Over and over I get women that come into my office that struggle with desire. Their partner is frustrated, they are frustrated, and both often feel stuck in what to do about it. He might think “why doesn’t she want more sex?” and in search of the answer his mind often lands on things like “Is it because I’m undesirable? Is something wrong with her? Is there something wrong in our relationship?” And on the other side, she may think “I want to want to have sex with my partner” and because she feels the absence of desire she too tries to understand and often blames herself “is there something wrong with me?” - Sound familiar?
To those questions above that swim around in both partner’s minds, the answer is there is nothing wrong with either of them or the relationship. Instead what has happened is the sexual side of the relationship has been set up in a way that doesn’t embrace how most women experience desire. And it isn’t your fault. You may have heard me say it before but I’ll say it again: No one teaches us this stuff! So I want to help you understand more about the dominant desire that most women experience so you can change that frustration to more ease and desire in your sexual relationship.
The Evolution of Relationship Desire
Initially, in a relationship there is more of what is called Spontaneous Desire for both partners. I’ll go into more detail around that in the upcoming blog post but essentially what triggers this desire, which comes from the mind, is a “spark of desire” that overcomes each person to want to have sex with the other. It’s the “heck ya I want to be intimate with my partner” that takes minimal if perhaps no thought or effort and then the rest, like arousal and orgasm, more easily follows. The expected steps go like this:
Desire in my mind emerges in a “heck yes I want sex” thought and feeling
I feel initial arousal
I initiate sex with my partner
we touch and my body gets more aroused
This happens in the beginning because hormones are running the show but as time passes, spontaneous desire in women transitions to their more dominant desire type: Responsive Desire. Unfortunately, there often is an expectation that desire should be spontaneous throughout a long-term relationship like it was at the beginning of a relationship. This is detrimental as it creates a negative feedback loop when the ease of spontaneous desire wanes and there is no understanding that 1) this is completely normal and 2) how to avoid the no intimacy and associated frustration by creating a positive sexual feedback loop found in responsive desire.
What is Responsive Desire?
In the absence of the “heck yes” thought that triggers the spontaneous desire chain outlined above, the move to action rarely if never happens. Many women sit and wait and wonder when and where this “heck yes I want sex now” thought will pop into their mind and take them over to kickstart the process but they are often left waiting, and so is their partner. Most men experience desire in the above way so they think their partner should too. Women think they should as well because that’s what happens for their partner and in most movies, books, and porn.
But most women have a different type of desire that is more dominant: Responsive Desire. This means rather than sitting and waiting for desire to form in your mind, your desire needs you to first take action and get the body involved to create space for the desire in your mind to emerge. The responsive desire order then goes like this:
I want to connect
I show up to our Intentional Intimacy time
we touch in the ways I need and for enough time for my body to get aroused
the desire in my mind emerges and awakens
Yes, with this type of desire you need to be proactive. The sitting, waiting and wishing for desire to occur isn’t going to work and the frustration and feeling stuck is evidence of that. And again, that isn’t because anything is wrong with you or that your partner isn’t sexy and amazing, it’s that your dominant way of experiencing desire is responsive to creating space and getting your body involved first.
Activating Responsive Desire
Because you can’t just expect your desire emerge in a moment, you need to take action to help your desire show up. Responsive desire is more about creating the space for the want to be close and physically intimate to occur rather than expecting the desire for sex to smack you over the head. One way to think of the difference is that spontaneous desire is more like a gas fireplace and you can flip the switch at any time to get the flame going strong. Responsive desire is more like a wood fireplace that takes time to set up and to fuel the flame.
It’s also like going to the gym, you can’t expect the desire to pop into your mind and overcome you with the desire to go work out even though you know it’s good for you. Sure that can happen after a while of getting into the groove, but to start you need to intentionally set time aside, prep your clothes, make sure you have enough sleep beforehand and enough (and not too much) food before. You also find your reason to go that doesn’t rely on the big spontaneous desire of “holy cow I’m so excited to go now!!” but rather a thought like “I want to go because I know it’s good for me and I’ll be happy I did”.
This focus rings true as well for the responsive desire in a woman. You need to take similar steps to activate your desire. Like the gym, you need to plan your intentional intimacy time and do what you need to do to help with your openness to be there and to connect. So beforehand, you wouldn’t want to eat half a pizza because being bloated and full will likely move you WAY in the other direction of being open to connecting. Making sure you feel connected to your partner throughout the day using love languages is also important to creating a willingness to connect. You also need to find your reason why you show up for intimacy that doesn’t come from “I go to the bedroom because I want to have sex”. Rather it may be “I show up because I want to connect and feel close with my partner” or “I show up because I know once my body gets moving and I get those wonderful kisses I am happy I am here”.
Fueling Your Responsive Desire
Once you set the time aside and prepare for that time, then you both can pick what pleasure pie piece(s) you want to enjoy knowing that intimacy doesn’t have to look a certain way because that adds pressure and pressure moves you away from the openness to connect. Once you get moving and grooving then you have created the space for your desire to grow in your mind. And this doesn’t mean one or five minutes. Women’s desire takes time at least 15-30 minutes before arousal and desire really climbs.
And guess what, if you have done everything you can to show up to intimacy with as much openness to connect as you can and you are still not open for your intentional intimacy time, or you start getting the touches that could help but your mind just isn’t on board, you can totally raincheck for a different time or activity. Just like the gym, you may have done everything you can to show up and it’s just not going to happen, or you show up and after 15 minutes your mind just isn’t hopping on board. That’s OK! You are not obligated to continue.
Once you attend to the elements needed to fuel the flame of your responsive desire, what tends to happen over time is there is more space for spontaneous desire to occur. Again like the gym, to start you may need to get into the routine but then once you're going and see the benefits your spontaneous desire starts to emerge more. In next week’s post I will be talking more about what spontaneous desire looks like for women and how to help it grow.
Liked this blog post or have any questions? Let me know in the comments below! 👇🏻
Things to Remember:
The waning of spontaneous desire in a relationship is normal
Don’t wait for the “yessss I want sex NOW!” feeling
Choose your “why” for being intimate that doesn’t depend on “to have sex”
Prepare before intimacy to help with the openness to be intimate
Set aside intimacy time to help your desire
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