Sexual desire

According to Schnarch sexual desire is a systematic process and “high and low sexual desire are position in a system” (Schnarch, D. in Leiblum & Rosen, 2000, p 23). High or low sexual desire are not a characteristic of an individual, but shifting positions which depends on a variety of issues in a relationship. A person with high sexual desire can as well have a low intimacy desire, or low desire for living together. Moreover, he gives an example how “high” and “low” sexual desire positions function in the dyad. It is often that one defines his sexual adequacy by his competence and skilfulness to please his partners.

His partner’s lower sexual desire seems as a result of his inadequacy to please her, i.e. negative self-reflection. Meanwhile, his partner is sexually detached, because she thinks that he is more “proving-himself”, than actually wanting to be with her. She needs to feel important or “safe”, which shows that she is as well as him dependant on a reflected sense of self. Likewise, he also has a need to feel important or “safe”, but his partner’s lack of attention causes negative reflection of self.

Therefore, he blames either himself or put blame on her to justify her refusal or her lack of interest (Schnarch, D., 2000). Schnarch emphasises sexual dysfunction as dyadic phenomena, something that partners create, not something that either individual causes. Moreover, he points out at power issues regarding “high” and “low” desire position within the relationship. The one with low sexual desire is the one who has got the control over sex, controlling frequency, content and the style of sex (Schnarch, D., 2000). People often need to feel powerful and in control, but at the same time surprisingly, the low desire partner may feel inadequate and as well responsible for controlling the partner and the relationship.

According to Schnarch (2000) “desire is a systemic process driven and modulated by differentiation that makes relationships the people-growing processes they are” (Leiblum & Rosen, 2000, p 26). He argues that what drives a human relationship is differentiation, especially regarding sex in a relationship, i.e. the Sexual Crucible Approach (Schnarch, D., 2000). Furthermore, self-validation involves differentiation and autonomy of partners in the relationship (Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996). If partners are able to build a solid sense of self as individuals, they would not feel dependant on each other, therefore they would not be vulnerable.

Their intimacy, passion and the relationship with themselves and their partners would lead to deeper connections (Schnarch, D., 2000). It is not about being emotionally dependant on your partner or your relationship, but about having a solid sense of self and therefore being able to invest yourself in your partner and your relationship without feeling of sacrificing. The goal of the therapy, according to Schnarch, is to promote differentiation and autonomy in the relationship, in order to develop sexual intimacy.

Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) contributed to the treatment of Sexual Desire disorder with the notion of the Sexual Intimacy Paradox. The Sexual Intimacy Paradox takes place when couple’s intimacy in their relationship increases, while consequently their sexual desire decreases (Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996). What actually influences sexual desire in a relationship is “distance, novelty, mystery, danger and power differences” (Kernberg, 1988 and Stallek, 1979, cited in Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 72).

If distance and novelty are some of the features which increase sexual desire, but one of the aims of sex therapy is to increase intimacy we are faced with and obvious paradox. 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. Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) argue that people are able to self validate only if they receive validation. This developmental process enables people to feel secure about themselves and safe in their relationships. Moreover, they refer to intimacy “as process that occurs over time and is never completed or fully accomplished” (Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 73). This view is essential for their five-part model of sexual intimacy; the model is formed of five developmental elements, i.e. conflagration, merger, fusion, differentiation and integration (Lobitz & Lobitz, 1996, p 73).

One of the Lobitz and Lobitz’s model stages is differentiation, which would fit with Schnarch model, but with the difference that they accentuated the fusion of differentiation and interdependence. Five stages of intimacy development: 1) Conflagration: a stage where sexual and perhaps emotional fusion reach their peak together with sexual desire and passion. Nevertheless, this desire according to Lobitz and Lobitz (1996) lasts from two minutes to two years. However, couples try to keep alive this early passion by avoiding reality. They create either a world of fantasies through the use of various stimulants or they engage into conflicts in order to maintain the passion

2) Merger: this stage works on interaction of individual boundaries and the other partner takes the identity of one partner away. This can occur in both directions, i.e. the identity of one is replaced by the identity of the other partner. Moreover, the merger can be collaborative, i.e. a “co-dependency” is accepted and one partner “cooperates” in another partner’s sexual and interpersonal dysfunction, and unilateral, i.e. it demonstrated a power battle.

The “merger” usually does not show low sexual desire and feels permitted to have a control over his or her partner’s actions and behaviour. The “merger’s” authoritarian acts consequently results in other partner’s low sexual desire and even when engaging into sexual activity, he or she would be unresponsive. The withholding partner displays “passive-aggressive” behaviour, i.e. holding on to only aspects of his or hers authority, by resisting to sexual desire.

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 …

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