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Resolving Sexual Problems & Rejuvenating Your Relationship
by Dr. David Schnarch
Once upon a time two frogs fell into a large pail of buttermilk. Frantically thrashing about in fear of dying, the frogs climbed on each other, splashed furiously, and did whatever they could to stay afloat. As they grew tired and weary and their fear of drowning grew, they thrashed about more desperately. As the frogs approached exhaustion, they ceased struggling and prepared for the worst. Only then did they realize what their terrified minds never saw: All their seemingly futile and frustrating struggles had started turning the buttermilk into butter. Their random efforts were creating a platform on which they could float.
The frogs saw new purpose to their struggles, and renewed their efforts with determination and collaboration. They kicked with less angst and paddled with greater ease. Eventually their efforts allowed them to rise above the milk. What once threatened their very existence became a resource for survival.
When you finish this book, you'll understand why we are all frogs in the buttermilk. In other words, you'll have an entirely new understanding of sexual problems and how to deal with them.
What is this book about?
Resurrecting Sex deals with sexual problems plaguing couples around the world. Every couple has sexual problems at some point. You could be a women who never feels highly aroused or has difficulty lubricating. Maybe you have pain during sex or you have difficulty with orgasms. Likewise, you could be a man who has problems getting or maintaining erections. Or, you could find it hard to have an orgasm, or maybe you have them too quickly. Sexual desire is a common problem for women and men alike. Perhaps you don't want sex as often as your partner does (or vice versa). Or maybe you don't want to do it the same way or time of day. Maybe you don't want to do it at all.
Sexual problems are normal and so are their impacts: Once your sexual problem exists for a while, you're dealing with more than a penis or clitoris that won't obey its owner. The matter is complicated by two people with very complex feelings about themselves and each other. The fact that genitals are connected to people makes it harder to turn things around.
Sexual problems happen to real people. People with real anxieties, insecurities, disappointments, resentments, autonomy struggles, and dependency needs. Very often, real people with sexual problems become real stubborn and set in their ways. You and your partner may feel inadequate, or fight with each other, and wonder what's wrong with your relationship.
Many couples find it hard to talk about sexual problems or even admit they have one. Even if you're willing to talk about it, it's hard to know what to say or do. It is not uncommon to feel like you're flailing around to no avail, drowning in your problems. On top of that, you're struggling with the very person with whom you want to feel love and make love.
Sexual problems happen in relationships and context is everything. Your sexual problem shapes your relationship, and your relationship shapes your sexual problem. Resurrecting your sexual relationship often involves more than getting your body to do what you want. You have to get your relationship to a state that supports good sexual functioning. That's hard to do when sexual problems are killing your marriage.
Often this signals the death-knell of relationships. Far too frequently this turns into divorce, separate, or long-term emotional alienation. There are, however, far more pleasant deaths: This can be the death of your relationship as you've known it, and the birth of one far better. Resolving sexual problems can change you, your relationship, and your life.
What does this book offer?
Resurrecting Sex offers straight talk and lots of information. You'll find the latest facts on medical difficulties and cures, plus thorough coverage of relationship problems and ways to change them. Count on realistic solutions and case examples of couples putting them into action. You'll also find a whole lot more: Resurrecting Sex offers hope. It contains a revolutionary understanding of common experience in emotionally committed relationships. What you'll learn can help you hang on through tough times and use them to advantage. It can turn commitment into an adventure, rather than servitude to past promises. Resurrecting Sex builds partnership. Sometimes partnership requires discussing and doing thing together. Other times partnership requires functioning independently when your partner is not at his or her best. It frequently involves compassion for your partner in the midst of difficult times. In Resurrecting Sex you wont find trite sermons about love and compassion. You'll find effective ways to create hope and put it into action. Resurrecting Sex is a book within a book. We'll talk about sexual and relationship difficulties and how to solve them, but we'll also reflect on Life, relationships, and anxiety, and how they all fit together. This will help you resolve your problems: The tough times are easier to go through when you recognize in them the power and elegance of intimate relationships.
How is this book unique?
Lots of self-help books offer tips, tricks, secrets, exercises, and sure-fire sex techniques. But books with easy as pie attitudes can backfire, leaving you feeling more inadequate when their simple solutions fail to bring expected results. Maybe you've been liberated, rejuvenated, raised your consciousness, and become more politically correct. Even exploding your myths, exposing your hang-ups, and exorcizing your inhibitions may not solve your problem. What do you do then?
Resurrecting Sex often requires more than new sexual positions or techniques like sensate focus exercises or going out on dates. Books on how to be your own sex therapist presume you and your partner are cooperative patients. Many couples don't want more techniques, or find improved sexual function doesn't help their relationship (or doesn't last). You and/or your partner may not be motivated to do things to improve your situation, whether or not you'd succeed.
What you'll find here (and what you probably need) is a holistic, realistic, refreshingly straight forward approach. Couples do better with a holistic approach that doesn't reduce sexual problems to generalities like power struggles, communication difficulties, deprived childhood, or sexual abuse. In Resurrecting Sex you'll find a holistic approach that looks at the purposeful ways intimate relationships operate.
Likewise, holistic strategies work on several aspects of your problem simultaneously. You'll probably find treating sex, love, and intimacy as integrated processes more appealing than approaching sex as something that just happens between your legs. But you also don't want what's (not) happening between your legs to get lost in lectures about sex being primarily between your ears. Resurrecting Sex addresses emotions, thought, feelings as well as the physical dimensions of sexual problems.
Sexual problems have histories which shape how things look to you. After a while your problem takes on a life of it's own. You (and your partner) begin to adjust to your problem both in and out of bed. This makes things somewhat more tolerable, but the adjustment process kills intimacy and passion. It's not just couples who can't adjust to their sexual problems who have trouble. As you'll see with couples you'll meet in these pages, decades of adapting to problems with orgasms, erections or low sexual desire have an impact!
Resurrecting Sex offers you the most sophisticated understanding of relationships you've probably ever encountered. It also shows you how to apply this to your specific situation. By the time you're done, you'll have new respect for things you probably think are defective in your relationship. Equally importantly, you'll learn things you'll apply elsewhere in your life.
Resurrecting Sex is the next logical step from my other trade book, Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Emotionally Committed Relationships (Owl, 1998) Resurrecting Sex applies the same core Passionate Marriage® Approach, this time to common sexual problems and how to solve them. Readers unfamiliar with my work will find Resurrecting Sex comprehensive in itself. Readers of Passionate Marriage will find previously unpublished material here, together with familiar ideas applied in whole new ways. Although there's plenty about sex in Passionate Marriage , it's more about sexual enrichment. Resurrecting Sex is for millions of couples and singles who need more specific information about sexual dysfunctions or dead or dying sexual relationships.
In brief, Resurrecting Sex covers:
- How your genitals function.
- How sexual relationships operate.
- How marvels of sexual medicine like Viagra work.
- What to do about your sexual problem, how to do it, and how to motivate yourself to do it.
This will be personal
I plan to keep this personal. From this moment on I'll talk directly to you. As we consider stresses and challenges of intimate relationships, I'll focus on what it feels like to go through them. I'll also help you consider the specifics and history of your own unique relationship. That will make our conversations personal for you. Here's one reason this is personal for me:
I know what it's like to scour books for solutions to personal sexual problems and come away feeling inadequate, defective, and diseased. The medical model of sex reinforces your worst fears. ( It works if it's OK, and if it don't then something's wrong. ) Researching your problem in textbooks will convince you're as screwed up as you feared. You're someone with unconscious hostility towards your spouse (or parents) or worse. If you want to preserve some sense of health or you want warm, and tender sex you're out of luck.
I know this because I've been there too. There was a time when I was the patient rather the doctor. In the course of my life I've had every sexual dysfunction a man can have. As a young adult I had premature orgasm. At different times I've had difficulty getting and maintaining erections. Sometimes I couldn't have an orgasm if my life depended on it. I know about embarrassment, self-rejection, blaming myself and/or my partner, and withdrawing when I failed.
Having looked for information and felt patronized, dehumanized, and pathologized, I've made sure this book offers you a different experience. Your sexual problems won't be treated like diseases. You won't be treated like your problems stem from sexual ignorance, hang-ups, or flaws in your relationship. There will be no talk of psychopathology. This is a non-pathological approach.
In Resurrecting Sex you'll learn sexual problems are normal, but not simply because they happen to just about everyone. It has to do with why sexual problems are so frequent: Sexual problems are normal because of basic ways healthy relationships evolve. I believe this culture-transcending view of relationships explains the international interest in Passionate Marriage (including translation into Italian and Japanese). I've felt honor-bound to make Resurrecting Sex easy and interesting to read, so this vital information will be accessible to a wide audience with similar difficulties.
I will be realistic and optimistic
As a married man in a 15 year relationship, I know personally what it's like to have sexual problems. I also know how lots of other people feel about it too: I am a certified sex therapist and a marriage and family therapist with over twenty years experience. I am an innovator, regarded by some as one of the better thinkers and clinicians in my profession. One reason you will enjoy this book is because it is the first comprehensive second generation approach integrating sex and marital therapy. (Masters and Johnson's work defined the first generation in the 1960s.)
My work as a therapist provides unique opportunities to look deeply into how sexual relationships and sexual problems operate. Twenty years has allowed me to see beyond couples' immediate problems and understand normal patterns of intimate relationships. Sharing people's lives as they go through predictable sexual dilemmas has become my life's work. It's happy and exciting work despite couples looking like gloom and doom when they first enter my office.
I'm optimistic about what you can get from this book because I've seen how much my clients have accomplished. I've watched them do remarkable things, achieving far more than they (and, at first, I) ever imagined. Many couples resolve long-standing sexual and marital problems. Relationships on the brink of divorce have turned around. Have hope.
You might think the best part of my work is listening to sexy details of clients' doings. For me, it involves watching the best in people stand up. Any spirituality I have comes in large part from observing countless acts of heroism in my office. I watch people refuse to give up on themselves in the face of their sexual problems. I see people confront their fears, shortcomings, and limitations all legitimate and understandable when things boil down to maintaining personal integrity and self-respect. Witnessing this time and time again increases my awe for the miracle of self-transformation and the power of intimate relationships.
I'm also realistic that what my clients accomplish takes hard work. Many feel resolving their sexual problem is one of the best things they've ever done. because it brings incredibly rewarding experiences and new growth. Some also feel it's the hardest thing they've ever done. If you want similar results, start by accepting three simple truths about sexual problems:
- There are often no simple answers or solutions.
- You don't need easy or simple solutions--you just need solutions that really work.
- A solution involving an emotional stretch for you and your partner is often the best solution to your problem.
As long as I'm telling the truth, I must disqualify myself as an expert on female sexuality. I've talked with hundreds of women about the intimate details of their lives. I have learned enough to know I am and always will be--an outsider. I will never know basic things women take for granted, whether it concerns their bodies, having sex, or being female in contemporary society. Despite my limitations, I've tried to be a good student. Later on I'll talk about similarities in men and women's sexuality. I'm open to ways they are different.
You can be realistic too
You can be realistic about yourself too. You don't have to pretend you're dying to change things. This book is written for someone who's motivations for change are counterbalanced by motivations to keep things the same. Maybe you're still deciding which way you want to go. You may have hesitancies and ambivalences about changing your relationship. Couples don't live long with the problems we'll discuss without hurt feelings, resentments, and defensiveness.
You don't have to be comfortable dealing with feelings. Some of my clients feared disturbing the powder keg of pent up problems in their marriage. Others wanted to avoid their emotional life altogether. If you're like this, you may not have to dwell on your feelings or your past to improve sex. There are lots of things you can (and need to) do in the present to turn things around. This book's third section deals at length with medical and bionic solutions. if you worry about lifting the lid on your situation, Resurrecting Sex will give you a peak at what might await you. If you want to improve your relationship, this will show you how to do it.
You don't have to pretend changes will be easily made (or eagerly sought). I also won't make idealistic assumptions about where things stand between you and your partner. I don't presume your partner is eager to collaborate in your sexual restoration projection. That's why I'll show you things you can apply by yourself, whether your partner participates or not. (If you and your partner are completely emotionally gridlocked, you may also want to read Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Emotionally Committed Relationships which addresses this at greater length.)
I understand sex probably isn't the only issue in your relationship. That's why you don't need a perfect relationship to apply what you'll read here. The powerful solutions I'll offer are for real couples with real problems. These solutions are elegant because they simultaneously:
- resolve the complex causes of sexual problems,
- repair the negative impact sexual problems create, and
- make you able to have a better relationship than you had before.
How to use Resurrecting Sex
I suggest you start at the beginning and read through to the end. Figure your first reading will give you an overview of your problem and what you can do about it. Don't worry if you read more than you can digest on one pass. You'll get a deeper understanding of new ideas and how they fit into the big picture on your second reading. By then you'll have the overall framework in mind, making it easier to stick new details into your mental map. Likewise new things will jump out at you on your second time through.
Read couples' stories even when their problems or personalities appear different from your own. This is not a collection of chapters on different topics. Resurrecting Sex lays out a complete system by developing ideas early on in the book that you'll need to fully understand later chapters. If you are serious about changing your situation, take the time to learn about yourself and your relationship.
Having said this, you'll find notes in the text indicating related material in this book. If you want to pursue particular topics on second reading (or jump around on your first), the cross references are there.
If your situation is bleak
Forget about reading from start to finish if your problem feels overwhelming, if you're upset, or if your relationship is in crisis. Read Section Two first. It will help you settle down so you can read the book in a quieter frame of mind. From the outset, you'll find new ways of understanding your sexual problem and your sexual relationship. By mid-book you'll be into powerful and creative solutions. Reading further you'll realize you've stumbled onto a whole lot more. We're going to take butter milk and turn it into butter. The more you are drowning in sexual problems, the more you should stop thrashing about and read on.
Read from the best in you
One final suggestion: I want to talk to the best in you. This part of you can do something about your situation. If you've got an easy time ahead of you, your strengths will get you through in the shortest time possible. If things will be tough, you want the best in you leading the way.
Here's how you can tell if you're reading from your best: If you have a running commentary in the back of your mind, is it your best or your worst self speaking? Are you looking for holes in what I say, or confronting yourself with the parts that fit you? The best in you can take what I say to heart, even if my shortcomings are obvious. The best in you can even do that with your partner.
Let's begin: If you are like my clients, you're in for a very interesting time.