The Crucible and Christianity

Is the Crucible Approach to Couples’ Therapy Compatible with Christianity?

Crucible® Therapy has a unique set of differentiation-based tools for connection that can enhance intimacy and sexuality, promote self-regulation, and improve relationship stability and individual functioning.

Navigating the world of healthful sexual literature can be daunting, especially for those operating from a biblical framework. You have become bored with your sex life and your spouse seems disinterested in discussing the matter. You discover that during this season of life you are exploring your sexual potential and your high desire wings feel clipped by your low-desire partner. You have a past that seems to hinder your ability to engage sex with passion or you believe you love sex and yet you feel remedial in establishing and maintaining intimacy with your significant other. Sadly, you may not see your church as a beacon of sexual resources. The Christian community is not lacking exposure to sexuality; yet, I am disturbed by the disconnect, among believers, between healthy sexuality and biblical living. Truly, those who purport faith, hope and love as a foundation to abundant life should be blazing the trail in effective and fulfilling sex lives–one would hope.  To the contrary, Christians often struggle with sexual desire issues, pornography, and sexual betrayal like everyone else, however, without the freedom to discuss these matters openly.  Often hidden , couples suffer in silence with a dismal and abysmal sexual reality. This is tragic, to me, and certainly unnecessary. Working with a marital therapist, such as myself, who feels comfortable and passionate about healthy sexuality is an excellent move toward health and sexual well-being. I am currently studying and utilizing the Crucible Approach.

There are many ways to grow and seek help. Just do it! Begin with one of the two best books I have found to address the deepest underpinnings of human intimacy and sexuality; Passionate Marriage and Intimacy  & Desire (Kindle Edition $8.77) by Dr. David Schnarch. Along with his wife, Dr. Ruth Moorehouse, Dr. David created the Crucible Approach, which is based on “a non-pathological view of common difficulties, like sexual dysfunctions, sexual disinterest, emotional estrangement, and stalemated conflict. It embraces a healthy view of human resilience, personal growth, and life-long sexual development.” If you begin reading Passionate Marriage or Intimacy and Desire and find the candor or explicit details assaulting your sensitivities and you are tempted to put it down, but you want to learn principles and relational constructs commensurate with mature adult love, I say, “keep reading”. Frankly, I sometimes have a similar experience reading some portions of the Bible or watching a difficult scene in a movie. If there is redemptive value and transformational benefit, I choose to expose myself to growth opportunities while resisting my own temptation to push back. Also, feel free to read the chapters that you are most interested in first. In my personal and professional work with the Crucible Approach (which has included an intensive training for therapists, A Couples’ Enrichment Weekend, participating in a Consultation Group with Dr. Schnarch for over a year, studying their body of work over the past eight years, and implementing the Crucible principles in my private practice for over four years), I have some impressions I would like to share.

-I value their non-pathological approach, which seeks to call out the best in each person. I believe we are created in God’s image and I seek to see that reflection in each individual I work with, regardless of his current level of interpersonal functioning.

-I resonate with Dr. David’s view of equality between men and women in relation to desire and sexual potential. I often encounter a woman, with a deep longing for intimacy, who has a high capacity for passionate sexuality within her marriage.

-On par with an inspiring sermon, I have heard Dr. David illuminate the noble qualities of humanity– perseverance in the hardness of life and overcoming tremendous obstacles–marked by resiliency and compassion. He calls individuals to differentiation, courage and responsible living, which I believe are a necessary part of mature Christianity.

-Whether or not Dr. David directly credits God or is a derivative source of biblical teachings himself, I am often humbled and exhilarated by the numerous parallels between the Crucible Approach and biblical principles–knowing yourself and holding onto yourself in the presence of adversity or disapproval, taking in the essence of your spouse through eyes-open-sex, experiencing emotional, sexual and  spiritual union during love-making, demonstrating dignity and respect toward yourself and your partner, building a collaborative alliance in your love relationships, living authentically and honestly with integrity, and modeling committed love and loyalty in your own marriage and family–leaving a legacy of healthy sexuality for your children and grandchildren.

-In contrast to idolizing the virility of youth, I find it refreshing that the Crucible Approach says that most people are better in bed in their 40s, 50s and 60s, than they were as young adults. (“Cellulite and sexual potential are highly correlated!” according to Dr. David) This is good news for most of us!

-As I boldly promote this work in my practice, trainings, and in conversations, I am also noticing more ‘pastors’ reading either Passionate Marriage or Intimacy & Desire. So far in my pastoral connections, the response to the Crucible approach is overwhelmingly positive. I am encouraged to see Christian leaders growing healthy sex lives with their spouses and I am thrilled to hear of the transformational work that occurs when couples increase their differentiation, learn to self-soothe (practicing self-validated intimacy vs others-validated intimacy), and build intimate connections within their marriages. Hallelujah! I believe this is a glimpse of what God intended in marital union, albeit, not without struggle. I believe no one escapes sexual struggle. In fact, Dr. Schnarch’s framework of the marriage as crucible, is well chosen. What if we began to see marriage not as a relationship in which all our needs are met by our spouse, but rather as a relationship that is intended to:  bring us to our knees, call us to confront our own darkness, depravity and selfishness,  teach us how to suffer well, and call out the best in ourselves and in our spouses (as beings created in God’s image)? If we chose to live into this reality how would that dramatically change the landscape of our romantic illusions of marriage? Perhaps they would be replaced with a new vision of mature adult love that grows deeper and richer over time and through much suffering, rendering our marriage relationships as more precious than gold, and deeply desired by all who experience their splendor. I love what one pastor’s wife said  of her own marriage, in a small gathering many years ago, “My marriage didn’t start getting good until we hit the 20-year mark. That took longer than we had anticipated, and yet it began to exceed what we had expected in our marriage. Our love is growing in ways we could have never imagined several years ago…and the problem is, few are willing to endure that long, and even fewer experience the fruits of their labor.”

Robyn Renee, MA, LMHC, Snohomish Counseling

Passionate Marriage Couples Enrichment Weekend (highly recommended for serious pursuers of marital enrichment)

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