What The Narcissist Needs

  I was shocked. This guy was giving me the missing key, the key to why some people’s marriages get better and some people’s don’t. Why hadn’t I thought of this? One simple, not so easy, but simple, nevertheless, solution. I was telling him, “Think about it. Think about how your wife would feel when you say those things to her.” And he said, “I usually don’t think about things like that.” “Yes, I hear you. You don’t usually think about people’s feelings and how they would react to things. I get that. But you want things better in your marriage, so I’m asking you to think about it.” “Well, what am I supposed to think about?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “You’ve told me it hurts her feelings and I don’t see why it would. What else should I think about?” Now, I was puzzled. He is obviously not one of those people who loses sleep at night worrying about what other people think of him or his deeds. He doesn’t lose sleep at night saying to himself, “If I had done this, then maybe they would have done that.” He doesn’t wonder what will happen going forward, either; he doesn’t toss different scenarios around in his mind at 3 AM thinking that what he really needs to do is X. Or maybe it should be Y. Or maybe Z. He doesn’t worry. Well, that’s good, right? Not to be a worrier? Well, sure, but… There are extremes of everything. Worrying about the future when it’s basically out of your control is a foolish expense of psychic energy. Worrying in...

Book Review: Why Does Married Sex Go Wrong?

You and I both know that when someone is yelling at, criticizing, belittling, or ignoring a spouse, sex gets lost in the shuffle. No matter how much Person 1 apologizes, Person 2 is still hurt. After all, a smack is a smack, whether it’s physical or verbal: You feel the sting long after it’s over. So the heartfelt apology just doesn’t do it. And then if you add in a cycle of years or decades of these “mistakes” and apologies, what you get is….nothing. Sex is dead and the marriage for all intents and purposes is also dead. With that in mind, I’d like to do a review of David Schnarch’s book, Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship, 2009. Obviously, it’s always nice to find another therapist who sees things as I do. The only way that sex can work is if there is trust and respect (words that are in the subtitle of my course which includes a book). Here are some pieces that I underlined because they interested me: On p. 37 he says, “The relationship in which you seek refuge pushes you to develop a more solid self, like pushing toothpaste out of a tube by progressively winding the other end. the love relationship you thought would make you feel safe and secure pouds your fragile reflected sense of self into something solid and lasting.” Schnarch is a follower of the concepts of Murray Bowen. Bowen’s premise is that if a person has a “solid” sense of who he is, he will not be thrown by criticism. He will not feel criticized when...

A Key to Creating Intimacy in Your Marriage

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF the Florida Jewish News You check off the mental list: You’ve never been abusive. You remember anniversaries, birthdays. True, you never seem to get the right gift, but you’re head and shoulders above the poor sucker who forgot all together. You do your share of household chores. True, you don’t have the perfect answer for a crying child all the time, but your kids love you and you’re a good parent. You work hard for a living. You don’t have any vices at all, no cheating, smoking, drinking, drugging: Mr. Squeaky-Clean. You don’t even flirt with people in the elevator, for crying out loud. How squeaky-clean is that! So, what on Earth is bothering your wife? Why has she told me she’s so unhappy? Why? Why? If You Don’t Know What You Did, Then That’s The Problem The fact that you’re asking the question is a big clue as to what the problem is. I’ll bet you good money that your wife told you why in good, plain English a thousand times. And it did what things she says usually do: Went in one ear and out the other.   Statistics show that marriages in which a couple are “like two ships passing in the night” are a no-go. There’s got to be more than the absence of abuse or a bare-bones gesture on Mother’s Day and the like to make a marriage something someone would want to stay in. A marriage is not defined by the absence of problems; it should be defined by the presence of magic. And magic is easy. Ask any...

The “Adult Content” Lie

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 12, 20 One of my pet peeves is using the word “adult,” as in “adult movie” because, in fact, the nature of relationships in the so-called “adult” scene are so juvenile. Who watches such things? People with self-esteem and who esteem their significant other? People who know how to get satisfaction without manufacturing artificial means? People who know how to give satisfaction to those they love? Not at all. The people who have made that particular industry a billion-dollar industry are partially-developed people. What Does It Mean To Be “Adult”? So what is “adult,” then? A true adult is not afraid of intimacy. You see, the purveyors of the “adult” nonsense are capitalizing on people’s juvenile fears of real intimacy. They use fantasies to forget that they have such fears in much the same way that sad people often drink to forget their sorrows. I can see the owner of an “adult” website filled right now with righteous indignation. “Hah!” he’s saying. “That makes no sense. Not only are my people not afraid of intimacy, they engage in it all the time! In fact, they are so self-possessed and have so much self-esteem that they are completely uninhibited, completely comfortable—completely free—doing things that you [he’s shooting darts with his eyes as he speaks] may not be.” Actually, he may not want to, but he’s making my point for me. One of the loveliest developments of the last decade of the twentieth century was the awakening of desire on the parts of a large number of Americans to connect with their...

You’re Walking On Eggshells? —GOOD!

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 16. “Can’t I express myself?” the man asked me with annoyance. “I think I should be able to be honest with my own wife!” another one haruumphed at me. “Why should I always watch out for his feelings?” a woman asked with indignation. The answer to the questions, in order is, “No, you can’t,” “No, you shouldn’t,” and “Because that’s the right thing to do.” “But”—and here comes that big “but” that always clinches these discussions—“I feel like I’m walking on eggshells!” And I have the same answer each and every time: “Good! You should!” At this point, I’m met with a combination of confusion and irritation. The irritation usually wins (which is a good part of the problem). “How can a couple have a genuine, honest, intimate relationship if they can’t be truthful with each other and tell each other exactly how they feel?” they want to know. I’ll ask you one better: “How can a couple have a genuine, honest, intimate relationship if they block communication by hurting their partners and putting them on the defensive?” Being Hurtful is NOT “Honest” Communication; It Destroys Intimacy You can see that my answer is paradoxical: The more honest you are in a hurtful or rude way, the less intimate your relationship will be. If you really want intimacy, walk on the eggshells. You know what? Forms of speech that stop the conversation cold, shut the ears of the listener, reduce intimacy, and make it very hard to feel love for someone are the most honest. Imagine that! Here are some...

More Porn Less Love: What’s Wrong with Sex These Days?

What do porn and substance abuse have in common?: They are both mind-numbing escapes from emotional pain. They both do that very well, engaging the attention of the victims caught in their grip so completely that they can actually fool themselves into believing they like what they are doing. After all, drugs and sex are very powerful chemical agents acting on the brain. And, of particular importance, they both have an equally rapid come-down from their highs. That’s why the true addict must have more very quickly; it doesn’t last. So you think you’re not addicted? Take this test regardless of the substance of choice–work, sex, drugs, explosive anger, cutting, bingeing & purging– Do you get anxious when you don’t have/use/do your addiction? Does that anxiety diminish right in the middle of it? Does the anxiety/tension/need start building up soon after giving in to the pull of the addiction? Is that indulgence a big part of your life? Do you plan your schedule around it? Do you look for it in new places you visit? Is it on your mind a considerable amount of time? If you had to choose between your wife/children/girlfriend/job and the substance/behavior, what would it be? How many arguments with your significant other are about the addictive behavior? When it’s all done-not at the moment it’s happening, of course, but later-do you feel content and happy or strangely empty, missing some obscure something? Now here is the most important question of all: Does your indulgence fulfill you? Is it lovely? Is it meaningful? Is it joyous? How you answer that one is so significant. You...
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