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How relationship therapist Esther Perel would advise Melania Trump

Based on what she knows about him, Perel isn’t interested in having the president as a client.

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President And Mrs. Trump Return To The White House Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel hasn’t met Melania Trump — but, if she had to guess, she has a hunch about what’s going on between the First Lady and President Trump.

Perel spoke with Recode’s Kara Swisher at South By Southwest, in part to promote her new book “The State of Affairs” and the second season of her podcast, Where Should We Begin? Their full interview is the newest episode of our podcast, Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

“I don’t know a clue about this woman,” Perel said of Melania Trump. “But I have a feeling from the little bit I’ve listened to her that she actually — this is the way I sometimes say it — ‘when you pick a person, you pick a story.’ And sometimes you’re recruited for a play that you didn’t audition for.”

Perel, who was born in Belgium and educated in Israel, said she was sympathetic to the reality that Melania may not have expected to be in the media spotlight every day when she moved to America and married Donald Trump.

“I see this woman like she’s in the wrong play,” she added. “It’s not the character she wants to be. Like, how the hell did she find herself — she just wanted a green card! And I’ve been there! I also wanted a green card one day. And then she maybe wanted someone with whom she could have an arrangement, and everyone’s entitled to their relational arrangement. But this, this is not a play that she auditioned for.”

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On the new podcast, Perel also talked more generally about the #MeToo movement that has exposed harassers, abusers and rapists across tech, media, politics and beyond. The president has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women, and two others have recently sued to be released from nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from discussing consensual affairs they allegedly had with the President.

As a therapist, Perel said, men like Trump who wind up on her couch “look at me with contempt” and don’t want to be helped. People who use their wealth or title as a means of getting others into bed are acting on deep-seated insecurities, she said.

“Sexually powerful men don’t harass, they seduce,” Perel said. “It’s the insecure men who need to use power in order to leverage the insecurity and the inaccessibility or the unavailability of the women. Women fear rape, and men fear humiliation.”

“Underneath the use of power lies a deep sense of powerlessness,” she added. “And then you manipulate the power that you have in order to cover that.”

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