Intimacy and Desire

intimacy and desireIntimacy and Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship

by David Schnarch Beaufort Books, New York, 2009.

Reviewed by Don and Barbara Fairfield, Certified Leader Couple and Specialist, Lanham, MD

David and Vera Mace, the founders of Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment – ACME (re-branded as Better Marriages) realized that the romantic love experienced by newlywed couples never lasts and marital problems are inevitable. They also realized that relationship growth is necessary if both partners are to become “fully known and deeply loved”. In his most recent book, Intimacy and Desire, Dr. David Schnarch extends these ideas and lays out the principles that ultimately promote such self growth.

It is this development of a solid-flexible self™ that allows for the kind of mature connection in long-term intimate relationships that we all strive for. In contrast to the typical book on marriage that prescribes words and actions that will calm couples down and make them feel better in the short run, Schnarch describes how marriages really work and what couples can do to achieve the individual growth required for authentic couple relationships.

Dr. Schnarch recognizes that the fundamental challenge  in a marriage is achieving a balance between becoming fully known in an intimate relationship with a partner while simultaneously retaining one’s  independence. Partners who require continual validation from each other to shore up a weak sense of self will never be fully known. At some point, partners will tire of saying just what their partners want to hear, honesty will prevail and problems will arise.  If partners stubbornly cling to and defend their weak self concept to prove they are independent, they will never achieve any degree of intimacy.  Much of the book is dedicated to showing how partners can grow as individuals in a relationship and thus become the partners who are able to reach more of their potential for intimacy.

One truism Schnarch points out is that the low desire partner always controls sex in marital relationships. Although this might initially seem counter intuitive, when one recognizes the power of being able to reject a sexual initiation by ones partner, it becomes much more apparent. These dynamics of high desire and low desire are not restricted to sex, but occur in many areas of marital life and result in ongoing conflict.

This book is based on Schnarch’s extensive clinical experience and is supported by modern studies of the human brain. While skillfully delineating the factors that drive marriage relationships, he illustrates them with examples from his clinical experience. The supporting neurobiology is confined to numerous footnotes which keep the book highly readable. The problems discussed will ring true to many readers and it is truly inspiring to read the examples of real life couples who step up and make the changes that make lasting differences in their marriages. Numerous Marriage Enrichment Groups (MEGs) in the Washington DC area are currently reading the book and using discussion questions supplied by the Washington area Better Marriages Chapter. We hope to describe this process in a subsequent article.

 

 

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