Hahahaha! I laughed out loud when reading chapter 4 of Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage. He spends a lot of time setting up the interplay of other-validation v self-validation, self-presentation v self-disclosure and fusion v differentiation. Basically, Schnarch describes a process that begins during courtship when we are poorly differentiated and seek emotional fusion. We then seek validation from others (our date/perspective partner) and get all fused up. Once we get emotionally fused we discover that many things we might otherwise do, say or feel make our partners anxious which makes us anxious. And often when we seek validation it sometimes forces the other person into saying what you want to hear instead of how they truly feel thus creating this sense of self-betrayal. So we end up presenting something from almost the outset that violates our own integrity instead of real disclosure. Sometimes we disclose in the hope that the other person will validate us in addition to disclosing something about themselves. Often, neither happens which frustrates us. The icing on the cake is when our past disclosures become ammunition during heated fights! We become walking wounded, and pretty soon a stony, icy silence sets in. Total emotional gridlock.
This, according to Scnarch, is the perfect and most fertile place for true intimacy to blossom! Hahahaha!
No, I’m not kidding. Emotional gridlock happens when we run out of accommodations, we are tired of the mask, and we refuse to violate our integrity anymore. Basically we have run out of patience and tricks and now must choose to confront ourselves because we are not making any headway with changing our partner. Ain’t that a hoot?!? According to Schnarch, I’m on the verge of some real electric sex, here!
In this section of the book, Schnarch just doesn’t confront contemporary psychology and marital counseling; he stands it on its head. It’s not a problem of communication as emotional gridlock can only happen when the communication is really happening. Otherwise one partner would still be blathering on and trying to attack the stone wall. But when both partners know the score (I’m not changing and I’m sick of trying to change you!) and silence ensues progress can be made. It looks like “falling out of love” but we are truly incapable of love “until the honeymoon is over and gridlock arrives.”(p.119)
What finally made me put the book down and begin writing this was a statement Schnarch made about self-confrontation. Basically when we are finished confronting our partner in an effort to either mold and shape them or seek validation from them (it ain’t coming) then we have to deal with who we are. We have to differentiate. “Only when we confront our own essence do we become more tolerant and accepting of everyone else, including your partner.”
It’s taking the plank out of our own eye before deciding to remove the speck in someone else’s.
So marriage and emotional gridlock and anxiety and tension and trying for intimacy and not getting it and being all angry and frustrated are all just steps up that staircase to a new level of growth.
Arwyn and I are definitely in that whole frozen tundra area of emotional gridlock. That blow up of the last entry which took place over a month ago is almost a last gasp of confrontation in trying to get her to move. And she is not budging. Talking more is not going to get us anywhere, and I can see that now. More confrontation isn’t going to work at the moment, until I know I can handle where ever it ends up going. I’ve accommodated way past my comfort zone. At least reading Schnarch’s take on icy conditions around here makes me feel better about it!
But I still have questions here. Schnarch does a swell job of incorporating emotional and spiritual intimacy into the whole sexual arena. But I still wonder about the concept of attraction here. I guess I’ve had people tell me I look good since dropping the fat and I feel better about it. But how in the world would I expect her to ever light up physically if she’s just not attracted to me in that way? Yeah, yeah, sex has a lot more going on in terms of intimate connection but a body has to get naked and in the sack at some point, right?
I feel like I just took a step backward right there. Oh well. I’ll keep reading and writing as the mood hits. This particular subject also has some implications as far as our other discussion at Unsolicited Advice, but I’ll get to that later.