I read a wonderful book over the last week that really put a lot of things in perceptive for me, regarding intimacy and desire. I wanted to share some of the information, and hopefully shed some light into how we lose ourselves in our relationships and forget to grow.
Schnarch (2009) in his book “Intimacy & desire: Awaken the passion in your relationship” argued that couples through history, regardless of culture and sexual orientation, go through marital impasses, and that our relationship hurdles are a natural path to self-growth and bonding. There is a systemic interaction and impact between what he describes as “Low Desire Partner” (LDP) and “High Desire Partner” (HDP) in intimate relationships.
It is the amount of interest we have in different areas of life that defines our desire level and, it is not exclusive to sex but also money or children. Therefore, there is an LDP and a HDP on nearly every issue and decision in an intimate relationship. For example, both partners may want sex weekly but the HDP may want sex more days or times in a day than the LDP, who may want it once a day.
The HDP wants to do something that the LDP does not to do or the LDP wants to do it less. Even if both partners desire the same thing, there is always one partner who wants it more. It is this difference in energy in couples that is responsible for conflicts and struggles, which unsuspectingly drives both to grow, or as Schnarch (2009) defined as “co-evolving.”
The positions of LDP or HDP shift on different issues within the relationship. For example, one partner may be the HDP for sex and intimacy, but the other partner could be the HDP for being monogamous or disciplining the children. According to Schnarch (2009), whatever the issue that is being addressed in the relationship – whether it is sex, moving in together, visiting in-laws – there will be a HDP and LDP partner and this is regardless of culture and personal circumstance.
Understanding this concept is valuable when discussing sexuality, as it allows a non-pathological examination of problems related to sexual desire within a relationship. It also clarifies the possible misunderstanding that being the LDP does not mean there is no or almost no sexual desire, rather less energy is emphasized in that area. Understanding sexual desire in the context of this theory assists couples in realizing that being LDP or HDP is not a negative character trait and decreases defensiveness about the differences in level of sexual desire.
In terms of one’s sexuality, this concept of sexual desire supersedes the role of hormones and sex drive. Schnarch (2009) argued that our sexuality and desire are driven by our need to feel wanted; unfortunately, this relies greatly on our partner’s behavior. Therefore, we have given control and surrendered our sexual desire and needs of our partner, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
The Low Desire Partner in any relationship always controls when and how sex happens. Schnarch (2009) argued that whether things in the relationship were going great or not, the LDP controls sex. This will not change, even with improvement within the relationship. The difference is that happier couples handle the disappointment better. The relationship suffers when the HDP takes the rejection and feelings of disappointment personally, and become defensive and bitter towards their partner. This creates an environment where the LDP begins to feel inadequate and defective, and the HDP partner, who feels punished, may reinforce these feelings by blaming the LDP for their sexual discomfort or lack of sex (Schnarch, 2009).
At the beginning of a relationship the LDP controls sex, though they are not always aware of this or want the control. However, eventually over time, the LDP may begin to want to withhold and punish their HDP because of the assaults (emotional and verbal) they endure over their “lack of sexual energy” in comparison to their partner. The reason that LDPs control sex is that they rarely, if ever, have to initiate sex. The HDP wants sex more and will initiate more often, but the LDP, again, decides which sexual overtures they will respond to, which in turn determines when sex happens.
Although the HDP initiates the frequency, timing, or style of sex, all the LDP has to do is hesitate and regain control again of the interaction (Schnarch, 2009). For example, a HDP may propose or initiate oral sex but if the LDP nonverbally suggests disapproval, the sexual behavior will cease. The HDP, out of fear of being rejected from all other sexual activities or being punished for an extended amount of time without sex, will refrain from upsetting the LDP (Schnarch, 2009). The HPD motto, out of desperation, becomes “something is better than nothing.”
The control is reinforced by the HPD, who becomes frustrated by the lack of control and feelings of discomfort, begins to attempt to change their LDP into more of what they assume to be “normal” sexual activity and behaviors. This vicious cycle of power and control wears away the level of intimacy in a relationship and partners begin to feel less attractive to their mate or feel that they are “growing apart.” Schnarch (2009) argues that this cycle of power and control is a natural process in relationships and through an evolutionary process will strengthen attachment to our mate and intensify sexual desire and intimacy.
The hurdles arise in order for us to confront ourselves and strive for personal growth; this will not only make us a better person but a more powerful lover. The realization of one’s inner strength is by gaining a view that sees sexual desire as a system, and marriage as a “people-growing machine” driven by differentiation over millions of years (Schnarch, 2009).
We become so frightened by our relationships and how they define us that we lose our own integrity of who we are, and what we want.
How can any women became sexually confident and excited if she does not know who she is?
~The Lesbian Guru
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