Problem occurs within the relationship.

Fusion: contrary to the previous stage, this stage does not require the interaction of individual boundaries, but concentrates on fusion of the same. The partners experience comfort in their relationship and they identify themselves through their relationship. Mutuality is their guideline, from common interests, to joint activities; they work like “united force”. Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) argue that this fusion does not leave any space for individuality, and consequently for the development of the relationship. Through their relationship they “cancelled” all aspects in which they differed from each other and became “as one”.

Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) support Schnarch’s view that eroticism is present only when two distinct and separate individual engages into a relationship. The task of the therapy is to break this fusion by challenging their comfort, but sometimes some occurrence, such as an extra marital affair might work as the fusion breaker. The therapy uses a combination of counselling, sensate focus exercises and intentional arousal activities (Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 79).

Differentiation: When a couple breaks out from the comfort zone or the merger phase, the reality of their individuality reveals their differentiation. In aiming intimacy development, the therapeutic goal at this stage is to permit individuality and recognize the differences in partner’s perceptions as valuables. In order to achieve enduring eroticism and maintain sexual intimacy, progressing through this stage is essential. Nevertheless, low sexual desire may still be present at this stage, especially when partners find themselves alone together. In order to avoid falling back to the phase of merger or fusion, or because of establish differentiation, couples might drift apart and maintain unconnected, indifferent and dispassionate towards each other. This may result in extramarital activity, in just “formal” relationship or separation.

Integration: in order to mutually support his or her differentiated identities, each partner has to validate the separate identity of the other. Cognitive and emotional behaviour has to be also reinforced, otherwise it would not last. Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) point out that there is validation without the reinforcement by one’s partner. Furthermore, various types of behavioural skills during the therapy are used in order to achieve connection with their differences.

Once establish connection allows partners to engage in “emotionally safe sex, taking risks in their sex play, create novelty, mystery, danger and dominance”, factors which has roots in eroticism (cited in Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 82). Sexual intimacy paradox is finally resolved in this stage of intimacy development. Created or established trust between partners permits them to take on erotic play and explore their sexual behaviour in a new exiting way.

Lobitz and Lobitz’s (1996) theory addresses sexual intimacy as a “process through which sexual desire is first created, then blocked, repressed and finally recreated in a lasting way” (cited in Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 73). Nonetheless, a problem with sexual desire can take place during any phase of that process. Coming into relationship means bringing two intimacies and two different realities and a couple needs to recreate these versions of reality together.

In that process they affect each other and consequently they are looking at a new space of reality they created. The “new” reality would work if both partners sustain it. What is invested in the relationship has to be appreciated, and one needs the other to validate it. People build their happiness through the validation of others, but they still have their own identities and they can loose themselves in that process. A relationship becomes a friendship which does not leave any space for romance. Looking at the relationship in a way that your partner gives you a sense of living is wrong; it brings a heartache and disappointment. People should validate themselves instead of depending on others to validate them.

Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) belong to the second generation of therapists and their model looks at dysfunction as dyadic phenomena, i.e. problem is in the relationship, not in the individual. Traditional sex therapy focuses on symptoms, manufacturing orgasm and “prescribing” treatments which are orientated towards sexual techniques and limited by time (Vandereycken, W., 1988). The firs generation therapists concentrated on physical behaviour trying to eliminate the symptoms of sexual dysfunction, failing to look at psychological performance, consequently creating performance anxiety for people who did not “fit” into sociocultural norms of sexual performance. The individualistic approach of the first generation sex therapist, positions the individual as a cause of the problem in the relationship, ignoring the fact that problem occurs within the relationship.

The second generation of therapists took a different, away from individualistic approach, looking at the relationship itself, and dysfunction as dyadic phenomena. A problem was not anymore something that belongs to a client, but something that belongs to a couple. Schnarch (2000) argues for differentiation, therefore partners should seek for validation and self-esteem in themselves, not from each other, while Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) model merges validation from oneself with validation from the other.

The second-generation therapists comparing with those of the first generation, achieved a significant success by employing their treatments, but it should be underlined that the treatment for sexual desire problems, i.e. sexual desire discrepancy as the most common complaint of couples that seek therapy, with regard to their nature and its pathology still lacks the knowledge.


Kaschak, L. & Tiefer, L. (2001) A New View of Women’s Sexual Problems. New York: The Howorth Press. Kleinplatz, P.J. (2001) New Direction in Sex Therapy: Innovations and Alternatives. Philadelphia, E. Sussex: Taylor & Francis. Leiblum, S.R. & Rosen, R.C. (2000) Principles and Practice of Sex Therapy. New York: The Guildford Press. Lobitz, W.C. & Lobitz, G.K. (1996) Resolving the Sexual Intimacy Paradox: A Developmental Model for the Treatment of Sexual Desire Disorders. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Vol 22, No.2, 1996. Talmadge, L.D. & Talmadge, W.C. (1986) Relational Sexuality: An Understanding of Low Sexual Desire. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Vol 12, No.1, 1986.

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