Intimacy and Desire

Passion in Long-Term Relationships

Normal Marital Sadism

The May 2012 edition of Psychology Today has an article featuring my work, describing how I deal with partners’ unacknowledged anger, hostility, and hatred. So I want to start off by telling you I’m actually a pretty nice guy. You can even ask my wife, daughter and parents. They are all honest, kind, decent people—arguably even more so than me—so they know the difference. Read More

Please consider this perspective

Dear Dr. Schnarch,

I agree with the initial part of your article, or at least what I believe you are implying, that anger within a relationship should be expressed in a constructive, open way, with a focus on the issue to be resolved.

However, your statement (see quote below) regarding attachment parenting is highly sexist to women, and offensive to both women and to men. It is also suggesting something that is completely incongruent with the current research on the best practices for child development, in the fields of both neuroscience and psychology (see the work of Dr. Allan Schore and Dr. Darcia Narvaez). First, let us remember that, as mammals, we actually have mammary glands to feed and nurture our infants. Human infants have immature nervous systems and the inability to regulate their own emotions, and thus close contact, frequent nursing, etc. are highly important in the right hemispheric development of their brains! It is not self-indulgent to parent in a manner that optimizes the development for my child. Nor are my breasts solely there for my husband's "breast play", as you so ridiculously suggest.

Since you seem to love anecdotal evidence, let me first say that my husband and I have a very rich intimate relationship while fully practicing attachment parenting. We have grown closer as a couple from our mutual respect for each other being the committed parents that we are to our children. Whether one has one child, five children, or no children, and however one chooses to parent, intimacy is as rich as the effort one gives to all aspects of it.

It is very dangerous to suggest that lovingly nurturing our children is in direct conflict with intimacy with our partners. Rather than empowering the husband/father in his vitally important role as nurturing father, it pits him as victim against his own child and wife. You also objectify women with your ridiculous statment.

Love is not linear. As long as partners are listening to and fulfilling each other's needs and desires, no one needs to compete for love and attention within a family. Please desist giving out this offensive and dangerous advice.

Here is your quote that I am referring to: "Some mothers are proudly declaring their deep abiding nurturance and undying devotion to their child, showing up as breast-feeding on demand and letting the child sleep in the parents’ bed long into childhood. Whether such women are indulging themselves rather than their children merits consideration. So does the possibility they are cruel to their husbands, setting these men up to compete for attention, affection, status and time on the breast."

I can consider this perspective, but it's not the point of my article

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your response. You make serveral points which deserve or require clarification. First is the focus of my article: It is not about attachment parenting, or advice about it, or questioning its validity in childrearing, or presuming it automatically destroys intimacy. I have my own questions about attachment parenting but this is not the point.

My article is about dealing with cruelty in love relationships, in therapy, and in ourselves. It is not just the initial part of my article, but I gather when you read what offended you, all else ceased to exist. In the offending paragraph, I brought up the possibility that some women who engage in extended attachment parenting do not have the wonderful relationship you describe, and in fact, use it to do something mean or destructive. I didn't say that you, or all, or even most practitioners of attachment parenting are doing this.

I said it is prudent for therapists and couples to consider "the unthinkable": Sometime women are perpetrators, who perpetrate mean cruel things on others. I broke the unwritten rule simply by raising this as a possibility, and did so with a contemporary example most people would avoid: Attachment parenting. My article said society is loath to see cruelty in women. This is particularly true regarding parenting, but that point I'll make in a separate article.

Your response eloquently demonstrates the idealistic dogma I believe characterizes the attachment-world, which makes conflict "disappear." You write, "As long as partners are listening to and fulfilling each other's needs and desires, no one needs to compete for love and attention within a family." You're thesis is completely contradictory to most couple's experience, and certainly many women's experience after childbirth. Likewise, anyone who comes from a large family, or one with limited money or parental free time, or is in a dual career marriage also knows your statement is untrue. There are many competing demands and forced choice decisions in marriage that no amount of listening resolves.

Dogma like this drives conflict underground (because it seems disloyal) which gets us back to what my article is about: (1) The difficulty couples and therapists have acknowledging and dealing with conflict, (2) the unwritten rule that you don't confront women in therapy--especially about their cruelty-- and (3) the strongest advocates of attachment security are sometimes not safe people to be with.

One reason therapists don't deal with couples' anger and hostility, and especially don't confront women about this, is they don't know what to do when clients "unload" on them--especially when it's a woman. Many therapists would be so stunned to have a client respond to them as you did, they would fail to see your actions:

1. Shaming ("You objectify women" "very dangerous")
2. Ridiculing("ridiculous statement")
3. Scolding ("desist from giving out this offensive and dangerous advice.")
4. Overstating my statements and then impeaching them. ("[You] suggest that lovingly nurturing our children is in direct conflict with intimacy with our partners") ("Nor are my breasts solely there for my husband's "breast play", as you so ridiculously suggest.")

In conclusion, I appreciate you demonstrating other reasons why therapists generally hesitate to confront women, especially about anger and cruelty.

Dr. S, might I remind you

Dr. S, might I remind you that you are *not" anonymous' therapist, and scolding her, by pointing out how "a therapist" might see her statements is not appropriate on this forum.

On this forum, we are all equals. The people who comment are not patients of therapists who write posts. One writes a post and should fully expect that others may not only point out errors in that post, but may actually see things the person writing the original post doesn't even understand.

I agree with anon fully about your unfair treatment of Attachment Parenting. My husband and I have been parents for nearly 27 years. We practiced Attachment Parenting with our children, we have a healthy marriage, and our intimate sexual life is and always was vigorous and healthy.

Many studies have shown Attachment Parents have a lower divorce rate than those who practice many other types of parenting methods. When a man sees his wife using all the empathy and love possible to nurture HIS child, he understands her commitment and understands that she is capable of commitment. In many cases this not only helps him learn to commit more fully, to both her and to the children, but strengthens the relationship. (But, there is a lot more to AP than just this side effect.)

Attachment Parenting and a healthy sex life are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, in many relationships, learning to Attach to children only opens one's heart more, and allow more love and chases the fear of intimacy away.

My husband and I have a sturdy, healthy, sexually active marriage. We make love more than most couples in their 20s, (and enjoy it just as much, if not more) and we at least give some of the credit to what we learned about love and selflessness while parenting. We became parents while I was in my early 20s and he was in his mid 20s (young, in many people's estimation) and I think if we had not learned the compassion Attachment Parenting taught us, the stresses of parenting in modern day life may have torn us apart, like it has many others. At least for us, the lessons in listening and respect we learned from AP grew to touch and improve our marriage.

It appears you do not understand the basic tenets of Attachment Parenting. I suggest you read "The Baby Book" by Sears and Sears and "Attachment Parenting" by Katie Allison Granju to start your learning.

I don't quite understand the whole "therapists are afraid to challenge women" thing you keep going on about. It may be true, but I don't think attacking parents who practice empathy and love for their children is related. In Attachment Parenting BOTH parents participate.

One of the dangers of using anecdotes frequently is that eventually one may quote a method of something as a "fault" without thoroughly understanding its origins, its philosophy and its history.

Maggie, I think you represent

Maggie, I think you represent your perspective perfectly well, but I also don't think you understood Dr. Schnarch's response to the original commenter. (Personally, I find myself learning as much from his interaction with readers as the original articles.)

Maggie's comment was excellent

Maggie is spot on with her reply. It is Dr. Snarch who was unable to address the original concerns of the commenter without attacks and attempts to discredit her argument by calling it irrelevant.

Maggie's comment was excellent

Maggie is spot on with her reply. It is Dr. Snarch who was unable to address the original concerns of the commenter without attacks and attempts to discredit her argument by calling it irrelevant.

Dear Dr. Schnarch, I did not

Dear Dr. Schnarch,

I did not state that the focus of your article was attachment parenting. On the contrary, I specifically noted in my comment that I was referring to your statement on attachment parenting, which is the reason I provided your quote. My particular concern was with your comment that women who nurse their babies on demand make their husbands compete for "time on the breast", and that I found that offensive and objectifying. I also added in my first sentence that I do agree with your larger points on unacknowledged, destructive anger.

I did not ever state that attachment parenting makes conflict "disappear". I think parenting using any style is very hard work. I simply stated that conflict should be expressed in an open, constructive way when it does arise. My statement was that the research data is converging on the point that secure attachment to deeply nurturing primary caregiver is optimal for moral, intellectual, and socioemotional development of children. http://allanschore.com/pdf/SchoreRelationalTraumaBaradon10.pdf
http://allanschore.com/pdf/SchoreAttachHumDev.pdf
Schore AN. 2001. Effects of a Secure Attachment Relationship on Right Brain Development, Affect Regulation, and Infant Mental Health. Infant Mental Health Journal 22, 1-2: 7-66.

Being offended by a statement and openly voicing that feeling does not make one hostile. To reiterate, this is the entire statement that I found offensive and I was verbalizing to you:
(Copied and pasted from article) "Some mothers are proudly declaring their deep abiding nurturance and undying devotion to their child, showing up as breast-feeding on demand and letting the child sleep in the parents’ bed long into childhood. Whether such women are indulging themselves rather than their children merits consideration. So does the possibility they are cruel to their husbands, setting these men up to compete for attention, affection, status and time on the breast."

You stated in your last paragraph that I demonstrated why therapists are hesitant to address when women are "angry and cruel", suggesting that I was being so for telling you why I was offended. To that, I will pose this question: If you believed that a fellow therapist was making statements that were harmful to clients or others, would you perhaps discuss your concerns with the therapist or the therapist's supervisor? Might you say that it was very dangerous and ridiculous, and ask that they desist from engaging in that? In fact, you would have an ethical imperative from your state board to do so. I believe that suggesting that a woman who is (in following the latest research) deeply nurturing or who breastfeeds on demand is somehow trying to be intentionally cruel to her husband or has selfish motives is quite a harmful statement to make for both infants and for both parents.

The rest of your article, I found to be insightful, informative, and helpful. I simply hoped that you would see my concern with that specific statement. My best regards to you in the future.

"Danger" is certainly in the eye of the perceiver.

Dear Anonymous,

You are correct that openly voicing being offended by an author's statements does not necessarily make one hostile--it is the choice of words and tone that conveys this. While I do not agree with the thesis of your second response, I appreciate that it is less shaming, ridiculing, scolding and inflammatory. You are also correct that you did not state the focus of my article was attachment parenting. But in both your replies (including providing the journal article reference) you seek to shift the focus to discussing the merits of attachment parenting, and critique my article as giving dangerously misguided advice on the topic.

You make a consistent distortion when your summarize my paragraph by saying "...your comment that women who nurse their babies on demand make their husbands compete for 'time on the breast.'" This means any woman who does "attachment parenting" INHERENTLY forces their husbands into this position. If I had said this in my article, and if I had not explicitly clarified this point in my reply ("I didn't say that you, or all, or even most practitioners of attachment parenting are doing [something mean or destructive]," I'd find more merit in your objection.

What you really seem to be objecting to is that I raise the POSSIBILITY some women could set up unhealthy family and marital dynamics through extended attachment parenting. Apparently you think questioning some women's motives is "dangerous" because this might give some people second thoughts about following a path you support. I think the refusal of couples and therapists to address marital sadism, especially in women, is a far more dangerous and immediate international family, marital, and personal health crisis for far more people than possibly dampening the attachment parenting movement.

Therapists at my Germany workshops understood that the people who pay the biggest price for therapists' reluctance to confront women are often the women themselves. Female therapists talked amongst themselves about the many reasons they don't confront other women, and their discussion was eye-opening for female and male therapists alike. Such discussions are very rare and badly needed. While it may not be your intent, I think your replies reinforce a subtle-but-widespread prohibition, "Don't you dare question a woman's motives as anything less than loving!"

I agree you never said attachment parenting makes conflict disappear. I said your idealistic statement makes conflict go underground, because the "as long as" assumptions often fall apart for couples following far less demanding parenting methods. ("As long as partners are listening to and fulfilling each other's needs and desires, no one needs to compete for love and attention within a family.)" When your basic assumption of "fulfilling each other's needs and desires" is not met, anger and resentment festers, and voluminous research indicates marital satisfaction generally goes down with the birth of a child and remains so for many years.

Your final question about communication between mental health professionals also merits a direct answer: There are indeed ethical guidelines regarding possible conduct violations by other practitioners, but you followed none of them in your prior response. First off, the individual raising concerns should self-identify as another mental health professional. Second, the communication is to be done privately and not in a public forum. Third, when "dangerous" behavior is asserted, it should be detailed. Fourth, correspondence should be civil and not bombastic, and no, you wouldn't tell the other therapist he or she was being ridiculous.

I hope my article helps people become more discerning about anger and cruelty within themselves and their relationships. I also hope our interaction helps the many Psychology Today readers who are not therapists become more savvy consumers of mental health services. Since the latter seems to be your goal too, at least we have a confluence of purpose.

Thank you.

Hypocrisy

What an incredible contradiction for Schnarch to publicly write from a position of authority and imply that mothers who extended nurse their babies (based on the recommendations of the latest neurodevelopmental science) somehow have sadistic and selfish intentions, but then complain (at length!) that he was the victim of being "shamed" and "ridiculed" for it. Again, here is Schnarch's quote from the article:

"Whether such women are indulging themselves rather than their children merits consideration. So does the possibility they are cruel to their husbands, setting these men up to compete for attention, affection, status and time on the breast."

geeziz

geeziz H.

What next?

Dr. Schnarch,
Here's my question: in your example of the therapist who, at one of your training events, declares she'll stop having affairs, is there anything to be done beyond her recognition that her behavior is destructive and will be halted? Guilt and shame are great short-term motivators, but how will this therapist's affairs, and more importantly, her urge to cheat, be handled months down the road? Will she have to top off her shame to continue coercing herself, or will she have to undergo a more substantial therapeutic regimen to understand the "why" of her urges and behavior? Do you feel it is even possible to get at the "why," and, if so, will this have any bearing on urges and behavior?

What's next depends on how you see the problem

Dear Civilian,

Thank you for such great questions, which reflect common understanding of how to deal with affairs. Although you are a non-professional, your response could easily have been written by a therapist, because it reflects how a majority of therapists would see this as well. First and foremost is framing the discussion in terms of shame and guilt. Second is presuming this was motivating the therapist at the workshop. This was the exact opposite of what was really happening.

If the therapist was operating of shame and guilt when she spoke up about not having more affairs, she would have felt bad about herself. You then follow a common logic that says she will need to keep feeling bad about herself to keep her sexual impulses under control. There is a whole segment of the professional mental health and pop-psychology industries that revolve around "shame and guilt," and support this kind of thinking. I, however, am not a member.

The therapist in question spoke up in front of fellow professionals because she was feeling GOOD about herself. Not good about her affairs. She was feeling good because it was the best in her surfacing, and she had no fear of showing that to anyone. She had spent the prior three days learning my approach, and having a difficult time. She saw all the mistakes she was making with her clients, many of them similar to mistakes she and her husband were making in their marriage. She saw the cruelty in herself that she failed to see in other couples, and she told me she had several upsetting nights confronting herself while the workshop was going on. We encourage participants to take the training very personally, and the better therapists always do. I believe she also initiated several long difficult phone conversations with her husband during the workshop, but I might have this confused with another participant. (A number of people did this.)

By the time she spoke up on the fourth day, this woman had seen the best in her stand up--the part that knew right from wrong, the part capable of really loving her husband, the part who really wanted to be a good therapist and give people a fair chance. My approach demands that therapists walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We teach, "If you can't do this at home, you can't do it in your office. And you don't ask clients to do things you yourself won't do."

So the process this woman was going through when she spoke up was quite different from the one you might envision. She had gone through a dark night of the soul ("the crucible") and come out the other side. She was feeling good, not bad. She wanted something (who she could be), rather than trying to keep herself from wanting (affairs). She wasn't proud of having affairs, but the sense of shame was being replaced with a sense of purpose and a belief she could do better. She was less worried about what other people thought of her, and more focused on what she thought of herself. We call this becoming self-validated, more differentiated, and having stronger 4 Points of Balance (depending upon how much you already know about my work.)

Will this woman need further counseling? For some people, this kind of experience can be life changing in itself. My understanding is she is now eagerly seeking counseling with her husband to take their marriage to a new level.

I don't think it's hard (and certainly not impossible) to figure out why specific people have affairs. The issues just tend to be darker than people want to see, and they're not all about sex. Understanding "why" has an impact on urges and behavior--not because knowing makes them go away--but because you cannot control an impulse you won't acknowledge having. Insight-oriented therapies that focus on "why" generally go nowhere, especially when this is individual therapy. The real issue is confronting yourself about what you're going to do about your impulses. This, in my experience, is best done in conjoint therapy.

If you are in the same position as this therapist, feeling ashamed is a waste of time and energy. In some cases, it's a self-indulgence that interferes with doing better. It is well known that self-denigration perpetuates self-denigrating behavior. Conducting yourself well in difficult ways you really respect--and then refusing to throw away this hard-earned self-respect--works a lot better.

Hope this helps.

(If this kind of thinking is unfamiliar, you might take a look at my books "Intimacy & Desire" or "'Passionate Marriage.")

Thank You

I just wanted to communicate my sincere respect. I appreciate your intelligence and courage addressing this issue. In my own work, I've indeed found it difficult to have truly open discussions about such influence, gender, and power dynamics - without being overwhelmed by the silencing force of prevailing ideology, individuals' motivated reasoning/justification, and political correctness. So, thank you for being an inspiration to continue in those efforts.

Thanks to you too

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for speaking up. We need more therapists to help bring these issues into the open by discussing their own hesitancies to touch this. Nothing is going to change until this becomes an openly addressed issue at professional meetings. Interestingly, although no one is eager to touch this, female therapists in Europe are more willing to break the silence about their hesitancy confronting anger in general, and women in particular, than their North American counterparts. It would be great if we also heard from women therapists in America who were willing to defy the peer pressure and speak up.

Thanks for the reinforcement.

You're forgetting the

You're forgetting the responsive nature that estrogen based biochemistry and physiology (including the biochemistry and neurophysiology of the brain), creates: Women, in general, respond to that which they've been fed, emotionally and relationally. (Not everyone falls into a generalization, and some women have high testosterone levels, compared to the norm.)

Factor that confounds this: The lag times. Sometimes the lag times are so long, it's difficult to connect the dots. It's difficult to understand that a wife's lack of hot hornies for her husband, has been that she's had to emotionally baby him for too long...that she's had to be his mommy, in addition to their children's mommy. Who has lasting hot hornies for their de facto son? No one. (Except incest perpetrators.)

And so, it's important that husbands know that if they nurture their wives emotionally and make her feel secure in their marriage, even at some times she doesn't deserve it, she will have a Sally Field revelation, and then that wive will respond by nurturing her husband back. When the wife is ofrced to initiate too much, again, she's in the mommy role, instead of in the wife role.

Eventually, this ends up being the death of her sexual attraction to her husband.

Salt in the wounds: This is now blame shifted to her, as being deficient, instead of tracing it back to the first domino - the husband's lack of initiating good stuff into the relationship.

The weed always grows back, unless the root is dug out. Problem is, the root is hidden, under the dirt. Most often, the root is the husband's caring about himself and his needs too much, without reciprocating enough. The wife's tank gets drained, and then she's much more likely to become hostile.

Hii

Abigail wrote:
You're forgetting the responsive nature that estrogen based biochemistry and physiology (including the biochemistry and neurophysiology of the brain), creates: Women, in general, respond to that which they've been fed, emotionally and relationally. (Not everyone falls into a generalization, and some women have high testosterone levels, compared to the norm.)

Factor that confounds this: The lag times. Sometimes the lag times are so long, it's difficult to connect the dots. It's difficult to understand that a wife's lack of hot hornies for her husband, has been that she's had to emotionally baby him for too long...that she's had to be his mommy, in addition to their children's mommy. Who has lasting hot hornies for their de facto son? No one. (Except incest perpetrators.)

And so, it's important that husbands know that if they nurture their wives emotionally and make her feel secure in their marriage, even at some times she doesn't deserve it, she will have a Sally Field revelation, and then that wive will respond by nurturing her husband back. When the wife is ofrced to initiate too much, again, she's in the mommy role, instead of in the wife role.

Eventually, this ends up being the death of her sexual attraction to her husband.

Salt in the wounds: This is now blame shifted to her, as being deficient, instead of tracing it back to the first domino - the husband's lack of initiating good stuff into the relationship.

The weed always grows back, unless the root is dug out. Problem is, the root is hidden, under the dirt. Most often, the root is the husband's caring about himself and his needs too much, without reciprocating enough. The wife's tank gets drained, and then she's much more likely to become hostile.

I haven't forgotten, I don't agree

Without getting into the hormone-based part of your thesis, you certainly are describing one common scenario that leads to low sexual desire in couples--excessive emotional dependency--and it is as much a cause of low sexual desire in husbands as it is in wives. I've written extensively about this in "Passionate Marriage" and "Intimacy & Desire." Professionally, I get uncomfortable when you (1) start off making this more about a male shortcoming, (2) presume the woman's going to have a magic resumption of desire if the man becomes nurturing (many women and men loose respect for their mate when the partner becomes more defferent), and (3) paint an all too common picture of the woman being turned off, but completely erase her anger, resentment and withholding.

You reinforce an idealistic and erroneous picture that women inherently will be sweet, loving, and sexually generous if just treated right, and lay the responsibility for her (lack of) sexual behavior (and the bulk of the sexual initiations) on the husband. I'd be equally uncomfortable with this picture if the genders were reversed, because the focus is on the partner's shortcomings rather than self-confrontation of personal cruelty.

What I like most about your response is it demonstrates the thesis of my article: People don't want to confront the meanness and cruelty in their relationships or that this is often self-generated. We love the view that our partner is responsible for bringing out the worst in us. Your response illustrates, most of all, that we don't confront women about their mean and cruel behavior. If anyone get's confronted, it's the man.

Thanks for taking the time to write and further the discussion.

Nonconfrontation

Dr. Schnarch, the reason for the non-confrontation of women is not paradigm. The reason is unconscious fiscal convenience. Too many therapists don't confront the women because they know that in most cases, the woman is the reason for the therapy. That is, the couple wouldn't be there if the woman wasn't wanting the therapy. (Women get their husbands to therapy far more than vice-versa. I believe women are more willing to go to therapy than men are, most of the time. They drag their hubbies there, instead of vice versa).

Basically, too many therapists don't want to bite the hand that writes the check. They need the money.

Thank you! Thank you!

Dear Mariah,

Thank you so much for speaking up. I couldn't agree more with your point, which many therapists won't acknowledge.

This actually did come up in the discussion among European female therapists, and the impact was sobering. This got the discussion down to the level we seek in our trainings, because the central importance of the therapist's personal level of differentiation comes into focus. We want our therapists dealing with their own professional and personal crucibles.

Out of respect for your point, I'll share what I told the therapists when they finally got to this issue:

There is much discussion these days about why men don't want to come to therapy. (See current webinars on PsychotherapyNetworker.com). Female therapists, in particular, like this topic because it's seen as a discussion of male traits rather than the more difficult dynamics you described.

I pointed out that in order to rebalance the inherently unbalanced treatment alliances therapists often face, it is PARTICULARLY important for the therapist to confront the wife, knowing full well they are confronting the "pro-therapy" partner. IF they don't do this, the man is more likely to terminate prematurely.

Therapists can give into their own need for money and their fear the couple will walk out (and not confront the woman), or earn their money, potentially earn more of it because the couple stays in treatment, and fulfill their responsibilities to the wife as well as the husband. No guarantees, especially if the therapist does this sloppy.

The majority of women and men at the Germany therapist workshop were willing to go into the crucible over this, and openly struggled with this in ways that earned my, their own, and each others' abiding respect.

I wish we had more of this in the USA, especially as the psychotherapy field is increasingly populated by women therapists. The only way it is going to happen is if female therapists lead the discussion. As Jeremy's comment noted (above), a male therapist doing this is asking to be a target of criticism and peer pressure.

Thanks for taking the discussion a step further.

Spectacular point

Mariah is right. This is the root of the problem.

When push comes to shove, few people have the courage to do their work in a way that puts their work at risk. Risk-benefit analysis wouldn't support it. No therapist wants to get the reputation of being "hard on women." Since women are the ones who are likely to blab about their therapy to other women, the possibilities of bad word-of-mouth are rife. With so many other "supportive" female therapists out there, the therapist who is "hard on women" doesn't stand a chance. Therefore, he or she won't take the chance.

There are rare exceptions, but I suspect there are exceptions that prove the rule.

I'm not sure I see a way out of this one.

If a marriage therapist is

If a marriage therapist is able to save a marriage, THAT (not yelling, no italics here) is the information that will be shared among female potential clients - a good thing for business.

The entire reason a woman seeks couples therapy, instead of heading for family law court immediately, is that she wants the marriage saved.

I hear your frustration, however. Let me venture that not being able to get to the root of the reason for the marriage problems fast enough is the actual cause of the high rate of marriage therapy failure.

(It's widely known that most marriage therapy makes marriages worse.)

Dr. Schnarch, Thank you for

Dr. Schnarch,

Thank you for your reply. :) (It seems to have disappeared from my screen here, however often the PT comment section won't show a comment, and then it appears later.)

When you said that the same could be reversed for men, I suppose it could be reversed for very low testosterone men, but when considering the average norm levels of testosterone for men, and estrogen for women, it actually can't be reversed, for men are not women and women are not men.

And yes, my writing does assume that women will respond in kind. If given enough time, I believe most will. However, most is not all. There are female sociopaths, females so damaged, they will never respond in kind, and instead, they take advantage of acts of good will, then lie and abandon, similar to male sociopaths. (It's been found that all female sociopaths are high in testosterone.)

In regards to female responding in kind, I've found that at certain points in the timeline of healing the past hurts and selfishnesses (innocently, out of ignorance) perpetrated by immature male mates, many women get stuck in their own bad habits of responding to past hurts, even when the male mate has changed his behavior for the better. However, when the coach or mentor points this out, and also encourages the male to stay on track, and not drown 10 feet from shore, the female is able to shake it off, and get more present.

Women have been the scapegoat through the centuries. I hope this does not renew again today.

You're quite welcome!

Hi Abigail,

Your testosterone logic is neither inherently true, nor clinically accurate in my 30 years of experience. It is, rather, an example of the miss-application of brain science that currently infects contemporary practice. There is absolutely no evidence that testosterone is the DETERMINING variable of the sexual pattern you describe (rather than one of many factors at work). You have simply decided it is, and once you do, you then reason your way into a self-fulfilling picture.

I'm happy you're willing to stipulate that you have a picture of women as "filled with sugar and spice and everything nice" (to use the childhood nursery rhyme), meaning inherently kind, giving, and loving. Apparently in your world, women are inherently kinder and more giving than men (who have more "bad" testosterone), except for a relatively small population of women (female sociopaths, who also have high testosterone).

I'm also happy you've trotted out:
1.the idea that "good people only do bad things innocently and unknowingly, and only because they've been hurt,"

2. coupled it with the gender bias that the man started this,

3. and have women majestically rising to the occasion when called for, not bogging down in their own resentments and urge for vengeance, and being the good-hearted victim rather than an equal participant or a perpetrator from the start.

Finally, I really appreciate your concluding statement, which I take as a veiled warning that if I don't give women the high ground about meanness and cruelty, I am scapegoating them.

I need all the proof of the thesis of my article I can get.

Thank you.

Dr Schnarch, In terms of

Dr Schnarch,

In terms of evolutionary psychology, if women didn't become other-centered and nurture the babies (responding to the babies' needs as indicated by their cries), then species dies.

If men didn't initiate going out getting the deer, (which needed to be done in silence), and dragging it home, species dies.

These tendencies were reinforced over the eons.

All of the studies I've read in regards to female sociopathy, cite their high levels of testosterone.

But no, not all women are sugar and spice. Often, greed gets in the way, and can make women power-hungry too.

Over the centuries, men have been in power. Now, during this age of equalization, you seek to demonize women, so it seems, from your writings.

I do appreciate your swift responses, however.

We all can find "facts" to support our preconceived notions

Dear Abigail,

In terms of evolutionary psychology(re: Helen Fisher "The Sex Contract"), women have been bred by ment to be sexual for over a million years. Likewise, men have been selectively bred by women for capacity to bond and help raise the babies. If they hadn't, families would not have formed and then the species dies out. These tendencies were reinforced over the eons. This is why women are multiply orgasmic and there are "sensative new age guys."

This is what Darwin called "sexual selection," which he thought more greatly shaped evolution than "natural selection."

I've just presented an evolutionary psychology theory that doesn't give women the high ground that you prefer. My point is it's too easy to grab a viewpoint that supports a therapist's viewpoint, and citing evolutionary psychology, brain research or hormones doesn't automatically avoid this.

I'm saying more than not all women are sugar and spice. I'm saying NO woman (and no man) is ALL sugar and spice. If you follow your evolutionary psychology thesis, and add in all the centuries men have been in power and treated women poorly, it means there have been centuries of angry, resentful women passing down their epigenetically modified dna, short allele for serotonin and MAOA, and behavioral tendencies for passive-aggressive (or openly aggressive) mayhem. I'm not trying to prove that women are often malevolent (like men), that's obvious. I'm saying there is no overwhelming scientific support for the view of women you are asserting.

There certainly have been mind-boggling power inequalities between men and women, particularly starting around the stone age when women became men's chattel. (I'll bet that REALLY killed couple's sex lives!) And thank God this is an age of greater equalization, although there's still a long way to go. But reducing women's cruelty to power-hunger (or doing the same for men) greatly oversimplifies and trivializes the depth and nuances of meanness human beings (and even loving couples) are capable of.

However I truly appreciate you suggesting I seek to demonize women because I'm willing to see the same cruelty and meanness in them that I see in men.

Thank you. It's hard for me through my own writing to demonstrate society's reluctance to see meanness and cruelty in women.

Empowerment - Not Demonization

Dear Abigail,

I'm a bit confused. In all of your responses above, I see a strong and positive desire to protect and empower women. However, I am concerned that your stated "estrogen" thesis makes it seem like women are completely reactionary and dependent on men's behavior. As you say above, ” Women, in general, respond to that which they've been fed, emotionally and relationally". How is that empowering to women - when the theory essentially asserts that women are not in control of their choices and feelings? Rather, it sounds like echoes of a truly archaic and disempowering interpretation of women to me.

Although it may seem "threatening" initially, I encourage you to take a second look at Dr. Schnarch's thesis. Yes, it may hold women accountable (as it does men too) - but in reality, it empowers women. It allows them to see that they have a choice in their behavior, and need not be held prisoner by feelings elicited by current partners or historical experiences. Therapeutically, this is indeed the only way to foster empowerment - by having each individual take responsibility and control over their behavior and reactions. That does not mean they are demonized or "at fault", rather that they have a choice and are empowered to react in ways not dictated by others.

In my opinion, we all might want to think about what is truly "empowering". Because, as a group, I'm not sure we have a good handle on it. At the least, I hope we can keep an open mind with folks such as Dr. Schnarch who are exploring alternatives.

Let me clarify: In the

Let me clarify: In the context of a male/female bonded by sex and especially by shared children relationship, the testosterone-based one is supposed to be the initiator (of love, listening, collaborating, validating), and the estrogen-based one is the responder, in general, not at each moment. (She will respond by loving, listening, collaborating, validating, back.)

In the context of the work place, academia, or any other relationship dynamic, women initiate just fine all on their own.

Over time, when the wife has had to initiate in a marriage too much, when, on net, there hasn't been enough reciprocation, she ends up losing her sexual attraction to her husband.

It's undeniable there's female rage. But, where is it coming from?

Like I said, the weed grows back, unless the root is dug out.

The rage shows that wives are losing the ability to continue to self-soothe. Why?

Thanks for the Clarification

I understand your comments quite a bit more now. In fact, I've been dealing with something similar in some of my own recent blog articles. Essentially, my take on this, is that women are in quite a double-bind between some of these evolved preferences for "assertive" men - and their social instruction to seek out "passive" and "agreeable" partners. They are looking for an equal partner in the living room, and an assertive initiator in the bedroom.

Frankly, that combination is rather difficult to find in one man. A man who is assertive will most likely want to lead in other areas too. In contrast, a man inclined to passivity or equal partnership will be less likely to be "dominant" in the affection department. To answer your question then...female rage is coming from the frustration of not being able to fulfill both their biological and social desires. They often report that a guy is either a sexy, assertive "jerk" who doesn't compromise (doesn't fit socially), or a dutiful, passive "nice guy" who doesn't spark passion (doesn't fit biologically).

Nevertheless, it begs the question, are men really the ultimate "cause" for this situation? Like women, men have been socially normed and constrained here. Through various laws and education, men in this generation have been repeatedly indoctrinated to be cautious, polite, and egalitarian. Most men, other than the occasional "bad boy", is rather terrified of "initiating". Especially, when denial of such initiation, even in marriage, can lead to very difficult interpersonal (and sometimes legal) consequences. Overall, men are punished, shamed, and normed into their current passive behavior.

Thusly, EVERYONE is losing the ability to self-soothe. No person's evolved and social needs are being met. However, in the current climate it is impossible to have a truly honest discussion about this. The reason is that certain ideological and gender-based topics are completely forbidden from social discourse, especially if someone is critical of them. Political correctness doesn't allow for a discussion of personal responsibility - without turning it into "blaming the victim". Similarly, exploring women's role in the unfolding dynamic becomes "demonizing" them, no matter what.

In short, the "root" of this problem is not men or women. Rather it is a biased and gendered ideology and culture. That ideology was initially supposed to empower women, but it has only frustrated them, given them a sense of helplessness in relationships, and silenced the discourse. Frankly, it isn't working (as the rage and dissatisfaction indicate). But, as the above article points out, we cannot even discuss such topics honestly at the moment as professionals.

In closing, I respect your point of view. I too believe that there are biological components to both sexes, with behaviors that are more or less attractive to each. However, I would also like to move the discussion beyond "men as initiator" to see the larger social dynamic influencing us all. Men would be more than happy to resume being assertive and initiating, if it was still socially supported behavior. Therefore, we are all victims (without a voice), until something changes.

I hope you can see that "bipartisan" perspective? I hope too that more women can see their rage really shouldn't be directed at men either (who are their fellow sufferers)...but rather, towards the ideological system that has frustrated them and needs changing. Finally, I truly hope we can all support each other in respecting such open discussion - without shaming, norming, and punishing each other into silence. That won't cure the impending frustration in any of us.

The initiation I'm talking

The initiation I'm talking about is not simply initiating sex. Not at all. The initiating I'm talking about is initiating love and cherish, the way one's own particular wife defines love and cherish....at first. Iniate by giving, first. Giving her definition of what she needs, not his definition, nor any other woman's definition.

Then, she will respond so well, that she'll initiate back -> complete mutuality, where the back and forth flows so seamlessly, (on net), that the couple themselves can no longer tell who's initiating and who's responding.

No silence at all. Just getting to the real truth.

Ask Robert Alter. He'll tell you that in the decades of couples work he conducted, most of the time (but not always), it was the husband who sat entrenched, with a disconnect between his idea of what a great husband he's been and the reality his wife reports.

Without going into detail, simplistically, it has to do with the male brain's greater propensity to compartmentalize and disconnect incidences and memories, whereas the female brain connects memories like a string of Christmas lights.

So, to quote Alter, men are made to be givers. Women are made to be givers back.

The rage is rooted in the fact that so many don't get this simple, simple dynamic, and therefore we have an increasing number of broken nests, which grow up the next generation of narcissists, encased in their own childhood protective walls, which disable their abilities to give.

Please view the Domestic

Please view the Domestic Violence facts and statistics, viewable by clicking the links at the bottom right corner of this page:

http://www.power2breakfree.com/Power2BreakFree/5DVFacts.html

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Dr. David Schnarch is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of numerous books and articles on intimacy, sexuality, and relationships.

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