Return to Schnarch

Anyone reading the past month or so knows my relationship has seemingly stalled and begun taking a nose dive. Just when things were starting to look up, too! But this is the way it goes, sometimes. Well, pretty much ALL the time, because that’s sort of the way marriage works. A few steps forwards, and seemingly a few steps back into gridlock. But gridlock is where we are, because that’s where we have to be.

Last weekend, I went ahead and downloaded the mp3 version of Schnarch’s most recent book,Secrets of a Passionate Marriage. For me, it was a totally worthwhile download. Here, I could listen to Schnarch’s words delivered as he meant them to sound. And he manages to go through the whole thing in less than 2 hours. While I had begun rereading certain parts of Passionate Marrige, I was having a hard time getting into it. With the mp3, I could listen to it as many times as I wanted, in any order. Schnarch delivers his prose in a conversational style, sometimes in front of a “live” audience, as you can sometimes hear people laugh in the background as he delivers a humorous line.

And after the 3rd or so time through, some of this started to really sink back in. The therapist has been SO dead wrong in his approach. Pretty much all marriage therapists and sex therapists get it wrong, even though this stuff has been out around 20 years! The reason why it might not be so popular is because there is a definite spiritual focus on this approach to discovering intimacy. Schnarch makes no bones about how elegantly the sexual relationship acts as a catalyst for growth, change and intimacy. Or the fact that human sexuality is a product of deliberate and complex design. However, I do need to throw in a caveat that Schnarch is NOT an evangelical and is totally fine with referring and treating gay couples with his approach. But this should not detract from the truth that he reveals.

And that truth is, is that I’ve been dead wrong. I think I was saying that a year ago, too. For some reason, once we got into therapy, I sort of laid what I had learned then down. That was mistake. Just the act of calling a therapist and making an appointment and following through…these were all acts of trying to break the emotional gridlock. How odd that firing the therapist might be the next step in breaking this episode of emotional gridlock!LOL!

But we have been chasing our tails around the issues, here. There has been a bit of progress in that we have had more sex. Considering the score was a big fat ZERO for the previous year, it wouldn’t take much. On the intimacy front, I can say there was SOME progress, but much less pronounced.

The therapist is treating this as a communication issue, and it is definitely not a communication issue. The message could not be more clear: I want more sex. She does not. There is no way that the message could be more clear than nailing it to our foreheads! We get it! It’s right there! She wants a dog. I do not. In the case of dog ownership, I am the low desire partner. There is no communication issue, here! No matter how many times I speak her love language, she is not going to budge from her position. No matter how many times she speaks mine, I’m not getting a dog.

The problem is not one of speaking and listening. It is a problem of anxiety. Today, while listening to Schnarch, the light bulb went on. I’m getting it. Again.

Basically, Arwyn has a whole lot of anxiety about intimacy, especially as far as it is expressed sexually. But it also translates into her being a general avoider, too. And so it is, that I happen to share a lot of the same sorts of anxiety but it expresses itself a bit differently. We’re both kind of distant folk. Not unfriendly, but we have big boundaries around us and we keep a big distance. But at the same time we want a type of closeness. That’s the big rub, here. We both want to be close but we both want distance. It just so happens that I’m capable of having sex while maintaining quite a bit of distance. In other words, my emotional involvement doesn’t have to be terribly deep for me to have an orgasm. Arwyn is actually a lot alike me in that respect except she actually requires quite a lot of distance to orgasm. That’s why she prefers the lights off and the eyes tightly shut and she does not want me looking at her face while she is in the throes of passion. In other words, her emotional involvement is pretty well evenly matched with mine. It’s low. But there is a part of her that wants more.

What’s getting in the way is anxiety and fear. Sex is simply one way to have closeness while managing the anxiety, but Arwyn has simply not mastered much in the way of managing her fears. And so, like every other couple on the planet, we have to deal with the sexual leftovers.

Sexual leftovers is what every couple has when it comes to sex. Each person makes a list of what is too disgusting and perverted and then the other person makes their list and then you agree on the leftovers. That’s what you call compromise, right? But that leads to sexual boredom which leads to tension and eventual gridlock. At some point, the anxiety comes to a head and then has to be dealt with.

I feel like I’m drifting, here.

A few months back, we had probably the greatest breakthrough EVER as far as sexual intimacy. It was at a time when we were good all around. One night we approached each other and we ended up in the lotus position. Yeah, I figured out what it was. But I might have underestimated the amount of courage that went into this for her. And we may have done it a time or two since then. But some how we were able to manage that face-to-face intimacy.

Okay, I’m getting tired and need to turn in, but at least I have a better idea of what is going on and I’m not nearly as snarky on Arwyn as I was earlier. I’ll have to expound more on the differentiation aspect of this later, as we are still having to work through that.

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9 Responses to Return to Schnarch

  1. FTN says:

    Yikes, the formatting on your post went crazy, with the italics and the hyperlinks.

    I can’t remember if I told you or not, but I never got all the way through “Passionate Marriage.” It was interesting and informative, but somehow I just stalled 2/3 of the way through. It didn’t help that Autumn never picked it up, although I realize I needed to read it for ME whether or not she ever read it. Maybe I’ll still get back to it, yet.

    I still do need to finish writing a post on the “eyes-open” sex concept, though, because that was something that struck a chord with me in the book, and it’s also one of the things I’d consider a bit of a “breakthrough” in my own marriage.

    Good luck. I’d be very open and straightforward with your therapist, and your critique of his methodology, before you give him the pink slip. Might be good to have that level of communication with him.

  2. Dave says:

    It’s interesting to me, how the intimacy of sex really cycles (at least for us) with the intimacy we’re feeling, the closeness, in general. Luckily for the physical part, we have sex anyway, even if we’re feeling a little withdrawn. Sometimes, that brings us back to the closeness, other times, it’s just a different way to try to connect. I think it’s great that you and arwyn got that far, anyway, that seems like a big step to me, just from reading- and maybe with your renewed awareness, you can get past the stall.

    Hope so, good luck!

  3. Desmond Jones says:

    Well, the light bulb coming on seems like it would be a good thing. If you’ve come to this new (or renewed?) understanding of your wife, and how she ticks, then it seems like you can perhaps start moving forward again. . .

  4. Aphron says:

    With this renewed understanding of Aerwyn how will you be able to achieve your goal? The rub isn’t identifying the problem; the rub is getting someone to, basically, do what you want. It reminds me of the frog and scorpion story. How does one get another to change? Also, don’t forget the law of unintended consequences.

    I don’t have the answer either. I’m not sure anyone does. If one really, really wants something, the other usually is indifferent. Sometimes compromise is not possible, when one side will not compromise.

  5. Emily says:

    Those “lightbulb” moments can be great.

    At the same time, I think having a therapist has clearly helped you guys to progress – maybe it’s just the accountability. The two of you seem to stall on your own, for long periods. Also, I wonder if you can move forward when only one of you is committed to the approach you are taking.

    If it was me, I would look around for a therapist who understands and supports the Schnarch approach and can work with it.

    Just a thought – sometimes focusing so strongly on a “Christian” therapist is not that helpful. It’s great if they are ALSO a good therapist, but personally I’d rather have someone who was highly qualified and experienced of any beliefs, as long as they had a basic bias towards keeping the marriage together. By looking so specifically for a Christian therapist, you may be narrowing your choices quite a lot.

  6. therese says:

    I have to second what Emily said about a counselor. Ours wasn’t Christian. We told her up front on the first day that we were Catholic and divorce wasn’t an option, and she worked from there. But the religion part didn’t enter into counseling at all. We had a spiritual director for that.

    If you have any other place to get your religious counseling, I wouldn’t sacrifice a good counselor he/she doesn’t share your faith.

    Best wishes for a fabulous 2009 in the Jones household!

  7. diggerjones says:

    Liked your post FTN, and perhaps having that resonate will help you finish the book. Or download the mp3 so you can listen to it during you next marathon run.

    Yes, Dave, it really is a cycle. My guess is you and your wife probably manage sexual anxiety better than Arwyn and I. But marriage is kind of designed to encourage us to both deal with that through cycling through the process.

    It’s more about managing anxiety than getting control, Aphron. We all know the only one we can truly control is US. It is about each of us growing and putting up with our own nerves and facing our fears. Like you, a lot of mine are about my wife’s disapproval and lack of validation. I need to find a way past that.

    Yeah, Emily, we do stall easily on our own so the accountability alone is about worth what we’re paying. The Christian aspect barely finds its way into our sessions, so that is not as big a deal as it might have seemed. But for Arwyn, it might be THE key that got her in the door. She struggles as much as I do with the process. At the very least, this guy will get an education.

    Thanks for the wishes, Therese! I’m keeping my eyes open for a competent counselor in our area but we are sort of in the sticks here. But it is a good idea to be on the lookout for a better one and have that in place before giving up on this guy. Plus I’ll have to see if I can get him to modify his approach/orientation, which he might if he gets educated.

  8. diggerjones says:

    And yes, Desmond, maybe we can get moving again, but we seem to have inertia working against us at the moment.

  9. […] my last entry, I spoke about some of my disdain for this therapist we’ve been seeing. It has nothing to do […]

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