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The New Intimacy

Discovering the Magic at the Heart of Your Differences

by Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D.
Book review Copyright © 1997 by Bert H. Hoff

Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D., The New Intimacy: Discovering the Magic at the Heart of Your Differences(Deerfield Beach, FL: Toxic Communications, Inc., 1997). Order on-line



Judith and Jim
Judith and Jim



Book cover
The New Intimacy
by Judith Sherven
and
James Sniechowski
Order on-line


Interview with Jim and Judith

There must be thousands of books on relationships. Women Who Love Too Much. Smart Women, Foolish Choices. Yet another book on relationships? This book is different in two respects. First of all, it’s male-positive. Second, Judith and Jim bring a refreshingly new and creative approach to intimacy and relationships.

To begin with, we’ve all been led to believe that men "aren’t in touch with their feelings." This may be true—maybe because we’ve been taught that and, so, act that way. Or, maybe we’re in protective mode—women and children to the emotional lifeboats first. Or, maybe, we just express our emotions differently. Were Shakespeare and the great poets and novelists out of touch with their feelings? Are two men sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in companionable silence on a fishing boat and occasionally chatting about their lives out of touch with their feelings?

Are there differences between men and women, aside from genitalia? Many academic feminists decry this as the "sin of essentialism." There are no differences except for those that are socially and culturally created.

To buttress their claims, they can always find an obscure tribe in a far-distant land who did things differently. Or find stories of men in our culture who did things differently. And urge us to the conclusion that a few decades of social engineering can overcome a million years of evolutionary biology. But for many of us this defies common sense—it flies in the face of what we know in our bodies and our hearts to be true.

Related:


Back to the Future
Article on implications of evolutionary biology


Primal Love:
Reclaiming Our Instincts for Lasting Passion


by Doug Gillette
Review

(Hardbound out of print)

Audio cassettes

What approach makes sense? To honor and celebrate the differences. This is what Aaron Kipnis and Liz Herron urge in Gender War, Gender Peace. (Republished as What Women and Men Really Want : Creating Deeper Understanding and Love in Our Relationships) (order on-line).

And that’s the approach reflected so beautifully in this book by Judith and Jim. The theme is reflected in the subtitle, Discovering the Magic at the Heart of Your Differences. And that’s the approach reflected so beautifully in this book by Judith and Jim. The theme is reflected in the subtitle, Discovering the Magic at the Heart of Your Differences. But perhaps it’s best captured by the last words in the book:

Exploring the Differences
Exploring the Space Between us!

Jungian analyst and wise woman Marion Woodman urges us to "hold the tension of the opposites," embracing that tension in a dance of creative engagement, so a third alternative can emerge. And what is that which emerges? Judith and Jim don’t explicitly say so, but it’s the Third Body that Robert Bly reminds us of in his poem "A Third Body."














Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear
A Third Body
and
The Voice Unseen
 

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long

at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born in any other nation, or time, or place.

They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.

Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.

The man sees the way his fingers move; he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.

They obey a third body that they share in common.

They have made a promise to love that body.

Age may come, parting may come, death will come.

A man and a woman sit near each other;

as they breathe they feed someone we do not know, someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

Robert Bly, from Loving a Woman in Two Worlds

and I attempt to describe in my own poem, The Voice Unseen. At heart, this book is about finding, exploring and dancing in creative engagement with the Third Body.

As Judith and Jim put it:

 

Your relationship will wither if it is not fed from within by intimacy, love, openness and your mutual intention to make a fulfilling life together. It will also wither if you both become isolated from outside sources of stimulation, challenge and achievement—if you lose perspective on your connection with the world around you.

Your relationship is a living, breathing reality that grows—if you let it. Your commitment to learning about and developing a respect for differences and change is the key to the deepest, richest and most meaningful relationship you can imagine. To succeed, you both have to be willing to be changed by love.

For all of that, Judith and Jim’s book is very practical and down-to-earth. Practical, real-life examples. Simple steps to do. (Well, maybe simple to read and grasp, even if they may be more of a challenge to put into work in your own life.) Good practical exercises. One of the delights of this book is the little quotes sprinkled liberally throughout the book. Everyone from Warren Farrell to Rilke. The only thing that is missing is the Ladies Home Journal quiz "How well would you rate your relationship?"


When a person abandons himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continued failing.
   Rainer Maria Rilke

Exploring the differences—exploring the space between us—giving each other space and honoring that space—is exactly what Jim and Judy do. In so many "relationships" books by "experts" you wonder, sometimes, how they put it to work in their own lives. Do they "walk the walk" or just "talk the talk"? Here the answer is obvious from the book itself. From the beginning to the end the book is interspersed with "Judith-Jim dialogs"—and they don’t always agree.

The authors express what the book is about:

 

This is a book about love and intimacy. But, more importantly, this is a book about finding love and intimacy in what you may believe is a very unlikely place—in the differences between you and your partner, between you and your date. The fact is, differences can be a treasure chest of pleasure(and wonder, discovery and growth, passion and spiritual fulfillment. When you both know how to open that treasure, you'll each know what it's like to be loved for who you really are, and that is the heart of the new intimacy.

In the future, the "fittest" relationships will be the ones that can adapt to a new reality—the higher expectations of good communicatiion, not mere survival.
   Warren Farrell

Their point is that as a society we are hungering to understand how life, love and intimacy can be experienced more fully, more passionately, and with more spiritual depth. Personal differences are the heart and soul of a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. But this comes only through accepting the other person, warts and all, and honoring the differences. Merely adapting, coping, managing or tolerating just doesn’t cut it.

When you love with this kind of awareness, you can release the spiritual fullness of your shared love, taking you beyond the merely personal, expanding your relationship with all life.


Related:

Proving that Men or Women are No Damn Good:
Vigilance and Revenge


Book excerpt

Judith and Jim wisely point out that this is a new challenge for humankind. "So when it comes to who and how we love, we now live with expectations of individual freedom and personal responsibility that men and women have never had to face." It's tough. To make their point, they provide a quick and fascinating overview of courtship and dating in America in the last 200 years.

The crux of Judith and Jim’s work is a process they call Conscious Creativity. This can help you negotiate your differences and turn conflict and disappointment into opportunities for learning and growth rather than self-destruction and disappear. Judith and Jim also explore the differences between positive and negative trust and ways to get behind the self-protective masks we’ve all learned to wear. They also describe the principles and rules of "fair fighting," which they point out can be a spiritual workout leading to deeper and more compassionate intimacy.

The payoff is a celebration of the wisdom and the wonder at the heart of a relationship built on respect and regard for differences.

Related stories:

 Proving that Men or Women are No Damn Good Vigilance and Revenge. A book excerpt.

 MenWeb Relationships section Interview with Riki Robbins, author of Negotiating Love, article Relationship! Can We Ever Get One That Works?, article about the Marriage Encounter, poems, and more!

Related Books:

Book cover
Negotiating Love : How Men and Women Can Resolve Their Differences
by Riki Robbins Jones
Click here to order.


Douglas M. Gillette, Primal Love: Reclaiming Our Instincts for Lasting Passion (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1995). Highly readable book on the implications of evolutionary biology ("the million-year-old man") on our relationships. Read our review. (Hardbound out of print) Audio cassettes

Book cover
Beyond the Blame Game
by Dmitri Bilgere
Review
Order on-line

Related Web sites:

 The Magic of Differences Judith and Jim's Web site


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