What drives committed long-term partners to seek out affairs?
Desire for a specific person?
A need for more sexual fulfillment?
What are they not getting at home that moves someone to look elsewhere?
The clients I’ve had over the years, who looked for sex outside of their relationship, often confess that their affair validated their desirability.
Feeling desirable was missing from their relationship. They lost the sense of themselves as an autonomous sexually desirable person, and engaging with a new partner was the fast route to get it back (they hoped).
Feeling desired is often the part of our sexual experience that gets lost in long-term relationships.
We can become better lovers, more sensitive listeners, more generous givers, even more desirous lovers ourselves, but if we’re not feeling desired, that missing piece can leave a painful void in our sexual experience.
Let’s acknowledge that we all have a deep need to feel desired.
The partner who most often initiates may lead with desire, but may not feel desired. I can’t count the number of initiating partners who have expressed their need to feel desired, and come to coaching feeling depleted from showing desire and getting nothing back in return.
Likewise, desire is important to the non-initiating partners as well. Even if their response is ‘no’ to their partner’s sexual initiation, they’ll confess that if their partner stops initiating, they miss the feeling of being desired that comes with their partner’s invitations. They’re the first to admit that they take their partner’s desire for granted.
The tension that comes from the push and pull dynamic is suddenly replaced with the question, ‘Why doesn’t my partner initiate anymore? Have they lost their desire for me?’
Feeling desire, from a distance
Nature teaches us the necessity of ebb and flow. The tide flows in and then it flows out. The sun rises and then it sets. The summer’s heat is followed by the winter’s chill. This natural law of coming and going plays out in relationships as well, as soon as we’re able to walk and move.
As children we navigate between the need to hang on to our parent’s pant leg for security, with the longing to step away from what’s secure. We let go of the pant leg in order to seek adventure and independence. This is where we form our secure or insecure attachment styles to other human beings.
This natural stage of human development shows up in our intimate relationships as well. Partners often learn the hard way, the necessary balance between merging and distancing, and the pitfalls of having too much of one, without the other.
Merging supports feelings of security, bonding, familiarity, and ironically, distancing supports mystery, passion and desire.
Without individuation, we’d be cuddled up in jammies enjoying all the good feelings that come with togetherness, while feeling none of the juice that comes with having enough distance from our partner for desire to come onboard.
Every couple can assess the truth of this in their relationship, and consider together the things they can do to support individuation. This doesn’t need to be separate vacations. It could be as simple as solo walks, retreating behind a closed door with a good book, spending time with friends. When we acknowledge the downsides of merging, we can welcome the upsides of individuation.
Here are some other things to keep in mind, as you consider how to rekindle desire in your relationship:
We become what our partner sees
When our partner shows us their desire, we see ourselves through their eyes. Their vision of us empowers us to become the person they see us to be; which is someone who’s sexually desirable, attractive, and worthy of their pursuit. We see ourselves through their eyes of desire, and in turn connect to our own desire in response.
You deserve to be a little selfish (in a good way)
Desire is selfish in a way that says ‘I deserve to have desires. I deserve to seek out pleasure.’
Desire isn’t focused on being of service. It’s not caregiving someone else’s experience.
Having your desires is one way we express individuation in our relationship. Desire is a self-focused experience that is born out of the promise of personal pleasure. It says ‘I want you. You turn me on’.
It’s that healthy selfishness that ignites feelings of passion, and heightens the sexual polarity of taking and being taken.
Our partner’s desire invites us into our own desire
When we feel our partner’s empowerment to step into their desire, it gives us permission to claim our own assertiveness and boldness, and lose ourselves in our own pleasurable experience. Our partner’s expression of desire reminds us to follow our own bliss and embrace the freedom to feel and express our own desire.
Our partner fuels our desire, and in return our desire fuels theirs. We’re creating a self-generating circuit of energy exchange.
Sexual shame dampens desire
Sexual shame can be implanted in our brains through many experiences:
If we’re scolded for touching ourselves as young children
If something inappropriate happened to us that we feel conflicted about
If we’re exposed to sexual shame within our families
If our partner disapproves of our innate sexual desires
Our parents, our peers, and our partners can all inflict shame on us in overt and subtle ways.
We want to welcome our desire and let it flow from a place of self-acceptance. Accepting our desires requires the healing of any shame we’ve been carrying with us in our lives.
Your partner isn’t going to know you’re feeling desire, if you aren’t able to show desire. Learn what it’s like to show your desire in very clear, confident and direct ways. Sometimes it takes practice showing your desire.
If you’re shy, roleplay desire for your partner to get you started. Crawl to them across the floor like a cat in heat. Explore facial expressions that say, ‘I want you’. Touch them with intention and speak to them with a voice of seduction.
Desire is a feeling to be expressed and experienced. Experiment with showing desire and ask your partner for feedback as you find your authentic expression.
Fantasy is one of the ways we can support desire, and step out of the high level of numbing familiarity that seems to be inevitable in long term, relationships.
One couple I have coached used the fantasy of having another woman in their lives to create some mystery and novelty in their relationship. By playing in the mind realm we can safely explore scenarios that allow us to see our partner in more novel ways.
For desire to be authentic, it needs to be driven by what authentically turns us on. Whether that’s being swept up in a romantic embrace, or getting lost in transcendent union, or being pinned to the wall and ravished, our desires are unique to our true erotic nature.
Understanding your true erotic nature is part of your personal discovery, and one that I’m happy to help you uncover.
Desire is one of life’s great experiences. Desire motivates us. It inspires our imagination. Desire identifies our wants and needs. It’s not reserved for the young, or limited to new relationships. Desire lives within all of us.
Not feeling desirable, sexual shame, differing attachment styles, needed individuation, fear of showing desire, are only a few of the challenges that can keep your desire hidden and unexpressed. These themes are common in my work with couples. As a friend said, “‘Tis a tale as old as time.”
Private coaching will help you create the circumstances that invite your desire to be felt and seen.
I love my couples. They reach out for sex coaching, wanting to create a fulfilling sexual and intimate life. The number one obstacle to achieving their goals is sometimes an unhealthy relationship dynamic. For most of us, opening ourselves to sexuality with our partners requires trust, connection and a sense of emotional safety. If our relationships are being impacted by unhealthy dynamics that leave us triggered and harboring conscious or unconscious resentment, sexuality will be impacted or, at worst no longer exist.
Sexual Trauma and PTSD keep painful memories from our past alive and present in our day to day lives. Hypnotherapy uses the power of your own mind to unlock the hold these memories have on you, by helping your brain process them in a gentle and effective way. If you suffer from trauma, you’re well aware that some memories trigger feelings of present-time fear, keeping you anxious, and on high alert, even though consciously you know you’re no longer in danger. If some of those memories have created Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that means your brain is ‘matching’ those past memories to present day experiences, or what is referred to as ‘pattern matching’ in Hypnotherapy.
When two people get together to form a relationship, there are two sets of wounds merging and intertwining, our partner’s and our own. We know when our old wounds are being dragged into a conflict because our pain and defensiveness will suddenly spike. If our partner is speaking the same words as our inner abuser, the armor will go up, and disagreements will escalate into shouting, tearful battles.
When I hear a woman make such a resounding statement as ‘I’m done with sex’, I imagine a long road of frustration, obligation, unmet desires and unspoken words, leading up to that absolute declaration. Sex is not about obligation, although women have been told it was their obligation for eons of time. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t all that long ago that women were considered the property of a man, and their role in life was having a family and pleasing her husband. (and in many parts of the world still are).