Big Think Interview With David Schnarch
David Schnarch, Ph.D. is co-director of the Marriage & Family Health Center. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, world-renown sex and marital therapist, and international best-selling author. He is a Certified Sex Therapist (Diplomat status) by American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). He chaired the Professional Education Committee and served on the Board of Directors for eight years, and received the first AASECT "Professional Standard of Excellence" Award. Dr. David is also a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), serves on the editorial board of AAMFT Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy. For seventeen years he was an Associate Professor in the Depts. of Psychiatry and Urology at Louisiana State University Medical School.
Topic: Sex and marriage
David Schnarch: The way that the human race has evolved, it is virtually guaranteed that sex is going to die in emotionally committed relationships, and you can either bail out or tell yourself you picked the wrong person, and if you just found the right person they'd love all your flaws, and no matter what you did they'd just think that you're the bee's knees. And that's the picture most of us have -- we're supposed to have -- in childhood. But that's not marriage. Marriage -- people get fed up with you leaving your socks on the floor and having all your little habits. And they get tired of telling you that you're wonderful and propping you up, and they want you to stand on your own two feet and be a whole man or be a whole woman. And we usually get angry about that kind of stuff. It doesn't fit our picture, you know. We sort of have the picture of while we're single I have to take care of myself; once I get married you have to take me any old way I am. That's known as loving me. And one of the things sex and marriage and intimacy will teach you is, love is not accepting you any old way you are.
When people get married, you get married for better and worse, in sickness and in health, but that's not an excuse to screw off, get sloppy, get fat and not take care of yourself and not be an interesting person. So sex invariably dies. And we move on to your next question. That's really the answer to why sex dies. All around the world, where rape is not allowed, and women are allowed control of their own body, all around the world from time immemorial it is the low-desire partner that always controls sex. Now, you might think God's passive aggressive, or Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Maybe what she should have done is made the person who wants sex the most the person in charge, and the high-desire partner says, let's have sex, and the low-desire partner says, aye-aye, sir -- just -- whatever you say, that's what goes. And it doesn't work that way.
So what happens is, most of us are going through the struggle of "I want to be with you, but don't tell me what to do." And because the low-desire partner controls sex, when the high-desire partner says, let's have sex, and the low-desire partner says, well, I'm not so sure, and the high-desire partner says, well, then you don't love me enough, that's the end of sex. When it gets to be proved that you love me, do it my way. And the high-desire partner says, well, why do we always have to do it your way? And the low-desire partner says, well, why do we always have to do it your way? You are now in the middle of what happens to all of us, that none of us ever anticipate. You are in the middle of the wars of self-development, and that's what marriage is about.
Marriage is about growing up and getting to the point where you can love somebody on life's terms. And in the middle of that, sex dies. And couples go through, very often, months or years of not having sex, which nobody who is 18 years old ever believes. You get married because you can have sex all the time; you're even living with them; they're very convenient. And that's not the way that it works. So what we're really describing is what made the human brain evolve, where the low-desire partner controls sex, the high-desire partner doesn't like that, and the high-desire partner has to learn to control themselves because when the high-desire partner says, "You know what? You're just as controlling as your mother," that basically does not usually inspire high-desire or lubrication in your partner. So you have to learn to control yourself. This also teaches you to be considerate of your partner and not act like they belonged to you. And getting over the idea that your partner doesn't belong to you is a tough one. It sounds great when you first get married: we belong to each other. But that's as good as long as you're cutting the cake. Two years in, when your partner acts like your genitalia belongs to them, believe me, it does not inspire passion.
And when you go through the way that marriage really works, which beats out of you the idea that your partner either belongs to you or is always supposed to put your needs first, then you become a solid enough person, you earn your own self-respect, you earn each other's self-respect. That's what ignites passion. Self-respect is one of the best aphrodisiacs there is, but that's not what you get when you're first in the mad, passionately-in-love-with-each-other stage.
Question: Are women always the low-desire partner?
David Schnarch: No, that's the stereotype. The stereotype is always the guy can't get enough, and the woman wants to know why he wants it all the time. And that's the stereotype, but in half the couples that we see the man is the low-desire partner. And if you think it's tough being part of the stereotype, where you're the put-upon woman or you are the sex-starved man, you ought to see what happens to couples where it's the woman who can't get enough and it's the guy that feels like he's being chased around, being pushed for sex, where both the man and the woman think it's the guy that's supposed to be making all the approaches. And so you're not only having sex; you're also going against conventional stereotypes. And that happens to about half the couples. In half the couples it's the woman that really wants more sex than the guy does. You just never hear about them because they're both so embarrassed about the roles that they're in.
But also what's problematic about this picture about men and women falling into these typical roles, it doesn't deal with the same-sex couples. And it turns out you can take two women and put them together, or two guys and put them together, and in two years they look straight in the sense of they're not having sex either. So even when you take two women and put them together, you would think, well, they wouldn’t have that problem, right? They have the same temperament and they have the same biology, and the answer is wrong. You take same-sex couples, you put them together; even if they started out at the same level of arousal and desire, two years in, one of them is the high-desire partner, one of them is the low-desire partner.
And you realize what we're talking about transcends sexual orientation. It transcends culture, religion and even time and place in history, because if you look at the earliest recorded history, people were bitching about the high desire/low desire problem even then. It's what's made people go out and look for aphrodisiacs. That's the attempt to overpower the system, and you won't make it. There's no aphrodisiac that will make your partner have sex with you when they don't like you.
Lots of couples start out at the same level, but within two years it gets polarized. And I'm picking two years; for some couples it is six months. For some couples it's as soon as they move in together. And yes, on most issues in a marriage there's always a low-desire partner and a high-desire partner. So for instance, you could be the low-desire partner to have sex and the high-desire partner to have a baby.
And also it's not uncommon for people to switch roles. So for instance, I mentioned that in about half the couples the woman is the high-desire partner. I've seen a number of couples where they start out -- the woman is the high-desire partner; she's been a good girl; she figured, you know, I'll wait until I get into this committed relationship, and then I'll let it all hang out. And she's ready to go. And lo and behold, she turns out to be partnered with a guy that doesn't want it as long or as frequently as she does, and she becomes the low-desire partner with a vengeance. So people very often switch roles. So the person who starts out to be the high-desire partner may end up being the low-desire partner at a later point in the relationship.
And what it points out is, we're not talking about childhood or personality. So for instance, let's say you like to have sex three times a week, and in your first relationship you're partnered with someone who wants sex five times a week. Well, you want it three times a week, and you're the low-desire partner. You get divorced, you partner up with somebody who wants it once a week. You still only want it three times a week; that hasn't changed, but now you're the high-desire partner. So high-desire partner and low-desire partner, we're not talking about absolute frequency; it's positions in a relationship. And there is a high-desire partner and a low-desire partner on virtually every issue, whether it's having sex, or having sex with your eyes opened or closed, or having a baby, or having your spouse's mother-in-law move in with you, or switching careers, or making more money -- there is usually a high-desire partner and a low-desire partner. And on many, many issues in marriage, in what you're interested is collaboration, the low-desire partner runs the show.
Recorded on October 29, 2009
A conversation with the marital therapist and author of Passionate Marriage and Intimacy and Desire.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by climate change, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
Why leave the bodies there at all? Why not bring people down as soon as they die?<p>It costs a lot of money to go get a body on the highest mountain in the world, up to $80,000 to be <a href="https://people.com/human-interest/dead-bodies-mount-everest-glaciers-melt/" target="_blank">precise</a>. Then there is the problem of actually doing it, since some attempts to retrieve bodies are forced by difficult conditions to abandon their efforts.</p><p>Some people, such as mountaineer <a href="http://www.alanarnette.com/" target="_blank">Alan Arnette</a>, argue that the bodies should be left there. He told the BBC, "Most climbers like to be left on the mountains if they died. So it would be deemed disrespectful to just remove them unless they need to be moved from the climbing route or their families want them."</p> This doesn't stop people from wanting the bodies taken down or dealt with in other ways. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sharp_(mountaineer)" target="_blank">David Sharp</a>'s body was moved out of sight in 2007. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory" target="_blank">George Mallory'</a>s body took 75 years to find and was given an Anglican burial in 1999. Over time, the elements often move bodies away from the main routes up the mountain to more isolated areas where they remain undisturbed.
Everest’s chilling landmarks<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="V4Kz3Zfc" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9959d7e5b2866ad9f61ab823a5b60cbf"> <div id="botr_V4Kz3Zfc_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/V4Kz3Zfc-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned <a href="https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-stories-about-deaths-and-dead-bodies-on-mount-everest/sabrina-ithal" target="_blank">nicknames</a>. </p><p> For instance, the image above is of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Boots" target="_blank">Green Boots</a>," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him — many presuming he was the famous corpse. </p><p>A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "Rainbow Valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "Most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."</p><p>Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, the climbing partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it. </p><p>Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the '90s without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20130303001517/http://www.velocitypress.com/Mallory__Irvine.html#A127_Film" target="_blank">Kodak </a>says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irvine is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting. </p><p>As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell. </p>
A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.
- A monolithic object found in a remote part of Utah caused worldwide speculation about its origins.
- The object is very similar to the famous monolith from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey".
- The object could be work of an artist or even have extraterrestrial origins.
1. ART OBJECT<p>Chances are, this is an art object. The shiny "monolith" appears to be bolted to the ground and made of metal. It also seems to be fastened with rivets, rather being a uniform block of more unexplainable production origin. Deserts are great places for unusual art installations as has been evidenced by art projects you can discover wondering through the desert ghost towns and faraway canyons of Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico. Certainly, an artist with a sense of humor and an appreciation of Kubrick's genius could have installed such "sculpture" in hopes of exactly what is happening right now – viral fame.</p><p>On the other hand, there is evidence, courtesy of eagle-eyed <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/jzkpad/helicopter_pilot_finds_strange_monolith_in_remote/gdg9qfi?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3" target="_blank">Google Earth sleuths</a>, that the object appeared in that location (somewhere near <a href="https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canyonlands National Park</a>) in 2015-2016. So it's possibly been there for a few years. Would an artist have placed it there so long ago with the aim of having this type of success eventually?</p><p>A gallery owner <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/world/utah-monolith-desert-mystery-solved-john-mccracken-sculptor-artist-2001-a-space-odyssey/0bae1a27-5bd2-451e-90a6-393928d9ed02" target="_blank">claimed</a> the work may be a tribute to the art of the late artist John McCracken, who created similar-looking objects before he died in 2011. McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement with such artists as James Turrell, and was known to make his sculptures from plywood forms that were coated with fiberglass and polyester resin.</p><p>While the theory that the monolith was the work of a McCracken aficionado (or the artist himself) may hold some water due to the object's similarity, the fact that the artist died so long ago and the lack of clear incentive for anyone to have planted this years ago only to reveal it now work against this theory.</p>
John McCracken sculptures.