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Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship

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Many couples begin marital counseling with Dr. David Schnarch with their sex lives in shambles, wondering what's wrong with them, considering divorce. One partner will complain that the other doesn't desire him, the other complains that she's married to a sex maniac. During his 30 years in practice as a marriage and family therapist, Dr. Schnarch has discovered that sexual desire problems are normal and even healthy, in committed relationships.In Intimacy and Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship, Dr. Schnarch explains why couples in long term relationships have sexual desire problems, regardless of how much they love each other or how well they communicate. Through case studies of couples he worked with, Dr. Schnarch shows why normal marital conflict can be the cause of desire problems and creates a roadmap for how couples can transform marital conflict into a stronger relationship and a font of new and powerful desire for each other. He takes it a step further, giving readers simple but effective exercises that will help them reconnect with each other.

428 pages, Hardcover

First published October 21, 2009

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About the author

David Schnarch

9 books75 followers
David Schnarch is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified sex therapist, and author of numerous books and articles on intimacy, sexuality, and relationships. He is the Director of the Crucible® Institute and his work has attracted clients and students from across the globe. His book Passionate Marriage is a perennial bestseller, offering the general public his revolutionary approach in a pragmatic and easy-to-understand form.

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5 stars
176 (44%)
4 stars
143 (36%)
3 stars
63 (15%)
2 stars
11 (2%)
1 star
3 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Carol.
151 reviews
July 6, 2013
This is a great book for anyone who is married to read but I need to start this review with a some words of caution: This book was written by a non-LDS sex therapist about long term relationships and contains open and sometimes explicit discussion on sexual behavior. That said, the main focus of this book(Chapters 1-10)is how to grow and blossom a loving, long term relationship-not by loving your partner more or communicating better-but by using what he calls the Four Points of Balance. He discusses in great detail how to maintain emotional balance by using these four points.
1. 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.(Self-confrontation is a vital part of this because a solid self develops from self-confrontation rather than internalizing validation from others. If you won't confront yourself about who you really are, you'll stay dependent on how you think you look to other people.)
2. Quiet Mind-Calm Heart - being able to calm yourself down, soothe you own hurts, and regulate your own anxieties.
3. Grounded Responding - the ability to stay calm and not overreact, rather than creating distance or running away when your partner gets anxious or upset.
4. 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. (Solutions to some problems only exist after we go through them, because our development is the solution.)
Some other quotes I loved from the book:
"All relationships have 2 distinct cycles. One is the comfort/safety cycle, where your relationship remains familiar and anxiety is low. The other is the growth cycle, where your relationship changes and anxiety is higher. All living things must balance stability and growth. This includes people and relationships. Without both, things fall apart."
"The backbone of marriage is the ultimate manifestation of the human self: your integrity. It's about being loyal, truthful, and forthright even when it's difficult. Living up to your responsibilities. Not being deterred by your fears and anxieties."
"There is always a low desire partner, just as there is always a high desire partner-and there is one of each in every relationship."(I found it really interesting that about 50% of the time the high desire partner is not the man.)
"People(many times) marry for the 'wrong reasons' because the right reasons don't exist yet. The purpose of marriage is to make you capable of good reasons to be married."
"Marriage takes your lowest, weakest, and darkest parts and stuffs them up your nose until you can't stand yourself as you are. That's a good thing, because it often takes crises and pain for us to do something about it."
"People like to espouse the desire to grow throughout their lifetimes. Supposedly 'its the journey, not the destination'. But the truth is once we're in an emotionally committed relationship, we think its safe to slack off. Growing is often a pain in the butt. We don't really want to grow, we just want the benefits of being grown."
"People don't desire partners they constantly have to validate. You lose desire and respect for each other if the other's need for acceptance and validation dominates the relationship. The demand to 'be there for each other' feels suffocating!"
"Sexual desire problems aren't particularly unique. All life crises demand of us similar growth, be they medical illness, injury, personal trauma, money problems, or difficulty with kids and in-laws. When the best in you stands up and faces the realities of your life, it produces intimacy, passion, and commitment. When the worst in you reigns, what might have been a manageable problem becomes a long-term disaster."
"Monogamy is about meaningful endurance, tolerating discomfort for growth. So is real love."
Profile Image for Graeme Roberts.
500 reviews37 followers
May 3, 2016
Every adult, straight or gay, should read this book. The subtitle of the edition I read is Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship, by the way, not "Marriage." Important distinction.

The trouble with publicly acknowledging that you have read such books is that it is like announcing that you just finished "Dealing With Your Sexually Transmitted Disease". The truth, however, is that everyone needs help with their relationships from time to time, and that almost none of us is trained to deal with the many problems of intimacy and passion. Many couples in the book started out with great intimacy and sexual gusto, only to settle into relationship habits that are empty and deeply disappointing, thinking that there is nothing to be done about it, short of terminating the relationship.

Dr. Schnarch's great message is that most of us can overcome our relationship problems by first focusing on differentiating ourselves, using the Four Points of Balance:

Maintain a solid, flexible self.
Have a quiet mind and calm heart.
Make grounded responses.
Endure meaningful pain.

Some may need help from a therapist like him, and others may find the book sufficient.

He then explains the idea of working together in a Collaborative Alliance. He gives so much good practical advice about this, based on case studies of real couples. There is much sadness and much jubilation too. Schnarch is appropriately frank in his discussion of sex. I enjoyed his matter of fact descriptions, like, "Fucking involves nuances of meaning, particularly of the lusty, lascivious, desirous, carnal, and wanton variety. Fucking can't be reduced to particular behaviors or positions, just like intimacy isn't reducible to communication exercises."

I wish I could have read this book when I was in my early twenties. It might have saved my partners and me so much misunderstanding, pain, and disappointment, and probably would have helped us be better people and better lovers.

An essential book. Please read it and grow.
111 reviews
March 20, 2011
One of the best books on marriage. Doug and I just returned from an advanced clinical training seminar with Schnarch's wife, Ruth Morehouse. This was requied reading. We both enjoyed it very much. One of Schnarch's best points is that the best in us can admit the worst in us and seeks to grow. The worst in us denies its very existence - and in trying to pretend we have no issues we do great damage. Doug and I often say counseling provides one arena for confession and redemption because we face ourselves and see ourselves honestly. This book is a great read.
7 reviews2 followers
June 18, 2012
So unbelievable. Even if you don't struggle with sexual desire, this is an outstanding look at how marriage requires the maturation of self rather than simply seeking to change the things about your partner you don't like. The concepts he discusses in this book even pertain to relationships outside of romantic ones. I don't know if any book I have read has so altered my perspective on relationships. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Profile Image for Asher J..
48 reviews
May 14, 2016
I found the tone of this book frankly obnoxious. I'm confident Dr. Schnarch would relate this to my level of differentiation--and maybe he'd be right right--but the fact remains, it's hard to stay with it, at times. That's partly about the frequency with which he insists that his clinical intuition trumps research-validated approaches (though, to his credit, he's usually transparent about the fact that he's doing so), and partly about the extent to which this book feels like a very, very extensive marketing brochure.

That said: the content is strong enough that it gets four stars. I'd have given it a fifth, if it didn't require me to take such frequent breaks to roll my eyes (truly, it impairs the utility of the book). I suspect that for a non-clinical audience, who isn't quite as attuned to the endless thinly-veiled digs at Sue Johnson, it would be somewhat less annoying, though the marketing vibe might still be a factor.

I appreciated the ways in which this book made clear and explicit connections between theory and practice. Passionate Marriage offers useful technique and concepts, but the ways in which they interconnect weren't always as clear to me. I also really valued the amplification of approaches that begin with fully-clothed and non-touching interventions, and worked their way all the way up to sexual encounters. It's a little bizarre to me that there are such numerous references to relational neurobiology, while the close ties between attachment theory and emotional/relational brain development are just totally ignored, but--such is professional rivalry, I guess.

I do see this as a tremendously useful book for non-clinical readers, and a reasonable starting point for clinicians interested in Crucible work. The marketing vibe is definitely more intense than in Passionate Marriage; but the graphic descriptions of sexual encounters are a little sparser, which may make it more accessible for some clients. My client-base is largely LGBT, and I've had more than one client return Passionate Marriage unread because they got so bored with detailed, back-to-back descriptions of straight sex. This one, so far, has received more favorable reviews. I'd also encourage folks who are working at differentiation in their personal and relational lives to check out some work by Harriet Lerner, especially if your particular stuff is showing up somewhere other than sex.
Profile Image for Barbara.
701 reviews20 followers
May 5, 2017
Die Psychologie sexueller Leidenschaft ist ein wertvolles Buch; nicht leicht zu lesen, aber voller Erkenntnisse über Kollusion und Individuierung in einer Paarbeziehung.

Dieses Buch hier basiert auf dem eben erwähnten, ist jedoch etwas zugänglicher, da es weniger Theorie und mehr Fallbeispiele enthält. Hauptsächlich basiert es auf den "Vier Aspekten der Balance" (stabiles und flexibles Selbst; stiller Geist - ruhiges Herz; maßvolles Reagieren und sinnvolle Beharrlichkeit), die Schnarch als besonders wirksam im Umgang mit Lustlosigkeit in der Beziehung identifiziert hat. Ganz ohne Theorie kommt er aber auch hier nicht aus: Schnarch sieht Lust-Probleme in Beziehungen quasi als evolutionsbedingten Entwicklungsmotor, also etwas, das sich anzugehen lohnt. Die Beispiele zeigen eindrucksvoll, dass auch Paare, die am Rande der Trennung stehen, wieder zusammenfinden können. Wie das ganz genau geht, bleibt vage, aber Schnarch beschreibt die Schritte, die seine Patienten gehen und nennt konkrete Übungen (ja, zum Teil sexuell explizite, aber das sollte Menschen, die diesen Ratgeber in die Hand nehmen, nicht abschrecken).

Dennoch, auch dieses Buch ist nicht ganz leicht zu lesen bzw. durchzuarbeiten. Dennoch ist es für die Erkenntnisse, die man daraus gewinnen kann, sehr viel wert. Darum gute 4 Sterne.
Profile Image for Ryan.
176 reviews14 followers
August 8, 2011
I outlined this almost 500-page book because my boss wants to teach a 12-week workshop on it. It ended up being quite interesting, as this guy approaches love, lust (and lack thereof) in very evolutionary terms, and talks a lot about neurology, "mind-mapping," and how habits, behaviors and beliefs get formed early on, and hard-wired in our brains. It has a corny title, yes, but I even got a dissertation idea out of this book. I would recommend to anyone interested in psychology, relationships, or neurobiology.
Profile Image for Travis Miller.
1 review2 followers
October 17, 2014
This was a life-changing book that completely altered my perspective with a 'new' view regarding differentiation and balance as one navigates through their committed relationships. Supported by Interpersonal Neuro-biology research, this book observes the normal stages and marriages and tracks down methods to improve the self and relationships with others through validation sources, intimacy, balance, and differentiation.

It is a must read.
2 reviews1 follower
December 12, 2009
This book changed me in some very profound ways.It gave me a better understanding of the purpose of relationships without the sappy platitudes. It connects research with practical usable ways of working with the complexities of long term intimacy and desire in relationships.
Profile Image for Tess Mabon.
13 reviews1 follower
February 29, 2020
5 stars is simply not enough.
Insight after insight landed in me while reading this. I would like to attend the couple training that Dr Schnarch and the Crucible Marriage offers. I hope to be able to in a not too distant future.
Profile Image for Ta Am.
83 reviews6 followers
April 25, 2021
Beispiel: die Achtsamkeitsübung namens hugging till relax, also wörtlich „Umarmen bis zur Entspannung“. Dabei umarmt man seinen Partner zehn Minuten lang im Stehen.

Wie bei allem geht es auch in diesem Buch um die offene Kommunikation der Partner.
Nett zusammengefasst, ein paar neue Einblicke, wie die o.a. "Übung".
Profile Image for Lyubomyr Ostapiv.
Author 5 books44 followers
September 4, 2013
It took me 16 hours to read this book during trip from Kyiv for San Francisco

- Solid and well grounded ideas
- Most of the concepts are illustrated on interviews with real couples
- Explanation of sexual desire problems as part of the marriage life
- Connection between self-development and sex
- Own behavioral wire-frame : Solid Flexible Self(tm)--the ability to be clear about who you are and what you're about, especially when your partner pressures you to adapt and conform. 2. Quiet Mind-Calm Heart(tm)--being able to calm yourself down, soothe your own hurts, and regulate your own anxieties. 3. Grounded Responding(tm)--the ability to stay calm and not overreact, rather than creating distance or running away when your partner gets anxious or upset. 4. Meaningful Endurance(tm)--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.
- Helps to understand psychological sex drivers in marriage
- Three important techniques rarely found in typical sex books (hugging till relaxed, heads on pillows, feeling while touching).

Could be improved:
- It's extremely hard to read, with lots of repetitive information , generalization and theory
- Even the thoughts are solid, I felt a lack of practical tips and advice. That's provokes "think
while reading and forget" attitude. E.g think about this paragraph "Keeping sex alive in long-term marriage requires continued personal development, greater self-clarity, less reactivity, better self-soothing, and going through tough times: strong Four Points of Balance.
- The book concentrates mostly on mind. Part 4 was supposed to be about physical sex and body, but instead it told about rats, hippocampus and collaborative alliances

I can't say it's not worth reading, however I suppose there are better books on the topic.

Leo Ostapiv, the Author of "Home Finances for Couples"
Profile Image for Aja.
16 reviews
January 4, 2016
I didn't expect to like this book but it was recommended by the couple's therapist I've been seeing so I gave it a chance. My relationship wasn't having sexual desire problems explicitly but I still found the tools and stories in the book helpful.

I liked that each chapter focused around a specific couple (and that some of the couples were same sex) I found myself relating to many of the problems the couples had and that helped me figure out which techniques would be useful to me.

The thing I appreciated the most was that unlike other couple's therapy books this book focused on what you can do even if your partner doesn't want to cooperate or refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue. Most couple's therapy books focus on how each person should behave but those techniques don't work if both parties aren't on board. Schnarch's book gave me concrete things I could do to increase my satisfaction in my relationship, my self esteem, and feel less anxious that all didn't require my partner to help at all. More than anything else that made this book useful.
Profile Image for Crysta.
226 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2012
This didn't hit the mark for me. First, the author has trademarked some of his ideas, which I found a little distasteful and definitely distracting. Second, and most importantly, there seems to be a lot of diagnosis without much practical advice. For instance, the problem may be that you and your partner are in emotional gridlock. Yes, you think, that is us! How do we fix it? Well, the book says, get your Four Points in balance. Umm... Okay... How do I do that? That question is not answered. Just do it and see how well things work after! Hmm.

There were a few interesting ideas (the lower-desire partner always controls the situation, for example) but not enough to hold my attention through the vague prescriptions. It also felt like the use of scenarios and case examples was a little too heavy - I want to hear what the expert has to say, not how other couples fight!
Profile Image for Rachel.
230 reviews
July 17, 2014
This book definitely pushed my edge in regards to his level of detail describing sexual intimacy between couples and his occasional crass language in doing so. That being said, I found the book fascinating and several of the couples resonated deeply with the struggles my husband and I are working through in regards to how we sabotage our own relationships and treat each other so unkindly. Definitely worth reading, but I advise doing so with a bit of caution if this is not necessarily the spot you are at in your relationship or if you are not ready for the blatant, brutal honesty of the book.
Profile Image for Matthew Parks.
213 reviews8 followers
October 2, 2016
This would be a 5 star book for me if it weren't for the amount of cursing in it, which I don't care for.

This is easily the best book on the marital sexual relationship. It's not so much about hormones and biological drive as it is about our personal development. This is a great guide to sexual harmony in marriage!

I don't agree with some of his premises -- he invokes a lot of darwinism as cause for things -- and while he doesn't come off as much of a religious man, his concepts resonate regardless!
Profile Image for Christy.
91 reviews
October 10, 2013
A great follow up to Passionate Marriage. The author seems quite pleased with himself, but his research and methods seem solid.

I particularly like Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's adaptions of his research. She borrows a lot from his findings and even studied with him, but I find her approach more rewarding and practical.
Profile Image for Lidja.
195 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2014
Unusually frank. I didn't care for the constant references to human evolution (seemed like padding to me). Some of the theories/practices seem a little contrived because of the formulaic way Schnarch repeatedly refers to them, but that doesn't actually lessen their efficacy, it just makes them seem a little trite. Get past these two incidental annoyances, and this book is worth every penny.
2,269 reviews5 followers
May 25, 2012
This is more for couples who have serious sexual problems than for those who just want to spice up their sex life. For a sex book, it was a little on the boring side, and also a bit too clinical for me.
Profile Image for Eric.
40 reviews
January 5, 2015
Best relationship book I have read

I was recommended this book to better understand myself in relationships and everyday life. I was blown away, will be coming back and re-reading again down the road.
Profile Image for Donni Hakanson.
Author 2 books7 followers
June 28, 2012
A book I pick up, then put away.... not sure why except I HAVE gotten some useful insight and I guess sometime it will fully grab me to complete.
Profile Image for Liz.
18 reviews
October 14, 2011
A great read demonstrating Schnarch's groundbreaking therapy using real life examples. You will see yourself in the pages of this book.
236 reviews
July 4, 2012
I learned so much from this book about myself and the variety of
issues couples struggle with when emotions are tangled with sexuality. Practical and very real life stories.
Profile Image for Ravenna.
53 reviews2 followers
April 19, 2014
Good theory supporting a positive psychology, behavioral therapy approach; but lacking in direct application on paper.
Profile Image for Todd Haines.
276 reviews3 followers
January 4, 2016
Happy freaking new year to me. Not really what I expected but useful info. Lots of quotes. Time for a more fun subject for my next book.

Good info though.
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