Nurturing Sexual Desire In Your Marriage Learn how you and your spouse can explore ways to strengthen desire for one another. BY IRINA FIRSTEIN, LCSW
Getting on the same page sexually can help build the bridge for your sexual desire.
“ Choice, rather then obligation and pressure, fuels desire.”
People believe that sexual desire is something they are born with, and that it’s something anyone can just tap into whenever they want. There is a great myth that you’re supposed to want to have sex, and for those who don’t have it or don’t have it as much as they’re "supposed" to, it’s seen as a character flaw and something that shouldn’t be talked about with their spouse or anyone else for that matter. Men, especially, carry this moniker well in our culture as they are the ones who should always want sex and should be the initiators.
The truth about human desire is quite complex. It has many causes and many dimensions. It involves physical, psychological, situational and relational factors and varies among people and between married couples. However, desire can also be facilitated and strengthened or damaged and destroyed depending on how a couple chooses to deal with it.
Many therapists view inhibited sexual desire as a "couple issue." But what’s important to remember here is that building bridges to desire means thinking, anticipating and experiencing sexual encounters which makes sex inviting and desirable. These bridges are built both individually and collectively by the couple. It’s important to understand and take into account individual preferences too. For example, men may need certain visual stimulation, while women need more closeness, as well as extended touch to build this anticipation.
Healthy marital sexuality means that each spouse is responsible for one another and, along with their desire and sexuality, must also value things like sharing their intimacy facilitation and support.
There are many ways to anticipate and facilitate sex. Choice, rather then obligation and pressure, fuels desire. Many married couples I see are experiencing power struggles within their sexual relationship, in that one spouse avoids sexual encounters while the other is left complaining and angry. When things degenerate into situations like, "Are we going to have sex tonight?" a marriage is in trouble. There needs to be many different ways in which sex gets initiated, and it’s very important to understand patterns that poison desire and fuel sexual avoidance.
The Importance of Building Anticipation
Anticipation is also a very important aspect that fuels desire. In any marriage, it’s necessary to anticipate sex in the same way as you would for other activities, such as dinners, concerts and social gatherings. In our culture, we’re taught that this anticipation should be spontaneous and romantic. However in many marriages, between work and children and all the other responsibilities, sex retreats to the end of the line and you can’t count on spontaneous anticipation. There is nothing wrong with planned, intentional sexual dates. Set aside time for sexual experiences and savor them. This establishes a positive cycle of anticipation, satisfaction and regularity. Another way of building anticipation is feeling that you have freedom to make requests, especially for special turn-ons. Making requests and honoring them help build intimacy, closeness and a better quality of sexual experience. Marital sex that has settled into a mechanical routine is difficult to anticipate. Planning intentional sexual dates, making spontaneous requests and feeling free to play will enhance anticipation that will in turn enhance desire.
We are all responsible for ourselves as sexual beings. It’s not your spouse’s role to make you desirous or turn you on. You need to know your own body and be responsible for the communication you want and need sexually.
Building the Bridge to Intimacy
Intimacy is another major bridge to sexual desire. Marital sex involves integrating intimacy and eroticism. In our culture, men are supposed to value sex and women are supposed to value intimacy and closeness. Sexual desire is strong when each spouse values both emotional and sexual intimacy.
Not valuing intimacy, can be a major trap for men, especially in their 30s because they’re relatively easily aroused and satisfied and will often underestimate the importance of intimacy and communication. This does not serve them well over 30, nor in a long-term marriage when desire and arousal patterns change. If marital sexuality is to remain vital, a man needs to open up and value intimate, interactive sexuality. Valuing emotional and sexual connection is usually easier and more natural to a woman. This is often the goal in marriage counseling.
Remember that anticipation is a key to desire. Don’t get trapped into new and romantic love notions as that always fades and you are left with the same issues. Be intentional, plan, anticipate, nurture, communicate and your marriage will be more fun and sexy for the both of you!
Irina Firstein, LCSW is a couples and marriage therapist in New York City. She works with married and unmarried couples and individuals for over 20 years. Her website is www.psychotherapist-newyork.com/ and follow her on Google+.