Archive for the ‘Sexuality’ Category

A Word (or two) about the ‘A’ word

May 11, 2013

I was strolling through my neglected blogroll and came across a flurry of activity over there on the blog of my good friend Xavier.  We have shared the blogosphere for a good long while, he and I and we share a good deal many other things than blogging.  Among them is interest in relationships, gardening and a similar sort of twisted humor.  There is a good reason why we share these things.

He is in a bit of a panic because he believes he might be on the autism spectrum.  Hopefully the panic is subsiding, and if not I will either increase it greatly or perhaps lessen it.

I claim my own space on the spectrum, and have absolutely no problems doing so.  I am one of a growing movement toward autism acceptance, rather than the “autism cure’ crowd.  And this is highly fortunate since my oldest son is also well established on the spectrum.  And for several years before he was born, I actually spent a few years teaching and working with kids on the spectrum although there is no better education than actually having and raising your own child on the spectrum.

Before I go any further, I must say that I need to tread lightly on this topic, not because it is not near and dear to my heart.  But because it is.  I am infinitely more well-known in the autism community.  There may even be a book on the topic with my name in it.

So I am going to speak to the side of autism most relevant to this blog.  And one of the best places might be a fellow blogger or two.  Remember 2amsomewhere?  For a long time he signed posts and comments “behaviorunspecified” or something like that, which was a bit of a reference to “PDD-NOS” which stand for “Pervesive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified” which is a sort of autism-like diagnosis that kids are often diagnosed with when they are very young.  Neurologists avoided “autism” like it was the plague because to many parents that is exactly how it was viewed.  And the media did not help.  But truth is, many, many folks are on the spectrum.  Most of us nerdy types are on it.  If your nerd score is near as high as mine, you got it.  I mention 2am cause he was out there with his spot on the spectrum, but didn’t try to use it as an excuse.  It was just part of him.  And he even attended that little blogger get-together FTN put together years ago when neither you or I would dream of it.

Remember Christian Husband?  I don’t even need a test.

Not all of us on the spectrum are uber nerds.  But almost all of us struggle.  Like Confused Husband.  I think he diagnosed ADHD or something, but I would bet anything he would score on the tests as a likely candidate.  And he had at least one child on the spectrum, I believe.

We got a few things in common, but most noteworthy is the struggle in our primary relationships, and that is where I’m going to focus mostly.  I highly recommend reading anything written by Jerry Newport who is an uber aspie.  I went to a conference where he spoke and it was the first time I realized I had found my people.  He said “You know God REALLY likes autistic people.  Why else would he make all the planets and the universe spin?”  Plus, Jerry is old fart, like us.  Most of the stuff out there is geared toward parents of kids, and paints this horrible picture of autism and how awful.

At this same conference I heard a young woman who talked about how autism and aspergers manifsts itself very differently in girls and women.  And you know a couple of them I would diagnose with that female variant.  One is Arwyn…my wife.  The other would be Autumn, which I would base on the few interactions I have had with her online.  This is not to say they are bad or  broken.  It is to say they need to be understood.

So what does it mean to be on the spectrum?  And why is it such a big deal in the last decade or two?  I have a few ideas of my own, but the good folks who are studying this novel neurology do know there is often a genetic link but they also know there are multiple causes and symptoms.  There is not one simple marker.  As society moves and changes more rapidly, we are seeing more stresses and pressures that did not exist back when most people lived on farms.  Back in those days, aspergery folks might do extraordinarily well in agriculture where the time, pace and space operated in more natural and predictable patterns.  And it did not require great social skills.  People were not expected to make lots of phone calls, and talking a long time was expensive!  Tasks were pretty straight forward, albeit repetitive.  And in school, if you sat down and kept your mouth shut you could do well enough.

Except for the bullies.  There were always bullies.

I’ve known I was on the spectrum for at least a decade.  It’s only been in the last year where I have come to know Arwyn’s particular flavor, even though I think she is in denial.  Hell, I even blogged this crap back in 2005, but failed to make that last, tiny connection.  And even going to my more famous top 10 list (which has been lifted, republished and passed all over the internets) harkens to an almost autistic way of dealing with sex.  But I failed to see it until now.

What this means, once we get a diagnosis for you, me, a spouse or anyone, is that this is a big part of who we are.  It is not something you recover from using a 12-step group, psycho analysis, drugs, chelation or any other horse shit people will try to sell you. Don’t buy it.  They will take your money and you might THINK it is helping….and you will claim it helped cause who wants to look like an idiot for just spending big bucks on crap that didn’t work?

This is not something to be cured.  It is something to be understood and managed.  And my friend Xavier has been managing in fine form for a very long time, albeit in a certain Mr. Magoo-like fashion.  He has blindly gone about his business and done well raising his kids and his garden, taking care of his family just like he always knew he was supposed to.  Jerry Newport alludes to this about his own upbringing.  Everyone knew he was a little odd, but otherwise did not treat him any different.  He was still held to high expectations.  And he is still wildly successful despite also being wildly off-the-wall.  As we get older we get better at managing and compensating.

That routine and preservation of sameness (a cardinal autistic characteristic) is how we manage our environment.  We know we are prone to fits of disorganization, so we put things in the same place every single time so we can find it again.  We wear, eat and do the same things every day because it makes life easy and less complicated so we can devote energy to the variety of things we like.

And people on the autistic spectrum are very diverse.  What is true of one person on the spectrum is not always true for another.  I already pointed out that girls and boys have real differences, but no two autists are exactly alike.  Some have sensory issues, and some don’t.  Some are reclusive while others are gregarious.  And some struggle more than others.  It does not have to define you, but it IS a part of you.  Don’t try to curse, cure or beat it out of yourself.  It is not like cancer.  It will not kill you but it might make you a bit more unique!

In the case of Arwyn, it has helped me accept her more and not be as bothered by her inablity to manage time, space and money.  I will always be concerned, but I am not trying to change her.  And she is done trying to change me.  She is not always trying to get me to socialize more or join in on all the running around, disorganized shopping she likes.  For us, we are better off in separate rooms in our own spaces while still raising our kids together.  In that respect, we do fairly well as a team.  Remember people always seek out others of similar and compatible dysfunction.

So Xavier, go ahead and learn about it all you want but don’t get freaked out.  You gone this long without the label, and adding a tag doesn’t make you anymore or any less of a worthwhile person.  Use it as a tool to better understand yourself and the rest of your family.  But it does not define you.  You are greater than the sum of your parts and this is just one part.


It’s All About Managing Anxiety

January 18, 2009

Marriage is a people growing operation in more ways than one. In the biological sense, the child rearing comes to mind, but it also helps raise the parents as much as the kids. It stretches and extends us in ways that we never would have imagined. When we see marriage as an environment that fosters growth, perhaps we can stop seeing it as something that is always broken and always needing to be fixed. Marriage involves the most fundamental unit of common culture and society because it represents the closest commitment that we may ever have with another human being. But that sort of closeness and commitment is not without some challenges.

Aphron recently posted about the need for control, and postulated the reason why people feel like they need to be in control. It all comes down to anxiety. I define anxiety as a heightened state of physiological arousal that is antagonistic to comfort. In other words, anxiety causes DIScomfort. That can be physical, psychological or both at the same time. In fact it is difficult to have physical discomfort apart from psychological discomfort. The two go together.

Think about stealing the first kiss. How did you feel? Chances are, you experienced some anxiety before, during and after that first kiss. And even if you’ve kissed a person a thousand times, you may feel that same anxiety again when kissing someone new. Generally, whenever we do something new, we experience anxiety. So most of us like it when things don’t change very much. We feel comfort in routines and the sameness of our surroundings. We like coming home to our own house. Control is about maintaining the sameness and managing our anxieties. The more anxious a person is, the more they tend to be very controlling. In Aphron’s case, Sybil seems to like sex but she likes it strictly on her own terms. She is terribly insecure and anxious and while she wants to have an illusion of surrender. But if Aphron ever truly took charge and made her truly submit, she would feel terribly anxious and would no doubt accuse him of betraying her trust in some way. So her illusion is basically the tyranny of the submissive; you take charge but ONLY as long as it does not threaten me.

But here is an astounding fact: couples are always evenly matched in how well they handle anxiety.

And right about now Aphron is feeling insulted, as are the rest of you. Each and every one of you probably think you handle anxiety better than your spouse. But you don’t. I didn;t say you handled it the same, I said you handled it equally well. In Aphron’s case, he tends to internalize his considerable anxiety. But it is definitely there, and Sybil effectively dominates him by externalizing her considerable anxiety. Whenever Aphron asserts himself, he can pretty much count on a whithering counterattack designed to put him back in his place. She tends to be extremely reactive, but Aphron reacts internally in almost an equal degree as she does externally.

Back to that first kiss, it provoked a lot of anxiety but you did it anyway. And lo and behold, we may have eventually came to like it. We like sameness, but we also crave novelty. But we tend to like our novelty to be fairly well controlled. We basically want to have our cake and eat it too where we have sameness and novelty at the same time which is impossible. This is how the two-choice dilemma plays out in reality. We’d like to have the good rush without the anxiety but the universe doesn’t work that way. God programmed us in such a way that boredom produces its own discomfort and causes us to to seek out new frontiers where we grow. And we face new anxieties. Facing anxiety is most often a way to open the door to new joys.

FTN’s recent post about his forays into eyes-open orgasm is a case in point. He and Autumn had to confront some serious anxiety in order to get to that point but once it happened it was electric. It wasn’t just the fact that their eyes were open but it was also that they made a leap into greater intimacy together. At that moment, it was more than physical it was spiritual. Most problems people have in relationships have to do with managing anxiety and discomfort. I’m not talking about real pain, just the anxiety around the possibility that there might be some pain involved. Some of us have spouses that are uncomfortable with certain sex acts. It’s not that one act within marriage is more perverse or dirty than another, it is more personal development and anxiety.

It was interesting how Aphron put his introduction to his follow-up/quote of my post about returning to Schnarch.

He tends to be a very introspective person and is struggling to obtain more sex.”

I can plead to introspection, and the struggle to obtain more sex has been a recurring theme. But it is really more intimacy that I really want. I can have sex if I want. If I ask Arwyn for a hand job, she’s willing to make that sacrifice. But I don’t want that kind of autistic sex where she stares into space and thinks about laundry while rubbing my magic lamp. So my dilemma is that if I really want sex that is good, I have to work harder and wait longer than I would normally want.

Going long periods without sex is a painful existence. Having sex is equally painful because then I get anxious about when it is going to end or stop. I can’t have it both ways. I have to choose which anxiety to face, and then I have to face it like an adult. And that’s really the hard part. The brat in me feels entitled to complain and throw a tantrum and most people wouldn’t blame me for it. But I don’t want to be a brat who sulks and pouts and tantrums. So in the final analysis this has less to do with Arwyn than it does with me. True, it is our interactions that bring out a lot of these internal conflicts with myself, but ultimately they are my own self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that cause so much of my anxiety and pain. Using her to medicate that pain through sex isn’t a terribly loving thing to do. But at the same time, there is my own integrity to contend with and how much I can allow her to violate it by allowing her anxieties to rule over both of us. And that is the beauty of marriage in that we are forever given new opportunities to manage our anxieties while staying close to another person. It’s probably the hardest thing any of us will ever do.

Advice on Counseling

July 20, 2008


So after returning from vacation, I decided to catch up on a few of my favorite blogs. I’m still working on catching up on my reading, but I also have some catching up to do on my writing and posting. This is going to involve all 4 blogs, one way or another.

Check out RR Blogspot for a video/podcast. R&R WordPress has a bit of an update. And UA Blogspot might even have something new.

But this entry is a bit of unsolicited advice for FTN, after reading of his frustrations with Autumn. A lot of folks really glommed on to the idea that he should see about getting some counseling for the two of them. It was like deja vu all over again from a short time ago only it was FTN pounding out the steady drum beat of how I really needed to get us into counseling. Now he’s on the receiving end of his own advice and he doesn’t like it so very much. He raises all the same objections that I did:

– Money/cost

-work schedule

-The qualifications of available counselors

– child care

– Autumn wouldn’t be too thrilled about going

I might be missing a few excuses, but these are all valid while being a bit of a smoke screen. So let’s look at these objections, one at a time.

Money: this is no small concern. The going rate for counselors is about $100 per hour per week, which is an additional expense of $400 per month. It’s like having another car payment! But it is still cheaper than an attorney. In a minute I’ll discuss what you’re getting for your money, but first you have to dig around for the cash to make it work.

Most insurance will not cover marriage therapy, or if they do, they cover only a certain number of sessions and only if one or both people have a diagnosis of some sort. It is not a sure thing by a long stretch. I recall FTN might have given me some cost cutting advice to come up with the money, and he might want to consider giving up the cable, cutting back on the pizza or other nonessentials. For me, the opportunity arose as I got out of debt and had less going towards payments. Some counselors will have a sliding fee scale which might also help reduce the cost. Also there may be a cost of childcare to consider, which I’ll address later.

Work Schedule: Most people have fairly rigid work schedules, except self-employed and people like therapists. Evening and weekend hours are not uncommon for these folks. Let’s face it, if you want to go into therapy or counseling as a profession you’re going to have to work when other people have disposable time because counseling is not a top priority like food and shelter. Even though people going through a foreclosure might benefit enormously from marriage counseling, they are not going to do it. Convenience = clients and counselors try to make it as painless as possible. Most will take appointments up until 6:30-7:00 P.M. during the week. Most employers will be fairly flexible about taking one hour off early for physical therapy and the like, as long as you can make up the work. This is one of the weakest excuses of the bunch.

Qualifications of available counselors: I made kind of a big deal out of this one when voicing my own objections. I wasn’t interested in a lot of pop psychology, Mar/Venus stuff or psychotherapy where we talk about our parents. What we got was a counselor who seems to be totally into Mars/Venus, pop psychology and talking about our parents. While he’s familiar with Schnarch, he’s not familiar enough to use it. He’s also not at all skilled with Rational Emotive Therapy. So sometimes I feel like I’m flushing $75 per week down the toilet. However, anyone reading my blog over the past year will be able to see that some progress has been made. And I’m not sure it has anything to do with the skill or qualifications of this therapist.

So what do I get for 75 bucks per hour? Accountability. Arwyn is keenly aware of this other person who will want to know how we are doing. I’m aware of it, too. I think that one small thing has made more difference than anything else. Arwyn has bought into it, which totally helps. What if she didn’t buy into it? I’ll get into that in a moment. But suffice it to say that so far I’m game to keep it up just on that basis alone. Progress is progress, even if it is at a glacial rate. So qualifications are important, but just making the move is important in its own right, no matter how much of a nOOb the therapist might be.

Childcare: This was a real concern of ours, and it still is. We have one child who has high functioning autism, so finding willing and able people who work out is not always easy. Then there is the business of how much to let other people into your business. Tricky thing, but Arwyn has managed to find a good-hearted person who is willing and able to step up and who also knows the score. Otherwise, I might palm it off as some sort of parent support meeting, which is sort of true but doesn’t carry the stigma of marriage counseling. Make it a part of a regular date night, and it isn’t a bad deal. Arwyn and I often go out to eat after our sessions, just to make it more worthwhile. Childcare is doable. Plus, we have twice as many individual sessions as joint sessions, so that takes care of that issue most of the time. Again, this is about making our marriage more stable and enjoyablle which pays dividends for the development of our kids.

What if your spouse won’t go? First off, that takes care of the childcare issue as long as you can do it after work. But my advice is to do what I did. Tell her that your’re going to set this up. Do not ask permission. She can either buy-in or not. If she doesn’t that will say volumes in and of itself. It will also give you something to work on by yourself. Facing rejection and dealing with it constructively is a big part of this. Be prepared to follow through and go it alone, if necessary. I was already lonely and anxious enough as it was, Arwyn not going would simply be par for the course. The same applies to Autumn. By setting up the counseling session, you force her into a two choice dilemma that does not involve divorce. She may feel threatened by this move, but the purpose is to overcome the gridlock. In this case, feeling threatened is sort of what is needed to overcome the avoidance instinct. If she refuses to go, you still have a basis on which to work with a therapist. Even an incompetent one.

Now I’m going to throw out one more option that knocks down all of the above objections, except the first one. I looked into this while pursuing what turned out to be our present set up. This fellow by the name of Mort Fertel runs a sort of marital boot camp and does it all online and over the phone. I registered for his email newsletter and got little pearls of wisdom several times a week over a period of months. Of course, he pitched his tele boot camp every time, but he also said things consistent with what I already knew and had read in Schnarch’s book. There is a “Lone Ranger” option that allows a person to go it alone when the spouse refuses to participate. It is not specific to sex therapy, unfortunately, but we all know that it is pretty much impossible to separate sex problems from other marital conflicts no matter how we try.

FTN and most other people going through marital conflict have to ask themselves: how hard am I willing to work to make this the sort of marriage that I want? Marriage is not an easy thing to maintain let alone improve. It’s going to take a serious investment of time, cash and sweat. This why most marriages don’t even go into counseling until they are on the brink of disaster. This is also one reason why marriage counseling has such a poor track record.

One more thing I’ve discussed with FTN before. He regards their sexual conflicts as mostly Autumn’s fault or because of her issues. This is because he does everything he possibly can to accommodate her limitations, boundaries and issues. He’s a pretty easy going and flexible guy. Why should he see a therapist?

For a couple of reasons. First of all, anyone who reads him knows he is frustrated with Autumn’s seeming inflexibility. Job #1 is to get guidance on how to deal with his own feelings on this. I feel his pain and it is real and valid. Forgetting about it, avoiding and moving on are all ways to deal. So is escape. But are those the most productive ways that he has available? I don’t know, but learning the truth isn’t a bad goal.

Secondly, there is no possible way that Autumn can be so rigid and dysfunctional without affecting the sanity of everyone else in the house. Job #2 is making sure that he can hold on to his own sanity in light of being around someone who seems so obsessive about things all having to do with her own body or sex. Most dysfunctions in one married person has some sort of companion dysfunction in the other. Just like any addiction, it gets to everyone around; especially those they love most.


A few comments on “The View”

March 4, 2008

I have the ability and pleasure to read a blog or two courtesy of Google Reader, mostly because anything by Blogspot is blocked by the workplace Goonware.  That also means that I’m not reading comments by most of you.

But Joe Flirt, who I read often (and I need to comment more, since I CAN comment on his WordPress blog) had an interesting post about something written by Bunni, who needs to be added to my Google Reader Club.  But I find that there are many people who seem to share Bunny’s sentiments, that they think that since they enjoy sex so much that all women must enjoy it as much as they do. 

But that’s not the primary thing I’m commenting on.  It’s the concept that men say they want a freak in bed, and then when confronted with that freaky chick, they run like scared bunnies.


There are two aspects of this that are equally troubling.  The obvious one is the scardy-cat men who are running away.  Or hopping away, if they are being like bunnies. The other is the heavy weight the women put on the view of these apparently weak-minded men.  If the guy is running off because you are being true to yourself, then nature is doing her job, right?  Weeding out the less confident, less fit and less capable?

 I’m trying to think if I’ve ever scampered off in the face of a more confident woman.  I’m trying to think of a time where I’ve ever scampered off.  I do think in my younger days, being massively inexperienced, I may have definitely been scared of women who were too womanly for me.  I was a total virgin until the age of 25, so there were a lot of years where I could have been running.  But once I got some experience, my first series of experiences were with younger women who were themselves insecure and inexperienced.  Even the one who had naked pictures of her taken by a professional.

The first time a gal wanted to go down on me, yeah I was uncomfortable with that but it was my own insecurity that made me a lousy lay.  It wasn’t until I dated someone several years older and who had been around the block a number of times that I became sexually confident enough to do and be done by my partner. 

Would I be a bit freaked if confronted by a bedsheet freak today?  Maybe.  But that’s all my own insecurity and doesn’t make me think less of any woman who likes to get down and dirty.  Unlike Joeflirt, my fantasies involve the demure school marm who wants to go down on her boyfriend and take it up the ass in her spare time or while grading papers.  Part of that is me being often perceived as being as straight and vanilla in real life as can be but knowing that I have a latent kinky side dying to be expressed and explored.  I don’t automatically assume the other Sunday School teacher down the hall from me is any different.  Another factor is just maturity.  As I get more comfortable with myself I’m able to feel less threatened by someone else’s differentness.  Many of the bunny-men are not as mature and will almost always feel threatened by anything that looks like it might make them feel inferior.  And that makes sense to me.  I’m not saying it’s right, but it makes sense.

Which leads me to the second thing; why are women all strung out about what the less mature and more inferior men are thinking about them?  I sort of get the sting of rejection when the guy might suddenly go limp, grab his clothes and go running and screaming down the hall.   But there seems to be a prevailing feeling that most men are like that.  Is that true?  Are most men freaked out when confronted by a sexually confident woman?

It could be true.  Confidence is a two-way street.  One must have it in order to appreciate it.  I think a lot of men want women who are sexually confident in order to raise their own confidence and esteem.  However when faced with the developmental task of being confident, they find they are not up for it, and go hopping off.  This relates to the topic of emotional fusion and borrowed functioning that Schnarch talks about.  A man wants the confident woman who will somehow make him more confident but ends up making him feel exactly the opposite!

A sexually confident woman who gets bunny-like because some bunny-men went hopping away in fear, isn’t really as confident as she is letting on.  I do understand why she might feel deflated, though.  When a woman decides to get sexually adventurous, she is practicing a form of disclosure which requires a certain level of trust.  However, the women act as if this disclosure is somehow riskier or more novel than what men have always had to endure.  Rejection and ridicule is a two-way street and it hurts no matter the gender of the person who is inflicting it.  The other-validated confidence game also goes both ways.  It takes a lot of courage to put oneself out there, and to endure the rejection when or if it comes.  The only real way to build that sort of fortitude is to actually do it, and step outside the comfort zone.

Spirituality and The Ultimate Differentiation

January 27, 2008

This is the final chapter of Passionate Marriage but probably not my final commentary on the subject.  But at least I’ll be able to index it properly.


Schnarch covers two major theme in this chapter; spirituality and death.


At first he was surprised as his clients seemed to exhibit a couple of characteristics during therapy.  One was the fact that they seemed to experience a greater spiritual awareness and hunger.  The second was that the more successful they became the more therapy they wanted.


Schnarch seemed to be a bit disarmed by the increasing spiritual awakening of his clients when he first started.  As I’ve gone along, I’ve been connecting some of the spiritual dots along the way.  Deeper intimacy seems to naturally incline us towards a deeper spiritual orientation.  As we become better acquainted with ourselves we begin to grasp a truth that we are greater than the sum of our parts.  Just as sex becomes more than just a grinding of body parts, people become more than a collection of organs.  We discover that there is a soul in there.  In us, and our partners.  As we stop depending on our partners to fulfill our deepest longings we discover an Other that was there all along and only through lifting the fog of fusion can we see Him more clearly.


When one reads this section of Schnarch’s book, it is advisable to tread carefully.  In other words, the reader has to differentiate enough to realize that Schnarch’s views do not have to become your own.  Schnarch takes an eclectic approach to spirituality that gives equal credence to pretty much every faith.  From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense because he wants to have the broadest possible appeal.


Fusion happens pretty much in any and every cult,  In fact, it is pretty much a defining characteristic as these beliefs become progressively more works-based.  God does care about what you do, but only inasmuch as it is a reflection of who you are.  The paradox is that only after throwing off the oppression of man-pleasing do people finally discover God.  Differentiation is a process that involves putting the old self to death and bringing forth a truer more Spirit-led person. While I don’t necessarily agree with his writing on specific spiritual points I do see merit in meeting people where they are. 


While this book has some spiritual content and implications, it is still a secular work.  Anyone reading it should be aware of that and treat Schnarch’s treatment of spirituality with caution.  I think he makes several concepts extremely accessible to a wide audience and in this performs a great service.  It opened my eyes to a lot of things.


Is this scripture?  No.  I think it is consistent with several key scriptural themes but Schnarch uses secular terminology.  For instance, disclosure is akin to confession.


  I see differentiation as being akin to repentance.  At least for me, that was what it felt like.  I confronted my flaws and insecurities and resolved to turn myself around.  You can not repent for someone else’s sin.  You can’t even really confess another’s sin.  The process of confession and repentance is a uniquely individual experience that each person must do for themselves.  Schnarch’s terminology points towards a sort of self determinism or individualism but that is not what it is in practice.  It’s the much more rigorous process that comes from the crucible.


The crucible itself is a process that involves putting the old sinful self to death and becoming a reborn being.



XH and Me

January 12, 2008

I throw tons of traffic XH’s way (or as much as I get) and read everything he writes because the guy has some serious brains. It’s also because I can relate to him on many, many levels. What started out as a connection of experiences with wives who didn’t seem to like sex has branched off into other areas, especially theology and Christianity. XH and I also share some very key personality aspects such as being analytical and deep-thinking. We also share some of the less glamorous personality traits that feed into a couple of his most recent posts.

I sort of felt that his “Problem of Self” post was an oblique reference to things I’ve been writing about differentiation. I had serious thoughts about ginning up a serious reply/rebuttal but couldn’t think of a good reason to do it other than mental masturbation. His latest post about his quest for intimacy with his wife, tho, does move us past that. That is because he knows, and I know and he knows that I know he knows that I know that this has some serious spiritual underpinnings.

Intimacy is something God desires with us. God created intimacy because of His own deep, deep capacity for it. God feels stuff. God created us in His image, and put His essence into us. We are created to love intimately. When one knows another, in the Biblical sense, it is more than simply interlocking parts and exchanging bodily fluids. It is about intimacy. I give XH some props for figuring this out in his 30’s instead of his 40’s, like me.

In the comments to the intimacy post (the “self” post didn’t have many, much to XH’s chagrin) Desmond offers a bit of generous criticism of XH’s ways. Namely the condescending and arrogant ways. I’m going to build on that a bit.

My first ever blog was Sensual Dementia which had a little tagline that said something like “Thoughts from a condescending prick of a husband.” That label was pinned on me when I lived in the iVillage, and I resented it at first but ended up totally embracing it. That label was given to me by none other than Satan! To be perfectly honest I was a condescending prick. I still have a lot of that prick within me that comes out often enough. This is one reason why XH has a capacity to rile me in ways few other bloggers can. It takes a prick to really appreciate the prickishness of another one! XH and I connect in a wierd sense of similarity and commonality but we also have some sharp differences of opinion. Our capacity to get along and be civil to each other hinges on our ability to handle those differences. I have to be able to recognize that despite our eerie similarities, we are different people. We are not the same and it is entirely possible that two intelligent people can look at the exact same thing and come to entirely different conclusions. That is a very important key, here. So even though I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on all of his theology, we can still get along without getting all flamey. It’s not as easy as the rest of you might think. I have a natural penchant for flaming and used to use it on Usenet all the time. Alt.flame could be a pretty fun place. I give him some credit for helping me grow out of that a bit more. I don’t have to respond to what he says if I don’t want to; I can walk away.

In XH’s particular denomination there is an emphasis on uniformity which they incorrectly define as unity. However XH has differentiated himself from his denomination in some very significant areas, namely with his sense of history and his take on creeds He also has maybe a half dozen other areas where he might not agree with the original founders. He’s opinionated to an extreme and isn’t too afraid to throw those opinions out.

So what does this have to do with why his wife won’t trust him with her feelings?

Everything. I know this because I can now see the sort of damage I’ve done in my own marriage by carrying on in exactly the same way. This goes beyond pop psychology, but into reality. And I’m all about reality.

XH’s blog relationships can serve as a bit of a model for what is happening in real life. The first time I handed him some criticism, he turned off his comments, flushed his blogroll and got royally pissed. I was seriously worried he might go dark over it! But given more time to think, he reconsidered.

Why did he do all that? It’s because he was hurt and he didn’t want to be hurt again. He still doesn’t want to be hurt again so he has taken another tact tthat I know really, really well because I’ve used it more than once.

In his Intimacy post, XH mentions his feelings about his wife’s particular intellect which I thought was gutsy. It was that point where a few people might take exception. And we can see how he does this in the blog world.

When it comes to theology and religion, XH looms very, very large. He knows the Bible, Bible history and Christian history probably better than anyone else around the neighborhood. He’s an intellectual heavy weight and this is how he fends off attacks. I’m sure this is not a conscious decision, but I feel pretty confident that it works. I’ve gotten more than one private email from people who are cautious about commenting on a religious post because their ideas might get him riled up. They are afraid to challenge him and afraid of being challenged by him. I admit that I often measure my words against the thoughts and response of an opinionated and zealous XH, who is passionate about his faith.

Thing is, I have the exact same problem. Not just with my wife but with other members of my family. Over the holidays, my mother shared that my brother and sister are often afraid of my intellectual sharpness. My words have the ability to cut deeper than I ever realized. It’s not about being abrupt, rude and vindictive so much as it is about being careless and casual. Like XH, I often assume people know things that I know and see things as I see them. When they don’t, I act surprised because I am surprised! I’m not intentionally trying to be mean or make others feel small and stupid, but it surely happens all the time. People get around me they feel really dumb. And sometimes I really do think some people I’m around are really dumb.

While it isn’t overt, it really does function as a defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense, and having a razor intellect and whip-like tongue can mask a lot of insecurities and other psychological deficiencies. This is why XH’s theological posts get very few comments while posts on his relationships garner so many. In his relationship posts, we are all on equal ground. He shows his weaknesses with honesty and others see his vulnerability and jump in. Not with accusations or flames but with support. Spiritually, he does have an arrogant swagger. Emotionally, he’s like the rest of us. If he wants more comments on his theological posts, he should quit being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. Show a bit of vulnerability there, quit acting like the fellow with all the answers and stop sounding like a pharisee. Find a theological question he doesn’t know the answer to and ask others about it.

All of the above only apply if he wants comments or friendly responses. Otherwise, a body writes and puts stuff out there regardless. I’ve got a butt load of posts about psychology on the Blogger version of UA that have few or no comments. I just like having them there and sometimes people come ’round years later and comment. While I like comments, I’m okay not getting them on every post. I just move on. Stepmania post, anyone?

So let’s get back to “self” for a minute and talk about how that fits in to this whole thing.

Like XH, I also see much of psychology having a very “selfish” orientation. Within the Freudian Psychodynamic perspective, it’s all about a person’s past unresolved conflicts. No room for God there. With the cognitive perspective, it is our own false beliefs and irrational thoughts that make things get unglued. With behaviorism, it is all about contingencies of reinforcement. None of the psychological perspectives have any acknowledgement whatsoever of sin and the need for redemption and salvation. No need of a Savior or an acknowledgement of God. It’s all about healing ourselves and becoming our own little god and saving ourselves from our own misery..

That’s not to say there are no truths in psychology. Studying it can be very beneficial in understanding human behaviors and emotions. But relying too much on it can result in losing perspective. The science of emotion and behavior is a worthwhile subject of study but not to the exclusion of others. I get where XH’s suspicions come from. I share much of his skepticism. But differentiation is not the same as individualism or existentialism. It has some similar ideas but isn’t married to a human construct of godlessness.

The problem XH has with his wife is derived from his problems with God. The lack of intimacy he shares with his wife is a mirror of the lack of intimacy with God. Both reflect a poor understanding of differentiation, nevermind its application. And keep in mind, XH and I share a similar psychopathology. We both want intimacy but we’re doing stuff that shoots us in the foot. It was by looking at how XH was coming across that made me realize where I was doing the same sort of stuff. Much of it has to do with being arrogant and being a condescending prick. Even if I don’t mean to be, I need to be more measured and conscious of what I’m doing and saying. I need to take some ownership of my own intellect and then realize that it really isn’t all that. In a sense, XH handing me my rhetorical ass on a plate has been instructive.

Being intimate with God means working past the tendency we have of see God as a being who is constantly and forever offended by everything we do. We do a lot of offensive things, to be sure. However we’re not going to get anywhere if we are forever on guard about offending Him. Who wants to walk on egg shells 24/7? This is how XH’s wife, Z, feels about XH. She can not open up to him because he will find fault with what she says and does. He will become self righteous in defending the faith. She isn’t allowed to have her own individual preferences without risking offense so she puts up her own defense. An intellectual defense against XH would take a lot of energy as he’s so formidable that way. So she uses an emotional one which is working exceedingly well.

Differentiation is about realizing that two married people are not in the same boat. They are still in separate boats, trying to act like they are in one. When someone else tries to steer my boat, they are being controlling and manipulative. When I’m steering both boats it is called togetherness, cooperation and unity! Invoking that whole Biblical submission theology is going to reap a cold dryness that will rival any polar ice cap in the solar system. You can not compel and force authentic intimacy by rules, force, intimidation, threats or any other way.

XH has all the mechanical elements of a fulfilling sex life. By any objective measure, he should be thrilled! He has frequency, he has techniques, he has a variety of activities and a wife who swallows. What the hell is he complaining about? He’s not getting intimacy. One can get all the sexual activity requirements from any hooker, but intimacy is something that can’t be purchased at any price. It is only bought at the expense of self, but not quite the way XH would have us believe in his “self” post.

There is a paradox coming up, and I know some people are going to have a problem with it. Rule-based people who are rigid get very constipated when there is a paradox lounging around. But here it is…

You are only going to be able to connect intimately with another when you are properly differentiated. The level of intimacy one has is directly proportional to the ability to deal emotionally with the differences. If one goes ape shit over some little issue like theology, how can I trust them with my heart? I can say the stuff I do here because I’m anonymous. But how do you stay anonymous in a relationship like marriage? You can’t do it. You can try to create emotional distance but the other person will know you more than you want over time. So you try to deal with differences by trying to eliminate them or acting like they don’t exist. Emotional fusion is when we try to eliminate differences through uniformity. We insist on conforming tothe standard. Whose standard? Well, the man’s standard of course! That’s because he’s conforming to God’s standard, which is the Bible! So we need to squash and press out any differences so that we are a nice, smooth, uniformly united couple. It’s a struggle to maintain that facade while we’re at church and I’ve met a few couples that couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t. Now imagine keeping the hot iron on every day all day.

Differentiation is about allowing the other person to have their own feelings and opinions without feeling threatened and anxious. XH gets his panties in a wad when I write something he sees as rifled with theological errors. Actually it’s probably not true emotionally, but intellectually he feels compelled to correct the error which he does thoroughly and completely. Which compels me to fix his errors! All done in love, right? It’s no way to run a marriage. Or at least a happy marriage.

Thing is, Z isn’t all that different from XH. We always pick someone with whome we are evenly matched. Z does have some sharpness of her own that was demonstrated all too briefly on her own blog. Just look at the title of it! There is a synergy there that is actually inhibiting their intimacy. Two people with their own unique brand of arrogance and condescension trying to live together. They have amazingly pulled this off but the price has been their intimacy. When their intimacy increases their arrogance will suffer. Not a bad thing but they will suffer for it.

This last paragraph is a real tail twister, because it sets up a bit of a dilemma for XH. I stuck it in there as a manifestation of my own sadistic nature, which oddly enough is covered in the next chapter in Schnarch’s book about the two choice dilemma and marital sadism.

I might extend this post out later but let’s see where it goes on its own.


That didn’t take long.

While musing about the Christian Husband (XH for those who have yet to figure it out) thing I had another thought that plays directly to his “Self” post.

A while back there was some sort of meme going around and it asked something like “Could you live with a replica/copy/clone of yourself?” My answer to that is a definitive NO! I know this only because I see XH as my evil twin and he is bad enough as it is without being an exact copy. In our little community, he and I get into spats as much as anyone else. While this disturbs people in our peaceful, virtual Utopian world, I see that it is kind of necessary.

At the risk of blunting my sadistic side shown above, I have to say I’ve learned a thing or two about self growth through these heated exchanges. I’ve had to confront my less angelic side as well as acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. Using XH as a sort of reflection, I can say that I don’t like myself very much. I don’t like upsetting myself, I don’t like it when I make myself angry and I don’t like it when I see myself upsetting other people. I don’t like my pride and arrogance. I don’t like my condescending prickish self. I really, really loathe all that. But here’s the fact jack: I have to live with myself. I can avoid and move away from every other person on the planet except myself. My own sinful nature is right there, all the time, 24/7. Pretending it isn’t there means I end up fobbing off all my faults and insecurities on to other people. I cause pain to other people. I treat other people like livestock because I’m not dealing with my issues.

For example, there is the smoking issue. Bad, bad, bad, bad. Not much good about it. Except I like it and it helps medicate my pain and anxiety. That excuse of self medicating is a crutch I use to avoid dealing with my own shit. I blame Arwyn for causing my anxiety and thus my smoking. Arwyn hates my smoking. But I smoked before we were married, so she knew she was marrying a smoker. She had regular sex with a smoker: me. She refused to have sex with me when I stopped smoking. Smoking isn’t her issue. It’s mine. And I gotta deal with it without blaming her for it. I smoked before I met her and would continue if she left me today, using that anxiety as an excuse.

I’m confronting things on a lot of levels at the moment that I might rather not. But the conflicts are what have been driving me. Differentiation is a matter of introspection and integrity and not about selfishness. Denial and selfishness are all about fusion, manipulation and control of others. Whenever we try to become fused together through uniformity it is always at the expense of others. Insisting that others are fools for not using andouille sausage is a lot like insisting that others are fools for playing DDR instead of Stepmania. It basically involves an incursion into other people’s preferences and business. While it references their incompetence it also puts us into a corner where just about anything anyone else does calls into question our own integrity.

Uniformity is insisted upon in the military for a reason. It’s because we need to be exactly the same in order to accomplish a single unique mission: to kill other people before they kill us. Not exactly a model for Christian or marital unity.


Sexual Desire: Wanting to Want

January 1, 2008


As one might guess, this is the chapter I really wanted to get to.  It was tempting to skip over the previous sections just to get to this part.  But I persevered.  And the payoff is an encompassing theory that goes a long way in explaining low sexual desire. 


He starts off by being a bit flip in suggesting that the low desire partner is frequently the one with the best adjustment since they simply don’t want sex that isn’t worth having.  Okay, he has a point.


Biological drive is often over emphasized in today’s attitudes about sex.  In fact, for most of western civilization’s history, the emphasis was on decreasing sex drive.  It’s only been in the past few decades that sexual desire was seen as a healthy human expression.  The problem is that the pendulum has swung over so far that now low desire is seen as a psychopathology.  Sexual appetite is seen as natural as wanting food, hence the term sexual anorexia for those with low desire.




Longtime readers will recognize that I followed that one up for quite awhile.  The problem with this, according to Schnarch, is that human sexuality resides in the frontal lobe of the brain, the neocortex, where the most complex of human thinking takes place.  Some still resides in the base area just above the spinal chord which he calls the reptilian thinking area or the more primitive thinking.  Gosh, I’ve bandied the reptilian analogy around a bit, too.  Who the hell wants to have sex with a reptile?  That’s where the biological drive lives, and people who are going after the basic biological instinct are appealing to that lower functioning area which isn’t terribly flattering when you think about it.  But the good news is that we really aren’t living there, sexuality-wise, even though we may talk and act like it.


The problem with the higher thinking type sex is that it pretty much makes us prone to some type of sexual dysfunction.  Because we seem to always set ourselves up for emotion fusion, low desire is apparently almost an inevitable byproduct of long-term relationship.  Differentiation can only really happen within the sexual crucible model and low desire is one of the major engines for this type of growth.


I’ll speak to more of what this looks like in my other blog.  It really, really fits my personal experience.   I should have known.  So should many of you.


So I’m reading along and then Schnarch has a subtitle:


The Person with the Least Desire for Sex Always Controls It.


My mental reaction to seeing that was, “No Shit, Sherlock!  Tell me something I don’t know!”  This has ramifications beyond the problem of frequency.  It has to do with the how and where of it, as well.  The low desire person is the gate keeper of what is allowed as far as specific activities.  So even if sex is happening regularly, it may involve an amazingly narrow repertoire of allowed activities.  Or the attitude behind it is so awful that it makes the other person feel objectified and disconnected.   Even if orgasms are happening, sex can still be aversive thus short circuiting the whole operant conditioning that I might expect as a behaviorist. 


This last is a bit troubling for me.  But it stands to reason that operant conditioning works in the mammalian sense, which is better than the reptilian sector but still below human thinking and functioning.  Basically humans are capable of attaching a lot more to sex beyond the pleasure drive/pain avoidance model. 


Basically, we have 3 choices in regards to how we handle sexual tension in the form of differing desires:

1. Emotional detachment

2. Emotional engulfment and smothering (either by us or by our partners)

3. Greater differentiation.


Any of the first two involves emotional fusion.  Even though #1 looks more like differentiation it is simply the result of emotional fusion.  As our partner becomes more and more significant to us, we have more to risk and lose through either lack of acceptance or even total loss of our partner.  Our capacity to handle this increased significance of our significant other directly correlates to the idea of differentiation.  Differentiation is basically this: how do I handle the anxiety and tension that result in my partner’s growing significance in my life?  I’ll answer that elsewhere, later, for me.


Finally, Schnarch goes into the idea of wanting to want.  In the reptilian sense, we want sex in order to satisfy our lizard-like desire to spread our genes hither and yon.  It also satisfies the biological tensions of not having sex e.g. blue balls.  On another level, we want it in order to validate ourselves.  We want to be wanted and we want to be needed.  We want our partner to desire us with passion.  In fact, the complaint of many HL persons is more often a lack of passion in sex than frequency or specific activities.


Wanting or not wanting sex is a function of wanting or needing to feel wanted and desired sexually.  The low desire partner might feel objectified because they feel like the partner simply wants sex for sex sake, that whole reptilian thing.  Any hole will do.  The other part of the equation is the fear of loss and/or abandonment.  The anxiety caused by the fear of losing the other person can be so great as to actually inhibit sexual desire and passion.  This is why sex can be so fast and furious in new relationships and one night stands.  There is some tension there but there is no emotional fusion and no anxiety about emotional dependency from which a person must withdraw from.   


Both higher desire and lower desire partners are missing out on the intimacy potential of sex but from seemingly opposite sides.  But the marital system is designed to produce greater emotional growth in both partners no matter which side of the libido fence they are on.



Quantum Sex

December 23, 2007


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!