By Corinne Farago
Sexual desire discrepancy in long-term relationships isn’t an anomaly, it’s built-in to the lifestyle of cohabitation, and is pretty much guaranteed to develop at some point within the first 1-3 years of a new relationship.
Desire discrepancy is normal, it’s to be expected, yet it remains one of the most painful and destabilizing challenges a couple has to face.
In last week’s Passion Blog post, You Can’t Argue Someone Into Loving You, I wrote about the higher desire partner’s predicament and frustration in trying to find solutions to this age-old push and pull dynamic, so many couples find themselves in.
This dynamic wedges itself into a relationship and pits partners against each other in a battle of blame, guilt, and defensiveness. Given the reluctance most couples have in talking about sex openly, it’s not surprising that differences in sexual desire becomes a caldron of mistaken presumptions, misunderstandings and unspoken shame.
The higher desire partner feels shame about their role as sole initiator, and the lower-desire partner feels shame about their lack of desire for sex. Both become stuck in their story of ‘failing’ at sex. They’ve lost the safety and security they once had in the sanctuary of each other’s arms.
Nature giveth, and nature taketh away
New relationships are fueled by novelty and sexual intensity. Nature sets us up for procreation by pumping us with feel-good hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine.
When sex is infused with the natural high of these hormones, it can lead to unrealistic expectations that the relationship will continue with this kind of intensity and mutual desire forever. Gazing at each other through rose-colored glasses, we tell ourselves that we’ve finally found our perfect sexual match.
Between 1-3 years into a relationship, the infatuation hormones slowly fade. Sexual desires shift, sexual frequency changes, and the higher desire partner is wondering what happened to their sweetheart’s ready and willing turn-on.
The lower desire partner becomes mired in their feelings of guilt and defensiveness. Add in the, sometimes daily, pressure for sex from their partner and sex has suddenly become a quagmire of negative emotions that kills desire and builds resistance.
This initial phase of disillusionment is the time when couples need to start talking about sex in an open and honest way. Rather than accusing our partner of changing, or viewing each other as adversaries with competing needs, they can pull together and view themselves as a sexual team, equally responsible for their sex life’s health and wellness. This is where their work begins as a sexually engaged couple.
We can thank books, movies and especially porn for perpetuating the great lie. The lie that sex is always hot, spontaneous and very satisfying for both parties, that sex always includes strong, long-lasting erections, ever-ready lubricated vaginas, and end with mutual, often coinciding orgasms.
As most long-term couples will tell you, this isn’t the case. Sex is more varied than what we’re fed by the media. Real sex isn’t a performance that goes from 0-100 in less than a minute. Real sex is more relaxed, it’s authentic, sometimes awkward, sometimes messy, and all of this makes real sex more vulnerable than anything you see on a screen. It’s not performed to entertain, or even hold the undivided attention of anyone watching.
A more realistic expectation is reflected in statistics that tell a more accurate story.
40-50% of sexual encounters in long-term relationships are mutually satisfying, 25% are better for one partner than the other, and 15% will be unsatisfying for both.
More realistic expectations allow couples to relax when they don’t quite hit their high bar.
If your relationship is nurtured with regular non-sexual affection and loving gestures outside of the bedroom, you’ll feel more relaxed when sex occasionally falls short. Couples with a healthy and open relationship to their sexual life, can let it go, or even laugh it off, and accept that sex isn’t always going to meet the mark, and that’s ok.
The plight of the lower-desire partner
Unlike the higher desire partner, whose objective is focused on having sex, the lower desire partner has to contend with resistance. Resistance isn’t always easy to understand, even when it’s our own.
Talking about sexuality, sensuality, and intimacy is key. Shame-filled silence will keep us hidden in our self-doubt and self-judgment. The silence of shame will keep us armored and invulnerable to our partner.
If the lower-desire partner assumes the burden is on them alone to figure it out, guilt, shame and resentment will drive any potential for desire underground.
When we approach sex as a team, the challenge around desire is shared by both partners. When sex is blame and guilt-free we feel open to exploring, to trying new ways of being intimate together, and experimenting with solutions that meet both of partner’s needs.
Desire moves in mysterious ways
It’s helpful to understand that desire presents itself differently to different people.
Higher desire partners may experience desire in a more spontaneous way, where the idea of having sex descends upon them.
They may start to feel aroused physically, or sexual desire will infiltrate their thoughts out of the blue. They may find themselves lost in a sexual fantasy. Desire will present itself, and they’ll feel moved to have sex. It’s easy for them to think desire moves in everyone like this. These are people who wonder if their partner desires them, if they never initiate sex.
Lower desire partners may experience desire quite differently. Their desire may present itself in response to stimuli that arouses them.
If you were to ask them if they’re interested in having sex, their response may initially be ‘no’. But once they open themselves to arousing stimuli, whether that’s in the form of touch, or visuals, or seductive words, once the invitation is made in a way that attracts them, then responsive desire starts to move in them. These are the people who will admit to not wanting sex initially, but enjoying the sex once things get rolling.
Owning what turns you on and what turns you off
If resistance plays a role in your sexuality, it’s time to do some investigation and identify the things that turn you on to the idea of having sex, and the things that turn you off to the idea of having sex.
Often conditions play a big role in our yes and nos. You may be surprised to see what’s on your list of turn-on’s, like:
- having transition time between work and play,
- knowing the kids are out of the house and won’t knock on the door,
- after you go for a run and feel energized,
- listening to certain music,
- dancing and being silly together
- reading an erotic story etc.
Your turn-offs may be:
- having sex after a big meal when you’re feeling full and tired
- jumping into sex without emotionally connecting to your partner first
- feeling too rushed to find your own pleasure
- the lights being too bright, the room being too cold
- worrying that your body won’t work the way you want it to, etc.
Make a list of 5 -10 of your own openers and closers, so you can see them all on paper, and share it with your partner. They’ll better understand how desire works for you. Give them your list so they can support the conditions that help you open to sex.
Breaking the habit of resistance
Resistance is sneaky. It’ll move in even before you’ve given sex much thought. It may have messages that are based on fears and insecurities like:
- My partner doesn’t find me attractive anymore
- I take too long to orgasm
- I’m a boring lover
- My kids will walk in on us
- I’m afraid to ask for a certain sexual experiences from your partner
- I’ll lose my erection
- I’ll never meet my partner’s need
- Needing to drink or get high before sex
- Fear of painful or dysfunctional sex and not doing anything about it
- Pressuring myself to be someone I’m not in bed
Start to observe what the thoughts are behind your resistance, and question if they are true or not. Talk to your partner about the negative beliefs that contribute to your resistance. If you’re working as a sexual team, your partner will appreciate you sharing.
Ask them to help you rewrite your negative thoughts into positive affirmations that feed your self-confidence and self-esteem.
No means no, as well as ‘what else could we do’?
Saying no to our partner’s initiation is hard on both people. ‘No’ is a door closer, it leaves little room for any other thoughts or solutions.
If you’re a ‘no’ to sexual intercourse, as a pattern, ask yourself what you might be a ‘yes’ to?
Get curious about what you are open to, and learn how to deliver your ‘no’ in a way that doesn’t slam the door in your partner’s face.
Couch your ‘no’ with a statement of appreciation, like, I’m too tired to have intercourse right now, but I appreciate your desire to be close. Would you like to have an orgasm another way?
Or, I’m looking forward to being sexual with you. Can we set a date for tomorrow rather than tonight?
Before you answer your partner’s request for sex with a defensive ‘no’ , feel your partner’s own vulnerability in their request, and ask for what you want from a place of connection.
Come together as a sexually empowered team to keep sex alive and well, FOR REAL
The most effective and long-lasting way to embrace this new perspective around desire discrepancy, and avoid relapsing into old unhealthy patterns, is to find a sex and relationship coach who can guide you through weekly sessions and homeplay.
Weekly sessions insures the creation of new patterns in your relationship to sex, and ongoing growth as a couple.
Being accountable to a process and working as a team will set you on the path toward a lifetime of sexual empowerment and enjoyment.
That journey begins here and now.
You can schedule a complimentary 15 minute Discover Call by clicking here
Stay well and love deeply,
Relationship and Sexual Empowerment Coaching…
is for the curious at heart, the sexual adventurers, and the lovers who long for more.
I work with clients on Zoom from all over the world.
Give me a call and we’ll speak for 15 mins to discuss the details of working together so you can find the love, sex and desire you long for:
Click here to schedule your FREE call today
Be sure to download my list of 186 erotic activities that I outline in my new e-book, Your Erotic Menu.
It may be the single most impactful step you take toward your sexual evolution. (I can confidently say, your dates nights will never be the same!)
(Mail about sex will often get sent to promotions or junk. Move me to your inbox so we can continue to stay in touch regularly. ☺)