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  • Writer's picturePamela Weintraub


Updated: Jul 8, 2018

It's all uphill from Denver to nearby Evergreen in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. And that's perhaps as it should be. I'm on my way to interview David Schnarch, the New York-born psychologist who has spent decades upending everything we thought we knew about true love, passion, and hot sex. Especially hot sex.

Once considered a heretic, Schnarch is today a distinguished presence in psychology, a pioneer set on redefining intimacy and reinvesting marriagewith the passion that usually fades. "It's easy to have hot sex with a stranger," Schnarch insists. "But passionate marriage requires that you become an adult."

And this, Schnarch admits, is a challenge. Becoming an authentic adult means going against the whole drift of the culture. It specifically means, among other things, soothing your own bad feelings without the help of another, pursuing your own goals, and standing on your own two feet. Most people associate such skills with singlehood. But Schnarch finds that marriage can't succeed unless we claim our sense of self in the presence of another. The resulting growth turns right around and fuels the marriage, enabling passionate sex. And it pays wide-ranging dividends in domains from friendship to creativity to work.

To understand just how subversive such thinking is, it helps to know that Schnarch has been articulating his ideas about the emotional and erotic power of independence within relationships just as mainstream psychology has almost unanimously endorsed attachment as the heart of adult relationships. In fact, Schnarch finds that our preoccupation with attachment, with its ideal of feeling and acting as one, keeps partners infantile and overly emotionally dependent—enmeshed, in the language of psychology; fused is the way Schnarch puts it.

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