My spouse and I have been together for 10 years. It started long distance and then in year five we moved in together. Over the last five years we have had a recurring argument about the type and frequency of sex. I feel my partner doesn’t want to have sex with me. Does my partner not find me attractive?
Mismatched desires can negatively impact sexual and relational satisfaction. It evokes feelings of low self-worth, guilt, and hopelessness. This can also lead to anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicidal ideation. Partners with higher sex drives may develop low self-esteem and resentment if they face constant rejection. Conversely, those with lower sex drives might feel guilty and pressured.
First let's talk sexual desire types, a current theory that I use in my practice is the dual control model. This theory states that there are two types of sexual desire; Spontaneous and Responsive. Spontaneous Sexual Desire: Occurs randomly, with or without stimulation. Approximately 70% of men and 10-20% of women experience this. Responsive Sexual Desire: Arises in response to mental or physical stimulation, not anticipation. It's more deliberate and occurs after an external stimulus.
There are many factors that can affect a person’s sexual desire and these factors can change over the years. Some common factors include; medical conditions, hormones, depression, certain medications, level of attraction, body image, self-esteem, stress, a couple's responsiveness to each other, communication, relationship satisfaction, and gender/role expectations. As you can see there are many things that impact a person’s sexual desire and we haven’t even talked about how context impacts sexual desire.
Context encompasses a broad range of factors from emotional state, to immediate environment and everything in between or beyond. Context plays a major role in influencing sexual desire. Let’s say your partner has had a hectic day at work, they are tired and stressed. You haven’t seen them yet today but notice they are in the kitchen getting a snack. You come up behind them and playfully grab them to indicate you are interested in sex. They respond by pushing you away, saying not now. You feel rejected and hurt. Context is important here because their mental state in that moment is focused on food and decompressing while you’re focused on initiating sex. A different way to approach this is to connect through conversation and check in with how they are doing. Once they are done eating or you two have talked a little bit, try initiating through non-sexual physical touch.
Setting the mood or priming your partner is particularly important to igniting sexual desire. Try flirting throughout the day through text, touching each other when in the same room, kissing, and giving compliments. These small things can make a huge impact on someone’s desire.
Some other strategies for managing mismatched desires in relationship include things like bringing more erotic talk into your conversations, scheduling sex, discussing what sex is and isn’t with your partner, discussing expectations of sex in the relationship, and having open, non-judgmental discussions about feelings or insecurities around sex.
Queerly Beloved is an expertly curated column dedicated to the world of LGBTQ sex, intimacy and relationships that provides education, insights and actionable tips for the reader to enhance their pleasure journey. This column from Kelly Ghweinem, LCSW, will answer questions and provide advice to readers to deepen intimate connections, elevate pleasurable experiences, and empower people. Ghweinem is an established queer-affirming therapist and business owner who champions the LGBTQ+ community through activism and advocacy utilizing a queer, feminist, anti-racist lens. A University at Buffalo graduate, Kelly came to Fort Lauderdale from Manhattan in 2022.
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