Desire disparity

When your partner's sexual desires are not congruent with yours, you need to first start working on yourself

couple in bedDesire disparity can plague many couples, creating dissonance within the relationship. Feeling rejected by your partner is hard on self-esteem, as is being in a position of always wanting to be intimate, sexual, connected, but not being fulfilled in the ways you desire.

On the other side of the equation are partners who feel tremendous pressure to perform, feel inadequate, get scared, or experience harassment.

They may feel like they never get a break from the constant requests of their lover. My intent here is to guide both sides of a relationship experiencing desire disparity to find a healthy balance.

For those left wanting...

First and foremost, when we seek fulfilment in others, we are destined to be forever disappointed. With this in mind, I encourage you to find ways of creating sensual and sexual experiences for yourself that don't involve your partner.

Taking pressure off your partner and putting it on yourself might also invite your partner to join you [eventually, maybe, sometimes] but this should not be your goal.

Your focus should be on pleasuring yourself as much as you want, within your 'sexual success plan'. Let me walk you through some steps towards having the sex life you always dreamed of.

Discover and be clear about what you want: This is where you create your 'sexual success plan'. What kind of erotic and sexual experiences are you interested in exploring? How much, how long, when, and where? How often?

How do you want to be touched and pleasured? What are some feelings and emotions attached to these desires and fantasies? Take some quiet, private time to settle into yourself and search for answers to these questions.

Write them down. Similar to most areas of life, the clearer you are about what you are seeking; the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

Distil what you can achieve on your own, within the boundaries of your relationship: My recommendations do not include trespassing on the mutual agreement[s] you may have with your partner.

I invite you to create methods of pleasuring yourself, on your own, in ways that fulfil some of your fantasies and desires, in an ethical way. Purchasing a few things that intrigue you and spending time pleasuring yourself is a great place to start your practice of self love. Practise. Practise. Practise.

The journey to self love and knowledge of what you like, takes time and practice. Some ideas include using a mirror and exploring your entire body, touching all your erogenous zones, seeking connection to yourself and understanding what pleasures you the most. If you don't know your body, spend some time discovering yourself.

If you are practising self pleasuring on a regular basis, your level of sexual fulfilment should get better over time. Don't just masturbate but truly tune in to your body and feelings, making love to your whole self.

Revisit your success plan and refine the areas that involve other people: Undoubtedly, some aspects of your sexual fulfilment cannot be achieved without a partner. It is time to involve them and have a discussion about your desires and how they can be satisfied.

Make a list, write a letter, be clear about the what, when, and how, and share this with your partner. Encourage him/her to read your letter/list in your presence, if speaking is too challenging.

Agree on a sexual culture: Come up with an agreement about what your partner is willing to do with you or allow you to do without him/her. If s/he wants to have sex once a month, and you want to have it once a week, arrive at a compromise.

If the frequency is OK, but the kind of sex you are having is unfulfilling, encourage your partner to explore what s/he wants [how to be touched, what positions, where, when] and see if you can create this together.

Exchange nights of passion where you get to receive and have the kind of sex you like, the next time it's the others turn to have it the way s/he wants. There are many creative and beautiful ways to build your pleasure and satisfaction with each other&the possibilities are endless!

On a final note, if it is touch you are longing for, I recommend going for a full body massage as often as you need. If you are single, this is especially important to do on a regular basis. Ask a friend to hold you, hug you, or massage you. There are also sacred sexuality practitioners who can work with you, if being with others is an important part of your 'sexual success plan' but your partner is not willing to meet you where you are.

For those who are sexually less interested...

The reasons a person might have for not wanting to have sex are usually complex and often quite personal. There might be emotional and/or physical pain associated with sex. They might feel intimidated, unattractive, inadequate, or generally have a low sex drive. Whatever the reasons, feeling pressured to perform is a buzz kill.

Let's start at the top and explore any experience of pain you may be having. If physical pain or limitation is stopping you from enjoying sex, see a health professional. Men often have erectile dysfunction or early ejaculation issues, especially within the performance anxiety realm.

In my practice, there are many women who share that they experience vaginal pain, especially during intercourse, and being afraid of sex is a stark reality. Don't try to work through these physical issues alone.

If your emotions are preventing your enjoyment of pleasure, finding ways to build your sexual self-esteem is important. Aspects of what I have recommended can help with this —self exploration, self love, and forgiveness. There are many books and resources available to help with this process. But, above all, acceptance of yourself and where you are, is the key to beginning your journey to self love.

Asking for support and understanding from your partner as you explore this process is also essential. Encourage your partner to take the steps suggested to help relieve some of the pressure you might be experiencing from him/her.

Perhaps you feel you have a low sex drive in general, or you aren't that attracted to your partner overall. Again, the reasons for this can be very complex and personal. Reading books, exploring ideas, seeking professional help or doing healing work with seasoned practitioners may help you find answers.

Sexual expression and pleasure is an important part of health and happiness. So, finding ways to feel sexually-empowered and satisfied is crucial. Whatever side of the desire disparity equation you might be on, your happiness is important. Finding your conditions of satisfaction and fulfilling them as best you can, will help you find the balance you are seeking.

This was first published in the May 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Julia Saunders
Julia Saunders, MEd,is a sexual health educator, Vancouver, BC, Canada. She holds a Masters in Education from UBC. Along with teaching parents how to talk to their children about sexuality and sexual health, Julia also trains professionals to do this important work in their fields, and teaches Sacred Sexuality to adults. She believes in empowering people of all ages and stages to be sexually holistic and healthy.

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