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People joke that the start of a couple's marriage means the end of their sex life. David Schnarch, a sex therapist praised by Pepper Schwartz, uses epiphany-laden conversations taken directly from his own marriage and the married couples he sees in practice to help readers defy the myth that marriages are necessarily passionless, and instead prove that the longer a couple has been together, the higher the fireworks can fly. It's especially aimed at older couples who, Schnarch says, are self-actualized and therefore better able to handle intimacy than younger partners. "People have difficulty with intimacy because they're supposed to," he says, and goes on in this inspiring book to combine elements of marriage therapy and sex therapy to bring plenty of practical, fresh ideas to the crowd of mostly vapid relationship books. (Note that despite its title, it's for any emotionally committed couple, not just married folks.)
Schnarch says that a man is more likely to let a relationship suffer in order to hold on to his sense of self, while a woman is more apt to let her identity suffer to help strengthen it. Schnarch gives explicit tips on how to alter this pattern, an essential step he calls "differentiation." He also explains why compromise isn't always the best route to take when conflicts arise. The couples profiled here deal with the usual suspects: uneven sexual desire and initiation, battles about oral sex, self-image problems, the "boondoggle" of trust (both of one's self and one's partner), and the specter of divorce. Instead of focusing on each client's weaknesses, Schnarch teaches how to find inner strength and resilience that can be used to reaffirm a relationship and reignite sex. William H. Masters of Masters and Johnson fame calls this book "a classic," and no wonder. --Erica Jorgensen [via]