Even before Arnold Schwarzenegger declared it “the biggest mistake” of his life, couples therapy was not thriving.
This new development might show what is wrong with the field; it might represent a last-ditch way to rip off insurance companies; it might even manifest the intellectual deficiencies of those who are practicing it. Whatever the case today’s couples therapists are flocking to workshops which are showing them how to promote debauchery as a way to save marriages.
Better yet, they pretend that it’s therapeutic.
One might ask, how much fun can debauchery really be if it is considered to be a treatment? Didn’t a recent study show that when couples were told to have sex more often they found that they were enjoying it less?
Anyway, the guru of this movement seems to be one Esther Perel. She is wildly popular. When she gave a TED talk, two million people heard her. According to The New York Times she promotes the idea that adultery is a cure for marital bed death. At the least, this tells us that we are not in the realm of great minds or towering intellects.
The Times reports:
“An affair is an act of betrayal and also an experience of expansion and growth,” Ms. Perel said in an interview. “It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime. The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient, and often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness.”
Dr. Tammy Nelson from New Haven has a slightly different approach. She recommends that couples make up their own rules for cheating. Some may allow it only on weekends, others on alternative Sundays. Some may only allow it when both partners are present. Some may insist that it all be captured on video.
The Times renders her wisdom:
“I describe monogamy as honest, perpetual dependency of some type,” Dr. Nelson said. “It can be whatever a couple wants, but it has to be fluid and flexible and the couple has to keep renewing it, like a license.”
A license for adultery. That’s the ticket. It will do wonders for your marriage. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?
In truth, people have thought of it before. As I mentioned in my book The Last Psychoanalyst adultery and other forms of debauchery have long been a staple of Western marriages.
For the most part, adultery was permitted because the marriages had been arranged. Since couples married for power and property, not for love, adultery was accepted by both parties. It was not quite as much of a betrayal as it might be for couples who supposedly were in love when they married.
This tells us that adultery as a therapy for marital bed death is not likely to be very effective in the long run.
Going beyond adultery, Dr. Margie Nichols promotes kinky sex:
“Kinky couples plan sex,” she said, “and simmer for days in advance. They emphasize quality of encounter over frequency of encounters. They practice variety and exploration. They don’t judge a partner’s desires. They discuss and negotiate sexual acts, and they make a clear demarcation between ‘normal’ couple zone and ‘sex zone,’ allowing them to be totally immersed in an erotic space.”
Not one of these therapists, people who are supposed to have something resembling an expertise in the game of organs and orifices seems to have noted that exposing people to sexual stimuli all the time might desensitize them to sexual stimuli. No one seems to have noticed that a gender-neutered couple might, in their ideological zeal, have damaged their ability to feel sexual desire. No one seems to have asked whether the combination of sexually liberated women with feminized men might conspire against coupling.
Of course, some therapists are appalled by this new therapy. Take Dr. Sue Johnson from Ottawa, Canada:
Sue Johnson, 58, the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy and clinical psychologist in Ottawa, specializing in couples, said that if pornography “takes over your life, it is going to wreck your relationship, just like any other addiction.”
As for infidelity, she said, “the idea that an affair is a solution to a lack of engagement and connection with your partner, that’s the craziest solution I’ve ever heard.”
Her words ring true. If you are disengaged and disconnected from your spouse an affair will most likely make you more disengaged and more disconnected… to say nothing of threatened.
Dr. Terri Nelson practices debauchery therapy because she does not think very highly of couples therapy either. She almost redeems herself when she describes it thusly:
“Couples therapy is very feminized,” Dr. Nelson said. “It’s all about teaching men to be more like women. He should pay attention to her feelings, and if she’s upset, there’s something wrong. We ask him to engage with her like she’s his best friend and then we wonder why she doesn’t want to have sex with him.”
No truer words….
But, why does Dr. Nelson think that debauchery is more manly? It is not. Remember Lysistrata. A man who is a master of debauchery, a man who is a great seducer is less likely to excel in more manly pursuits.