by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D.
Lisa A. Firestone, Ph.D.
Joyce Catlett, M.A.

Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships proposes that sexual problems are largely related to defenses acquired through painful childhood experiences, and that individuals can be helped to overcome these challenges and become physically and emotionally closer to their partners.

Sexuality can be one of the most fulfilling pleasures in life. Yet it is an aspect of relationships that is complex and sometimes fraught with difficulty. Given the mixed messages about sexuality that exist in our culture, it is hardly surprising that people encounter difficulties in achieving intimacy. Indeed, they have considerable difficulty in communicating and working out their differences. Furthermore, therapy for sexual dysfunction has tended to emphasize physiological and technical issues over the psychological ones that the authors believe are at the root of many couples’ problems.

In Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships, Firestone and his coauthors explore the dimensions of healthy sexuality and love. Drawing on their forty years of combined clinical experience and a unique longitudinal study of couples and families, they propose that sexual problems are largely related to defenses acquired through painful childhood experiences. They describe the effects of the core defense, that is, the “fantasy bond,” which is an illusion of connection originally with the mother or primary caregiver. The fantasy bond is later transferred to a romantic partner and predisposes alienation in the relationship. They explain how secondary defenses, in the form of critical internal “voices,” support negative views of one’s self and of one’s partner, interfering with closeness and intimacy.

In clear language and conceptualization and through the liberal use of case material from therapy sessions, the authors show how individuals can be helped to overcome these challenges and become physically and emotionally closer to their partners. The authors provide therapists with a cognitive/affective/behavioral technique for treating couples.

Review of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships. New England Psychologist reviews Dr. Robert Firestone and Dr. Lisa Firestone’s Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships. Click here to read the review

Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships is thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in what sustains a loving and fulfilling sexual relationship.

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2005, American Psychological Association Books, 304 pages