Part Six on Sexual Desire: Low Sexual Desire-High Sexual Desire: The Balancing Act

by | Aug 9, 2010

In this series of blogs on sexual desire, I’ve looked at the two extremes: A spouse who says they are not sexual at all and could care less if he or she ever is again (here and here) and a spouse who is so preoccupied with sex as to not have anything else on his […]

In this series of blogs on sexual desire, I’ve looked at the two extremes: A spouse who says they are not sexual at all and could care less if he or she ever is again (here and here) and a spouse who is so preoccupied with sex as to not have anything else on his mind…ever (porn here and swinging here and here). Thankfully, these two extremes are the exception. Today we’ll examine the normal pattern.

The normal pattern of sexual desire is one partner wants sexual contact more and one wants it less.

There you go. Normal.

Normal means that one of you will have some concern that the two of you are not sexual enough and one of you will be concerned that we’re too concerned about sex and we need to think about other things.

I have these clients who chide me and say, no, this isn’t normal.This disparity hurts too much to be normal.They tell me there must be someone out there who would be closer to where they are.I call this a “veiled threat,” meaning that if you don’t kick it up, I’m out of here and I’ll find someone that will WANT to be sexual with me.There must be someone out there.

This is a sure-fire way to make your spouse feel insecure and insecurity does NOT make the heart grow fonder. Insecure people protect themselves from the source of the threat. Sexuality thrives in the security of the certainty and predictability and dependability of marriage. This is why cohabiting couples struggle with sexuality. Cohabiting couples struggle with security issues because they don’t know if they’re coming or going. Married people have already figured that out. So don’t go calling your commitment into question. It’s sacred ground. Protect it: No threats to divorce over any issue. Period. We’re a done deal.

If you are making threats to divorce because you don’t “get” enough sex, if you are thinking this way, you need to chill. You could very well divorce, marry someone that wants sex all the time and after the newness wears off you start to think she doesn’t love you for anything else and what kind of deal is that, I’m just a sex object, and now you are the low desire partner! HA! Watch out. Sexual desire tends to ebb and flow over time. Wouldn’t that just be a kicker if you wanted to ebb and she wanted to flow? A little lesson in irony? Be careful what you wish for.

Or you marry your second wife (or husband) because she keeps ripping your clothes off and the sex is so hot and then two years latter she’s wearing sweats and pretending to be asleep so she doesn’t have to deal you’re your advances and you’re right back to where you were in your first marriage, only this time you are less patient, less understanding, less tolerant, less agreeable and more irritable, more frustrated, and more demanding because your divorce froze your maturity in time.These characteristics are not too becoming to a spouse wanting to be sexual, so the more angry you get about not being sexual the more unattractive you are as a sexual partner and you train your spouse to avoid you like the plague.Of course, you’ll blame her.

Maybe learning to cooperate would be good.Maybe learning a little patience and tenderness and the art of pursuing would be good.Demands and threats don’t make much of an aphrodisiac.

If you are the low desire partner, you need to be careful, too. Some are tempted to think that sexuality is this total burden and it would just be nice to not ever have to worry about it and by that they mean, never do it. We could just be married and not be sexual. That’d be fine. The only problem with this approach is that you won’t find a partner that will be willing to cooperate with that:

Wanted: A marital partner who is one in name only. We’ll put on a great show for all our relies and friends. No one will know that we’re never sexual. You and I will be great roommates and we’ll love each other. We’ll just not desire each other, long for each other, pine for each other. We’ll nod to each other in the hallway. Might as well not tease or flirt with each other either. What’s the point? Nodding. Yeah, I like nodding. Are the two of you ever sexual? No, but we nod.

Now there’s a relationship waiting to implode.

So…we can’t be sexual all the time and we can’t be not sexual all the time.

So…someone’s not going to get his or her way all the time.Hmm.Who’s it gonna be?

If you really try, both of you can be hurt and mad about it all the time! That’s not a plan.

The tension between the one that wants it more and the one that wants is less is normal. In marriage, we work together for the common good and we give and take and we sacrifice and and and we receive and we cut each other slack and we forgive and compromise and we, yes, we, us, our, yours and mine, we ebb and flow. And sometimes we’re sexual like rabbits and sometimes we chill and over time it feels ever so much like we’re in this together and that nobody’s “winning” because it’s NOT a competition.

If both of us are not sacrificing, something’s out of kilter here.

Some couples work this out in such a way that there is hurt whether they are sexual or not.Even if they are sexual there is something wrong about it; and if they aren’t sexual they need to be.This would, by definition, make you a sour puss, which, if you haven’t figured out, is NOT much of a turn on.Who wants to make love to the grade school principle with his grimace and furrowed brow and pursed lips and folded arms standing in judgment at the end of the hall?Yeah, that’ll get the blood flowing.

And who’d want to make love to someone standing there pounding his fists in frustration, making demands and guilt-tripping you into this or that? Isn’t sexuality supposed to be, like, you know…mutual?

But on the other hand, who can survive indifference? Who can survive being a burden? What’s it like to see your spouse, who, whenever you touch her, sighs a sigh of disgust? Who pushes you away or turns her head when you try to kiss her, or rolls her back to you, night after night after night after night afternightafternightafter. How many times can you be rejected and rejected and rejected and rejected until you just shut down, just give up, just withdraw into indifference yourself?

If you are indifferent to your spouse about sex and he pursues and pursues and pursues and you are indifferent, indifferent, indifferent, and all of a sudden he becomes indifferent, be very afraid. Be very, very afraid. If you are the husband who’s rejected your wife’s advances time and time again and she finally quits initiating? You need to be frickin’, monumentally afraid.

Hey, a little sacrificing here.Both.You and me.I give a little.You give a little.It’s no biggie.Nobody’s keeping score.


Here’s a better plan. Both of us figure out how neither of us has to be hurt around sexuality. We find an equilibrium. The one who wants it all the time realizes that we can’t be sexual all the time and doesn’t have to be hurt about it if we are not sexual all the time. The one who wants it less realizes that we can’t go through married life and not be sexual and isn’t upset if we are and finds a way to be involved in the process when we are.

We’d get rid of both demanding and indifference.

We replace it with love and tenderness and compassion and we throw in a little flirting, some soft kissing now and again, maybe even spontaneously here and there and we surreptitiously pat the other’s butt once in a while and we don’t dress like the motel housekeeper or the Sam’s Club shopper and we look each other in the eye when we’re making love and we hold hands in the car and we laugh a little and have a private language and private jokes and we teach each other what feels good and we let the other know that there is longing and when love awakens we awake.

That’d be a better way.

Dr. Bing Wall

Dr. Bing Wall

Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.

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