An update on anxiety

In my last entry, I spoke about some of my disdain for this therapist we’ve been seeing. It has nothing to do with his personal convictions, or his personality but everything to do with his marriage to the family systems approach. He has spent months trying to map out our family of origin and then tries to help us interpret things through that lens. The problem is that family systems is regressive while also being an other-validated approach. It has limited usefulness, especially for a supposed sex therapist.

Arwyn and I had a number of these little sniping sessions last weekend. It resembles a type of guerrilla technique where she says something potentially deep (but snarky) and then withdrawing as quickly as possible. One topic that came up was a mini marriage seminar her church is having on Wednesday evenings. She went without me the week before and brought back some material from it. I didn’t know it at the time, but much of the material is derived from our old friend Harley, who developed the ENQ. I liked much of his material, but it is mostly incompatible with Schnarch’s view of differentiation. The entire “Love Bank” principle is based on validating your partner in the hope that the other will feel positive enough to return the favor. I told Arwyn I would be wiling to attend just to check it out. My response was less than enthusiastic, which violates a major tenet of Harley’s which is that you don’t do things or ask your partner to do things that they can not enthusiastically support. Those of you presently enduring the tyranny of this know the pitfall of this principle. It devolves into not being able to do anything!

At out last therapy session last week, it hit the proverbial fan. On the way to the therapist, I played some of Schnarch’s audio book. I happened to pick the chapter on integrity which is truly the real meat of his approach. She recognized much of it as I confronted the therapist about how his and Harley’s approach lacked a grounding in reality. At the conclusion, I gave him a CD on which I had copied about 5 chapters of the book. The therapist seemed genuinely interested and appreciative and noted that he spends a lot of time on the road so would listen to it. His familiarity with Schnarch is marginal at best. When we discussed it, he was under the impression that the Passionate Marriage approach drove people further apart, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It drives people out of feeling trapped but more into a greater capacity for love.

Arwyn hasn’t made any moves toward sex, and that has been fine by me. I was worried that she might try something right before therapy as that has been sort of a pattern for her but my integrity was not tested this past week. And that’s sort of where we are at. I don’t want Arwyn to feel like she has to have sex with me simply to medicate my bad mood, or to fulfill and obligation or just because she might be asked about it in therapy. I suppose if she could derive some joy out of fulfilling a need of mine, I would be okay with that, but that isn’t the vibe I’m getting. In her mind, I’m obsessed with sex. And if sex was happening, it might only be about 10% of the relationship but because it is such a deficit area, it takes up more mindspace.

I’ll expand a bit more on my thoughts on my other blog. I don’t post often enough for multiple blogs but it is handy when I do decide to do multiple posts.

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5 Responses to An update on anxiety

  1. sixdegrees says:

    I see all sorts of interesting parallels between our situations. Some differences, most notably that Arwyn is actually participating in couples counseling while my wife will not.

    I do agree with you that interpreting a marriage relationship through the the family of origin lens is not an effective approach. In my case, I can clearly see that there are family of origin issues that drive both my behavior and my wife’s behavior. But once these are brought out in the open, which doesn’t take much digging, in my opinion, the important step is to get both parties to move beyond those issues.

    I think that both Harley and Schnarch have some good ideas and that what people need to do is to take their ideas, try them on and see what works. Maybe you should be more enthusiastic the next time that Arwyn asks you to do something she wants to do. How does it make you feel when she gives a less than enthusiastic response to something that you would like to do?

    I can relate to the notion that Arwyn thinks you are obsessed with sex. I get the same line from my wife. But it is not just about sex, but the connection and togetherness that sexual intimacy bring. Do you think it would change this dynamic bewteen Arwyn and yourself if you took the approach of “I want to make love with you” rather than “I want to have sex with you”?

    One more serious question – that you may not be able to answer at this time. What do you see as the endgame in your relationship with Arwyn?

  2. aphron says:

    There is a stereotype that all men care about is sex. That, on the surface, seems true. However, it isn’t sex per se. It is the connection that sex provides. Or reinforces.

    The problem is there needs to be some sort of connection there. Without that connection there is no sex.

    I will add that you are making progress, albeit slowly. Arwyn is making attempts to improve things. I’m sure she knows there is a problem. If she just dismisses the problem as purely a sexual one, then she is missing the bigger picture.

  3. Emily says:

    I think its great that your therapist is so open to hearing about this approach.

    At the same time, sometimes your apparently uncritical enthusiasm for Schnarch concerns me a bit. I’ve got no problem with his approach, but in fact it strikes me that it could have results in both directions – more differentiation might lead to greater intimacy and passion, but could also just lead to more distance and instability.

    The idea that marriage is about passion and intimacy is a very modern one. Marriage serves other functions too – mutual support, financial partnership and most of all the stable rearing of children. I’m not discounting your urge for intimacy, but I think these other things count for something important, too.

    And it concerns me a little that you are so negative about Arwyn’s input on this stuff. Does she get to have a say at all, or is the real relationship here actually between you and Schnarch?

  4. diggerjones says:

    Endgame? That’s the beauty and the tragedy…there is no real endgame as such. There needs to be and game in therapy, I suppose. It is an intriguing question as far as how and when I see us as “settled” or “stable.” I’ll have to think more on that.

    I think she might be beginning to see that it is not a purely sexual problem, Aphron, but it still is the most pronounced conflict. We’re pretty good with money, in-laws and mostly with kids so sex is that one area where we have the most conflict which spills over into other areas.

    Thanks for piping in, Emily! I try to respect Arwyn’s input but I have a difficult time with it because she seems to have done so little work. she hasn’t read the book our therapist suggested, she won’t read (or listen to) books I read, she has not done much of the work the therapist assigned… And yet she expects me to go along with everything she suggests. And so I have gone along with it, hoping to get additional insight and it does come in different ways. But you do bring up some interesting points that I’ll address in the next post.

  5. […] enough, Emily and my therapist both brought up similar questions about Schnarch or at least my take on his approach. So this is a golden […]

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