Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships Info

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“A classic.” ―William H. Masters,
M.D.

Passionate Marriage has long been recognized
as the pioneering book on intimate human relationships. Now with a new
preface by the author, this updated edition explores the ways we can
keep passion alive and even reach the height of sexual and emotional
fulfillment later in life. Acclaimed psychologist David Schnarch guides
couples toward greater intimacy with proven techniques developed in his
clinical practice and worldwide workshops. Chapters―covering everything
from understanding love relationships to helpful "tools for connections"
to keeping the sparks alive years down the road―provide the scaffolding
for overcoming sexual and emotional problems. This inspirational book
is sure to help couples invigorate their relationships and reach the
fullest potential in their love lives.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.22

2934 Ratings

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Reviews for Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships:

5

Jan 22, 2008

I read this book at a time of painful difficulty - would the much-cherished marriage I'd been in many years actually come to an end (unthinkable) or would we, or I, or him, find a way to get to the bottom of what "went wrong" as we then thought, and from there, reinvent?

That was ten years ago. Schnarch wholly shifted my paradigm, not just on relationship but of everything. For starters, pain and difficulty don't mean something "went wrong" but, rather, went right in the sense of... marriage, I read this book at a time of painful difficulty - would the much-cherished marriage I'd been in many years actually come to an end (unthinkable) or would we, or I, or him, find a way to get to the bottom of what "went wrong" as we then thought, and from there, reinvent?

That was ten years ago. Schnarch wholly shifted my paradigm, not just on relationship but of everything. For starters, pain and difficulty don't mean something "went wrong" but, rather, went right in the sense of... marriage, like life, is constructed so as to have these periods... it's part of how it works, right down to the uncertainty. The "non-pathological" approach - not making something wrong just because it's hard - was the beginning of what opened into the hugest, most joyful, reawakening, better than what I could have imagined, because the process we traveled, individually and jointly (with the help of this approach) was so outside of my scope, and yet, so "Oh! Right!" as I got pieces of it. But my scope, my heart, my life, my sense of loving and living, grew and grew, and we grew into the most passionate of marriages.

About three years after we went through that huge upheaval and well into the joyful glide that followed, he died suddenly, in an accident (words that still, all these years later, sometimes strike me as unbelievable). But right from the beginning, the unreal horror of deciding about organ donation, cremation options, for someone who had been wholly and lovingly alive that morning... right from the start, I kept thinking, "Thank God we got through our stuff. Thank God Passionate Marriage came into our hands when it did."

For it turned out that not only did the ideas therein enable me to grow up and into marriage, in the deepest and profound sense, they also helped me live through the non-negotiable loss that his death was. Ultimately, one's first passionate marriage is to one's self --- only from a steadiness there can one truly, non-manipulatively, love... Out of desire and wanting, not neediness, and not out of the mistaken idea that a relationship provides safety. (It doesn't. It can't. Nothing does... life is inherently unsafe.)

Because of the work we did, and I did on my own, parallel to the late love of my life, I was able to live through his death.

All of this said, I find Schnarch's case histories and opening chapters clunky and not well-written. But stick with it --- the underlying theory is elegant. As for the writing, it gets better and better. The final chapter, "Death, Sex, and Love" is one I read over and over when he and I went through our crisis... and then again, when he left this world so abruptly. The writing, the ideas, the truth is moving, crystalline, unavoidable, powerful. ...more
5

September 29, 2016

Much like Game of Thrones or The Big Short keep the ...
This book is about much more than sex, and can change your life profoundly, regardless of your relationship status. Schnarch's approach is about personal differentiation and its concepts, if you take them in, will affect every relationship in your life, not just romantic partnerships. What separates Passionate Marriage from other books about enhancing one's differentiation is that Passionate Marriage is sprinkled with frank, and rather juicy, descriptions of sex. Much like Game of Thrones or The Big Short keep the audience's attention while educating the audience about a difficult concept by giving the job of explaining a complex family ancestry or collective debt obligations to an attractive person in a bathtub, Passionate Marriage's mix of explaining psychological concepts, their practical applications and the potential impact they have on a person's sex life makes this an engaging read, as well as an impactful one.

If you feel like you're the competent one in your relationships, or that you sell yourself out in them, if you feel like your partner or your family is controlling or if losing your partner would be the end of the world, then this book can profoundly change your life, very much for the better. Not only that, but the change in you can improve the lives of the people around you, most especially your children. I can't recommend it strongly enough.
5

February 10, 2018

Drastically Changed Me... And My Marriage
I’ve read a plethora of marriage books but this one is different. It unpacks the personal/marriage problems that are the root cause of our sexual problems. The author’s definition of intimacy is different from everything I’ve ever heard. I find myself constantly asking “What’s the PM (Passionate Marriage) thing to do here?” The concepts of emotional fusion (NOT a good thing), differentiation (holding onto yourself), and the importance of self-validation over other-validation have made me a stronger, healthier person, and by default my marriage is stronger and healthier. I can not recommend it enough.

I share some of the others’ observations. It is quite sexually explicit, though it is done tastefully in my opinion, not for the purpose of arousal like erotica. It also is very long and wordy, but it is worth it in my opinion. I have almost entire pages underlined. Will read this one every couple of years.
1

January 4, 2010

Passionate Marriage
As a woman I personally did not find this book helpful at all. I bought it several years ago and found the author to be incredibly egotistical. To me it overemphasized the sexual aspect of marriage when I was starving for emotional intimacy. I wonder whether the previous reviewers were just patting each other on the back for being "self-differentiating". I can't remember whether I gave it away or threw it in the trash to prevent anyone else from suffering from it.
1

February 2, 2014

Worthless book
Didn't do any good. You can't teach passion by the way... so they are making money on your hope. You either have passion or you don't... here's the truth. Stay connected to your spouse... trust them. Love them. Give them space. But not ridiculous amounts. Go out often, even if its just a walk. Let them be with their friends. Explore. Experiment. Be SILLY. LAUGH. There. free advice. Live and love.
5

October 27, 2013

An interesting read after 20 years of married life
We're 38 now, and will be married 20 years in May. As any married-this-long know, the relationship changes over time, and in an effort to learn whether our relationship changes are normal, I found this book. It was an interesting read. What I took away was that instead of dividing you, maintaining your individualism in marriage aids your closeness and attraction to one another. My 19 year-old self would not have thought of it that way. My 38 year-old self agrees.
2

November 13, 2010

Reads like a voyeuristic therapist sex logs.
This book just plan sucks. Schnarch used clients to pen his volume that reads more like progress notes, then a guide. A colleagued mentioned this work in passing to give to clients, and believe me it would be the last book i would suggest if as a therapist you want to help a client and their spouse improve passion. From my perspective his diatribe is a self aggrandisement of how he treated clients feeding his ego and not truly giving directions..

Making a passionate marriage is not what this book is about.. It is about Mr Schnarch feeding his ego about saving 5 marriages.. Big friggin' woop.

Don't buy this book, unless you are a therapist. And Even then don't pay full price for an over priced paper weight.,
5

September 10, 2016

Read this now.
This is my new favorite book that I recommend to everyone I talk to. David Schnarch has taught me to stop trying to work on the "problems" in my marriage, and to instead let my marriage work on me. His work has revolutionized the world of marriage/sex therapy and brings important theories to the conversation. I'm so thankful for how this book has helped me grow personally, in my marriage, and in my career goals. I'm so thankful I found it now, because I will be growing upon this foundation for the rest of my life.
5

October 11, 2017

If you want to know exactly what is missing in your relationship, Schnarch will tell you unapologetically.
Love this guy! As a marriage and family therapist who works with couple's all the time, I can say this book is incredible! I love his model of how couple's can have a great relationship and how it's starts with cleaning up your own side of the street. If you want to know exactly what is missing in your relationship, Schnarch will tell you unapologetically. Highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling in a passion-less marriage or feels like they are friends/roommates with their spouse. A must have!
4

Sep 10, 2008

Early in his career, Passionate Marriage author David Snarch found it odd that sex therapy and marital therapy were two entirely separate disciplines. He spent the next several decades refining his theory that what happens in the bedroom can be an important window into the dynamics of the greater marriage itself.

Though ostensibly about sex, Passionate Marriage is really about the process of individuation. Learning how to be an individual and a partner at the same time is no easy task for many of Early in his career, Passionate Marriage author David Snarch found it odd that sex therapy and marital therapy were two entirely separate disciplines. He spent the next several decades refining his theory that what happens in the bedroom can be an important window into the dynamics of the greater marriage itself.

Though ostensibly about sex, Passionate Marriage is really about the process of individuation. Learning how to be an individual and a partner at the same time is no easy task for many of us, and this book offers important insights into the process of growth that intimate relationships inevitably force us into.

Much of Snarch’s theory is relayed through case studies of actual couples he has worked with over the years. Those who are not comfortable reading detailed discussions about the sex lives of others will probably find this book difficult. But those who are okay with frank sexual conversation will likely find a lot of very valuable information about how to create more satisfying intimate relationships in this book.

...more
5

Oct 22, 2013

This is a book I needed to read when I was a teenager. My review of five stars is not based on how well the author writes or communicates, but rather how important I think this information is. We grow up with a distorted sense of what love and intimacy are all about. That is to say we think it is all about us and our needs. We seek to fulfill ourselves through our relationships and get our needs met and our very selves validated by other people. The Passionate Marriage approach (although I think This is a book I needed to read when I was a teenager. My review of five stars is not based on how well the author writes or communicates, but rather how important I think this information is. We grow up with a distorted sense of what love and intimacy are all about. That is to say we think it is all about us and our needs. We seek to fulfill ourselves through our relationships and get our needs met and our very selves validated by other people. The Passionate Marriage approach (although I think it applies across all relationships and not just marriage) is that we must first validate and develop ourselves and only then can we truly experience the intimacy that we desire. Any intimacy that is based on fear and neediness can never truly fulfill you. Intimacy based on self-fulfillment and personal strength means that you are choosing your partner for who they are and NOT who you need them to be for you. I've read other books that contain these same ideas (Harriet Lerner's "Dance of" books for example) but for some reason Passionate Marriage was the one that really connected with me at a visceral level. ...more
5

March 16, 2017

... but as I got through it found it had great information. It has become a study as the ...
I initially had resistance to reading this book but as I got through it found it had great information. It has become a study as the more I read the.more I understand. It has improved my relationships immensely . I understand how i can improve my relationships by growing myself. Life changes when you understand your own needs fully and pay attention to caring for yourself. That has also resulted in my understanding the needs of others as well. I regularly "hold on to myself " in otherwise stressful situations resulting in easy and satisfying outcomes.
I will be reading and really reading this book many times. There are.many distinctions in its pages. Highly recommended for couples and singles who want happy fulfilled relationships.
1

March 4, 2017

Potential wisdom buried beneath an ill-executed attempt at writing
David Scharch attempts to communicate a potentially quite useful concept i.e maintaining individuality within marriage. While he may be a talented couples therapist, his skill does not translate into compelling writing. His story unfolds as a case study upon which he expounds, in a 'stream-of-consciousness' fashion, his ideas about relational function (or dysfunction). Unless one's situation closely mirrors his case example, one is left ploughing through irrelevant material, groping for a pearl of wisdom in a sea of uncoordinated rambling.
1

March 9, 2015

Not that useful
A few interesting comments, but generally found it of little help. The case studies were too long and tedious. The writing style was cheesy.
1

October 5, 2015

Didn't work.
Bought this for my fiance. We are now no longer together.
2

Feb 25, 2013

This is Schnarch's attempt at merging marital and sex therapy. My reaction to this book is very mixed. On the one hand I think that there are a lot of valuable points in the book. On the other, I really disliked reading it, only finished it because I was getting CE credits for it (available on http://www.ce-credit.com/ btw) and felt I had to read every word, and feel there are some serious limitations to his conceptualization.

So first the good. Scharch's two main points are 1) that self-soothing This is Schnarch's attempt at merging marital and sex therapy. My reaction to this book is very mixed. On the one hand I think that there are a lot of valuable points in the book. On the other, I really disliked reading it, only finished it because I was getting CE credits for it (available on http://www.ce-credit.com/ btw) and felt I had to read every word, and feel there are some serious limitations to his conceptualization.

So first the good. Scharch's two main points are 1) that self-soothing is important within marital conflict (or really any interpersonal interaction) and 2) that marital conflict is normal. Both of these points are very valid. Scharch also offers some nice suggestions for increasing emotional intimacy during sex and points out that self-focused sexual contacts are often the norm for couples which limits the interpersonal connection that can occur through sex. However, that is about the extent of Scharch's discussion of sex therapy. The remainder of the book really focuses on marital therapy.

Now on to the bad and there's quite a bit of it.

I'm breaking my complaints down into different domains. First is writing style, second is ethnocentricism, and third is conceptual validity.

As far as writing style goes, this book pretty much sucks.
- It's repetitive and wordy in the extreme. (I really did only finish it because I felt I ethically had to to get my ce credits.)
- Scharch presents exercises during the narrative, but nowhere does he actually systematically write out suggested procedures for people to try. This is pretty unheard of in modern self-help type books.
- Scharch comes across as highly narcissistic. He states initially in his preface to this edition that there is nothing that he would change about the original writing of the book which just begs readers to pick it apart. Which I then did. Also, all of the examples he uses of him doing therapy and from his marriage also come across and self satisfied and self congratulatory BS. Enough said on this point.

The writing style I can kind of forgive in the interest of having useful content. The problems of sublte prejudice and ethnocentricism I had a harder time with.
- Scharch states in his preface that while he uses all heterosexual married couples in his examples, the book is intended to be useful for individuals in homosexual or nontraditional relationships. Again I call BS. You cannot simply say this and have it be so, particularly when you are talking about explicit sexual content without mentioning how to apply it to a homosexual relationship.
- Scharch chooses to alternate between using male and female pronouns in his text. I am all for this. However, he tends (with a few exceptions) to selectively uses female pronouns for what would be considered weak or needy roles within a relatinoship.
- Finally, and perhaps most damningly, the whole concept of differentiation is firmly rooted in an individualistic culture and discounts the communal focus of much of the world. I think there are probably ways of reconciling this, but Scharch did not acknowledge this, mention it, or attempt to address it.

Finally the conceptual validity
- Scharch annoyed me again by saying in the preface that there had been research done on his ideas since the original printing of the book and then not providing references or even a brief summary other than saying it all supports what he says. Again, another way in which the book could have used revising!
- The explanation of differentiation is circular. Basically you are differentiated if you are having positive outcomes. There really is no operationalization of the concept that satisfied me. This calls into question the validity of the whole book.

But that said, I liked the focus on self-soothing which is also a hallmark of dialectical behavior therapy which does have empirical support. Also normalizing marital distress is useful and focusing on strategies for resolving this successfully. I would say though that there are a number of other books I would recommend that focus on these concepts without having to put yourself through reading this particular book:
Hold Me Tight Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert are two and I also like Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control as a nice DBT introduction. ...more
5

December 8, 2013

Excellent Insight and Guidance
Amazing analysis of how marriage helps us develop. He carefully outlines the major weakness individuals struggle with - emotional fusion and the solution - differentiation using numerous examples from his long practice as a therapist. He is trained both as a marriage counselor and as a sex therapist so he gets quite explicit in his descriptions.
3

March 6, 2016

a mixed bag of genius and platitudes
This book has truisms, omissions, assumptions with its genius. Example: "People want different things" and "the person who wants it less is in control" sounds more like a sitcom plot than a marriage guide. Too often this book becomes verbose and philosophical, where it instead should give more examples of key concepts: differentiation, emotional fusion, withholding, etc. However, it is groundbreaking to demonstrate that marital and sexual conflict can lead to personal growth and better sex. What's sad is that point could have been made in about half as many pages, and that space filled with chapters addressing other important marriage issues. What Scnarch leaves out is: the effect of conflict on your children (who are seldom mentioned), the prevalence of illness and disability in long term relationships (physical and mental), and the financial motivations of marriage and divorce. He promotes a vision of a marriage as a 'people growing machine' (in which sex is a barometer) when in legal terms marriage is a financial contract in which sexuality has little relevance. In other words, this book is more heavily weighted towards sex than marriage itself. Ideally a marriage therapy book should touch all relevant aspects: communication, sex, children and money. This book is worthwhile but by no means a complete picture of marital therapy.
5

Nov 05, 2007

Although this book is almost as weighty as a textbook, I HIGHLY recommend it! It is the first NEW point of view on marriage and relationships that I'd read for a very long time. It is not really about sex--at least not for its own sake--but looks at sex as the "crucible" in which a lot of emotional issues are worked out.

It is a book that I think everyone, if they were willing to read it, would get a lot of insight from. It's interesting to me that so few of the people I've given it to or Although this book is almost as weighty as a textbook, I HIGHLY recommend it! It is the first NEW point of view on marriage and relationships that I'd read for a very long time. It is not really about sex--at least not for its own sake--but looks at sex as the "crucible" in which a lot of emotional issues are worked out.

It is a book that I think everyone, if they were willing to read it, would get a lot of insight from. It's interesting to me that so few of the people I've given it to or recommended it to have actually taken the time to read it. It DOESN'T have how-to tips for steamy nights, or easy answers. But for those willing to put the philosophy into practice, I suspect their relationships would change for the better. ...more
3

February 13, 2019

Obnoxious author- great information though
This was a tough book to get through. Read it based off my therapist’s recommendation. The information is great but it was very difficult to get beyond the author’s ego. He is incredibly condescending to his clients in several different places in the book. Again, very helpful for my marriage, but the author is obnoxious. Take what you can, there are definitely some information gems throughout.
1

January 22, 2016

Would have been a great text to learn from but did not need the ...
Would have been a great text to learn from but did not need the incredibly graphic transcriptions of the sex lives of his clients - at times it was like reading low quality erotica. Although I imagine he received approval from his clients and changed identifying information, it was awkwardly disturbing and seemed highly unethical in other ways.
2

October 7, 2015

I would have loved if there had been some clear advice but I ...
OMG--so wordy. I would have loved if there had been some clear advice but I couldn't make heads or tails of this book. The case studies were sooooo long and I really couldn't relate to the couples. I'm shocked at the number of good reviews. Don't waste your money.
5

Dec 09, 2014

Two things I did not like: 1)The part that degenerates into self-help. (I loathe self-help books because they tell me what to do.) 2) The title. A boring but more apt title might be "Understanding Identity, Sexuality & Intimacy". That said, I can't recall ever reading a book the way I read this one. I cried, I reread, I underlined and starred, I put it down for a few minutes every now and then so I could think. Because I have spent the past five or so years struggling intensely with identity Two things I did not like: 1)The part that degenerates into self-help. (I loathe self-help books because they tell me what to do.) 2) The title. A boring but more apt title might be "Understanding Identity, Sexuality & Intimacy". That said, I can't recall ever reading a book the way I read this one. I cried, I reread, I underlined and starred, I put it down for a few minutes every now and then so I could think. Because I have spent the past five or so years struggling intensely with identity and intimacy, I can attest to some of the truths presented. Others I hope to be able to test in the future. I would say that I wish I had read this book as a young adult, but I really don't think I would have gotten much out of it. All the same, I'm determined to find ways to share its wisdom with my children. For instance, I was raised in a church that taught, "If you save sex for marriage it will be a beautiful, sacred experience that will draw you closer to your spouse." Really, it was that simple. But of course it wasn't. Passionate Marriage helped me understand exactly how this can happen. I would really like to discuss this book with someone I know, so please read it. Soon. ...more
5

Jan 07, 2013

In the work I've done helping others with their relationships, I've had the opportunity to read plenty of self-help books on relationships. Most of the time I find the books useless, if not harmful. On the recommendation of a friend I checked this book out from the library. Now I'm buying it. I'm also recommending it to every person I know who is ready to make improvements in ALL of their relationships--including their relationships with their self.
While other books focus on trying to In the work I've done helping others with their relationships, I've had the opportunity to read plenty of self-help books on relationships. Most of the time I find the books useless, if not harmful. On the recommendation of a friend I checked this book out from the library. Now I'm buying it. I'm also recommending it to every person I know who is ready to make improvements in ALL of their relationships--including their relationships with their self.
While other books focus on trying to communicate and on trying to nail down a specific pattern or behavior, this book recommends learning more about yourself and learning how to be true to yourself in order to act from that position in any relationship. Only by knowing what we want as individuals can we be true to others. Read this book, even if you think your relationships are great. You'll learn something about yourself and how you walk in the world. ...more
5

Dec 04, 2013

Without a shred of a doubt, the best book on marriage out there.

This is the book that saved my marriage. I recommend it to all my friends and everyone I meet whose marriage is in trouble.

Unlike the great majority of other books on the subject, this one explains that marriage isn't just about being nice to each other, listening, understanding, caring, etc. It is a complex system with inevitable hard times. It explains how your relationships fit into your life a whole, and how a marital crisis is Without a shred of a doubt, the best book on marriage out there.

This is the book that saved my marriage. I recommend it to all my friends and everyone I meet whose marriage is in trouble.

Unlike the great majority of other books on the subject, this one explains that marriage isn't just about being nice to each other, listening, understanding, caring, etc. It is a complex system with inevitable hard times. It explains how your relationships fit into your life a whole, and how a marital crisis is an incredible opportunity for self-growth.

The tension between our need for companionship and our need for freedom and autonomy are explained. This book walked me through what led to my marital crisis, and explained the process by which it would heal, giving me the necessary tool.

This book doesn't trivialize marriage, how difficult a crisis can be, and how hard it is to work out difficulties in a marriage. It doesn't give any kind of "10-steps" that look great on paper but don't make any difference. Instead, it hits the nail on head showing you exactly what got you to do in a crisis, and what needs to happen for things to get back to normal - or, often, better than normal.

If your marriage is in trouble - read this. You might be very happy you did.

...more

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