HEAD GAMES

Not to be outdone by Ladies' Home Journal, Westword concocted the following therapeutic scenario to put the Schnarch crucible theory to the test:

Consider the case of Carlos and Helga, who say they have been happily married for seven years. Both say they enjoy pleasant sex but that something is missing. Helga will accept oral sex from Carlos but will never reciprocate. She says this is because once, as a teen, she was forced to perform oral sex on a male cousin. Carlos says he feels Helga's pain, but he sure would like a blow job every once in a while.

Dr. Schnarch?
"Marriage is full of two-choice dilemmas," he says, with perhaps a touch of relish. "I teach people to hold on to themselves. In this case, if she doesn't want to go down on him, I would say, look, you don't have to. Hold on to that. I would also say, you have been sexually abused. Once. How long do you want this to be a problem in your life?"

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With Carlos, Schnarch would raise a number of issues, the simplest of which might be: Hold on to your quest for a blow job. Not only that, but ask yourself: "Will she put your penis in her mouth in a perfunctory way, or like it was the best all-day sucker?" Carlos should think about exactly what he wants.

If Carlos and Helga are honest about their real desires and do not attempt to spare each other's feelings, this oral dilemma will bring the very guts of their marriage to the surface. At which point it might get better. Or they might divorce. Or they might lapse into dread inertia.

"I might encourage Carlos to look at why oral sex is so important to him," offers Schnarch disciple Cynthia McReynolds. "It may be the only place he can allow himself to be soft. Well, hard. Let himself be done. Not worry about performing. He might discover there are other ways to be done."

While that is the advice McReynolds says she probably would have given Carlos before she began training with Schnarch three years ago, her take on Helga would have been substantially different. "Before Schnarch, I would have encouraged the man to encourage and understand his partner and listen to her inner child," she says ruefully. "But now I say no: Inner child doesn't work, because children don't have very good sex. And in that let-me-understand-your-feelings-and-it's-so-scary model, the woman can tyrannize the situation, and that may be comfortable in a perverse way, but what happens is, emotionally, nobody's home."

In the brave new Schnarchian world, Helga must ask herself some tough questions. "For instance," McReynolds says, "she gives lip service to loving this man, but does she maybe love holding on to her unresolved issues from the past more than she loves this man? The strange thing is that when I use this approach, whether she ends up going down on him or not, she'll be more erotic than she was before, and he'll notice.

 
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