According to David Schnarch, every marriage has a partner who has a lower desire for sex than the other—and it can be the man or the woman. Even a marriage consisting of two highly sexual people will have one person who wants it 9 times a week, when his partner wants it 12. And, guess what, it is always the lower desire partner who controls the sexual relationship. Though this control may sound appealing, it often causes distress for the person who wields it. S/he may begin evading her partner’s touch or steamy glance in fear that it will lead to sex.
In The Truth About Love, Dr. Pat Love expresses the unfairness of the agreement many partners find themselves in: “I know you are sexually unhappy. Although I don’t plan on doing anything about it, I still expect you to remain faithful.” If this agreement does not lead to infidelity, it certainly will lead to resentment, and ultimately toward marital disaster.
So, what is the solution? Unfortunately, all the sexual theories out there may lead to greater awareness that does not result in greater intimacy. So, less learning and more action is what Michele Weiner Davis suggests is the answer.
The action for the higher-desire partner is, “greater understanding, compassion, and wisdom and [to] learn skills that will lead to improved communication, compromise, and acceptance.” You must understand that your partner can be fully committed and faithful to you, love you intensely, and find you attractive, while still having less desire than you do.
The action suggested by Davis for the lower-desire partner is to “just do it!” If this sounds discouraging or impossible, some new research may be encouraging to you. One study suggests that the sexual cycle for some is different than for others. Conventionally, the 4-stage sexual cycle starts with desire (perhaps with a glimpse of your husband’s huge biceps), then moves to arousal, then orgasm, and finally resolution. This thinking has led many to think that they are just not very sexual people or dysfunctional, when, in fact, they may simply have a different sexual cycle: arousal then desire, followed by orgasm and resolution. So, many low-desire partners find that if they are open to being sexual with their partner, they will want sex once they get going.
Sex results in feeling close. Closeness results in better communication. Better communication results in higher marital satisfaction. So, if you keep waiting until you feel connected to have sex with your partner, try getting sexual first and see if you feel closer as a result.
Michele Weiner Davis, The Sex Starved Marriage
David Schnarch, The Marriage Crucible
Dr. Pat Love, The Truth About Love