• I Want You: Why Desire Matters in Healthy Relationships

    I Want You: Why Desire Matters in Healthy Relationships

    Sexual desire may naturally wax and wane over the course of a relationship, but there are reasons why it’s critically important to cultivate that desire.


    Beth and Eli are typical of many couples. Since the birth of their first child five years ago, the challenges of working and childcare left little time, energy and privacy for their intimate relationship. The time between connecting sexually was measured in months rather than days, but according to both was “pretty good” when it happened. Each became less likely to bring up the topic and even started to feel anxiety at the thought of being sexual.


    An important aspect of healthy sexual desire is positive anticipation. The expectation of pleasure and connection creates a positive feedback loop of more sex and more excitement and anticipation.


    But when couples go long periods without sex, especially if that follows a negative encounter, positive anticipation can turn to anticipatory anxiety. That fear kills desire and ultimately makes erotic connection less likely. Without desire, we don’t flow into physical connection in an attuned and excited way — or we don’t move into physical connection at all. In couples with long-term desire issues, the conversation about sexuality may eventually stop completely, leading partners to feel stuck or helpless. Feelings such as these pull us out of our connecting nervous system and push us into our protective nervous system, threatening the well-being of the relationship.


    With the help of a therapist, Eli and Beth were able to find their positive anticipation again. In their case, three elements of therapy were particularly helpful:


    • They began talking about sex in a more connected way. They were able to share thoughts and emotions that had been too difficult to speak about before. They processed their feelings without blaming each other and became partners in reclaiming the emotional and erotic validation that anticipatory anxiety had stolen from them.
    • They engaged in touch exercises — which were nonsexual at first — learning to anchor their thoughts in the pleasurable sensation of the other’s body.
    • They examined their sexual wants and needs as individuals and shared those, discussing “what hits my gas pedal” and “what hits my breaks.”


    The process unblocked their sexual system, improved functioning and became self-reinforcing as the positive experiences fueled their desire. Often, sexual desire issues need the intervention of a therapist, typically a certified sex therapist or an experienced couples therapist. If your relationship has lost that spark, there are three books I recommend: Sexual Awareness: Your Guide to Healthy Couple Sexuality, by Barry McCarthy; Rekindling Desire, by Barry McCarthy and Emily McCarthy; and Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski.


    If you’d like to meet with me, please call 407-579-2070 to arrange a complimentary 15-minute consultation to answer any questions you might have about my therapeutic approach and practice.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.