Sex Therapy and Desire Discrepancy
The past few weeks I have worked my way through a series of blog posts all about The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman. I chose one a week to discuss, and last week I discussed the importance of Physical Touch in relationships. I gave a good overview of how to incorporate non-sexual touching into your relationships as a way to show love to your significant other.
After the blog was published, I received a number of questions about how to incorporate more sexual touching into relationships as well as some other sex related questions. I’m going to devote a blog to each of the questions that came through, and I am always open to addressing other questions you would like to ask.
Whether it’s a question submitted anonymously, I’m being interviewed on the radio, I’m speaking to a group or I’m meeting with a couple in my office for couples therapy, one of the most common questions that comes up is how to deal with a desire discrepancy in a relationship. I am going to be addressing this topic a bit in today’s post, but I am sure it will come up again in a future blog as well.
So, let’s talk about desire discrepancy and how to deal with it!
During the beginning stages of a relationship, most commonly referred to as the “honeymoon period”, the desire for sexual activity is usually pretty easy to manifest. It is not uncommon for couples during this phase to feel like they are always in the mood to be sexual, and they can’t keep their hands off each other. But what happens when the newness wears off and the day-to-day of life begins? Maintaining a strong erotic connection can become a bit more complicated and it does require time and attention to keep it going strong.
Maybe I should define exactly what I mean by desire discrepancy. Basically this just means that one person in a relationship desires more sexual activity than the other. In some cases it may only be mismatched a small amount. One person may have desire for sexual activity 2 times a week and the other only feels in the mood once a week. This small discrepancy may not cause much struggle and usually doesn’t have a hugely negative impact on the erotic energy and intimate connection.
However, what happens if one person wants to be sexual 2-3 times per week and the other is only interested once a month? This is the type of desire discrepancy that often lands a couple in couples therapy or sex therapy. Not only does the erotic connection suffer when very little intimacy is occuring, one person is often left feel like their needs are not being tended to. Needs not being met is how resentment can start to build and then that resentment can start to affect how satisfied the couple feels in other areas of the relationship.
As a sex therapist, my gold standard is for couples to find ways to be intimate at least once per week. Although, if you are reading this and are thinking that it’s been so long since the last time you were intimate with your partner, it may feel strange, uncomfortable or even like a huge turnoff to imagine jumping right back into things. The goal is not to force things, but rather to start thinking of ways to get things moving in the right direction again.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s good to recognize that things need some work, but don’t try to do too much too fast. The key to a good intimate connection starts with the ability to have good communication about sex.
If you feel that you are struggling with a desire discrepancy in your relationship, don’t start beating yourself up about it. First you want to check in with yourself and see if you think you’re harboring any guilt or resentment. It is perfectly natural if you are feeling these things, but in order to start working on the desire discrepancy, it’s important to make sure those feelings don’t hinder the progress.
Ask your partner if you can schedule some time to talk. It’s time to start having some courageous conversation! During this conversation be direct and tell them you think the eroticism in your relationship is suffering. Try to be as open and honest with your feelings as you can, and give them a chance to share their feelings too. Actively listening is so important to this process, which is why I you want to make sure feelings of guilt and resentment don’t get in the way.
Start where you are and do what you can. If you haven’t been overtly sexual in a while or if you are really struggling to even feel the desire, then that’s where we have to begin. Rather than feeling bad, guilty or using resentment as a reason to be angry, focus on the fact that you are trying to find some middle ground to rebuild the intimacy in your relationship.
It would be best if you could schedule on the calendar an erotic date night, or date day, each week. I know I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic to imagine scheduling this erotic time, but it is a great way to work on rebuilding things through consistent weekly “appointments”.
Brainstorm how you’d like to start working on the erotic part of your relationship. Don’t feel like you have to jump right to sex, but start thinking of things that feel erotic and could possibly lead down a sexual path. If you have followed along with my past blog posts, you know I love to give examples of how to implement things, so I have a few suggestions to get you started.
Maybe you decide to start by giving each other a massage. Think about how you can set the mood by lighting some candles, put on some nice music, use a good smelling massage lotion and take turns giving to each other. You could also decide to take a bubble bath or a shower together and have fun washing each other. Take turns soaping each other up and notice how intimate it can feel to be in this setting together. Why not spend some time just making out on the couch? Kissing is a very intimate act that can absolutely help to rebuild the erotic connection in a relationship, but it’s often one of the things that couples stop doing as frequently after the “honeymoon phase” has passed. These things may not be overtly sexual, but they an act as a bridge to begin working up to reintroducing sex.
I’m not saying you have to start with non-sexual things, if you want to jump right into weekly sex dates, I’m all for it! Just know that if it’s been a while, it may feel a bit awkward at first. This awkwardness will pass, and you will likely start to look forward to the erotic dates.
There is no wrong way to be intimate, and I encourage you to continue communicating about how it’s going along the way. This is your sex life, so please try to remember that sex is supposed to be fun.
If you’re interested in setting up an appointment for couples therapy or marriage counseling, or if you would like more information about ways to overcome a desire discrepancy in your relationship, you can call my office directly at 314-485-9189 or feel free to send me a message. My direct email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more life and relationship tips!