Home > Book Review, Ethics, Philosophy, Science, Secular > Differentiation: Maintaining The Self In Relation: Primer – Part 1.

Differentiation: Maintaining The Self In Relation: Primer – Part 1.

Schnarch has some interesting ideas regarding marriage, intimacy and relationships that I intend to share here, to him society generally has distorted our view of sexuality, love, relationships, communication and intimacy. For example we have taken an idea about intimacy, namely that our partner accepts and validates us, and convinced ourselves that this is the totality of what intimacy has to offer, thus placing the burden of being accepted and validated exclusively on our partners. He states that sociologists have suggested we crave “intimate union”, but Schnarch disagrees in that he believes something else is going on, in that we appear to crave intimacy but what we actually are searching for is someone to make us feel “acceptable and worthwhile” (p. 39).

We’ve assigned the label “intimacy” to what we want (validation and reciprocal disclosure) and developed pop psychologies that give it to us – while keeping true intimacy away. We’ve distorted what intimacy is, how it really feels, how much we really want it, and how best to get it. Once we realize that intimacy is not always soothing and often makes us feel insecure, it is clear why we back away from it. (Schnarch, 2009, p. 39)

Similarly Schnarch states we do something similar with communication, in that we expect to be understood the way we want and be answered with the response we want, he wants however to shift the focus away from making our partners do the impossible task of fulfilling our thoughts, desires and projections (they are not mind readers, they can only accidentally get your expectations right), and to turn the compass inwards, to look at ourselves as the source of our validation, or at least able to structure intimacy in a way that our partners aid us in a “self-validating” intimacy. Thus in turn reflectively enhancing your relationships net intimacy and sexual connection.

This goes too for sex in which Schnarch believes we have rooted sex and sexuality in a “biological hunger”, much like the desire for food, and thus low sexual functioning is labelled “sexual anorexia”, a sexual “eating disorder”. This places couples under an enormous amount of pressure to fulfill their partners and perhaps even their own expectations about sex and sexuality,  after all how messed up would you be if you didn’t want to eat? The same is thought of sex.

We don’t realize that seeing sex as a “drive” makes us focus on relieving sexual tension rather than wanting our partner. It may be true that the more tension (“horny”) people feel, the more they tend to seek relief – but if that’s the only reason you think your partner wants to be with you it tends to kill sex and intimacy in marriage. (Schnarch, 2009, p. 41)

Thinking of sex as a biological drive states Schnarch sets us up to believe we’re supposed to know how to have, enjoy and appreciate sex, and it also makes us think we should want it all the time, but this does not take into account the mental aspects of sex and sexuality:

Until couples go beyond viewing sex as a biological drive, they presume sexual behavior is a good measure of sexual desire and orgasm always involves high arousal and satisfaction. Common experiences of married couples disprove both assumptions.(Schnarch, 2009, p. 41)

Just what alternative view should we have of sex? Schnarch does offer some insights here (p. 75), but perhaps we can look at that later. In our next post we will begin to discuss Schnarch’s interesting and complicated differentiation thesis.

Reference

Schnarch, D. (2009). Passionate Marriage. New York, New York. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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  1. August 14, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Interesting post 😉
    I recall reading a social psychological theory of what exactly love is a product of which I couldn’t help but agree with; the three-factor theory of love (Hatfield and Walster, 1981). Basically they state love is a product of three interacting variables
    1. A cultural determinant that acknowledges love as a state
    2. An appropriate love object present (whom ever that is)
    3. Emotional arousal, self-labelled “love”, that is felt when interacting with or even thinking about the appropriate love object.

    I wonder if he includes anything on attributions? It’s basically a theoretical framework of the process of assigning a cause to ones own or others behaviour. A factor I feel would influence relationships greatly..

    Looking forward to the next instalment 🙂

    • August 14, 2014 at 6:26 am

      That’s an interesting definition of love… I love scholarly looks at these things.

      As far as I’ve come across no, but I am only 90 pages in.

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