Are you the higher desire partner in your relationship? In this episode, we discuss strategies to help you build the intimate relationship with your spouse that you’ve always wanted.
Today we are going to talk about being the higher-desire partner in your marriage. In Episode 34 we discussed sex and intimacy coming more from the lower-desire partner perspective. I believe that it is so important for each one of us to cultivate that connection and desire for ourselves within our marriage and I go a lot more in depth on that in Episode 34.
Higher Desire Partners
So today I wanted to address the opposite – what if you are the higher desire partner in your marriage? Today we are going be focusing again on the higher desire partner for sex and intimacy, but there is usually a higher desire partner in a lot of aspects of marriage, not just sex. If a partner desires something more than another partner then they are the higher desire partner.
Right now my husband and I are in discussions about moving. He wants to move more than I do. So in this case he is the higher-desire partner. Another area you see this a lot is deciding to have more children. There is usually one spouse who wants to have a child more than the other. But just because one partner wants something more than the other one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are polar opposites, although that too can be the case. But there is always one partner that wants something MORE than the other.
So, for the sake of consistency, and considering my audience is primarily women, I am going to be addressing this from the perspective that the woman is the higher desire partner. I know a lot of you would balk at that. I think culturally it is assumed that the husband is usually the higher desire partner, but that is not always the case. I know many women, including myself, who are the higher desire partner. Again, that doesn’t make your spouse “low desire” just “lower” than you. But, even if you aren’t the higher desire partner in your marriage, I think this can be a really good way for you to understand what things might be like for your spouse and how they may be feeling as the higher desire partner. I also think if you are NOT the higher desire partner, you shouldn’t just sit back and expect your spouse to change. You are equally responsible for how you are showing up in this aspect of your marriage.
Thoughts and Feelings of the Higher Desire Partner
Being the higher desire partner is a powerless position. You can’t make your spouse WANT to be with you. You can’t make them have more desire. You can’t make them deal with their own sexuality, so it really is a hard position to be in. But hopefully you’ll have a better idea of what you can do to create a better dynamic in your marriage after this podcast.
Ok – so what happens in your brain when you have the desire for sex or connection and intimacy and your spouse doesn’t? Maybe you’ve tried to initiate things and they shut you down. You might have thoughts like:
“This isn’t fair”
“Why can’t he just do it because I want to”
“If he was a good husband, he would try to meet my needs”
“This isn’t like what I see in movies”
So we know that all of our feelings are created by our thoughts. So when you have thoughts like that, what kind of feelings does that create in you? Probably something like:
Or maybe you make it mean something about you when he doesn’t want sex?
“If I were more attractive he’d want to have sex with me more”
“He doesn’t love me”
“He doesn’t desire me”
“I’m too fat”
“Maybe if my boobs were bigger he would find me more attractive and want to have sex more.”
And those kinds of thoughts create feelings of
Now think about when you are feeling these emotions? Frustration, anger, resentment, jealousy, rejection, inadequacy, neediness. How do you act?
Frustration, anger and resentment isn’t going to create a relationship where he wants to build a connection and intimacy with you.
Moping around from rejection or being needy isn’t sexy either…
So what do you do?
Two meaning frames
According to Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, who is an LDS Sex Therapist there are usually two things that happen and neither option is very good.
The first way is that you trying to pressure your husband into sex. You pressure, you cajole, maybe you even punish him or try to guilt him into it. When you do this, he may continue to shut you down or he may finally give in and give you “mercy sex.” But, I would guess receiving “mercy sex” doesn’t really bring thoughts that create love and connection between the two of you. If you think about it, it can actually bring a lot of thoughts that can make you feel even worse about yourself. “He’s not really doing it because he wants to” “He doesn’t actually love me, he’s just tired of me nagging and gives in.” Not great.
The other direction is if you feel entitled to sex, just because you are married. “He SHOULD have sex with me. He SHOULD want it more.” Do you hear those “shoulds” in there? That’s not going to create love and connection either.
The second way that Dr. Finlayson-Fife says that we often deal with our partner not wanting sex as much as we do is to avoid sex altogether. We don’t want to bring it up, we don’t want to confront it because it makes us uncomfortable or it makes our spouse uncomfortable and we can’t deal with the discomfort from either person. So we just try to avoid it all together.
Discomfort is a feeling, which comes from our thoughts. So what thought is that feeling of discomfort coming from? Think on that? Why does it make you feel uncomfortable to bring it up? Or why does it make you uncomfortable if your spouse feels uncomfortable?
In our marriages and in our sex life we want to feel desired, wanted, loved and chosen. So often it’s not actually about sex, but about the intimacy. We want to be known. We want to be seen. But that can feel scary because it means that we have to be vulnerable. We have to open up ourselves to the possibility of being rejected and being hurt. But since you are probably already feeling that anyway… maybe opening up is the key!
So how do we create that intimacy? How do we create feelings of love, and connection EVEN when our spouse doesn’t seem to want sex? The answer is, of course, is it comes from our thoughts.
We create feelings of love, connection, desire, and intimacy with our thoughts about our spouse. It doesn’t even matter if our spouse reciprocates. We are still capable of feeling those feelings, even if nothing changes on their end.
But, there are things we can do to hopefully help build that connection between the two of you.
1. Don’t take it personally
Differences in sexual desire within couples is very common. It really may not be about you at all. It may be a matter of hormone deficiency or other physiological problems, and it could be totally about them. Your partner may have thoughts and feelings about themselves that create a lack of desire in them. Don’t underestimate how hard this is for your spouse. Try to be understanding.
2. Pay attention to what helps your partner feel more desire.
If your husband is constantly rejecting your advances, the last thing you might feel like doing is being kind and thoughtful. But, if you want to improve things, doing things that help him feel more desire is a great way to go about it.
3. Do something different
Obviously what you are doing right now isn’t working. So try something different.
You may need to back off for a while and give them space. Don’t try to initiate anything. Sometimes the lower-desire partner simply needs more time for their batteries to recharge. If the constant tug-of-war is gone, they might feel more amorous.
This is also a great time to do some self-confrontation. Instead of asking the question “What’s my spouse’s problem?” it becomes ”What can I do to be more desirable to my spouse.”
We need to take a hard look at who WE are and how we are showing up in our marriage. Are we showing up in love and goodness? Are we being kind? Are we being generous? Are we confident in ourselves and not constantly seeking validation? Take a good look and see what areas you need to improve. What is your desirability? How are you coming off to your spouse? And, when it comes to sex, what kind of lover are you? And I don’t mean you have to know lots of positions and moves. But are you wanting to be pleasured but don’t reciprocate? Are you selfish? Are you doing things to help your spouse feel desired inside and outside the bedroom? Are you showing up as your best self to your spouse? Or are you needy? Do you have anxiety around sex? These are all good questions that you can ask yourself. Be honest. Self-confrontation isn’t easy. You may even want to ask your spouse about some of these things to see how they see you and how they feel. While you can’t control how they feel about it, it may give you some insight on areas where you can improve. But you need to create that safe space for them to feel comfortable opening up and sharing. You can’t get defensive or mean. You need to ask with the intent to not just listen, but truly hear what they are saying without judgement. Give them the space to be honest and to be themselves so that you can create the connection between two people who are being their true selves and living from their own integrity. It might be hard to hear some of the things they have to say. But understanding where they are coming from and where they see things need to improve will go a long way to creating that connection you want.
4. Focus on what works
Have there been time in your relationship where the sex was better? (Besides the honeymoon period?) See if you can pin point what was different during those times and try to recreate it. If they are reproducible, then do it!
5. Accept what is offered
Sometimes we are so focused on the sex that we miss what is actually being offered. In good relationships, people do things all the time for their partners that may not be exactly what they feel like doing in the moment. But seeing what your partner IS doing and accepting those offers as act of love, can go a long way to building intimacy and connection.
Communication is so important with our spouse. But we need to understand who we are, and what we truly want in our marriage first. Once we understand what we truly want, we need to communicate our wants from a place of integrity. If we are saying to our spouse that we “NEED” sex like it’s a biological need that they are supposed to satisfy, that is not going to help build the intimacy in your marriage. But if you communicate with your spouse from a place of honesty and integrity, then that creates a place where you can both come together to communicate your needs and desires and negotiate how it is going to work best for the two of you.
Maybe that means negotiating frequency or a schedule, something where you know as the higher desire partner you will be fulfilling that need without the lower desire partner feeling pressure all the time.
Maybe that means the lower-desire partner needs certain conditions to be met to engage in or enjoy sex (like morning vs night, kids not home, shower first, etc.) You may see these as excuses, but it’s what your partner needs to feel relaxed and comfortable so getting in the mood is easier. But this is only done through communication and understanding yourself first!
If you’ve gotten to the point where you are starting to look outside of the marriage to meet your needs, you need to be brutally honest with you spouse. You need to communicate how important this topic is to you and what you are willing to do to work on it. Make certain that your spouse understands what will happen in your marriage if nothing changes. I wouldn’t threaten, especially in the heat of an argument, but just calmly communicate how important this issue to you and how much you want to work on it together.
Michele Weiner-Davis, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker said
“Each partner in a relationship needs to take personal responsibility for making things better. When both of you make more of an effort to understand each other’s needs and feelings, you will undoubtedly feel closer and more connected emotionally and physically. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what healthy relationships are all about?” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/divorce-busting/201001/9-vital-tips-the-partner-higher-sex-drive)
So, I have a list of new thoughts you can try to help create better feelings for you until you can work things out. Remember – these thoughts are like clothes, try them on and see if they work for you. And if they don’t, you can try on different ones.
“Even though he doesn’t want sex, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want ME”
“What a bummer for him, because sex with me is great”
“We can work this out so that we are both happy and satisfied”
“I want to create an better sexual relationship with my husband and I can figure out how”
“I love my husband now and I will continue to make our relationship even better”