Resource of the Month–October, 2012

Intimacy and Desire: Awaken the Passion in your Relationship by Dr. David Schnarch

If you are serious about wanting better sex in your marriage, growing intimacy in your marriage, or if you are wondering if there is any hope for your marriage, this book is a must-read. Dr. Schnarch, spells out a truly fresh approach to saving and deepening your marriage in this outstanding book.

Schnarch begins with what he has learned through doing counseling with hundreds of couples complaining about sexual desire problems. He comes at this issue with a rather surprising slant. Sexual desire problems may be evidence of a lack of differentiation in the couple rather than a lack of connection or a lack of attachment. To one couple whose story he recounts in his book, he says, “The problem isn’t that you’re ‘too close.’ It’s that you are too dependent on each other for your emotional balance.” (p.49) His unique approach creates a template for couples from which they can grow as individuals in order to grow to new heights of true intimacy and much better sex.

Schnarch’s approach helps individuals learn to interact with their partners in a cleaner, less needy way. Rather than trying to get certain reactions from their partners that make them feel secure, individuals are shown how to find that security within themselves so that they can approach their partners without their expectations and needs coloring the interactions in an unhelpful way. As Schnarch puts it, “We don’t desire partners we constantly have to validate.” (p.115) We’d rather have sex with someone who wants rather than needs the other.  He calls his building blocks for getting there the Four Points of Balance: (p.72)

  • Solid Flexible Self:  The ability to be clear about who you are and what you’re about, especially when your partner pressures you to adapt and conform.
  • Quiet Mind-Calm Heart:  Being able to calm yourself down, sooth your own hurts, and regulate your own anxieties.
  • Grounded Responding:  The ability to stay calm and not overreact, rather than creating distance or running away when your partner gets anxious or upset.
  • Meaningful Endurance:  Being able to step up and face the issues that bedevil you and your relationship, and the ability to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.

I like that being willing and able to tolerate discomfort is a part of his description of meaningful endurance. The author knows something of the discomfort that real growth requires. The four points of balance are neither simple nor easy to achieve and sometimes take folks to the very limit of their willingness to deal with themselves!  The revolutionary (albeit threatening to some) part of his thinking is that we are all better off if we stop demanding that our spouses and partners make us feel more stable! But that is an exciting invitation if you value this kind of soul-liberating transformation.

Schnarch’s book is very well researched and his experience working with couples gives him credibility. He is not afraid of talking graphically and explicitly about sex (be forewarned, R-rated book!) but he does so in a way that is real and useful if the whole book is taken into account. He writes from a psychological and evolutionary perspective mixed in with anecdotal dialogue lifted from his therapy sessions and I appreciate the way the stories fill out his evidence-based descriptions.  The book is dense and requires digesting along the way. I have worked with couples that read the book along with our sessions and some of them really needed the additional help of the therapy to do the internal work required. For those of you considering marriage counseling, Schnarch gives helpful advice about finding a therapist in Appendix A.

Let me know how your reading goes! This is an excellent resource and I hope you’ll pass it along. Buy your own copy here.

4 comments


  • Janice,

    I appreciate how you talk about this book as an invitation. It truly is a winsome and daring invitation to take a transformative look at ourselves. When we are curious enough to evaluate who we truly are and what we truly want, the effects on our marriages, professions, and friendships can be profound. This book is an open invitation to a new experience of ourselves and others. And when it’s used in conjunction with counseling, it can be particularly effective.

    October 25, 2012
  • Coli

    Okay bought the book. But wow Janice — challenging stuff to work on especially in our context. (Not to mention embarrassing to comment on :).

    October 26, 2012
    • With all these silly wetssbei, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

      April 13, 2014
  • Janice…great book…recommended by our therapist =).
    Deep stuff to work through and for me churned up intense and incredible insight into who i am, who i am not, and what i need to be. I devoured the book in 4 days…
    It is definitely challenging on the explicit side, but the principles are rewarding to embrace…

    November 26, 2012

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