Desire Styles

Feeling desire spontaneously or in advance is not required to express your sexuality in a way you enjoy or to have “good sex.” The truth about desire is that there is more than one style or pattern. It is normal for partners to have mismatched desire styles. It doesn’t mean something is “broken” in one partner.

An important note about desire - it is not a drive (like hunger.) I realize this is all you have heard in popular cultural terminology, however the science proves that wrong. A more accurate way to think of desire is as an “incentive motivation system.” Desire is being pulled toward an outside stimulus that is attractive to us. Desire actually works more like curiosity.


Spontaneous Desire:

Some people experience desire first then arousal. This is called spontaneous desire. About 15 percent of women have spontaneous desire. How this looks: one partner encounters sexually relevant stimuli and that sparks desire leading to arousal. This person wants sex “out of the blue.”

Responsive Desire:

Some people experience arousal first then desire. This is called responsive desire. About 30 percent of women have responsive desire. How this looks: one partner is thinking, “I’m not in the mood,” or doesn’t particularly feel desire for sex/intimacy but once they get touching or kissing or cuddling and tune into the connection, they can enjoy it. Basically this person wants sex when something erotic is already happening; they need a compelling reason other than just an attractive person in front of them.

Combination Desire:

Some people experience arousal with a combination of both styles. The big decisive factor involved is - context. About half of all women experience desire this way. How this looks: If you are content and not stressed and your partner touches you and becomes affectionate and you respond in that relaxed context with responsive desire. - OR - You have been texting sexy messages back and forth with your partner all day and you see each other after work, kiss hello, and you immediately jump into their arms. In this context, sexual desire feels spontaneous.

Tips and Strategies

* For those with responsive desire, if you put off sex until you “feel desire” you will be having a lot less sex.

* The more sex you have, often the more responsive you will be and the more you will enjoy it.

* Desire styles can change and shift in our lifetime and according to context so understanding responsive desire is crucial for keeping sexually connected if/when spontaneity no longer works (if it ever did!)

* Desire is influenced by many factors, including hormones, exhaustion, stress, medical conditions, past trauma and relationship conflict - to name a few.

*  Stay curious, change things up, introduce novelty or an element of mystery, and alternate intensity to increase sexual desire.

* Tune into yourself and ask questions such as: What makes me feel sensuous? What stimulates and arouses me? What makes me feel sexual?  What draws me toward touching?

* Talk about desire styles with your partner, read this blog out loud together, discuss how this looks for your sexual relationship and to better understand one another.

* If you and your partner have mismatched desire styles, talk together about “negotiating” sexual frequency. This may sound strange, but if you are in a trusting relationship, many couples find this works well. Be honest, compromise and come to an understanding and agreement about frequency that you both can be comfortable with.