Kissing and Foreplay

I’m working on an entry applying some of the Schnarchian principles to chastity but since doing more reading I need some additional processing space.  So here you go.


The hugging chapter was revealing as was my little experiment which has not been repeated.  Schnarch says that it usually takes at least 2 minutes to find a truly relaxed and connected state and sometimes over 20 minutes and even then there’s no guarantee.  I found it interesting because in Dr. Phil’s Relationship Rescue program he prescribes hugging for 2 minutes every day.  And it was at that point that Arwyn decided to opt out of it for an unspecified amount of time.


Schnarch’s most famous suggestion for revving up sex is to have eyes-open sex.  And he does get to that, but I wanted to spend some time with kissing and foreplay as a sort of foreplay into actually talking about sex.  And like the hugging, there is a lot going on in the kissing and foreplay.


First off, Schnarch does chide us all for feeling perfectly comfortable demanding that our partner look at us while talking but see nothing wrong with not looking at the person we are kissing while kissing them.  Movies and television and other role models perpetuate this behavior for sure.  Everyone closes their eyes when they kiss!  Right?  In fact I remember an old song (maybe by Crystal Gayle?) that chided her lover for no longer closing his eyes when they kissed. But we really do sort of put ourselves in a position of having to practice some sort of emotional braille with this particular foreplay-like behavior.  In fact I’ve started sometimes opening my eyes when Arwyn and I are doing the perfunctory “off to work” kiss.  I’m not sure how I’d feel about have her eyes looking back but I’m willing to explore.


Kissing is one of those areas where we begin to negotiate the terms of our intimacy.  It probably means more in terms of our own perceptions than it does about our partner’s state of mind in how we perceive it.  We can’t really truly know, even if we ask.  But we usually don’t for the same reason we keep our eyes closed.  Namely, we can only tolerate only so much intimacy.  We may claim we want more but that claim rarely truly plays out in our own behavior.  We act in selfish ways and succumb to selfish interpretations in order to justify our own behaviors which usually truly get in the way of intimacy.


Foreplay is even more of a mine field.  Or mindfield.  According to Schnarch, foreplay always takes place.  It may be pretty freakin’ short, but it always happens.  It is where both partners negotiate where the boundaries are for whatever intimacies that are to follow.  He even goes so far as to describe it as a sort of pushing and shoving match between married couples as they attempt to gain whatever position.  Anyone reading me for a long enough time can attest to that as we’ve had a number of these sort of interactions.  According to Schnarch, it’s not about communicating because we are, in fact, communicating butt loads in these little slapfests.  It happens because we are so emotionally fused that there is total and absolute gridlock.  Arwyn feels like an abused victim and I feel like a rapist.  Poorly differentiated couples can not tolerate a lot of intimacy so it is not uncommon that foreplay be very short or almost skipped altogether.  What little there is is often scripted and mundane.  This is because the fused couples can not self-soothe and opt for the safety of a routine. 


For instance those of us who begin with a back rub every time.  What is your partner doing during the backrub?  Mine is lying face down and is almost always absolutely silent.  In fact, sex is a terribly silent exercise.  There is very little talking but I’m sure there is gobs of tension, anxiety and insecurity.  We’ve both gotten to the point where sex isn’t a lot of fun for either of us.  Much of it is because of all the tension around the fusion and me simply appealing to my reptilian self just to get off.  I’ve written before how I felt like a reptile and that insight was more accurate than I knew then.  Arwyn treats me like one because I act like one. 


The scripted aspect of sex is all about regulating the intimacy and finding comfort in the routine.  I know where the script is going to go pretty much every time and I don’t like most of it.  But I go along with it anyway.  I almost skipped this section to run ahead to chapter 12 where Schnarch talks about the mercy fuck.  But I’m glad I didn’t, since the section on kissing and foreplay really hit home.


Schnarch talks much about treating past issues in the present.  Psychotherapy has traditionally involved going through past issues and hurts and dealing with childhood issues.  Many times the claim is made that “We need to deal with the underlying problem before we can move forward” or “We need to deal with this past abuse or history first before moving on:”  The efficacy of this approach is pretty minimal because it simply isn’t realistic.  It’s not how life is lived.  It also involves leaving people stuck and then spending years and thousands of dollars delving into past issues that simply can not be changed. 


Schnarch uses the sexual crucible approach to deal with these past issues in the present.  So unlike a behaviorist who really isn’t dealing with past issues at all, he uses present behavior and the solutions to move forward within present circumstances.  How dependent this is on the skill of the therapist remains to be seen.


In my own case, the fear of abandonment is an underlying factor that has absolutely ruled all my relationships.  I can not stand for things to get too good because past experience tells me that it will turn to shit.  Opening up to another person involves a hell of a lot of risk and a hell of a lot of hurt.  I swore to myself that I was not going to be hurt like that ever again.  The result is this terrible gridlock we have now.  I am absolutely not any more differentiated than Arwyn who has divorced parents and an alcoholic father to contend with.  Arwyn means a lot to me but more intimacy means a lot more hurt.  But there’s obviously a part of me that really wants it.  I want to know and be known.  But only so much.


This even goes into my smoking which still rules me.  I started way back when as a way of self-medicating myself after a bad, bad emotional breakup.  I was devastated beyond words because I had opened up so much.  Truth was, this other girl couldn’t handle the intimacy of that relationship.  Neither could I, as it turned out.  So on the heels of heartbreak, smoking was my way of self-medicating.  It still is.  And this is one area where Schnarch is less focused and fuzzy.  He places a lot of importance on the skill of self-soothing but has not explained exactly what that looks like or how to do it.  In a way, smoking could be a way to self soothe but it is also a way engage that marital sadism that I wanted to skip ahead and read about because I know Arwyn dislikes it.  Why she married a smoker lends itself to a certain amount of masochism inherent in the system.  Don’t worry.  Arwyn and I both share equally sadistic qualities.  I’m just more willing to admit it at present.


I’d like to see Schnarch get together with John Gottman, who quantified anxiety and how couples reacted to each other in more concrete and tangible ways through pulse and respiratory rate and facial gestures.  Anxiety and tension do have quantifiable analogues and using single subject research designs, the effect of different self-soothing techniques could be compared. 


Okay, now I’m ready to talk about doing things with eyes open.  Schnarch actually spends a couple chapters on this, with eyes-open kissing and foreplay leading to eye-open sex.  I used to open my eyes open a lot more but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Arwyn do it.  And sometimes I don’t like what I see.  Not only are her eyes closed but there is a sort of grimace in her face.  Pain?  Could be.  Concentration?  That could also be.  The eye-open bit flies directly in the face of a lot of modern sex therapy that is sensate focused.  The therapists tell a person to focus on their own sensations which means keep the eyes closed.


Schnarch sees things decidedly different and I have to agree with him.  One of my chief complaints is that Arwyn “isn’t there” during what few sexual encounters we have had.  Her handjobs pretty much are sterile exercises.  Her kisses perfunctory.  Her fucking is scripted.  Her boundaries are rigid.  But all that says a lot more about me than her in that I’ve been willing to accept these paltry offerings until relatively recently. 

I’ve written before about how I did better during the handjobs when Arwyn and I would talk.  We’d talk about dirty diapers, laundry, finances, chores that needed to be done and pretty much what every couple talks about when they talk.  She just happened to be rubbing my cock at the time.  But what made these encounters better for me rather than her doing it in stony silence was the fact that while talking, she was at least somewhat present.  We tried it with her facing me, and I did like that but I don’t think she did.  She preferred to lay down beside me where she didn’t have to look at me.  But I do enjoy having my eyes open more than not, at least to a point. 


The purpose is to actually connect, emotionally and mentally as well as physically.  But that sort of connection can only really be made if we’ve done a lot of our own internal work where we can comfortably invite someone else in.  It represents a more authentic form of intimacy.  I’m living proof that it is possible to have sex without really connecting and I’m not sure I have ever truly connected with Arwyn during sex.  I’m not exactly an open book as noted above so I picked someone in a very similar stage of differentiation as myself.  And we really are well matched in many ways.


It is impossible to not communicate during sex.  Fact is, I’ve been getting the message louder than I would have liked.  So now I have little choice but to grow in response to dealing with it.  It may take the proverbial atomic bomb blast to get Arwyn in motion and that might be where we’re headed.  But I’m still getting a handle on my own insecurities in the meantime. 


Cat asked an interesting question in a comment below.  What if Arwyn is just honest and says she loves me but isn’t in love with me?  What that is, is a code that basically says that she wants to be nice and somewhat caring but does not want to be with me and does not want to want me.   Wanting to want and working towards making an intimate connection is an act of will at this stage of the game.  For my part, I need to be willing to deal with that possible reality.  At that point I have some serious choices to make.  Adult choices that involve my own integrity.  If I’m reading him correctly, I think that is where 2amsomewhere has come out.  He looked at the situation and saw where he was not going to grow a lot more with the woman he was with because she was unwilling to differentiate and grow.


I’m not in that spot right now and funnily enough, I don’t think Arwyn is either.  When we do speak of these things there is a fair amount of emotionality involved and my gut tells me she is more keen to working things out than she lets on.  But she has no idea how.  She longs for deeper emotional connections but not with Lizardman me.  I have some personal and self-centered issues of my own to work out in order to escape my inner reptile.


It’s a paradox that getting emotionally closer to someone else involves becoming more of myself.  This is because being emotionally fused and relying on this other person to hold me up through borrowed functioning and a reflected sense of self is inherently a very selfish thing.  It places the responsibility of my anxieties and fears in someone else’s lap when I need to be holding my own self up so that I have a greater capacity to care.  Emotional fusion places rules and expectations on the other person that are heavy and burdensome and pretty much suck the life out of desire, passion and sexual intimacy.  My pushiness with Arrwyn and trying to guilt and manipulate her into sex was sort of akin to rape.  But I was raping myself emotionally as I set myself up perfectly 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 some strong feelings by me it was still not on a human level of depth as far as intimacy and closeness.  In fact, it likely increased Arwyn’s anxiety level which would send her desire even further in the crapper.


However, I do think there was valuable and necessary growth that took place there.  Arwyn could see my attitude improvements while wearing the cage and she was somewhat open to that.  But the emotional weight of holding the key combined with the guilt factor of me kinking up probably didn’t advance things the way I had hoped.  That’s not to say there wouldn’t be any benefit later.  I think Tom over at Vanilla Edge demonstrates that good things can happen if the relationship is in a better place.  At least they’re funner to read.  I’ll think about expanding that later as I get further into the book.


It still feels like it’s taking me a long time to get through it.  I know, it’s all a process and it’s all good but it is not a fast read. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll read and reread various points.  I wouldn’t mind spending $30 on a DVD movie version of this thing.  Maybe even $50 if they had live demonstrations performed by actual couples!



15 Responses to Kissing and Foreplay

  1. 2amsomewhere says:

    Cat asked an interesting question in a comment below. What if Arwyn is just honest and says she loves me but isn’t in love with me? What that is, is a code that basically says that she wants to be nice and somewhat caring but does not want to be with me and does not want to want me. Wanting to want and working towards making an intimate connection is an act of will at this stage of the game. For my part, I need to be willing to deal with that possible reality. At that point I have some serious choices to make. Adult choices that involve my own integrity. If I’m reading him correctly, I think that is where 2amsomewhere has come out. He looked at the situation and saw where he was not going to grow a lot more with the woman he was with because she was unwilling to differentiate and grow.

    As you move into the later chapters on the process of differentiating, you’ll be introduced to a term — taking the hit. This is the point where you are able to surrender your projections and distortions and face what is there, no matter how ugly it is. Coupled with that is pain… clean pain.

    I knew I felt it when I heard my wife tell me that she regretted deciding to go through IVF for our second child because she said she thought I had already checked out of the marriage. At that point I realized that not only did she not really love me, she was willing to violate her own integrity to fill her life with things that made her feel complete.


  2. Rosie says:

    The fear of abandonment. Wow. I started to write something way too personal and you don’t need to hear my tale. But you really do deserve a lot of credit for making such an effort to figure all this out AND the accompaning effort to initiate solutions.

  3. Dave says:

    Something that I wonder, and it seems to flow with Cat’s question somewhat too-

    What does it mean, to love someone but not to be in love? I’ve had troubles figuring that out, forever.

  4. Digger Jones says:

    I’ve started reviewing some of your earlier posts, 2am, in light of what I know now. I still don’t know much, except you *did* enter your marriage with a whole boatload of shit, the both of you. You were pretty well matched, differentiation-wise with the lack thereof. You do realize that you are going to have to start rebuilding the machinery all over again from scratch, don’t you? I’m just sayin’. And I’m not sure I’m always with your conclusions as far as how you interpret some things she says. You two, last summer, were still (and still are) incredibly emotionally fused together. And you fail to credit you marriage for putting the wheels of growth that you’ve undergone in motion. Without it, you might still be doing phone sex and maybe progressed into some other more predatory nondifferentiated lizard-like form of abusive behavior. The courage to tackle new job challenges is a direct result of you being challenged and confronted by your wife’s behavior. I do get the no sex thing. Trust me, I GET it by NOT getting it!LOL! But your wife deserves some credit for ponying up something when you were getting nothing and having to pay people to be nice to you on the phone! You’re a better person now and a bunch of that is because of her and her issues.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to preach.

    Thanks Rosie and blogging is about sharing stories. I am a collector of them, especially those that are emotional train wrecks. True, I am making an effort to figure things out. But I have not really and truly initiated anything. I want to be able to initiate something *meaningful* and feel I’m getting in a better spot to do that. Just getting my head in a positive space is progress!

    Like I said, Dave, “not being *in* love” while claiming to still love is just sort of a code for saying that “I’m not willing to be your lover.” It’s just a way to soften the blow from coming right out and saying, “I wouldn’t fuck you with a ten foot pole!” It’s an admission of the lack of passion and eroticism, that’s all. No big deal.




  5. FTN says:

    You write a lot in this post about your sexual experiences with Arwyn, but you haven’t really HAD any sexual experiences with her in years, right? Except maybe once in the past few years? Seems like you can’t get too many conclusions with that little data! (Sorry, now it feels like I’m pouring lemon juice on an open wound.)

    The eyes-closed, not-connecting thing is something I suppose I should write about sometime. I don’t feel “reptilian” because of it, but my wife will most definitely avoid much eye contact. Or having her eyes open at all. It just makes her uncomfortable sometimes, and I’m not sure if it’s because she doesn’t want to look at me, or because she doesn’t want to see me looking at her. If that makes sense.

    Either way, I feel as though it’s a chasm in the “emotional connectedness” of sex.

  6. Digger Jones says:

    I’ve done it enough to know the routine, FTN. That’s why it’s a routine! The few data points I have show a pretty clear data path cascading toward gridlock. I seriously have actual data points going back 7 years, and there has not been a deviation from the trendline.

    The reason for eyes-closed and in-the-dark sex is some conditioning and socialization but mostly it is a very low threshold for intimacy. Autumn *likes* you a lot, probably more than anyone else in the whole world outside of her kids. But she can not stand to get too close to you, intimacy-wise. Another reason could be her sexual style (see above post) where she might be “reaching” for her own sensations and *has* to tune you out in order to get to her own orgasm or at least until she can get lost in her own sensations.

    Remember the salad/steak analogy? You two are doing what’s right for you and helping each other grow. By the time you’re 75, you should be having some seriously smokin’ hot sex!

    Only 30 or so years to go!

  7. Desmond Jones says:

    Hmmmm. . . I don’t know that I have anything of substance to contribute to the discussion, but, you know, that’s never stopped me before. . .

    I think if Molly had her way, all our lovemaking would happen in the dark. Someone told her once about how ‘visual’ male humans are, so she’s willing to be a little flexible on the matter for my sake. But I did buy a dimmer switch for our bedside lamp, so it doesn’t have to be too bright. . .

    And, the ‘eyes open/closed’ thing came up in our counseling. When I ask her to look into my eyes while we’re making love, she feels ‘more naked than naked’; it’s like exposing herself on a level far deeper than mere nakedness. So yeah, there’s some kind of ‘shying away’ from the deeper degrees of intimacy.

    It ain’t carved in stone – she’s willing to go there, but there’s a definite psychological hurdle. .

    Just so’s you don’t get the impression that it’s all just the deepest kind of wonderful, all the time, for us. . . 😉

  8. Square1 says:

    The eyes open thing was never a problem for me, early on in marriage. i am quick to forgive, but not to forget, and my wounds don’t heal easily when Mr. Muse and I have our issues out. Some of them are akin to scabs that keep getting broken open and made deeper over time. As those vulnerabilities have built, it has become more difficult to be vulnerable, especially during sex, which was used as a weapon in every relationship previous to Mr. Muse.

    This fusion and differentiation issue has been incredibly interesting to read about. I can see some areas in which our fusion is a problem, and other areas in which we have battled our way to differentiation. I imagine though that this is a life long process, the fight to satand our ground as individuals while finding our comfort zone in the context of being a couple.

  9. Digger Jones says:

    You just depressed me Desmond! I had you all set up as the model, ideal and perfect couple! If you can’t do it, what chance does the rest of us have?;-)

    That more “naked than naked” comment made me think a minute about another time in a certain garden when the man and woman suddenly became aware of their nakedness. They forfeited that intimacy and we have had to battle to get it back ever since.

    It really is a lifelong thing, Square. It would be nice if we could just be done with it but we never are. It’s designed to help us grow and we don’t stop doing that until we die. In a way, that’s a bit depressing realizing that we’re just not ever going to get there this side of Heaven. So we might enjoy the journey for what it is! But it is also a really good reason to tough it out. Why would anyone want to start the process all over again?


  10. tajalude says:

    This is interesting.

    Brady & I almost always have sex in the “light”. Artificial light, daytime, what have you. And neither of us hesitates to ask the other to open their eyes in the middle of intercourse. Brady often “announces” when he’s about to climax, and often times I ask (tell) him to open his eyes and look at me. For whatever reason, it makes things far more intense.

    I’ve never understood having sex in the dark. Sometimes it’s a welcome change, but by and large, I prefer to do my lovin’ in the light. I like to see what’s happening, what’s going on and where, and mostly, I like seeing my partner enjoying himself.

    Strange, then, that I don’t feel more fulfilled by our level of sexual intimacy.

  11. Dave says:

    If that’s the only differentiator, I’m a lucky dude 🙂

    We’ll do it lights on, off, daytime, nighttime- I’m with Taja on the intensity thing, it can be a great addition.

  12. Digger Jones says:

    Taja and Dave, the lights on and eyes open thing is one of many factors that can increase intimacy, and you are both fortunate to have that. It not only requires a certain level of differentiation to do, but like many things it also encourages more. From your writing, Taja, I have a pretty good idea of one contributing factor to your unrest which will be the subject of the next entry in this series. Namley, it seems to me that you want him to “do you” a lot more than he does.


  13. C-Marie says:

    While there is a lot more to be weighed in here, I’ll scrape the surface by saying we seem to struggle with the same factors in regards to intimacy. No doubt, with my lack of writing about it, I’ve thrown in the towel and decided to just accept it as is and for what it is. There has hardly ever been a time that we “did it” with the lights on and if an “event” took place during the daylight hours – quick! Grab the blankets and cover up!
    In the very early stages of my relationship with JM, the feeling of being totally accepted enlarged my capacity for openess. I never felt myself to be “afraid” to reveal or express on any level including intimacy.
    But the days and months revealed their own secrets about our relationship and that road was quickly barricaded – not that I have to tell you.
    It’s almost as if it’s easier to have that “safety net” and to live in the comfort zone that has manifested, than to work through the issue that we would want to remain mostly dormant. So we then go through our relationship mechanically.
    The feeling of being denied, misunderstood, hurt and ashamed of how we may or may not look phyically will sincerely keep our eyes closed – I think I’ve been left squinting.

  14. diggerjones says:

    You got me thinking, Marie. Just how bad a thing is frustration? It certainly drives and motivates us when there’s no other incentive.She we be so quick to dampen it? I don’t know, I’m just musing.

    It’s easy now but that doesn’t mean it will be easy forever. In fact, it may get worse. I suppose I’m testing that tension, myself. Other things will distract but I’ll eventually return to this place and think about what I want vs what I’m getting.


  15. Lisa Moricoli-Latham says:

    Oh the tangled webs we weave — if only we were aware of them all! All I know is I’d much rather be musing on what naughty things I might do to my groom than on whether one of us is withholding this or that. Because of course, one of us always is. Nevertheless, if you like David Schnarch’s work as much as I do, come on down to for some much-needed humor on this topic. Be well!

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