When One of You Wants Sex More Than the Other

We are all different.  This difference can include many aspects of our sexuality.  And among those aspects are the intensity and level of our sexual desire.  When partners each have a significantly different level of sexual desire, the relationship may be harmed by the inability of partners to successfully negotiate this difference.  This article explores the impact that a discrepancy in sexual desire has on partners, the way they may respond to this difference, and suggestions for how to resolve it successfully.  Success with this issue means that sex is no longer a source of tension in distress, and partners are true to themselves and in the process each partner has grown.

This article is not a substitute for being in therapy with a professional sex therapist.  It offers some insight into the causes of the problems resulting from discrepancy of sexual desire, and makes suggestions as to ways that this problem may be resolved.   This is written for a general population, and because of that, many generalizations are made.  If a particular section in the course does not suit you or your situation, please disregard that section and skip to the next.

 

    Love relationships are challenging.  This is a truth that transcends age, religion, gender, and culture.  Getting love right is one of the primary challenges of each one of our lives.  So many people do it poorly, that of all the people who make a commitment to another in marriage, more than 50% failed to live up to their vows by remaining married until “till death do us part.”

    It is my belief that loving is one of life’s deepest purposes.  This purpose is very general; to love ourselves, to love others, to love our spouse, and to love life.  The more that were able to love, and the more deeply were able to love, the more we are fulfilling life’s purpose and the more we began to transcend our individuality.

    When the word love is used, in this article it does not mean any particular kind of “feeling.”  Instead it means a commitment to the well-being, nourishment, protection from intentional harm and hurt, and growth of yourself, of your partner, and of life.  It is a stance, rather than a feeling.  The difficulty that you have in your love relationship, which caused you to download this article, can only be solved with this kind of loving attitude and effort.

    A useful analogy to illustrate this point is a battery, just like the kind of battery that you put in your battery operated clock.  Love is like the charge that the battery holds.  When we are born we are like any watch battery, which is small and holds little charge.  Through life we are challenged to increase the amount of charge that we can possess.  We have done well if by the time we die, we are more like the size D battery, in which we are able to hold much more charge.  By increasingly work for love more and more deeply. There is no place in our lives in which this more directly practiced and in our love relationships in our marriages.

    Love will only be present in relationships where partners work together.  Much like a dark room, in which all the darkness disappears as soon as the light is turned on, when partners battle about power and control in a love relationship, all the love will disappear.  We are a discrepancy of sexual desire exists, partners become locked in a struggle for power and control to create a specific outcome; any love that partners have for one another is not effective, and may not even be felt by the other.  This course suggests ways to eliminate the struggle for power and control so that love can effectively flow, both in sexual and nonsexual ways.

  Your success in repairing your relationship and creating a healthy sex life with your partner is based upon you and your partner making changes.  There is change and then there is growth. The difference is change is always occurring, while growth is only a specific kind of change, one that causes movement forward, causes progress, and improvement. For your relationship to improve, you and your partner both will have to grow so that you are more capable loving, and more capable of tolerating difficulties.  Without growth you will not achieve the results you seek.  

Differences

Our relationships are the arena in which we are severely tested.  The closer we get to our partner, the more obvious the differences between our partner and us becomes, and the more our partners seems to be a mirror for our own imperfections.  Because of this reality, our ability to both love our partner and love ourselves is intensely challenged. For whatever life’s reasons, it appears that the purpose of life is deeply challenging and for many, almost impossible.  

    When we enter a love relationship, we are beginning a process in which the differences between us and our partner grows increasingly obvious as the relationship progresses.  While in the beginning of the relationship, the differences are the source of mystery, fascination, and curiosity.  This is a time of intense joy and pleasure. As the relationship ages, and as the illusion of the partner being near-perfect, almost divine-like, fades, the differences between us and our partner becomes the source of friction, annoyance and frustration.  One measure of the strength of our relationship is the ability of partners to resolve their differences.

    The sources of difficulties in a love relationship seem to be many.  It is easy to point to communication as a problem, our partner’s pettiness, money issues, parenting styles, addictions, etc. the list is long.  So it can be often difficult to determine exactly what is the problem that existsin our relationship.  Often the first step, of determining the problem itself, can be sufficiently difficult that solutions are then seemingly impossible to create.

Sex

    It is not unusual that sex is the source of difficulty between partners.  Sex is a vital activity, which provides an opportunity for partners to demonstrate love and in which to allow closeness, while also giving and receiving physical and potentially emotional pleasure. But sex also can be a place in the relationship in which partners differences are greater than their similarities.  While no difference is easy to negotiate, especially if that quality or characteristic or behavior is one that is held dearly by a partner, sexuality has a particularly unique place in life making it among the more difficult issues with which to discuss, share, and negotiate.

    Because of the general taboos associated with sexuality, partners may view sexual activity and broadly different ways.  It is not unusual that one partner might like football, whereas the other does not.  For the football lover or it may be disappointing that the partner does not want to share in the enjoyment of football, but by not sharing it, the fabric of the relationship itself is most likely not threatened.  Sex is an activity which for many people is considered vital to the value of the relationship. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 

    Sexual activity is a conduit through which love is delivered, closeness is established, a connection is built, partners feel valued, and meaning of the love relationship is determined.  If you were to ask a hundred people about what are the elements of a healthy love relationship, odds are that most would include sexual activity.  Sex is a healthy and normal part of a love relationship.  Yet, an expectation regarding what is good sex or what is enough sex tends to vary widely.  Going into a love relationship, it is an unusual that partners have unrealistic expectations about many aspects of love relationship.  Sex is often one of those.  Due to the taboos associated with sexual activity, many people are uncomfortable with sex and uncomfortable with talking about sex.  For many people talking about sex produces feelings of discomfort, shame, and embarrassment, feelings that they would rather not have.

Sexual Problems

   So once it is determined in a love relationship that a problem exists and that problem is sex, partners then face a significant hurdle to address the problem.  Even bringing up the issue in a discussion with the other can be something that is sufficiently difficult that the topic is avoided altogether.  Unfortunately, many partners simply do not bring up the issue, because doing so is just too uncomfortable. This is true it regardless of what the sexual problem is.  Sexual problems are very difficult to deal with.

    Sex therapists have a saying.  It is: sex is 5 to 10% of a love relationship, but when sex is a problem it becomes 90% of a love relationship.  Sex is so vital to the health of a love relationship, and so primary to the center of who each one of us is as a man or a woman that when sex is a problem, the effects of the problem quickly spread to all of the parts of the relationship.  In this way, it is not much different then an aggressive cancer which quickly spreads to all other parts of the affected persons body.

    In each one of us, our sexuality and our eroticism (what we find exciting and what turns us on) is developed and established in us by the time we’re six years old. It is a core part of who we are and the relationship that we have with our bodies.  If we are the higher desired partner, then for the other to not embrace this aspect of our self can feel like a significant rejection of our very being.  If we are the lower desired partner, our partners need for sexual activity can be seen as deeply threatening to who we are as a person.

    This being so means that when sex is a problem the effects of the problem then influence to a great degree the ways that we relate to a partner.  Relating to our partner will affect everything that we do with him or her.  If the unresolved, sexual difficulty develops frustration, this frustration will get expressed during times that you two are together, doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with sex.  If the unresolved sexual difficulty has created tension between partners, this tension will manifest itself during any time that partners are together.  In this way the entire quality of the love relationship will be negatively affected if in fact the conflict regarding sex remains unresolved.

    As you can see, an unresolved sexual problem will negatively affect the relationship, but the longer the issue remains unresolved the larger the negative impact on the love relationship will be.  There are too many couples who do not address such problems, because it’s uncomfortable or embarrassing to do so.  Multiply the problems by years, and the end result is a relationship that often is damaged to the point where repair becomes difficult, if not impossible.

    Sexless relationships and marriages are not uncommon.  In them, partners are disconnected, lonely and disappointed.  This can be one result of an unresolved issue of discrepancy of sexual desire.  As time passes, and the issue of sexual problem remains unresolved, the problem appears to the partners to be many other factors.  It doesn’t take long before each partner has forgotten what was the source of the tension and frustration.  Before long there are many other sources of conflict and disappointment to which blame can be affixed and later on pointed to as the source of the relationship problems. In relationships where a discrepancy of sexual desire is a problem, in the troubled relationship, among all the secondary negative effects the partners may not even realize that this unresolved sexual issue was the source of many of their relationship problems. Problemed relationships have a strongly negative effect on the emotional well-being and self-esteem of the relationship partners.  Where unresolved sexual-desire differences are present, partners are likely to experience a downward spiral of mood and self-esteem.

The Uniqueness of Our Sexual Selves

   Sexuality is as unique to each individual as is their fingerprint.  The way a person physically expresses love for another, the way a person touches another the way he or she acts during moments of pleasure is intensely unique.  Sexuality, as a human phenomenon, is a combination of many aspects of each person: the body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit.  Sexuality encompasses all of these, and yet the combination includes varying degrees of each one, or varying this degrees of the exclusion of each one.

    A person’s experience of their own sexuality varies greatly depending on many factors.  While one person may experience desired to be sexual when in a relationship, another person may react to being in a relationship by not wanting to be sexual at all.  There are few aspects of being human that are more variable and less likely to be predicted that person sexuality.

    It comes as no surprise that when two people get together and connect to form a love relationship that each partner will have a sexuality that is different than the other’s.  This difference extends to level of sexual desire, such as intensity, and therefore, the frequency with which somebody would like to be sexual.  A person’s sexual drive can be well described with the analogy of food and eating.  Both hunger and sexual desire are kinds of appetites. People’s tendency towards food and eating are unique to the individual.  It is unlikely that any two people would enjoy exactly all the same foods, and those foods to exactly the same amount, and also the hungry for those foods at exactly the same times.

    Sex is this way.  But the large difference between food and sex is that food and eating are a part of human life which all would agree are normal and healthy without debate.  Eating food is something that is easily done in public, without a second thought, and rarely with feelings of embarrassment of shame.  And this makes up a large difference between eating and having sex.  Yet in many love relationships, partners enter into the relationship, without having thought much about it, expecting that their partner will most likely have a similar level of sexual desire and have similar sexual interests.  In the fantasy of a future love relationship, it will not be a question of sexual compatibility.  The fantasy will simply include a partner who is sexually compatible in terms of sexual frequency, and the way sex happens.

Discrepancy of Sexual Desire

    Given the degree to which we are each unique, it is unlikely that such compatibility would occur.  It is much more likely that two partners will vary greatly in the way they experience their sexual selves, have sexual desire, have desire for different sexual activities and have a desire for those that activities in the same ways as their partner.

    It is much more likely that partners will have different levels of sexual desire.  And this is the meaning of discrepancy of sexual desire.  It is when one partner wants to be sexual more frequently than does the other partner.  Discrepancy of sexual desire is really a very simple thing.  However, the effects of this problem, when unresolved are anything but simple.  The pain caused to both partners due to such a discrepancy, and combined with the often seeming impossibility of a resolution, can be deep and long-lasting.  If not resolved, the problem of discrepancy of sexual desire can eliminate the value both partners place on a love relationship, eliminate all the good qualities that partners experienced in each other, and risk the existence of the relationship itself.  Relationships and do break up because the discrepancy of sexual desire seems to be an unsolvable problem.

    Partners are unlikely to identify the discrepancy of sexual desire as a problem early in the relationship.  Because relationships change as they age, there are many factors that only are likely to exist later in a relationship.  The emotions that are activated by a new relationship are far different than the ones that are activated later in a relationship.  This is mostly due to the fact that intimacy, or openness combined with closeness, deepens with time and relationship history.  People react to intimacy in different ways, and how they react intimacy tends to be strongly related to how they react to sexual activity.

    So partners have come to know each other well over months, and it is typical that early in the relationship there is a high frequency of sexual activity.  This is not true in all relationships but it is in many.  While getting to know each other, partners tend to explore each other’s bodies and both receiving and giving of sexual pleasure.  Most partners report that this is a very satisfying time during their relationship.  During this time there can be often no signal or sign that later on there may be a difficulty of discrepancy of sexual desire.

    So in the beginning of a relationship, before deep intimacy has been able to develop, partners are unlikely to demonstrate the same sexual patterns as they will later in the relationship once the possibility of deep intimacy has been realized.  This pattern can be similar in a relationship between two lovers who simply live together, and do so for many years, and then create a commitment between them.  The commitment can alter the dynamics between partners significantly even though there are no other factors that have changed.  This is because the commitment greatly increases the chance for deep intimacy.

    If a person has difficulty with closeness, then that person is not likely to want to be sexual, since sex is an activity that increases closeness.  Closeness, which is a significant part of intimacy, also creates vulnerability.  The vulnerability produces fear.

    Early in a relationship partners may notice that one places a greater emphasis or priority on sexual activity.  This partner may be the leader or “conductor” of each sexual drama in which both partners to participate. For this to occur, it would also mean that the other partner adopts a more passive, follower role.  In the early stages of a relationship this may mean that later on there may be an issue of discrepancy of sexual desire but this may not be predicted with certainty as some partners tend to have more of a “take charge” sexual style.

How It Develops

   A typical pattern in the development of a discrepancy of sexual desire is one in which partners begin to notice that there is some tension around the issue of sex either after the relationship has matured over months and perhaps years, or after the couple is married.  Due to various myths about the genders and about sexuality is tempting to believe that it would be the female partner in a heterosexual relationship who is likely to be the “lower desired partner.”  In this scenario the male would be the “higher desired partner.”  My clinical experience in working with many couples regarding all sexual problems and in particular discrepancies of sexual desire, is that either gender male or female, maybe either the higher desired partner or the lower desired partner, but there tends to be no trend in this.

    It will relationships, partners tend to negotiate for their needs.  The negotiation may take on many forms, but tends to be unique to the individuality of the partners in the relationship.  This is as true of sexuality as it is of any other need.  So early on in a relationship where partners have different levels of sexual desire, the higher desired partner seeks out sexual activity to the level which is comfortable for him or her.

    Couples arrive at a tipping point at which the higher desired partner requests or initiate sex at the level at which he or she is comfortable so as to satisfy his or her desires, and the lower desired partner, usually at first, is willing to go along with the sexual frequency set by the higher desired partner.  The tipping point is arrived when the lower desired partner inwardly acknowledges his or her discomfort with the frequency of sexual activity between partners.  The lower desired partner then will take an initial step of saying “no” to the other, or find a less direct way to limit the frequency of sexual activity.  After this point has been arrived at, the lower desired partner develops an increasing ease with which he or she can either say no to the other’s sexual initiation or find an increasing number of ways to communicate either verbally or nonverbally that he or she does not wish to participate in sexual activity.

    Every action in a love relationship causes a reaction.  So once the lower desired partner has learned that he or she can say no to sexual activity the higher desired partner will react to this trend.  The higher desired partner is usually strongly committed to getting his or her needs met, meaning participating in sex in the frequency which feels fulfilling a satisfying.  In reaction to the no’s of the lower desired partner, the higher desired partner may adjust and adapt in various ways: he or she may increase the frequency of his or her sexual initiation so as to increase the chance that he or she will be successful in creating a sexual experience with the partner.  This is not an unusual reaction, but is one that tends to increase tension surrounding the problem of a discrepancy of sexual desire.  The choice of increasing the frequency of sexual initiation is one that tends to be common among higher desired partners.

    Of course, the lower desired partner will provide a reaction to this choice by the higher desired partner.  Most partners do not like saying “no” to the other.  It is not preferred but can feel necessary as a way of remaining true to the partner’s self.  When the lower desired partner grows increasingly aware that he or she must now say “no” often, he or she usually comes up with more extreme and more creative methods for all avoiding the situation in which the higher desired partner is able to initiate sex.  This may be actions such as: going to bed much earlier than usual so as to be asleep by the time the other partner arrives in bed; it may be about inviting friends over so that there is less one on one time available between partners; for a woman it might be lying about her menstrual cycle and saying that she has her period even when she does not; it may be feigning great interest in the television show so as to eliminate the possibility that the other will make a play for sex. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 

    As the time together as a couple lengthens, the partners, regarding the level at which each desires sex, will get more extreme, but in opposite directions.  It is usual that as the lowered-desired partner feels more pressure to be sexual, he or she loses what desire he or she did have, thus this partner’s level of sexual desire decreases.  As the lowered-desired partner experiences the other’s frustration, it may interfere with feelings of closeness and attraction, thus contributing to further lack of sexual interest.  The higher-desired partner goes in the opposite direction.  This partner, in his or her frustration, often feels even more desire.  This may occur because he or she feels an increased appetite out of she “sexual starvation,” much the way a person starving of food may have constant feelings of hunger.  Such a starving person should not be criticized for obsessing about food, or being a food addict because he or she cannot get food off of his or her mind.  The higher-desired partner may increasingly need reassurance of his or her worthiness of being loved, desirability, attractiveness, and insufficient sexual activity can fuel the need for thesewhich seem in short supply.  The higher-desired partner may feel a greater urgency for sex to get these many needs met.

    As you can see, when unresolved, the challenge of discrepancy of sexual desire for couples, may start small, but increasingly develops more and more tension between partners as the emotional momentum causes the chasm of the discrepancy between partners to increasingly widen; the lower-desired partner’s level of desire decreases while the higher-desired partner’s level of desire increases.  Each partner is likely to view the other as having a problem, of being somewhat flawed and troubled, but in opposite ways. From both partner’s perspective, as needs get met less and less, the experience of being in a relationship like this can feel emotionally like an ever-tightening vise, where there are decreasing number of options, and ending the relationship may seem increasingly like the only viable option.

    Please be aware that in a situation in which a discrepancy of sexual desire is a problem, the position of neither partner is a good or comfortable one.  An analogy here is useful.  When driving along a highway it’s not unusual to encounter another vehicle who wishes to drive at a different speed than the one you’re driving.  It is easy to conclude that the speed at which you drive along an empty highway is a speed at which you’re comfortable.  But when there are more than one car on the road it’s likely that different cars one travel at speeds.  For our analogy let’s use a somewhat busy highway, on which there are two particular cars.  One of the cars wishes to travel at 55 mph and the other wishes to travel at 75 mph.

    The car which is traveling faster get stuck behind the car which is traveling more slowly, a situation in which I am certain you have found yourself at some point in the past.  If you are the slower driver, reflect upon how you might be feeling with the faster driver behind you.  It’s not unusual that you might be feeling pressured; that the faster driver wishes you to speed up or get out of the way.  If you are unable to get out of the way, it is a situation in which uncomfortable tension continues or escalates.  As the slower driver, you may feel controlled, or even forced by the faster driver into a situation that is not of your choice or not of your liking.  As the slower driver, you may not want to act as an obstacle to the faster driver, but feel that you have no choice in the matter.  When feeling that there is no choice, or that the faster driver is somehow behaving in an undesirable fashion, would you, as the slower driver, react?  Would you slow down even further as a way of defining the faster drivers seeming control of the situation?  Would you tap on your brakes as a way of warning, or even frightening the faster driver so as to get them to back off?  Consider what effect these actions might have on the faster drivers feelings.

    If in the scenario you are the faster driver, reflect upon how you’d be feeling as the faster driver with somebody slower in front of you.  In that situation, it’s not unusual that you may be feeling trapped and controlled by the driver front of you.  It may feel that the slower driver in front of you has robbed you of your freedom and independence to drive in the manner in which you’re comfortable.  The slower driver is dictating the pace of the road.  People who feel trapped and controlled often get angry.  Is it a situation in which, as the faster driver, you may do your best to influence the slower driver to drive more quickly or to get out of the way.  Ask yourself how you might accomplish this; would you get close to the slower driver’s bumper as a way to pressure them to increase their speed?  Would you honk your worn as a way to communicate to them that you want them to move out of the way?  And in either action, I ask you, how are these actions likely to make the slower driver feel?

    Discrepancy of sexual desire between partners is a lot like the two cars on the road.  And as you can see, in the analogy of two cars on the road, neither driver is likely to feel comfortable in this situation.  Each driver is just trying to do what it is they can do to return to what is comfort for him or her, and to drive the way it is he or she wishes to drive.  These same motivating factors exist between partners who wish for their sex life to include a differing frequency of sexual activity than does their partner.  The same emotional reactions exist, though in differing degrees and intensities, between partners as do they between drivers on the highway.

Sex, Part II

    Sex is an important part of being human; so important, in fact that you wouldn’t exist if all of your ancestors and your parents didn’t have sex.  At it’s most basic, sex is what makes us as a species survive as well as flourish.  Being so central to our existence, it is curious that many people have negative attitudes towards sex.  Yet many do.

    Historically, sexual attitudes and sexual behaviors have been largely influenced and shaped by religious organizations.  Even today, if you are a member of an organized religious congregation, the beliefs and tenets of your religion, along with religiously-congruent ethics and morals have influence your feelings about sex.  Sex is central to our lives, whether or not we act in sexual ways.  

    All parts of our society have both influence and are influenced by sexuality.  Our laws dictate when sex is legal and when sex is not legal.  Socially each one of us is encouraged to act sexually in certain ways and not in others.  Our schools are often the center of debate as to the degree with which we should educate our children about sex.  Our family lives are impacted by sexuality, in how our parents included sex in their lives, while hiding it or teaching about it.  Who we are has been dictated by whether we are male or female and hence how we should go about expressing or not expressing our sexuality; how we should go about forming romantic relationships as we prepare to or not to reproduce.

    Sex is much more than reproduction of our species, even if many would prefer that sex be limit to just that.  Sex is also a method for experiencing pleasure, for connecting with another person, for exploring our body, for reducing anxiety, for overcoming depression, for helping us to get to sleep, for getting pregnant, for showing love, for giving a gift to another, exploring spirituality, for taking care of a need.  It is many things for many people. Without judgment, the reasons why people choose to be sexual are broad and varied.  With judgment, many people choose to be sexual in different ways than you would choose.

    You and your partner are different, and it is very likely that the ways your partner chooses for being sexual or not are far different that reasons why you choose to be sexual or not.  In this discussion, we will not explore what are good or bad choices regarding sex, but for the purpose of helping you and your partner to resolve sexual differences, we will look at ways that as a person and sexual being, you can feel better about yourself, be stronger, and live more in line with your own values, while also having an improved relationship.

Sexual Desire

Because you and your partner are having problems with a discrepancy of sexual desire, it is appropriate to discuss sexual desire itself.  It is a broad topic about which I cannot provide a complete overview.  There are so many factors which contribute to whether or not we feel what we call sexual desire.  The factors in clued our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our health, our beliefs, our family status, our energy level, our gender, etc.  The list is long.  Most stereotypes about differing kinds of people and sexual desire do not seem to hold up.  For instance, all men are horny all of the time.  Women never want sex.  My clinical experience has taught me that for each stereotype that has developed over time, many exceptions exists.

    Desire itself probably needs little description, but here it is anyways: sexual desire is the interest or motivation to create or participate in sexual activity.  Sexual desire is a part of who we are, but which increases and decreases over time depending on many factors.  Whether we should or should not have desire, and how much we should have, may not be a useful question, yet it may be useful to point to a majority of men and women and thereby get a sense of what is an average or “normal” level of sexual desire.  Normal is only a broad range of people’s levels of sexual desire, and is not indicative of what level of sexual desire is right for you or your partner given your mutual uniqueness and individuality.  We might also conclude that a “good” level of sexual desire is one which would cause our relationship to be harmonious, or satisfying for our partner, such as “I wish I desired sex more so I could keep my partner happy, war I wish I had less sexual desire so I wouldn’t bother my partner.”  But concluding this may risk ignoring your own self, needs and individuality.

    A lack of sexual desire ought not be a reason to choose to not be sexual.  Sure, none of us want to do something we have little desire to do.  But, as adults, we must possess the strength to do things even if we do not desire to do them.  How often does it happen, that you wake up one morning and do not desire to go to work?  Can you choose not to go to work if you don’t “feel” like it?  There exists a good chance that you would no longer be employed if you did so.  Instead,you choose to go to work even though you prefer not to.  As a psychotherapist, I have yet to have a patient who wish to have treatment complaining that he or she “has a lack of desire to go to work.”  Yet I have many patients who seek help because they have a lack of desire for sex.

    You might argue that work is not sex, and you don’t want sex to be work.  It is true that sex is best if it’s fun, playful, and pleasurable.  This point breaks down when the truth of growing and learning is considered.  Whenever we accept the challenge and take on something that is difficult, we experienced discomfort.  While we accept that discomfort while facing a challenge, this leads to our growth.  The more we do an activity which is new to us, the more we develop a comfort with it to the point where many activities which at first were uncomfortable become pleasurable. Sex is such an activity, about which we need to develop a comfort for it to become pleasurable.

    Let us make a large distinction between a lack of sexual desire, and an avoidance of sexual activity.  A lack of desire, by the very words, indicate that there are little feelings either way about sex.  A person neither desires to sexual nor do they seek to avoid it.  However, when a person says “No, I do not want to have sex,” that person does not have a lack of desire for sex, that person has a desire to not have sex.  There is a large difference.  There are many reasons why a person would not want to have sex or avoid being sexual.  The reasons usually include something to do with being or feeling uncomfortable, though the sources of the discomfort and might very widely from physical pain, to unresolved trauma to fear of intimacy to discomfort with one’s body to a dislike of one sex parts, to feelings of shame to an inability to relax, to religious beliefs that are sex-negative, etc. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 

Talking about Sex

    Sex is a team sport.  As in all team sports, during the game, and specifically about each play, the players must communicate so they can coordinate, synchronize and cooperate to produce a beneficial result, namely winning the game.  Often in team sports, the players get together when not playing a game, the practice and plan so that their performance during the game is the best.

    Unfortunately, most couples do not consider sex to be a team sport in this way, as a result, they do not talk about sex, and they miss out on developing the best kind of play.  Unlike team sports, the topic of sex for most people is loaded with the negative emotions of shame and embarrassment.  This makes the topic ripe for avoidance.  As in the case of most things went avoided, the results are usually negative.

    For you and your partner to have a good quality sex life, which is pleasurable to both of you, and you will have to talk about sex.  Yes, this can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is important.  The discussion must include what you do and do not like about your sex life.  It must include what makes you uncomfortable and what makes you feel good.  Just because something makes you uncomfortable does not mean that it should be avoided, however, we each need to know for ourselves, where the line exists between what kind of activities in which we are willing to participate, and which activities in which we absolutely will not participate.

The Higher Desired Partner

    One of you has more sexual desire than the other one.  This causes a problem.  Undoubtedly it can feel very frustrating to desire to be sexual and to experience in your relationship or marriage, that you are the only partner who has such desire.  Higher desired partners often grow very angry that he or she must initiate sex “all the time,” without the other partner making the effort to return the favor.

    Here are some considerations for people with high sexual desire: Some people have high sexual desire, yet also many people who have great desire for sex are completely healthy, but some people’s high sexual desire represents unhealthy attitudes, emotions and behaviors.  As the high sexual desired partner, it is likely that your lowered desired partner has already suggested that your level of sexual desire is unhealthy, abnormal and problematic; his or her opinion may or may not be true.  Certainly it is true that having high sexual desire has created problems for your partner.  A low desired partner is likely to view the higher-desired partner’s level of desire as unhealthy. From the lower desired partners position, the higher desired partner’s sexual desire will seem abnormal and extreme. For your partner, the quickest solution would be that your level of sexual desire be reduced to match his or her level.  Something that is unlikely to happen.

    The average frequency of sexual activity of couples is between once and twice per week.  This is only an average and does not mean that you and your partner should be sexual as often as this.  Each couple is sexually unique.  However, it is a useful frequency to use as a baseline for gathering information.  How often would you like to be sexual?  Imagine that your partner is open to be sexual with you as often as you’d like, in the way you would like to be sexual, how often would you prefer sex to happen?  Is your preferred frequency of sex higher or lower then the average?

    Reflect on how it makes you feel when you are alone in the desire for sex, or may feel alone when you are being sexual with your partner.  It can be useful to identify the feelings, which may be very familiar to you that arise in you because of this very difficult problem.  A useful exercise can be to write down all of the different feelings that you have because you desire to be sexual more than your partner.  Some common feelings are: frustration, anger, resentment, bitterness, feeling controlled, feeling unloved, feeling undesired, feeling unattractive, feeling lonely, and the list goes on.

    What is the impact that having a strong desire for sex has had upon your partner?  Is certain that you view your partners lower level of desire as problematic in dysfunctional, but that does not mean it is.  It is a problem for you.  Some people just do not have a lot of sexual desire, and this is not because of dysfunction, problematic issues, or lack of health.

    Make a second list.  This will be a list of the different efforts you have made to try and influence, and encourage your partner to both be sexual more frequently but also to be more attentive to your sexual needs.  Some of the items on your list may be similar to: talking to your partner, touching your partner, touching your partner in a sexual way hoping to make them aroused, dressing differently, making yourself more attractive, going to the gym, wearing different perfume, being naked more often in front of your partner, getting angry with your partner, accusing your partner of being hurtful, masturbating in front of your partner, being extra generous with your partner, questioning your partners sexual orientation, and the list goes on…

    Make a third list.  This will be a list of the ways you have reacted to your partner and your partner’s tendency to not want sex in the same frequency or the same way that you would like sex. Some of the items on this list may be: reacted in hurt, reacted by getting angry, reacted by making threats, reacted by trying to strike a bargain for sex, reacted by being coercive reacted by insulting your partner reacted by retreating from your partner, reacted by avoiding your partner, reacted by giving your partner the silent treatment, reacted by having an extra relationship affair, and the list goes on…

    At some point you will be sharing these lists with your partner, but that will not happen until they also have some lists to share with you.  It is not bad to have a lot of sexual desire.  A lot of sexual desire may indicate health and vitality.  It is probably preaching to the choir to also say that sex is very important and is a healthy part of life; these are probably things that you think to yourself all the time.  Desire for and curiosity of sexuality are just an important part of being human.  And yet, it is also important for you to understand more about your own sexuality.  

On yet another piece of paper, answer the following questions:

What does sex mean to me?  

What makes sex important to me?

What are some words that describe how I feel during sex?  

What are some words that describe how I feel after I have been sexual?  

How do I feel about my partner after I have been sexual with him or her?  

How does my level of sexual desire compare with what I believe is a “normal” level of sexual desire?  

What are the reasons and theories about why I have as much sexual desire as I have? Is my level of sexual desire higher than most people?  

What impact do you believe it would have if in your relationship you had all the sex you desire?  What impact would it have on your relationship if you had half of the sex you desire?

 

Other important questions are about your emotional health.  Sex and sexual desire are strongly influenced by our emotions.  While sex is generally though of as a physical activity, our emotions play a huge role in having desire for sex and the way we experience sexual activity.  Thus, it is important to consider the kinds of emotions you have and your emotional health:

Generally, how do you feel about yourself?

Do you have low self-esteem?…(tend to think of yourself positively or negatively)

Are you and anxious person?…(fearful, worrier, controlling, or unstoppable thoughts)

Do you tend towards being depressed?  (sad, unmotivated, negative, irritable)

How would you characterize the way you express anger?  (passive-aggressive, sarcastic, quick temper, explosive, assertive)

How do you cope with difficulties such as: stress, disappointment and frustration?

    The relationship you have with yourself is very important to your well-being, to having a healthy love relationship, as well as to be healthy is a sexual way.  The above-mentioned questions explore that relationship.  Do you notice that your sexual desire fluctuates from medium, high or very high?  If so, do the fluctuations seem to be related to anything else, such as your emotions, stress level, negative moods, etc?  Some people use sexual activity, or the closeness achieved during sexual activity as a way to soothe negative emotions, or a negative relationship with them selves.

    In your past, have you experienced any significant harmful or traumatic events?  The kinds of events are: hurtful, damaging and unwanted sexual experiences as a child or as an adult, physical violence, general hurtfulness by others through words, poor treatment or violence.  When a person is exposed to traumatic events, some avoid sexual activity altogether, still others react by developing a heightened need for the closeness that sex can provide.  People who were harmed by being forced to participate in sexual activities as children prior to being sexually mature and prior to being able to provide consent, sometimes seek to repetitively perform the kinds of sexual acts as a way to try and control their feelings about early, harmful sexual experiences.

    To what degree do you feel that you are valuable and worthy of love?  Some people seek to feel loved by being sexual, even if ultimately, the sexual experiences do not fully satisfy this need, it can feel that it will, thus the need to feel love may be expressed by a high desire for a sexual experience.  In this case, love and sex may be confused.  The two are not the same, though they naturally go together beautifully like peanut butter and jelly.  Sex, however, will not cure feelings of unworthiness. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 

    If it is the male who is the higher-desired partner, a circumstance exists which helps to fuel the discrepancy of sexual desire.  Most men wish to form an emotional connection with their female partner through sexual activity.  Being successful at this helps men to then be more able to express the emotional connection. In the case where a female partner does not allow this, it causes the male’s desire to increase, but also his frustration at trying to feel a part of a relationship, to feel valuable.  For many men, when their female partner shares herself sexually, the man feels it is a reward for his good efforts, thus validates his sense of himself as a worthy partner.  The lack of sexual activity may cause him to interpret it as a communication form the female partner that his efforts have neither been valued.

    If you are a female and your partner is a male, and he is the higher desired partner in your relationship, there are some things you should consider.  Because of the differences between men and women there are aspects of each other’s experience about which there is nothing similar in your own experience, causing it to be difficult to understand.  Just as there is no man who will ever fully understand what it’s like for women to have a menstrual cycle, or to give birth to a baby, most women will never have what many men experience as incessant, relentless sexual desire. There are more men with high sexual desire then there are women.  But the issue of high sexual desire, or seemingly very high sexual desire is not one that men regularly discuss among themselves.  Men do not necessarily enjoy having high sexual desire.  For many, even if it is the source of suffering, most do not complain about it, and merely consider it part of being male. The experience for them is one of always having a hunger, which most of the time, is not satisfied.  While having high sexual desire, those men do not necessarily like how their sexual desire influences them, or how it causes them to behave, but many feel helpless to do anything about it.  Having high sexual desire can be painful and uncomfortable.  For the man with this high, ever-demanding desire, it does not always occur to him that it would be good for his desire to be less, rather it seems to him natural that being sexual is the only way to reduce the desire.  However, in such men, even being sexual only satisfies the desire temporarily.  The time before the level of desire once again returns to a high-level is often not long.  Men do not discuss this, and high desired men rarely discuss this with their female partners.

    Sexual addiction, or may also be called compulsive sexual behaviors are potentially serious disorders.  From the perspective of most lower-desired partners, it will appear that your higher-desired partner is unhealthy in this way.  Having high sexual desire and being addicted to sex or having sexual compulsivity are quite different.  Having high sexual desire, especially if your partner’s level is lower, will certainly cause tension and problems in a relationship. When a person makes choices of sexual behaviors which are risky, self-destructive, and/or without regard for the impact upon the partner, and the person does not seem to have the ability to stop, then there is the likelihood that the individual has a problem with what may be appropriately called an addiction or a sexual compulsion.  Ask yourself: while being honest with yourself, are you compulsive regarding your sexual activity?  Do you question whether or not you are addicted to sex?  To what degree does sex control you, or do you control sex? Does sex cause you to behave in ways that are hurtful to your partner and/or damaging to yourself?  If the answer is yes to this question, then it is important that you get help from a professional who special training in the field of human sexuality.

    How have you reacted to being in a difficult relationship in which your sexual needs are not being met?  How have you gone about taking care of your own needs, when they are being disregarded or being insufficiently met?  It is not unusual that higher desired partners in this situation develop a private sex life which consists of masturbation.  Has this been true of you?  And if so, is your partner aware of this?  Has this issue of your self-pleasuring then an issue of hurt feelings and conflict?  If such masturbatory practices have been the source of tension, hurt, and conflict between the two of you, then this damage will have to be repaired.  In these kinds of situations, it is also not unusual that pornography is used in conjunction with masturbation, as a source of eroticism and stimulation.  If so, has this also been a source of anger and conflict?  These are difficult issues, which contribute to the reduced quality of a love relationship.  Such issues can be repaired once they are dealt with in a sensitive way and greater openness slowly leads the deeper intimacy.

    For the high-desired partner: Being less than loving will never improve your relationship, and neither will it ever produce the best kind of sex.  Undoubtedly, experiencing frustration in your relationship due to sexual problems, causes you to grow upset, resentful and at times angry, but expressing these in any form that interferes with your lowered-desired partner feelings of securityand being loved will only decrease the chances that you and your partner will ever have a fantastic sex life.  Get familiar with those actions which cause your partner to feel loved.  It is through those channels, if successful at making your partner feel loved, which may help to resolve your relationship problems.  Unlike you, your partner does not feel loved or build a connection through sex. People are not willing to change in positive ways, which lead to openness, closeness unless they feel loved and respected.  So if you want your partner to embrace sex, in the manner in which you like sex, your best chance is by making your partner feel loved, through his or her way.

    Sex is only one way to feel good.  Sex is not the only way to express love or to increase closeness.  Because you have developed a reputation with your partner that sex is everything to you, make sure that you explore the other alternatives to feeling good and to expressing love other than sex.

    For sex to be really good, it must be mutually pleasurable.  The way you and your partner have had sex historically, was it as satisfying and pleasurable for your partner as it was for you?  This is a good question to ask your partner directly.  When doing so, be prepared for an answer that you may not like to hear, but by listening carefully, you may hear answers that can help resolve difficulties and opened the way to a much improved sex life.

    As the higher desired partner, undoubtedly you would like your partner to be receptive to more sexual activity than the amount you have been experiencing.  If your partner experiences yourrelationship as less than satisfying, such a condition will only justify your partner’s lack of sexual desire.  For the purpose of preparing and improving your relationship, with the goal of making your sex life much more satisfying, it is essential that you address all of you partners relationship concerns.  Love relationships always require you to be the best you can be.

    Pressuring your partner to be sexual will not result in your partner becoming more open, emotionally or sexually.  In addition to learning about yourself and your sexuality so as to hopefully moderate your sexual needs while trying to create a repair for your relationship, act towards your partner only in loving ways.  To do so means being kind, generous, helpful, supportive, caring, friendly, etc even if you d not feel your partner is deserving of these efforts.  By being loving, you are honoring yourself and acting in a way that will help you to love yourself and feel good about you.

The Lower Desired Partner

    You would not have purchased this audio course if you did not identify that there exists a sexually-related problem in your relationship.  It is vital that you understand that sex is a necessarypart of a romantic relationship, and a necessary part of your relationship.  This is not going to change.  People generally expect that sexual activity is an integral part of a love relationships.  It is unlikely that your partner, who probably places a much importance on sex, is ever going to be content in this relationship if sex is not moderately frequent and satisfying. As long as you can embrace this fact, and recognize that as the lower-desired partner, you may have to change your relationship with your sexuality and with yourself, there is a significant chance that you can repair your relationship, solve this problem, and create with your partner a healthy and deeply satisfyinglove relationship.  Sex is an avenue through which we can journey so as to love ourselves, help to make ourselves whole, and have greater health.  As a human being, sexuality is an integral part of who you are, and you cannot be complete until you accept, embrace and love every part of who you are.

    After having listened this far in this course, you probably have a greater understanding of both the importance of sex in your relationship and some of the dynamics that have caused sex to become a problem in your relationship.  These questions remains: What is it about you that caused you to become the lower-desired partner in your relationship?  Remember back when you relationship was fresh and new.  How did you feel about sex during that time in a relationship?  Was the pattern of sexual activity different then that it has become more recently?

    Partners always will have sexual differences.  However, fixing a couple‘s sex life will not always fix their relationship.  If the relationship you have with your partner is poor, due to relationship troubles that are not about sex, improving your sexual relationship will not repair these problems.  If you are in a bad relationship, it is normal that you would not desire to be sexual.  If for some reason you are not attracted to your partner, or you routinely feel disrespected or hurt by your partner, then it is normal that you would not have the desire to be sexual with he or she.

    Sex is an activity that is best entered into when positive feelings exist between you and your partner.  If you share yourself sexually when you are angry with your partner, when you feel hurt by your partner, or routinely for reasons other than wanting to be sexual, there is the chance that you may do yourself and your emotional well-being harm.  No relationship will ever be very good if the partners do not love themselves.  Making choices which are ultimately good for you in the long run are characteristic of a person who loves him or herself.

Your Relationship to Sex

    How do you feel about sex?  It would be a valuable exercise for you to become much more familiar with your relationship to your sexuality.  If you are to solve the sexual problem in your relationship, your relationship to your sexuality will have to change, such that you and your partner can find a middle ground, on which both of you can feel moderately satisfied.  This means that there will be times when you will share yourself sexually, and it might not be your first choice as to how to spend this period of time.  It is essential that you were able to allow sex into your life, embrace it, while also participating sexually and not becoming resentful.  So the more that you experience sex as an activity that is pleasurable, and an activity that is for yourself, the more you will be successful in doing so.

    On a piece of paper, write the following questions:  List some words that accurately describe how I feel about sex.  List words which describe what it’s like to be sexual with my partner?  Do you have concerns or problems with the manner in which your partner is sexual?  If the answer to this is yes, on a piece of paper right down the issues that are of concern to you.  Have these issues contributed to you wanting sex less, or avoiding sex?  If yes, write this down on your piece of paper.  Have you discussed the issues that you have about the manner with which your partner has sex with your partner?  It is essential that you do so.

    As you relationship progressed, and the difference between your partner’s level of sexual desire and your level of sexual desire, became apparent, you reacted in ways that contributed to sex becoming a problem in your relationship.  Could you have reacted differently?

    When the sex becomes a problem between you and your partner, if unaddressed in the short run, relationship problems develop that seem to be unrelated to the relationship’s sex life.  For many people, the presence of such problems interferes with feeling connected to the partner.  Regarding sex, people may be broadly divided into two groups: those who try to build a connection with the partner through sex, and the others for whom an emotional connection needs to be in place, and sex is a way to express that already connected relationship.  Most lower-desired partners tend to be in the second group, while most higher-desired partners tend to be in the first group.  It is not surprising that you had less desire to be sexual under the circumstances that developed within your relationship, because undoubtedly, those conditions interfered with your feelings of being emotionally connected.

    More men comprise the first category, in which a connection is built sexually, than women.  More women fill the second category, in which sex expresses an already connected relationship than men.  Neither method is better or worse than the other.  They are just different, and opposite. Deeply satisfying relationships become very possible when each partner gives great respect to the difference of the other’s way.  Partners who desire to form a connection through sex,

    Typically the lower-desired partner feels pressured to be sexual when he or she does not wish to do so.  Feeling pressured is rarely comfortable.  Thinking back, what were your choices and actions, when you felt pressured by your partner, to reduce or avoid his or her pressure to be sexual?  Write these choices or actions down on a piece of paper.  Did you alter your behavior patterns so as to minimize contact with your partner at times when he or she was likely to initiate sex?  Did you make changes in the way you dress around your partner so as to make yourself less attractive?  Did you get angry with your partner so as to push him or her away?  Did you everpurposefully create an argument so as to destroy the quality of the moment, thereby decreasing the chance that a sexual advance would be made?  Did you routinely keep distance between you and your partner, so you partner could not touch you?  Did you ever invite friends to the present, again to reduce the chance that your partner would initiate sex?  Did you alter your pattern of sleep time, so as to avoid your partner when he or she was coming to bed?  These are all reactions that are common to lower-desired partners, so as to reduce the pressure they feel from the higher-desired partner.

    A partner can respond to the other’s pressure in several ways: by resisting it, by avoiding it, by seeking to understand why the other is putting pressure, or by acquiescing to the pressure by agreeing to give what is desired.  Regarding your partner’s sexual requests/demands, which other did you choose?  Was it the same choice throughout your relationship, or did your response change over time?  If so, why did your response change?

    Did you make any effort so as to create the kind of sex life that you preferred?…or did you only act in ways that defended against your partner’s pressure?  Certainly being pressured does not feel pleasant.  However, the best way to react to being pressured is to utilize your power and the ability to be assertive by setting a limit.  When being pressured, it is also useful to confront the one pressuring you, seek to understand why the other one is pressuring you, and negotiate with him or her to make sure that you are needs and the others will be met.  

    Resentment may build in a person who is being pressured.  Resentment is a form of anger that is withheld, that accumulates over time so that much of it is old.  A resentful person is a person likely to act in an angry way, and is a person with a significant amount of powerlessness.  Holding onto resentment will interfere, if not outright prevent, or repair of your relationship.  A heart that is polluted with resentment, is not a heart that is open to loving.  The first step in draining off this resentment is for you to find constructive, positive and powerful ways for you to express your anger, so as to not hurt your partner and to let your partner know about your needs.

    Power and sex are deeply linked.  This is not to suggest that within sex are negative power dynamics such as force, coercion and harmful domination, even though those themes do exist within some people’s sex lives.  But, what is meant by this is that having control and power over what happens in our lives, feeling in control within our lives, and feeling that we have the power to make choices, is strongly linked to experiencing sex in a positive way and to having a healthy sex life.  In your position of being the lower-desired partner, to what degree had you used your power to state your needs, to address your partner’s needs, and take responsibility for this problem by offering solutions?

    The ability to possess power is a necessary ability to have a healthy and satisfying love relationship, but also to have a healthy sex life.  Frequently in love relationships, partners must negotiate their differences.  Only a partner who has the power to take a stand and be assertive can be a party in a negotiation.  Having power means the ability to vocalize your needs, and to insist that your needs are heard.  Having power means that you have a vote in your relationship regarding choices that effect you and your partner.  Having power also means that you have the strength to influence your partner, while your partner allows this influence.  In a healthy love relationship, both partners allow the other to have some control and power to be influential.  In a healthy love relationship control and power are shared, but for this to be true, both partners must have the ability to possess that power.

    One aspect of owning power is having choice.  Regarding sex in your relationship, to what degree in the past, did you feel that you had choice regarding if, when, how, and where you were sexual?  Having this choice is a requirement to feeling that you own your sexuality, but also so that you can feel positive about your partner and your sex life.  If you have felt you had no choice about being sexual in the past, it will be useful to express this to your partner and insist that in the future, as your sex life becomes healthier, you have choice.

    Did you ever initiate sex?  (Taking responsibility for your sex life and your relationship) Think about those times when you need something from you partner.  What is it like for you when your partner doesn’t respond, or doesn’t take the initiative to satisfy your need, whether it be planning something, doing something around the house, or fulfilling a promise?  Probably, you have certain expectations of your partner and can grow upset when you partner disappoints those expectations.  For you, why is your partner’s sexual expectations different than any of those expectations that you have of your partner?  Initiating sex requires that you owned power in your relationship.  So if you have never initiated a sexual encounter, this may be a signal that you need to own more power.

    The relationship you have with yourself and with your sexuality has great bearing on both your own happiness, but also your ability to hear your relationship and relate well with your partner.  If your relationship has become very polarized, this means that you and your partner each experience the other in vastly different ways, then there exists some need on your part to do some work on yourself for the purpose of growing.  Relationships only become polarized when each partner reacts in a negative way to a difference in the other.  In doing so, each partner sells him or herself out in an attempt to create a comfortable balance.  The superior alternative is to tolerate some discomfort so as to make a new balance that is healthier and which provides the opportunity of a healthy relationship.

    Loving yourself means both making peace with all aspects of who you are, but also making choices that routinely create healthy and positive situations in your life.  Loving yourself also means at times making difficult choices, which provide for you benefits in the form of becoming stronger, be coming healthier, growing and living in a good light situation.  This is accomplished by making the right choices, instead of making the easy choices.  It also means being powerful in your own life so as to make your life the way you want it to be, but with consideration for those around you.  Loving yourself also means accepting all parts of who you are, and this especially means accepting, embracing your body and your sexuality.

    How do you take ownership of your own sexuality?  The word ownership here means embracing the sexual part of yourself by being familiar with it, honoring it, expressing your needs regarding sex and seeking to fulfill them, having a voice in sexual matters, exploring the ways in which you react sexually, exploring what provides you with sexual pleasure, and developing ways of providing yourself with sexual pleasure.

SEXUAL PROBLEMS

DISLIKING SEX BECAUSE OF VULNERABILITY

    How do you feel about masturbation?  It is also known as “self-pleasuring.”  Is this something that you and your partner have talked about?  My experience has been that most adults masturbate, and this also includes those adults who are married and involved in love relationships.  While it does seem true that men as a whole, tend to masturbate more frequently than do women, studies have shown that a majority of women at some point also enjoy giving themselves pleasure through self-stimulation.  For the development of your own sexuality, including increasing your ownership of your sexuality, it is important that masturbation is something that is understood and explored.  Masturbation is something that children do naturally, as a natural curiosity to explore their bodies.  If not discouraged by parents or family, most children include in their lives some form of masturbation as they grow to adulthood.

    Masturbation can be a very important activity towards developing ownership of our sexuality. Itallows us to make a neurological connection between our brains, often our fingers and our genitals.  This connection is essential to experience the touching of our genitals as pleasurable.  For those who are unfamiliar with masturbation, it usually includes a direct touching of the most sensitive parts of the penis for a man, and the most sensitive parts of the clitoris for a woman.  More than that, masturbation can help a person to become more aware of his or her sexual arousal and sexual responses.  So in being sexual with our partner, what we learned during masturbationcan help us to inform our partner about what is and is not pleasurable.  From masturbation, if we have become aware of our body and our sexual responses, we are then enabled to know what arouses us and what doesn’t.  Masturbation can also provide us with the opportunity to learn more about essential part of our sexuality, and that is our eroticism.

    Eroticism is a word which describes situations, fantasies, activities and relationships which cause us to become sexually aroused.  In more regular language, eroticism is about what turns us on.  For a good sex life, it is essential that we are familiar with our own eroticism.  Otherwise, we are unable to communicate to our partner what it is we need to become aroused as well is to become an engaged in a sexual experience.  Reflect upon times in your life when you became sexually aroused.  For both genders this usually means the development of some kind of interest, as well as a physiological response. Part of this response means that blood rushed to your genitals, often causing a feeling of tension in that part of your body.  If you are a man, this means that your penis grew erect.  If you are a woman, this means that your vagina began to lubricate, resulting in a wetness developing in and around your vulva.

    Very few of us have perfect bodies.  As we age the chances of having a magazine-cover body decreases dramatically.  One source of discomfort for many many people, one that impacts people’s ability to have a really good sex life, is there feeling about their body.  If it is painful to look in the mirror, then this is a signal that suggests that you do not feel good about your body.  There is much societal pressure, to look sexy and beautiful, but, the truth is, many of us have not been given the gift, in body, of beauty and/or sexiness.  We have a choice.  We can suffer chronically because we do not like our body, or we can accept our body and recognize that having a body that is less than the most beautiful does not have to be an obstacle towards having pleasure, a good relationship, or very good sexual experiences.  It is more important to have a healthy body than a beautiful body.  People have concerns about particular parts of their body.  This can be especially so about a person’s sex parts.

    Men have a relationship with their penis about which there is nothing similar in women’s lives.  It has been said that a man’s penis is his best friend, and there might be some truth to this.  If a man believes that his penis is somehow inadequate, such as being smaller than he believes isnormal, or smaller than what is good enough, this perception can certainly cause him to avoid being sexual.  Many women are not overly concerned with the size of their male partner’s penis, and are able to experience pleasure during intercourse no matter what penis size her male partner possesses.  For many men who are preoccupied with the size of their penis, their preoccupation is a symptom of low self-esteem and anxiety problems.  If such a man is the lower-desired partner in a love relationship, it is necessary that his self-esteem and anxiety issues are addressed, before he will be able to fully participate as a passionate sexual partner.

    The relationship between a woman and her vulva is not similar to that which exists between a man and his penis.  In part because of the shape of a woman’s body, she is unable to directly see her vulva.  Most men and women are familiar with the word vagina.  Fewer are familiar with the word vulva.  Vagina refers to the internal birth canal, whereas the word vulva refers to the entire external part of a woman’s genitals, including her pubis hair, larger labia, clitoris, smaller inner labia, urethra, and several other small structures.

    This is a great difference between a man and a woman regarding their genitals.  Men are able to see their penises, which are on the outside of their body and obvious.  A woman’s vulva is out of her sight and neatly placed underneath her pubic bone, where from her perspective, there seems to be nothing.  For many reasons a reputation of shame, dirtiness, smelliness and ugliness has become attached to this part of women’s bodies, but unrightly so.  A woman who feels this way about her vulva is likely to be a lower-desired partner.

    Many women have never actually viewed their vulvas, an exercise which is highly encouraged. Developing a positive relationship between a woman and her vulva is vital for her comfort, ability to relax and be open to a sexual experiences.  Women who have developed a positive relationship with her vulva is a woman who also has much greater sexual confidence.  Believing that her vulva is ugly, dirty and bad, understandably will experience discomfort and anxiety when her partner seeks to explore touch and stimulate her vulva.  Women who feel uncomfortable about their vulvas, will often avoid allowing her partner to get close to her vulva.

    Loving your sexuality means accepting that sexuality is a part of who you are, and that your sexuality is positive, healthy and essential to your completeness and your well-being.  Sexuality is a vital part of being human.  It is unlikely that you and your partner will ever have a healthy sex life, if you are not feeling good about your sexuality, about being sexual with your partner, and developing a comfort with touch, with your body and your sex parts, closeness, and sexual activities.  Is not unusual to grow up with uncomfortable feelings about sexuality.  In many families, because of feelings of embarrassment, shame, dirtiness, and general discomfort, sex is something that is not talked about.  Many parents do not teach their children about healthy sexuality.  During childhood, in many families, all things related to sex, including sexual body parts, are labeled as bad, dirty, and sinful.  Even if this kind of labeling was not done in an open and obvious way, but instead by avoiding the topic, subtle negative messages still pervade a developing child’s consciousness about sexuality.  Such children grow into adults who have negative and uncomfortable associations about the sexual parts of their bodies and sexuality in general.

    People who have a general discomfort regarding sex, are likely to have grown up in families where the relationship between the family members could be characterized as distant, uncommunicative, emotionally undefined, and generally devoid of touch.  Children who grow up in families where family members do not touch grow into adults who tend to be uncomfortable with being touched or touching another.  In families where the only talk she is to punish, in the form of hitting her spanking, the children develop into adults for whom touch is associated with pain.

    Lower-desired partners may be people who grew up in these kinds of emotionally-constricted, potentially emotionally-deprived environments.  If during childhood a person experienced emotional or verbal hurtfulness on a regular basis, it makes sense that they would develop a defensiveness which would prevent others from getting close.  For such people, sex can feel just too close.  It may take a long time to develop the kind of trust necessary for a person to take the risk of getting that close.  While it may be a slow process, it’s not an impossible process.

    Among people who would be considered lower-desired partners, are those that may be accurately called avoidant partners.  These are people who avoid many kinds of interactions with the other, but specifically those interactions that may enhance closeness, or both lead to sexual activity, but also include sexual activity.  Avoidant partners are those who keep their distance both emotionally and physically.  Of course the impact to the other can be great, causing feelings of rejection, hurt, lack of desirability, etc. When we look at the group of lower-desired partners, avoidant partners are those who inhabit the extreme in the range of very low desire.

    The avoidant partner not only has low desire for sex, but seeks to avoid any kind of closeness that all.  People who act as avoidant partners, demonstrate all kinds of ways, subtle and obvious, in which they’ve successfully prevent closeness from occurring, whether it be sitting together in close proximity on a couch, holding hands, kissing, to sharing openly feelings and emotions.  It is typical that avoidant partners grew up in emotionally restrained or neglectful environments, possibly even emotionally abusive environments, causing such a person to have little trust that emotional safety can exist.  Avoidant partners have a very difficult time trusting, with us avoid situations in which they would have feelings of vulnerability.  Because this pattern is very old, and usually deeply entrenched, unless the avoidant individual has strong desire to change their behavior patterns, increasing their ability to be close and be sexual is very difficult.

    Consider that it is probably through sex that your partner feels connected and loved by you.  It is a normal and healthy request that a partner make the effort to love us in the manner in which we feel loved.  By sharing yourself sexually with your partner, you are speaking your partner’s language of love.  In doing so, there is a significant chance that the problems which have accumulated between the two of you will slowly dissolve…so long as your partner is also making the effort at loving you in the way you need to feel loved.

Sorry for the incompleteness of this article. Please contact Andrew Aaron, LICSW for more information.  If you and your partner suffer from discrepancy of sexual desire, please seek help for this relationship damaging condition. Andrew Aaron, LICSW