From the Introduction
Thirty years ago I developed a completely new approach to sexual and marital therapy. You can learn a lot about desire as couples skid toward divorce. One thing I really focused on was sexual desire problems. It revolutionized my understanding of love relationships and at times left me astonished. I certainly didn’t expect sexual desire problems to teach me what they did about intimacy and love. This book is my best effort to pass it on to you.
People shop around for perspectives they prefer. So if you want a book that says your sexual desire basically runs on hormones and biological drives, this one isn’t for you. If you want to be told, “Just do it!” don’t waste your time here. If you’re invested in the idea that desire dies and never returns, read something else.
But if you want to feel more desire, or increase the depth and meaningfulness of your desire, you’re holding a goldmine. This book will not only change how you think and feel about yourself, it will change how you think and feel—period. It may even change how your brain works. It’s hard to imagine how all this comes from dealing with a sexual desire problem, particularly one you haven’t been able to solve at this point. That’s because you haven’t read this truly revolutionary approach. If you want a completely new understanding of desire, love, intimacy, and sex in emotionally committed relationships, you’ll love this book.
A new approach offering new opportunities
Anthropologist Stephanie Coontz writes that throughout recorded history couples have married people they didn’t know in order to fulfill the financial, political, and kinship agendas of parents and kin. Husbands and wives had little or no say in who they married. However, in the last two hundred years, marriage has ceased to revolve around political and economic alliances. People have started picking their own marriage partners. And now, for the first time in history, marriage hinges on love, desire, intimacy, and sex. It seems absolutely reasonable to expect these things. And yet, sexual desire problems are a common cause of divorce today. But the solution isn’t staying together and giving up sex, or settling for lousy sex. The solution is working together to turn your sexual desire problems into a passion beyond your wildest imaginings.
Generally, you learn five views of sexual desire growing up: There’s sexual desire as genetic programming for reproduction, driven by genes and hormones. There’s the Freudian “libido” view of desire, in which sexual impulses forever try to pop out and get you in to trouble. There’s the romantic view, proposing that desire is a natural expression of true love. And the horniness (blue balls) model of desire, centered on “doing what comes naturally.” Finally, there’s the view that equates sexual desire with biological hungers for food and water. Before I developed my new approach, conventional sexual desire therapy referred to low sexual desire as a kind of “sexual anorexia.”
Unfortunately, all these views presume—if you’re a healthy person in a healthy relationship—that you have sexual desire. And, according to these views, if you have sexual desire problems, there’s something wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship. You sure don’t want to have low sexual desire, because you would be abnormal.
This book offers a different view. It shows why normal healthy couples have sexual desire problems. It explains why you and your partner will have sexual desire problems sooner or later, regardless of your love, communication skills, or Tantra workshops.
Research indicates sexual desire problems are so widespread they are normal rather than abnormal. A 1994 study of 3,432 randomly selected Americans found sexual desire was the number one sexual problem. Thirty-three percent of women and 16 percent of men reported sexual desire problems in the past year.
In 2006 I developed an online survey for NBC TV’s Dateline. About 27,500 people participated over four days: 22 percent said they were in the “sex is alive and well” category, and another 10 percent said their sex is “robust, erotic, and passionate.” However, 68 percent had sexual desire problems. That’s two out of every three people! Thirteen percent said their “sex life is dead,” and 22 percent said it is “comatose and in danger of dying.” Thirty-three percent said their sex is “asleep and needing a wake-up call.” This came on the heels of Dateline running a one-hour program showing two sexless couples going through therapy with me. After the show aired, I received over two thousand requests for help.
Looking at this survey through conventional views of sexual desire, you’d have to conclude people are pretty messed up. This book says just the opposite: It means these people are normal. I’ll show you, in detail, how normal healthy growth makes sexual desire problems common. Understanding why normal couples have sexual desire problems is entirely new.
This book shows you how to create the intimacy, desire, love, and sex that modern couples expect and demand. The kind of desire that makes you want to stay with your partner and be happy you did. The kind of life-giving desire that spreads through your life like wildfire.
Finally, I really enjoyed writing this book. It took me five years. I hope it brings you as much joy as it has me. I will be greatly pleased if facing your sexual desire problems becomes a turning point in your life.
David Schnarch, Ph.D.