Esther Perel looks like the New York couples therapist from Central Casting. Married for a zillion years, mother of two, trim as an arrow—if you have to talk to a stranger about your sex life, she’ll do just fine.
And she's got pop credentials: Her recent book, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & The Domestic, got warm reviews. But woe be to couples who bring her their problems without reading her first. They ask: If novelty is the key to hot sex, doesn't monogamy kill it? Can a Mom who starts her day packing Cheerios in a lunchbox become a vixen at night? Why doesn't intimacy guarantee good sex? Then come the surprises, for Perel's approach to couples therapy is light years from Dr. Phil's. Jesse Kornbluth asked her the questions that a new client might.
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JK: Bill Maher says that when you're married, you need a cue to have sex.
EP: There is no sex without a cue. People who date have their cues at home, before they meet. You think about where to go, what to eat, what to do and say. Sometimes the cue is short—just before we reach the bar—but sex is never just spontaneous. Spontaneity is a myth.
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