Business, Community & Government, Wellness

Identifying Roles in Relationships

Esther Perel

Lesson time 19:50 min

Esther reveals how roles inform our relationship dynamics and how to identify the roles we play in our lives, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

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Topics include: Why Do We Play the Roles We Play? • Embrace the Interdependence of Roles • Recognize When Roles Go Wrong • Identify the Roles You Didn’t Audition For • Try This Essential Practice: Reflect on the Roles You Play


- When I talk about roles in a relationship, it is like a play. A relationship is a play. And in a play, they are characters. And every character tells a story. And in order to perform that story, they play a role. This is true in all relationships. We are playing roles. [MUSIC PLAYING] Every relationship is made up of people who have a role. Lovers is a role. Colleagues is a role. Parents is a role. Children is a role. And a role is defined by a set of expectations that you enact that include a set of responsibilities, a set of privileges, a set of interactions. And therefore, it organizes the relationship. If your role is to cook, then I know that I rely on you to feed me. If your role is to deliver data so that I can do an analysis, then I rely on you to give me the data so that I can do my analysis. And that's one aspect of the roles. Now, the role can also be there is a talker, and there is a more silent one. Those are also roles in relationships. The role of the one who takes the initiatives, and the one who follows. Roles is a word, in its smaller definition, it is very much looking at the nature of transactions and what is the function that each person fulfills. But in its broader definition, it is the way that the characters perform their roles with each other in a play. That too becomes the roles that you see. For example, in a company, you are on a team. There are people with roles. There is the person who says, that can't be done. That's a role. There is a person that says, we really should change the whole thing. That's a role. There's the person who says, let's look at this step by step before we make a decision. That's a role. And there's the person who says, we should get off the pot already and do something. Doesn't matter what. But those are roles, and they make up the script of the relationships. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I want to invite you to listen to another clip from my podcast, "How's Work?" This is a session with two co-founders who were also co-pilots in the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. After 13 years, one of them is thinking about starting something that the other one doesn't want to join. And this is the first time they find themselves possibly going in separate directions. What I also learned is that one of them is an only child, and the other the youngest of five. And that difference tells us a lot about their identity and about the role that they play as adults. ESTHER PEREL: If you are a solo child and you live with solo parent-- or sola parent-- it becomes sometimes more difficult to be able to have separate opinions. PILOT 1: Yes. That's accurate. I also think that-- and I'm not sure how this plays with the whole being an only child, but, like I'm actually pretty easily convinced when a logical argument is presented to me. And he's a salesman. He can sell his ideas. And he knows how to sell them to me without a whole lot of-- ESTHER PEREL: Can...

About the Instructor

Known for her innovative approach to love and relationships, Esther Perel is sharing her methods for building deeper connections with every person in your life. Whether it’s with your partner or project manager, you’ll learn how rethinking the basic principles of intimacy, communication, and trust can improve the quality of your life in the bedroom, boardroom, and beyond.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Esther Perel

Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel teaches you the power—and the art—of connecting with others.

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