I know I am late to the party, but I can"t help but tell you about the book, "Passionate Marriage," by David Schnarch, PhD (1996) I only managed to skim during my own sex therapy training. Dr Schnarch died this past October and as I finished reading the book in an airport bar after seeing my folks for the first time in 15 months, I was overcome by grief and wept. I am sure the tears had something to do with reuniting with my family and feeling the collective grief and loss the world has seen this past year, but also because I see the treasure this book is, and how it has transformed how I view myself, my relationships, and the individuals and couples I treat.
I am struggling to even decide where to start in telling you about it, so I"ll start with a few key concepts.
Differentiation is another fancy word to replace the phrase, "hold on to yourself!" It"s more than thinking about doing it, but rather taking action to stay in yourself while you are getting close to another.
Intimacy is revealing yourself to your partner without misrepresenting who you are. Dr Schnarch writes, "to keep intimacy alive you eventually have to show parts of yourself you"ve never revealed, or don"t accept in yourself, or aren"t sure your partner will accept." This sounds risky, and also unavoidable if we really want to get to the depths of emotional and erotic intimacy in our relationships.
Self/Other Validation- We start out our relationships wanting "intimacy" but function as though empathy, acceptance, and validation from our partners is compulsory. Without it, we may be asking our partners to lose our number. Now, I love to be validated just as much as any Leo in the world, but what if instead we relied on ourselves for our sense of worth? What if we are brave enough to grow, be honest and genuine with our partners even if there is no guarantee they"d accept us? Doing this hard "person growing" work is what allows us to create more intimacy (allowing ourselves to be seen) and stand in ourselves with more confidence and independence. That, my friend, is self validation.
Integrity involves the choice between keeping your relationship (as-is/status quo) or maintaining yourself. As you are growing, this can be hard for your partner. They may not know what to do with the new you, especially if that means they also need to do some growing.
Sexual Potential is more than baseline sexual functioning or orgasms, but rather discovering what you are capable of and the meaning you can make with your partner in your sexual relationship.
Sexual Desire is wanting rather than following those urges to be sexual (aka horniess). I hear people tell me they have no desire, and yet I also hear the longing they have for their partners. This is wanting. This is desire. Dr Scharch theorizes this is due to your partner becoming more important to you than what you can handle? What do you think?
My clients tell me the partner with the lower desire for sex controls it, while I hear the low desire partner wants to be wanted without doing the wanting. This sounds like what he calls the "two-choice dilemma": having to choose between what we want and what we are afraid to lose.
So, I"ll leave you with these things to consider which will hopefully blow your mind and get you thinking about if you are holding on to yourself in your relationship. Are you allowing yourself to be seen? Are you confronting yourself with how you keep yourself at a distance only to complain about the shallow intimacy that exists in your relationship?