Let’s talk about sex baby! Oh the wonderful topic of sex in relationships. There are few topics that have such a polarizing impact on a relationship as sex. It is either a part of the highest highs or the lowest lows. Most people remember that amazing feeling when they first meet someone, the chemistry is intense and how sex seems to be on your mind almost constantly. How, in this stage, your sex life takes up the majority of your time together and almost always feel exciting or fun. And then for those who are in more long-term commitments, you have experienced how this lust fades and the intensity of your sex life seems to fade with it. While this isn’t the case in every relationship, I would say this is the case in most. Couples that I see often complain about how scheduling sex feels unromantic and how the lack of drive can sometimes feel worrisome.
Cheryl Fraser, a leading sex therapist, discusses how there are two different types of desire that fuel our drive: spontaneous and responsive. As you can guess, when we are new in a relationship spontaneous desire is high. It is often fuelled by hormones and the thrill of a new connection. In other words, spontaneous desire takes place when a couple is in the honeymoon period. Responsive desire on the other hand, is sexual desire and arousal that happen in response to a circumstance or context.
When I work with couples or individuals who are happy in their relationship but not in their sex life, the focus is on improving their responsive desire. One of the most important things to remind ourselves is that people have sex for more reasons than just being turned on. We can have sex to feel close to our partners, because we value a sexual relationship or even to destress etc. Checking in with yourself and your partner to figure out why you want sex to be a part of your relationship is important. Once that is established, the next most important step is to talk about how you get your responsive desire engaged.
How many times have you found yourself guilty of not taking your partner up on an opportunity for sex? Often this can be because we don’t feel like we are in the mood. But for some, the mood never happens if we don’t create the context. For example, maybe you take the opportunity to join your partner in the shower, or you extend a kiss a little longer. For some, it’s hiring help around the house so you can feel more present and energetic in your relationship. It is very rare that people have no sexual drive (unless there is an underlying medical issue), so take the time to ask yourself what excites you and what type of contexts you need to actually get in the mood. Drop the expectation to still have the same spontaneous desire you likely had at the beginning of your relationship and recognize that responsive desire is just as powerful and can be just as fun. Once you know what gets you in the mood, share this with your partner, and commit to creating the circumstances and contexts that activate your sex drive.
Sex is important for lots of reasons, and each person gets to define what it means to them. If you are feeling like your relationship is great but your sex life is suffering, then explore what makes up your responsive desire. Get honest with yourself and with your partner and then go have some fun!