I just finished reading Passionate Marriage
by David Schnarch, Ph.D. A brilliant
book, full of so many insights I could probably write about it for months. The essence of his work is about finding and
holding onto yourself while you’re still in the committed relationship,
allowing your partner to do the same, and using sex as the crucible in which
you each learn how to love yourselves more deeply.
He repeatedly says that nobody’s ready for
marriage; marriage itself makes us ready.
He also says that “Loving is not for the weak, nor for the faint of
heart. That’s why there’s so little of
it in the world. Love requires being
steadfast through many difficulties. If
our society ever tolerates a realistic view of marriage, we will be less
cavalier about encouraging people to love and want each other.”
What we call love is usually two people who
are emotionally fused to one another.
They depend on each other for their self-esteem, and can’t conceive of a
self-image outside of the relationship. When
we depend on another person for validation, it always leaves us off
balance. That creates vulnerability, and
anger at the vulnerability. Sexual dysfunction
usually arises, because eroticism exists in the space between two people. When a couple is emotionally fused, there’s
no space between them. Sex becomes
routine or non-existent, and often becomes the starting point for arguments.
Real love involves hanging onto your sense
of self, or finding it and grabbing it for the first time, while agreeing to be
in a relationship with someone else. This
process, called differentiation or individuation, teaches you who you really
are. It invites you to look at the good,
the bad and the ugly, and to accept all of it.
It teaches you how to honor both your masculine and feminine essences
and how to stand in your power. In other
words, real love teaches you how to love yourself first, then how to relate
with your partner as he is also learning to love himself.
This kind of self-reflection can be
frightening. Marriages dissolve when
both partners aren’t willing to put themselves in the crucible of self
discovery. Marriages also dissolve when
neither partner is willing to do the work.
Occasionally, marriages will still dissolve when both partners do the
work and discover they’re just not meant for each other; if that happens, they’re
much more likely to part as friends.
Although this process of discovering real
love is not for the faint of heart, it is an incredible journey. You need a guide, someone who’s done the work
and can lead you in the right direction.
And you need to remember to be gentle with yourself. You ARE worthy of real love.