Spontaneous and Responsive Desire

When working as a couple’s therapist and now as a Relationship Empowerment Coach, one thing that would be discussed in sessions would be sex, naturally.

In a lot of cases there was a disconnect on things like: who intimates it and how often it took place. One client may have felt unwanted because their partner would never initiate it or would never really feel like it and the other may have felt a pressure to have it more than they wanted, even though, in most cases both would enjoy sex together.

If we looked at sex in the way it is portrayed in movies and the general available media, we would be mistaken in believing that all sexual contact is one fuelled by desire. Two people, see each other across the room, feel overwhelmed with passionate desire for each other, rip each other’s clothes off and have mind bending, bed breaking sex!

This portrayal can lead us to believe that there is only one type of desire. But if we look at the sex life of most people, it is nothing like this at all. And, this portrayal can also make you feel as though how you do it is wrong.

I remember a line from Friends when they get free porn, which now is readily available and shows how long ago this was and after watching it for a while Joey is surprised when they have a pizza delivered and the delivery woman didn’t stop and have sex with him.

Some people do experience this type of arousal, but most do not and neither is right or wrong.

Desire is not a pre-requisite to arousal either and even when you are aroused, you don’t necessarily feel desire. And don’t forget that some people don’t feel either.

Today I am going to discuss the major types of desire so you know what category you may fall into.

The two main categories that you may read about are Spontaneous and Responsive Desire.

Learning which kind of desire you lean toward and which your partner leans toward, can help in creating a sex life that works for you both.

Spontaneous Desire is kind of what it sounds like it should be. It turns up out of nowhere, it is a spark or an eruption of an interest in sex mentally, without there necessarily being an external stimulus for it.

Simple examples would be: your partner walks past you, fully clothed and you just get the urge to have sex with them or you are just sitting there and feel the urge to have sex. And as mentioned, this wouldn’t necessarily then lead to arousal, and the feeling could pass, or if arousal does occur, then it likely won’t pass until you have acted on it!

Responsive Desire is a reaction to a stimulus. A growing interest in sex based on something happening that trigger you: touch, closeness or sexual contact for example. So, more of a body reaction to a mental one.

As with the example above, your partner is now undressing in front you and you start to feel the desire to have sex with them or they stroke your head and it sends tingles down your spine.

A term coined by Dr Patricia Love (great name to have when discussing desire by the way), says you can think of this as either having a ‘sexy body’ or a ‘sexy mind’. You either have a body that is sex ready or a mind that needs to be in the right head space for sex.

In most cases, but not with everyone, spontaneous desire fades as a relationship progresses, as your hormones begin to stabilise after the initial ‘rush phase’ of being with someone new. Please do listen to my podcast episode or read my previous blog – What is Love? – for more information about this early stage of a relationship and those feelings on being ‘in love’ that we experience.

Once these do subside, you need to be aware that you may now have become more of a responsive desire type person and rather than feeling bad about this change, you can embrace it and use it within your relationship.

Some ways of ensuring that you are still engaging in intimacy and maybe not necessarily needing it to lead to sex, but ensuring that you still keep a physical bond/connection with your partner are:

Put some time aside to be intimate, kissing, cuddling or getting naked together. Send sexy messages to each other leading up to your alone time. Undress each other if you are going to get naked, caress and stroke each other’s bodies. It is about putting your mind in a place where it is open to desire and then triggering the state of arousal.

Experiment and see which works for you!

I read a quote by a Dr Laurie Mintz that said: ‘Have sex to get horny, rather than waiting to get horny to have sex’.

Let’s look at the statistics when it comes to men and women and the types of desire they have.

Studies suggest that 75% of men fall into the spontaneous group and 15% of women.

5% of men and 30% of women into the responsive group.

This is a small explanation to the myth that women have a lower sex drive or interest in sex than men. They respond to it rather than have the urge for it.

These results also seem to come from studies with college students so we can expect the men to rate higher at this age with their testosterone fuelled bodies. Oooh, a toe… I want sex!

There is a discrepancy in these numbers and so other types of desire have been named in order to fill the gaps.

Mixed Desire is the term used to make up the difference. You may at times feel sexual interest from seemingly nowhere and at other times, need to be stimulated. Studies suggest around 55% of women experience mixed desire and 20% of men.

This can also fall into another category used by sex therapists called Contextual Desire. Basically, this is what it says on the tin. You will experience desire based on the circumstances you are in at that moment. Are you stressed, is there family in the next room, you have just eaten a big meal, or are you exhausted or have things on your mind?

When you are in a different state, then feeling desire and getting into an arousal state will be more difficult. A reason most people struggle with arousal and get ‘performance anxiety’ is because they are in stress, fight or flight mode and your brain can’t do both states at once.

And be aware that, like with all things that we try and give a label to, there will be a spectrum and desire is no different.

Using some of the techniques mentioned earlier can help to take your mind off of the things that are bothering you and enable you to engage with your partner in a more relaxed and then desirable way.

Sexual desire will fluctuate over time. It waxes and wanes based on the relationship you are in, how long you have been in it, your life circumstances, your state of health and fitness and hormonal changes in your body.

And I won’t get into it now, but how you see and feel about sex in general will play a part in your levels of desire too.

In a nutshell, we all feel desire in different ways, so the best you can do is to discover your own wants and needs and communicate this with each other, nurture it in one another and have some sexually fulfilling time together.

As a Relationship Empowerment Coach, it is one of my priorities to help you to understand yourself and others, in order to have the healthiest and happiest relationships possible.

Please feel free to comment and if you would like to discuss this issue in more detail then contact me directly on here, call 07709 350019 or email john@johnkennycoaching.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

In the meantime, be good to yourself.



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