-see, is what intimacy has become. Intimacy was what--
And the reason why it's so important is because this is the first time in the history of human kind that the survival of the family depends only on the emotional quality of the couple. That's it. There's nothing else holding a family together than how well is the couple doing. And so this into-me-see has become a central feature of communication, of reflection, of presence, of attention, what you're talking about.
You know, for many people, especially makers and doers, that quality of attention is often given to your critics and your clients and people bring the leftovers home.
GLENNON DOYLE: That's good. Say that, Esther. Retweet.
ESTHER PEREL: I'll be back. You know where to find me. You know, but seriously, I think we all know it. We all know when we are giving half attention to the people at home, when we're with our phones in hands, when the phone is the alarm clock, when you can bring the coffee and actually really sit and sip the coffee together and check in and say hi, how's your day, what's your plan? And you can take the coffee and in the other hand hold your phone and just still say thank you and then be half already somewhere else.
And you know, if people treated their partners like they treat their clients, marriages would do a lot better because you respond immediately and with charm and wit and a lot of other things to your clients. You know, the way that we don't necessarily put the effort in in the home.
And the thing about the one and only, I think it's such an important question to do because we call our one and only these days, the soul mate, and for most of history when people talked about the soul mate it meant god, not another person. And romantic love has really replaced in our secularized society, that which we used to live to look for in religion-- transcendence, and meaning, and ecstasy, and wholeness-- all these things that we want to find with the one. You know, the one which we're looking for in a society where we've got 1,000 people at our fingertips.
So the one is the one who's going to make me delete my apps. You know, that becomes the one. You know, the one for whom I'm going to cure my case of FOMO, the one for whom I'm going to stop looking. And maybe for some people there is the one and for other people there is a one.
And a one that you can make a life with and the people that you make a life with are not always the same ones as the ones that you can love. There's a lot more people we can love than people we can make a life with. It's two separate programs. That doesn't mean we don't love the ones we make a life with, but we can have plenty of beautiful love stories with people we would never make a life with. We've all had them.
You know and so that moment of recognition after a year of deep friendship, it's not a discovery, it's an affirmation. it's a very different thing, you know?
Any other questions now that we're a little bit more warmed up? OK. I'm coming.
- You are phenomenal. You are phenomenal. Erayna, Erayna. Hi, from New York. I just want to ask you about how to acquire that level of intimacy with so much emphasis on social media. And I see it as a barrier. I see it as a very destructive I think is that it's keeping us apart. And I want to know how you feel about how we might acquire that level of intimacy given that how we meet each other now has gone to technology.
ESTHER PEREL: Anybody else since I'm on the floor? So look, I think that in the past, pretty much you knew what was going on in every couple because the walls were porous and you could hear every fight. Today, your friends can pretty much break up and you didn't know it was coming. So there's very- there's an attack on the truth of what happens in relationships on every level. Social media, people curate fictitious lives and you don't have any idea what is true. And then when it comes to sex people lie, and when it comes to forbidden sex they lie even more. So who knows the stories?
And at some point when there is too much noise, I think you need the courage to basically get offline, just get offline. This notion that people are sitting in a bar but instead of talking to each other they're like on their phone is really bizarre. We were in the airport, Lindsay and I, my partner here, business partner here, and we saw two people sitting at the bar literally was like in the morning, we were flying back from Amsterdam. And the man was basically saying to the woman, hi, and where are you flying to and what's your name? And then she shook his hand and she said you're so polite, like as in you still relate. You know? You actually talk and you-- It was so moving because of its rareness. I mean, not because it was unusual, because it should be unusual.
So when you start to feel like you become too digitalized in your life, get off. Get off, you won't miss much. You won't miss much. And then connect for real and do things with people, doesn't have to be long stories. Just connect with people. Go do things and in movement, in movement is the best way to connect with them. That's the nutshell. You know? And go to the people who know you and who respect and admire you and have them kind of shower you a little bit with the dose of a mirror that you like to see yourself reflected in because after a while, you kind of don't know him.
Or you know part of the social media is that it has really the media, the whole digitalized communication is that it has created a situation by which there is less and less relationship accountability. I think that's actually the biggest price we pay. You know, there is a whole new system of dealing with people. Those people that you ice and those people that you simmer and those people that you ghost and those people with whom you live in a kind of a stable ambiguity, which means that you have just enough so that you have some connection with them, but not too much so that you don't lose your freedom. You know? Stable ambiguity is what social media allows you to have. It's like a bunch of people laid out with whom you have enough so you don't have to feel completely alone, but you don't have too much so that you haven't forgotten your options.
Bad landscape. I think in the end it drains a lot of us. But that requires a bigger movement that just at some point says, OK, next. We've done this one. Onwards. This too shall pass. Don't worry. That's my conclusion. But I don't want to be the first one that closes so seven verbs to ask, to give, to take, to receive, to share, to play, and to refuse. Which is your favorite one in the world of relationships?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: To give.
ESTHER PEREL: To give.
PARNELL SMITH: To give.
ESTHER PEREL: To give.
GLENNON DOYLE: To play.
ESTHER PEREL: To play.
ABBY WAMBACH: To give.
ESTHER PEREL: To thank you.