Sexual Desire Differences

Sexual desire differences get complicated. Sometimes you hear accusations and counter-accusations like this:

You are OVER-sexed!” ”You are UNDER-sexed!”

These criticisms are way of telling your partner you are either the high desire partner, or the low desire partner.

You have to be one or the other, right? Sometimes this role shifts at different periods of the marriage, or after one or the other faces hardship. But in any given month, you will often have one partner who would really like sex a little more (or sometimes a lot more) and another who is fine with how often they have sex, or perhaps could do with a little less lovin’.

What is this all about?

Sexual Desire Differences

Sex drive is a wild and wooly thing, and the truth is, sex therapists have really not been too sure what makes up desire, beyond the wish for physical sex.

There is a joke that I tell clients, and most of them don’t find it very funny:

Two guys are walking out of a restaurant, and one turns to the other, and in a complaining voice says: “The food in that restaurant is TERRIBLE!

His friend answers: “Yah, and in such small portions!

That joke encapsulates the central dynamic in most couples who present for sex therapy with desire problems:

  • The sex isn’t very good, and
  • The sex of questionable quality doesn't happen very often.

And most complain about the amount more than the quality.

Now when you think about it for a moment, you realize that it makes sense to want less of something that is very unsatisfying. But the reverse is often true.

How to Measure Desire and Sexual Desire Differences

Then why not make it “better”? If sex were on a meter with numbers from 1-10, we could do that. But good sex is hardly measured in that way. Sex is complicated, and it is the one thing that I don’t see eye-to-eye about with Dr Gottman.

Dr. K and Dr. J

John Gottman is a smart guy. I take that back: he’s a brilliant guy, but his thinking about sex doesn't go far enough.

  • He argues that sex is simple: it is all about genitals and tongues and fingers and wetness. In that way, he talks like the sexual style “Trancer.” (You can learn more about these sexual styles here.)
  • But then he says without respect, trust, commitment, and friendship, there would be no goodwill in sex. Here he talks like a "Partner Engager."
  • But then, because it is ‘de rigueur’ in any sexual training, he tossing in a few “Salsa Card” decks in his training packet for clinicians, with things to do to “spice things up.” Here he adds variety, introducing elements of "Role Enactor."

So if he’s included all three styles, what’s the matter?

He hasn't provided any structure.

Take some hair, eyebrows, lips, and a skull. Toss in a tongue, teeth, a couple of eyes. Is that a head?

Depends on whether there is some organization.

Sexual Arousal controls Sexual Desire Differences

We can’t really capture the essence of sex unless we talk about the way in which people get turned on. Sex is more than a jumble of actions. These actions have orderliness to them and form a mosaic that, to one person, is “erotic,” while to another, the same set of actions are a turn-off.

Icy silence takes the place of difficult but candid conversations about sexual differences.

And for some, that just right comes in the form of an affair.

Affairs are the accident of two people with the same style meeting and having sex.

It has been fascinating to practice sex therapy for so long and to learn that sometimes the “low desire” partner is really a “high desire” partner that has been offered an unappealing meal. Sexual Desire differences as you can see, are complex.

Once they are able to articulate what they like sexually, their desire returns. However, to the surprise of all (but myself…) the other partner, now ‘eating’ a different fare, loses their appetite!

The bedroom turns into a war zone.

Sexuality: A Sacred World to Enter Respectfully

It’s been a great honor to work with people on one of the most intimate subjects of their world: sexuality. But the acts themselves, the frequency of the acts themselves, hardly tell the entire tale.

Working with Sexual Styles has been a great boost to helping those who might have given up what was otherwise a solid and satisfying marriage, in search for more intense passion. With an understanding of Sexual Styles, they can now bring greater depth, eroticism, and passion to their most important relationships.

Schedule an appointment so that you can learn about sexual styles.

Would you like help to negotiate your sexual desire differences?

Couples Therapy Inc. has two board-certified sex therapists and other qualified couples therapists with significant training in helping sexual problems.​

We would be delighted to help you bring back your passion, and joy in your sexual relationship.

Call 844 - 9 - COUPLE extension 2 and ask to set up an appointment.

Sexual Styles involve not only what you do in sex, but how you do it. It is the you you bring to it.

When a couple’s styles conflict, sex just doesn’t seem “right.” Like Goldilocks, the partners can tell that something is either too much this or not enough that, but can’t tell you what’s just right until they experience it.

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About the Author Dr. K

Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

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