Quantum Sex

 

I’m taking my time reading Passionate Marriage.  I’ll read a few pages and think about it.  Try reading some more and end up flipping back to recapture that previous insight.  It is slow but not tedious.  This is especially true when other bloggers unwittingly inspire some parallel thoughts.

 

XH recently wrote about fasting as part of bringing the body under control and as part of an active spiritual disciplined life.  It’s a good post that I’ll use here to illustrate a couple of things.  Read his article and then nod your head in agreement.

 

 Schnarch makes a big deal differentiating human sex from animal sex.  Most sex therapy wants to focus on the sensations, mostly touching.  But humans are way above just adding friction to genitals and expecting satisfaction.  There is also an emotional component to sex that can augment or inhibit the genital rubbing that goes on during sex.

 

Humans have the ability and sometimes the inclination to actually defy their basic drives and instincts.  In the case of fasting, we can defy our animal-like urge to eat whenever we’re hungry.  Self-control is necessary to do it as a 2 day fast can seem like an incredibly long time when all you have to do to satisfy it is walk to the fridge or pantry.  But there’s more to fasting than simply not eating.  Eating involves a complex array of emotional and social attachments.  Think about how food is used to comfort and bring people together.  Think about all the restaurants in every town trying to make money with those social and emotional attachments.  One of the reasons why losing weight is so difficult is because eating goes hand-in-hand with fellowship.  How many parties have you attended where there isn’t any food?  How many had only healthy food in small quantities?  Fasting is going to involve giving that up in favor of socializing with God which isn’t to say we can’t eat and be together with the Lord.  The Last Supper or communion was originally a full meal before it was mysticalized into some sort of symbolic and gestural thing.  But that is for another post.

 

So the food-sex analogy can work but only if we pair the biology with the psychology.  If we’re looking for sex simply to satisfy a biological urge, we are missing out on our own sexual potential.  The chances are that most people are missing it in their striving for orgasm.  The neurochemical pathways of our pleasure is either enhanced or inhibited by the state of our mind during sex.  As humans, we have learned to be connected to a specific person during sex.  The capacity for attaching greater meaning while having sex can enhance our enjoyment of it but it also makes humans vulnerable to a vast array of dysfunctions.

 

Consider where a persons mind is during sex.  Often it is fantasizing about someone else, worrying about whether the kids can hear or whether someone else can see or hear.  Instead of being participants with our partner we sort of become spectators to our own show and critique our own performance.  If we begin worrying about how good we’re doing it we’ll end up doing it very poorly.  And then we worry about what the other person is thinking.  Are they there?  Are they bored?  Are they thinking about the argument you had an hour ago?  Too much anxiety can kill sexual arousal.  Too little can lead to boredom. 

 

Light anxiety can actually enhance sexual sensations because it forces some attention to being there which is why novel sexual partners or new sex has so much appeal.  People who have issues with feeling controlled will inherently have lower arousal sexual thresholds with new people.  But they are necessarily missing the intimacy and potential possible with a long-term relationship because they end up with fusion instead of differentiation.  And differentiation is all about emotional self-control in the face of our partner’s emotions.  And self-control is where much of XH’s fasting post builds around.

 

In fact in 1st Corinthians 7, Paul actually links sex and fasting by saying that that is really the only time couples should be refraining from sexual relations.  They do so for the purpose of fasting and prayer and then come together again afterwards.  Basically, fasting involves properly conditioning the spirit (and to a lesser extent the body) which will make sexual intimacy a more complete package.

 

FWIW, I haven’t encountered Schnarch mentioning anything about fasting.  I’m connecting dots from him to some things XH was talking about which seem to be related.  Schnarch doesn’t make a lot of bones about sex being a spiritual experience but at the same time he’s not as explicit that way as I’m being here.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that some concerns XH is having in the sexual/intimacy arena have some spiritual roots.  His fasting idea is a dandy one if he and his wife can pull off practicing it in that 1st Corinthian way that might bring couples together.  On a certain level I like how he (XH) talks about using fasting and other spiritual disciplines to get things working as they ought. 

 

I have no idea if any of this is making any sense as the various readings and this writing is going on over several days.  But thanks for at least reading and considering these seemingly disjointed ideas!

 

D.

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5 Responses to “Quantum Sex”

  1. 2amsomewhere Says:

    Consider where a persons mind is during sex. Often it is fantasizing about someone else, worrying about whether the kids can hear or whether someone else can see or hear. Instead of being participants with our partner we sort of become spectators to our own show and critique our own performance.

    I’m not sure how far along you are in PM, but Schnarch explores this subject in pretty deep detail in Chapter 9.

    If we begin worrying about how good we’re doing it we’ll end up doing it very poorly. And then we worry about what the other person is thinking. Are they there? Are they bored? Are they thinking about the argument you had an hour ago?

    These kinds of obsessions are also sometimes symptoms of emotional fusion because at their core, they are just another way of validating based on what someone else reflects back to us.

    FWIW, I haven’t encountered Schnarch mentioning anything about fasting. I’m connecting dots from him to some things XH was talking about which seem to be related. Schnarch doesn’t make a lot of bones about sex being a spiritual experience but at the same time he’s not as explicit that way as I’m being here.

    I haven’t come across anything in his writings that talks about fasting, but I think there places where he gets close. The first is when he confronts a high desire partner with a comment along these lines:

    The assumption has always been the low desire partner is frigid or doesn’t like sex the reason they are the low desire partner is they know the sex they’re having isn’t worth wanting. It’s the high desire partner you really gotta wonder about because the sex is so lousy and they want two helpings of it.

    The second is where he discusses desire motivated out emptiness and fullness. You won’t see that until the very last chapter of the book, and he makes a direct link to spirituality.


    2amsomewhere

  2. diggerjones Says:

    Thanks for the heads up on that! I’m working my way through chapter 4 right now…slow going. But perhaps I’ll be able to go faster during my second trip through when I actually highlight stuff.

    But in the meantime, I’m kinda curious as to where you are. From where I’m at now in the book, it looks like you were right in the middle of what could’ve been your best, most enlightening time within the marriage before it all crapped out! Because according to Schnarch, emotinal gridlock is fertile territory for real intimacy. It’s sounds totally batshit crazy, which is why it made me laugh!

    D.

  3. Square1 Says:

    The link between fasting from food and fasting from sex is also in Islam. But even further, e.g. the month of Ramadan, you are also expected not to argue or quarrel, and if you find yourself getting upset, you are supposed to remind yourself that you are fasting until you have sufficiently calmed down. the link between taming physical desires goes directly to the taming of emotional and psychological desires as well.

    Though I had to laugh when I was first told that during Ramadan I had to not have sex between sun-up and sun-down once the fast broke. With children, the opportunities for day time romps are few, so that was an easy part of the fast.

  4. 2amsomewhere Says:

    Digger writes:

    But in the meantime, I’m kinda curious as to where you are. From where I’m at now in the book, it looks like you were right in the middle of what could’ve been your best, most enlightening time within the marriage before it all crapped out! Because according to Schnarch, emotinal gridlock is fertile territory for real intimacy. It’s sounds totally batshit crazy, which is why it made me laugh!

    It will take some further reading, but you’re confusing the result with the process, I think. The gridlo

    ck itself is not what produces intimacy. The gridlock is the point where the price of avoiding differentiation becomes unbearable.

    As you’ll see in later chapters, one or both members of the couple go into a growth cycle, where self confrontation occurs. Self confrontation and self validation compels one to self disclose, no matter how ugly that truth may be. The test of whether your intimacy is truly self-validating is whether you can disclose without expectation that your spouse will do the same. And you have to be willing to put everything on the line, and be willing to face the possibility that you might lose your marriage.

    In Constructing the Sexual Crucible, Schnarch uses Kierkegaard’s depictions of Abraham and Job to contrast sex therapy based on addiction/codependency and that based differentiation of self.

    In his discussion, he brings up Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son. The leap of faith that Abraham had to make in complying with God’s orders is the same kind of leap of faith you need to make in differentiating. Differentiation can produce a higher level of maturity that results in a more lasting relationship, but it can also result in the termination of the relationship.

    Why does termination happen? The entry into a growth cycle is not always a mutual process. One spouse chooses to do it, and it destabilizes the relationship. The other spouse may choose to enter his or her own growth cycle, but this is not guaranteed. The spouse may decide not to do so, opting instead to try to bludgeon the other into regressing. In a situation like that, self-validation may mean leaving the relationship because doing otherwise would involve a compromise of personal integrity.

    If you rewind back to May, when I was in the most heated segment of my growth cycle in considering a remote job offer in the face of my wife’s threats to separate, you can see how this played out. Her approach would have worked if I was still relying on others for validation, wherein a breakdown in my marriage would have been interpreted as a massive failure on my part.


    2amsomewhere

  5. FTN Says:

    One good thing I could say about sexually “fasting” is that more often than not, my wife tends to enjoy sex to a much greater extent if we haven’t had it in quite awhile! I can think of a couple fantastic experiences that resulted from a long hiatus.

    That’s a double-edged sword for me, though, because going a couple weeks without sex makes it quite difficult for me to avoid finding other, um, outlets.

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