One of the things that is important to talk about when we
talk about desire is WHAT we are desiring. One size does not fit all for sexual
pleasure and within ourselves we have diverse and sometimes even conflicting
desires that call to be fulfilled. One day we may desire to be touched gently
and another day to be pushed to our knees and made to beg. Subtle gradation’s
of desire that can seem to shift without our understanding, we feel longing or
find our minds wandering to erotic landscapes or surprise ourselves with the impulses
that arise as we are engaging with a partner. Desire, past the intensities of
puberty anyway, is rarely just for genitals to meet in a prototypical sex act.
We desire a sensation, a mood, an interactive dynamic, a way of being seen or
received, a way of seeing our self.
But this critical piece of the sexual equation often gets
left out of the discussion, at least among clinicians who are tasked with helping
people have healthy, satisfactory sexual desire. And this is especially true
when we talk about low desire – an ill defined category for a time when one’s
sex drive is lower than someone thinks is appropriate or lower than one would like.
It is true that many people over the course of their life will recognize within
themselves a flagging or even disappearance of their active sexual energy. They
may say, “I just don’t desire sex anymore”. But this is often an overstatement or
a conclusion based on minimal information.
When I work with clients who are struggling with this state,
I invite them to unpack what it is truly that they are not desiring. What is
getting in the way of sex being an enjoyable, pleasure that they could look
forward to right now? People are often surprised by the question but quickly
find they can identify crucial things that they are specifically not desiring.
One person has low desire for sex that feels pressured and
uncreative. Another for sex with someone with whom they are angry and resentful
and just had another fight this morning. Another person finds they have low
desire for sex when they feel like a failure if they don’t get an erection and
sex that is surrounded by misunderstandings and hurt. Another has low desire for
sex that hurts and another for sex when they are exhausted and another for sex
when the kids might walk in and another for sex when they feel trapped in an
emotionally draining relationship…You see where this is going.
It is rarely some generic “Sex” that we are talking about
really. It is something specific for this person. Or multiple things. But once
we know what they do not desire, then we can help them find a way to get
excited about what they do desire.
Are you a clinician
wanting to learn more about helping clients who present with low desire? Now
you can take Melissa Fritchle’s webinar, Working with Sexual Desire Issues with
Couples, online anytime, anywhere, for only $35. 1.5 CE hours through AAMFT. Find it