Have a Happy and More Differentiated New Year!: Hugging

I laid down my notes for chapter 5 of Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage over at Unsolicited Advice WP.  Now I’m going to see if I can illustrate how those concepts have worked and played out with Arwyn and me in our marriage.


When we first met, Arwyn was the one who went after me.  She pursued me, called me and asked me out.  She’s the one who suggested getting naked the first time we ever had sex.  She seemed to like and want it everyday, twice a day!  I almost got concerned about whether or not she was some sort of nymphomaniac and whether I could keep up or not!  In fact, I almost (almost) got to point where I saw sex as a chore!  I mean it was night time and it was time for sex.  We woke up and it was time for more sex.  But the sex wasn’t terribly adventurous and the passion…meh.  But she was perfect in so many ways and had such an apparently easy temperament.  She seemed so perfect.  Almost too perfect.


Sex is a crucible for growth and seems to cultivate emotional fusion.  It can deepen emotional ties and create increased significance between two people.  It’s the wonderful and awful thing about it.  It feels pretty good, too!


So why was my now overly frigid wife so willing to fuck the hell out of me back in those early days?


It’s because she was far from the laid back person she presented.  She suffered from some really deep insecurities that created tension.  That tension and anxiety drove her into seeking acceptance in the one way pretty much guaranteed to get my attention.  Sex.  This is why Schnarch says that some tension can increase sexual desire and behavior.  This is why we see this tape played and replayed so many times over and over.  That early sexual feast is largely driven by insecurity and a need to be needed and accepted.


But that sort of acceptance is only so deep.  At some point, someone is going to feel used and in this case it was the person who started it, which was Arwyn.  It was inevitable, though.  Either she was going to get there, or I would.  I could not even sustain the everyday 2x a day rate we were doing and if I had backed off sooner she might have stepped up the eroticism.  However any move she made in that regard was going to be short-lived.


A lot of people have commented that Arwyn lives in a world where she gets what she wants.  She can live and enjoy life at my expense and doesn’t have to suffer through sex.  But that isn’t true at all.  Like anyone else, Arwyn wants intimacy and closeness and she doesn’t have it.  And she isn’t keen to fuck someone who treats her like a fucktoy.  So she avoids sex and sexual discussions and even sexual thoughts.  The reason is that intimacy involves a whole lot of risk, not the least of which is the risk of losing it.  She knows full well the pain of such loss.  So in a sense, there is some operant pain-avoidance going on.  It’s not so much the fear of intimacy, but the fear of its loss.


And that, my friends, perfectly and utterly matches mine.  I fear abandonment and loss every bit as keenly as Arwyn.  Make no mistake: intimacy scares the hell out me.  Not so much the closeness itself but the fear of its loss.  Therefore, these fears play out neatly in how I experience Arwyn’s sexual rejection.  I feel like she is totally abandoning me.  I feel like that because I am not sufficiently differentiated.  I need her to validate me through sexual desire.  It’s the reflected sense of self at work.  That’s where all this loneliness and depression comes from.  I feel abandoned.  At the same time, we have pretty much adopted the same strategy for dealing with our mutual fears: emotional withdrawal. 


We really are a perfect match.  Only in a fairly destructive and dysfunctional way. 


Ironically, that distance and avoidance has given us some room for introspection.  She is working on herself independent of stuff I’m doing.  In a sense, the avoidance has sort of worked for us.  We’re growing in ways we would not have done outside of the marital system.  And that’s kind of what’s amazing about marriage: it’s a system unto itself that sort of encourages growth and correction in its own way.  So while Arwyn and I follow this one particular path, other couples can grow following a different and less avoiding path.


The insight I’ve acquired here has helped me see where some of those folks on my blogroll are at.  FTN, who seems like a fairly decent guy and his wife, Autumn, sometimes defy conventional explanations of sexual dysfunction.  But apply the idea of differentiation and some of Autumn’s hang-ups (and FTN’s corresponding self-reflected insecurities) make sense.   XH and his wife have a similar interaction going as far as intimacy.  XH has a basic awareness that they aren’t meeting their sexual potential but is a bit confused by it in light of improved frequency and more varied sex acts.  It’s more a matter of intimacy than just sex as an act.


Hazel who is the perfect female LL person models this very well in her relationship with a husband who appears terribly selfish and lazy.  Her and her husband both seem to suffer from a buttload of anxiety.  It keeps her from enjoying sex and keeps him from even trying to connect emotionally during sex instead preferring to make it a mechanical porn reenactment. 


Mu Ling, C-Marie, Joeflirt, Nutty Man, Xi , Aphron and right on down the blogroll…these are all the same sort of growthy systems which seem to have big doses of emotional fusion going on.  We’re frustrated because we care about what the other person thinks.


I need to give a few folks special mention, though.  Oblivion, Trueself and Desperate Husband have seemingly responded to their issues by going outside the system.  They got lovers on the side or “friends with benefits.”  On one level they are trying to get out but on another they seem to be lingering where they are.  They may have progressed a bit on the differentiation ladder bit it isn’t going to be much.  The reason is that a new and long distance relationship is going to involve the same sort of dynamic Arwyn and I had and every other relationship in the beginning.  They have the tension of insecurity and newness and that super machine of the reflected sense of self working overtime (along with a biological cocktail of powerful endorphins) combined to blind them to the fusion they are going to have to work through down the road eventually. 


Two others need to be mentioned, here.  Therese and RS give us some unique perspective because we have two married folk blogging separately.  It’s also unique because RS has been the lower desire one seemingly pulling the puppet strings to Therese’s HL.  Funnily enough, I expect this script to be switched with the second child.  But regardless, it is similar to all the other cases above.  It is a case of two people who do care about each other but struggle with how to deal with the other person’s significance and the threat of loss through lack or respect, lack of acceptance or abandonment physically through divorce or death.  They have done so many right and proper things to get closer to each other before and during their marriage.  RS’s affair wasn’t so much a sexual thing as it was having issues with his emotional fusion with Therese.  They are going to be working on that issue the same as the rest of us; forever. 


I never said differentiation was fun. 


Like any other kind of growth it is pretty painful.  But you are either growing or you’re not.  And if you’re not, you’re probably dying.  But take no solace there, as I suspect there will be a lot more growth in the hereafter!




Hugging Till Relaxed


Since I’ve started this chapter I might as well blog where I’m at with it, since Arwyn is camped on the computer.  Also working on this is relatively easy so far.


When I first saw the title for chapter 6, I thought, “Why devote an entire chapter to hugging?  The title pretty much says it all right?  You hug and keep hugging through the initial jolt until you are both relaxed.  Good enough.  Next!”


But with Schnarch nothing is ever straight forward or as simple as it seems.  I may or may not get into all the theory and mechanics behind it all, but I can report on some initial findings in this area.


First off, Arwyn and I are not terribly huggy with each other, especially when we’re not feeling close.  However, it is something that we can still do and she really doesn’t feel terribly threatened by it.  So while reading this chapter, I couldn’t wait to try it out to see how things worked or didn’t.  And it was interesting.


One thing emphasized about Schnarch is the idea of having a self-supporting stance during the hug instead of leaning into each other like an A frame.  This is what you might call a “Differentiation stance” with the idea being that both partners can enjoy the hug more when neither or both are off balance.  So when I did this, it made we realize how much I was usually leaning into Arwyn and how much weight I would put on her as I would try to meld into her.  Ah!  Fusion!  And fusion is not a good thing, here.  So I do have a recollection of her complaining about my heaviness at times, and herr not being able to handle extended hugging because of that.


I approached her in the kitchen and she was taking some shirts somewhere to be hung up and I simply stepped in front of her.  And that was all there was to it.  She went easily into a hug and had no problems with it at all.  And she really had no problems staying in the hug for an extended time either.  There wasn’t as much interaction with each other because my youngest son wanted to either get in the act or deliver commentary.  But we hugged for a good minute or so.  She wanted to finish hanging her shirt so she gave me a quick kiss and was off.  End of experiment.


How relaxed was I?  Not terribly.  Looking right at her just had me getting awash in insecurity about my breath, my hair and my face.  But I held on.  She was sort of leaning on me and would drop her head on my chest as I am a full head taller than her.  Her arms were up about my neck and shoulders and were a lot more relaxed than my arms around her which were a bit on the tight side until I noticed and sought a more comfortable posture for them.


So in this particular exercise, it would appear that I might be the more tense partner of the two of us.  Also it does nicely demonstrate that we are not so totally estranged and separate as I might convey at times.  There’s at least enough room for this little affection and that’s something.  It shows that there is room for affection and maybe some intimacy down the road, you think?  A lot of the lack/loss of intimacy is on account of me being such a prickly pear.  I do project a heaviness that can often intimidate.  Also I don’t invest a lot into relationships because I don’t want to lose and be rejected.  It’s just easier to ward people off in the first place than contend for them to keep them from leaving.


All that from just a hug.


More research to follow.





11 Responses to Have a Happy and More Differentiated New Year!: Hugging

  1. Rosie says:

    Wow, yes all that from a hug. This was quite interesting, especially your own analysis of how you felt and reacted. It adds a whole new element to the over-all picture.

  2. C-Marie says:

    Interesting. I’ll want to come back and read this again. And quite possibly again. I, too, will agree that I like your personal take on this.

  3. snow66 says:

    >>So when I did this, it made we realize how much I was usually leaning into Arwyn and how much weight I would put on her as I would try to meld into her. Ah! Fusion! And fusion is not a good thing, here. So I do have a recollection of her complaining about my heaviness at times, and herr not being able to handle extended hugging because of that.<<

    I imagine being handed the keys to a cock cage could carry the same, if not a great deal more, “fusion weight”.

  4. FTN says:

    I’m only midway through chapter two of the Schnarch book, so it looks like I’ll be behind you all the way through. I’ll just read your posts for a sneak-preview.

    “I need HER to validate ME through sexual desire.”

    The differentiation concept seems to work well for everything except sex. And that’s where I’m having trouble — I can’t really validate MYSELF sexually! Sure, I can have confidence, I can like myself physically, whatever. But really, how does one avoid wanting to be sexually desired?

    Maybe I’m just not that far in the book yet. But I’m having my doubts that there are going to be any big breakthroughs here.

    As for hugging: I was having a serious ‘sex talk’ with Autumn a few days ago, and she was trying to explain to me how she’s making an effort and doing things that she thinks perhaps I don’t appreciate enough. Hugging me throughout the day was one example. This was kind of crushing to me, because… What, she is hugging me mostly because of a felt NEED of mine, rather than because she wants to? That was seriously depressing.

    Although she does lean heavily into me during hugs, using me as support. Should I read something into that?

  5. Dave says:

    Interesting, especially your own awareness of your physical attitude, as you hugged- I don’t have the book you’re following, but I’m intrigued enough to look into it.

    And, in my very humble opinion, I would say yes, it shows that there is room for your needed intimacy and affection. I love hugs, and they can be extremely indicative of Lynn’s mood toward me, as well as generally; so yeah, if she’s reciprocating fully, and not pulling away, I think there is a good possibility that you can (re?)develop that intimacy you crave.


  6. Cagedone says:

    Hi Mate,

    I had to laugh when I read how Arwyn and you started out. Sarah and I were much the same. and I used to wonder the same thing. I used to walk around with sore abbs ffs, and that is saying something especially back then!!!

    One thing if anything when you first start a relationship, things move and change so fast, its exciting and new….well not saying anything new here. Then we know it settles down and also as we all know intimacy tends to suffer, and in both our cases at least it died.

    I know I am a crazy man but, I think I have found that if one wants to make changes to their relationship, as long as you are still together than it is is possible. But the time scale is SOOOO much longer than what we want or what it was back then. I am often frustrated with where I am with Sarah at any given point in time, and yet if I look at where I am now compared with where I was 3 years ago, we have come a very long way, far closer and god forbid even more intimate. Admittedly I have had to throw a completely unbalanced amount of effort at it, but the actual effort does not cost me anything and every step forward gives me a rush.

    Start with a hug and enjoy the intimacy.

    baby steps

  7. Digger Jones says:

    Being introspective has been a saving grace for my own anxiety, Rosie. I know I write Arwyn in a darker light than is sometimes fair; being more honest with myself is a lot more helpful.

    You keep coming back, and I’ll keep writing, C-Marie!

    Y’know, Snow, that’s good insight and I may write a post about that. Heaven knows the whole chastity storyline has suffered and needs more treatment or at least a proper burial. But, yeah, there is something to that and I see this with many of the married guys who get into this kink. I curious as to how much of it has to to do with my own emotional fusion versus reacting to the fusion issues of my wife or how much of each.

    FTN, you’ll see a bit more as you go along. But are you looking to be validated as a real person through sex, or are you just catering to the lizard-man desire? I asked this earlier in response to something XH posted: just why are you wanting so much sex with someone who obviously doesn’t dig you in that way or with that amount of passion? For us high libido folks, we need to ask why we are so anxious to have sex? What is it about sex that makes it so important to us and wonderful for us? As far as her hugging, you’ll be able to read her better once you get to that chapter. But it’s more important to read where *you* are. As long as you’re fixated on reading and altering her, you’re going to miss the boat as far as differentiation.

    Dave, I highly recommend looking at the book, even if you don’t buy it. I think enough other people are talking about it that it would help to at least be familiar with it. I agree that there is always a chance of finding intimacy if I can get over my squeamishness about it.

    I agree, Cagedone, that progress seems absolutely glacial while married! It’s like the laws of emotional change are on some sort of geologic time scale or something. things seemed to progress so much faster when we were single! But I guess that only goes to show that it takes a lot longer to get out of a mess than to get into it!


  8. Cat says:

    I have to admit why sex is so wonderful seems obvious to me. But why some seem so emotionally invested I don’t really understand. Is it the validation? And I have to comment on FTN’s comment about being crushed that the hugs were something to fulfill his need not just because she wanted to. That seems like the give and take of a relationship to me. Like going shopping with your wife etc. We can’t marry ourselves unfortunately. Most of us won’t find the mirror image of ourselves with the same needs and desires. If we find someone who is willing to do something just because they know WE need it, that seems like all anyone can ask for.

  9. 2amsomewhere says:

    I need to give a few folks special mention, though. Oblivion, Trueself and Desperate Husband have seemingly responded to their issues by going outside the system. They got lovers on the side or “friends with benefits.” On one level they are trying to get out but on another they seem to be lingering where they are. They may have progressed a bit on the differentiation ladder bit it isn’t going to be much.

    In Chapter 11, Schnarch talks about this route, describing it a a means of dodging a two-choice dilemma by stealing a spouse’s choice for monogamy.


  10. Square1 says:

    A lot of this is very interesting, and I see the instances where Mr. Muse and I do this dance around each other. Now you have me intrigued with this book.

  11. […] to be rejected and then hurt by her rejections.  That also sort of answers the chastity cage comment by Snow66, at least in part.  It was a game we were very poorly prepared for.  While it might have fostered […]

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