The Layers of Sexual Desire

Getting “in the mood” for sex is a complex process. Atlanta Sex Therapist Amy Howard unpacks the issue and defines the Layers of Sexual Desire.
Amy Howard

Amy Howard

What are the factors that effect the quality and frequency of your sex life?

Last week, I discussed sexual desire and motherhood. Now, I’ll broaden the subject and address the natural ebb and flow of sexual desire in your relationship.

Sometimes, sex with your partner is amazing, with fireworks and electricity and the inevitable “why don’t we do this all the time?”

And, sometimes, it’s a struggle just to get in the mood.

Sexual Desire is a fickle thing.

Understanding the layers of desire and being kind to yourself and open to your partner’s state will go a long way toward improving your sex life.

The layers of desire are the factors that influence the decision to have sex with one’s partner. Those layers can also predict the quality of that experience.

The Cognitive Layer of Sexual Desire

What are my beliefs about my body? About sex? About me as a sexual person? About the sex I have with my partner?

What’s the story you tell yourself about sex? Check the “shoulds” (“We should be having sex once a week.  We should have penis-and-vagina intercourse every time or it doesn’t count. I should be turned on at the sight of my partner naked.”).

What messages did I receive about sex and sexuality as a kid and teen? Do those messages serve me or do they not serve me?

The Emotional Layer of Sexual Desire

What is my current emotional state?

Do I feel angry? Lonely? Bored? Sad? Am I grieving? 

Sometimes sex can give you the reset needed to improve your emotional state. However, to find out, you have to take that leap. It’s okay to give it a try and then put on the brakes if you’re not feeling it. Communication with your partner can help prevent disappointment or surprise.

Women and Men Grow Sexually Bored At Different Paces

Research indicates that women tend to grow sexually bored with their partners between the first and fourth year of the relationship. Men, however, tend to stay sexually interested in their partners through the first decade of the relationship.

This doesn’t suggest a problem with monogamy. Rather, it implies that couples need to work hard, combating sexual boredom throughout their relationship.

The Physical Layer of Sexual Desire

How does my body feel? Is there an underlying illness or injury that is affecting my ability to enjoy sex?

Am I exhausted? Fatigued? “Honey, I’m too tired” can be a legit excuse.

Do I feel chronic or acute pain? Are medications causing side effects that make sex painful or uncomfortable?

Have I been breastfeeding? It’s a little-known fact that breastfeeding suppresses desire (nature wants women to space out their babies).

The Relational Layer of Sexual Desire

Are we getting along? Do I feel comfortable being sexual with my partner right now? Am I respected?

What lingering feelings about my partner need to be discussed?

The decision to have sex with your partner is also a decision to connect and be open, honest and vulnerable. If you’re close enough to have sex, hopefully you also feel comfortable talking about why you’re not feeling sexual desire.

The Contextual Layer of Sexual Desire

What does our bedroom look like? Are there dirty clothes all over the bed?

Do we have photos of our children near us that keep us from getting into that sexual headspace?

How about pets? Does the dog watch or sleep in the bed with us? Is there a pet scratching at the bedroom door?

If you and your partner need help talking about the layers of sexual desire in your relationship, call me. I can help.

Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash

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Amy Howard makes it easy to start the process of fixing your relationship. Schedule a free 10-minute phone consultation today and begin your journey toward a healthier, more loving and satisfying life.

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