The Mysterious Nature of Desire

As a Certified Sex Therapist, people often share with me their struggles with low sexual desire.  Many couples describe how much they appreciate their partner’s positive qualities, such as being supportive, faithful, and a stable parent, but they report having difficulties feeling sexual with their mate.  Although the research is quite varied, I would say about 2 in 5 couples can be affected by low sexual desire.  One of the most common situations is desire discrepancy, which occurs when one partner desires more sexual activity than the other on a regular basis.

Of course, today’s busy lifestyles can certainly cause fatigue and exhaustion which lowers desire.  But, there is another aspect to this problem.  Desire is strange.  It is very nebulous.  It weaves and winds, and it can change instanteously.  Desire can drive you wild and lead you to do things that you never thought you would do.

Have you ever had the experience of going back to visit an ex-partner only to realize that you do not feel the same way about them, and may even wonder what attracted you to this person in the first place?  This experience can help us to understand the nature of desire.  It depends on a variety of factors that can change from moment to moment, and it can be helpful to be aware of them.

Usually, we want something when we cannot have it.  We may want it even more when it is scarce or rare.  The object of desire can change over time, and different life stages usher in different experiences of what is desirable.  Renowned author and speaker, Esther Perel, emphasizes the importance of imagination in desire.  She feels it is important to ask yourself what you might want out of your erotic life.  Do you want to break the rules, be naughty, be someone else for a while, be in control, be dominated, be spontaneous, be playful, or something else entirely?  It is essential to know what it is that “does it” for you.

It seems that it is helpful to be somewhat selfish about what we desire, since being self-focused aids in ensuring satisfaction, as Perel has notes.  If you know yourself, know what you like, what you want and do not want, and you are able to communicate it to your partner, then you are more likely to be sexually satisfied.  Desire requires self-knowledge because you need to know what turns you on, as well as be able to ask for it.  Ongoing communication, as well as consistent emotional and physical connection, can all help to nurture desire in your intimate life.

Absence and longing also seem to create desire, perhaps because it makes the person more elusive and special.  Other factors that seem to relate to desire in my experience include when you can laugh with the other person, when you are surprised by them, and when you have the opportunity to see the person in their own element.  Perel has researched some of these ideas, and she refers to the quality of radiance as being linked to desire.  When you see the object of your desire shining with their best qualities, or sought after by others, you might find yourself increasingly drawn to them.

There are many factors that can affect desire, and it is essential to work as an intimate team with your partner in order to keep desire alive in your relationship.  Incorporating adventure and discovery into your relationship, as well as unique, personal and fun experiences, can help to fuel desire.  Taking a few calculated risks together can help you to see new sides of your partner that remind you that you do not know everything there is to know about them.  This can bring a rush of excitement and vitality to your relationship, and remind you of why you fell in love with this person in the first place.  By making the choice to keep growing together, your sexual life will continue to burn brightly with the ever-changing flame of desire.

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