Like Esther Perel, he draws a bright line between relationship power and sex. A few gems in Schnarch’s work includes the following axioms:
Intimacy = confronting yourself + disclosing to your partner
The person with the least desire for sex always controls it
The key to relationships is growth.
(I particularly like that last one–helps us remember that this stuff isn’t easy and we have to apply ourselves, not simply molder in the past or blame others/the situation.)
At the center of Schnarch’s recipe for ridiculously amazing relationships is the concept of differentiation–that is, cultivating the strength and self-knowledge to sooth yourself and not rely on others–especially your partner–to fulfill your self-worth.
It’s essentially Buddhist–need less, feel less pain. We have to validate ourselves–and work through that smoldering neediness. Much of it is a twist on basic advice from high school days–play it cool, do your own thing, and it will work out. (A tack I was never very good at!)
Therein the trickiness of relationships. One of the greatest parts of teaming up with someone is having that iron support, someone to comfort our deepest and be there when we need to feel validated.
Ultimately, it always seems to loop back to ourselves. We can’t control our partner, and most of us wouldn’t want to. But we can grow into managing ourselves, exploring our needs and weaknesses, and challenging ourselves to try new things. And we can also challenge ourselves to grow into following our partner’s User Manual and take on a few simple actions that show our support
I see the User Manual as a critical part of this journey. It forces us to explore what we really need. And it offers up a road map that we can challenge ourselves to follow and acknowledge this poignant search in our partner.
Also, this psychically grueling work establishing difference in relationships has a critical connection to the User Manual: being kind to our partner and helping them understand how your differences work. Especially if they’re a change from the past.