Make desire work for you

Spontaneous vs. responsive

Written by Jennifer Hanson

According to an in-app poll, one in three Coral users in long-term relationships say the sex in their relationship isn’t as good as it was when they were first dating. If this resonates with you, you’re far from alone (and if you’re one of the lucky other two thirds, congratulations!) and there are some concrete things you can do to improve your sexual relationship, starting with understanding how desire works.

Sexual desire is a fluid concept no matter your age or gender. It will fluctuate and change depending on where you’re at in life or in a relationship, all of which is totally normal! Cultural influences, stress, medications and health issues (among other things) can affect your overall interest in sex.

Generally, desire happens either spontaneously or responsively. No person is a certain type and your desire will change throughout your life depending on a wealth of factors. However, knowing which one you tend towards at the moment can be massively helpful in communicating your needs. Everyone deserves a great sex life, and working out the desire differences between you and your partner will only help make you closer!

Spontaneous desire

Spontaneous desire essentially means that your desire erupts seemingly out of nowhere. You see people getting hot and heavy in a movie and you’re turned on. You think about your partner in a certain outfit and your pulse goes crazy. Those who experience spontaneous desire tend to be the initiators of sex because they’re actively considering it more often. An estimated 75% of men tend to experience spontaneous desire. This is great until your partner may not share your frequency needs, or if sex isn’t as big of a priority to them.

While this can be frustrating, there are constructive measures you can take. You can avoid this awkward moment by having a chat before it happens and discussing both of your needs. Mutual understanding is the key to figuring out what works for both of you. In order to understand the other side, you need to figure out what makes your approaches different.

Responsive desire

Responsive desire is the opposite side of the coin. If you tend towards responsive desire, you’re probably not as easily turned on by thoughts or visual stimulation. Sex may not be something you initiate very often, and you might have trouble getting in the mood on your own. An estimated 40% of women experience desire responsively. However, with some physical stimulation from your partner and the right feelings, magical things happen. This is responsive desire: responding to physical stimulation and embracing that feeling in the moment so both of you can experience pleasure.

Many things can change how you experience desire throughout your life. This is why it’s so vital to understand the needs from both sides and how to deal with them before they become problematic.

Compromise is key

Feelings are individual, and desire is no exception. Evidence has shown sexual desire tends to change in tandem with a partner. As relationships progress, they inevitably become routine and lack novelty. In some cases, this can lead to responsive desire being more common for both partners. The results are different for everyone, but communicating with your partner about these differences is crucial to having the sex life you want, since effective communication tends to make everything better.

For any responsive parties, the conversation needs to be about the scenarios that make you feel most comfortable. Sex isn’t going to be great if there’s tension. Tell your partner what constitutes great sex for you, from how to touch you to nuances during sex that may go unnoticed. Additionally, how much sex is ideal in your world? Evidence has shown that approach goals (such as wanting to please your partner or pursuing intimacy) provide more sexual satisfaction than avoiding sex. Maybe you’re willing to try sometimes, but all the time just isn’t realistic. Compromising is necessary in this scenario so that everyone feels respected.

If you’re willing to have sex out of importance to your partner, this is a great start. It’s okay to take it slow and let them know that you’ll see how you’re feeling in the moment. Spend ten minutes on foreplay and see what happens. Be honest if you’re not feeling it, but don’t automatically dismiss it before you do anything. This can lead to more satisfaction all around since you’re both benefiting from the sex you want!

The conversation around spontaneous parties is a little different. Since spontaneous desire usually means getting turned on more often than your responsive counterparts, you are probably more comfortable with initiating sex. While there’s nothing wrong with this in itself, there needs to be a discussion on frequency. How are you going to fulfill these desires when one of you just isn’t in the mood?

Starting slowly by initiating some low-stress non-erotic touching (like a massage or back rub) is a healthy start, but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. Consider self-pleasure (either alone or with a partner) in lieu of partnered sex and don’t be afraid to be honest about your needs and why you want to have sex. For many men especially, sex is one of the primary ways of feeling close and emotionally connected with a partner. If sexual frequency is an issue in your relationship, have an honest conversation about it. Need a benchmark? Research has shown that sex once per week heightens happiness levels, but more than this does not bring further gratification. Aim for once per week between the two of you. If a fantasy strikes in the meantime, don’t be afraid to self-pleasure, or store it in your brain for later.

Embrace change

There will probably come a time in your relationship when spontaneous switches to responsive. This isn’t to say your sex life has gotten boring, you’ve just adjusted to a routine with your partner and may not feel the need to express it as often.

Both partners have to be committed to engaging with each other if responsive is the common trend. This is the perfect time to have a conversation about turn-ons and getting in the mood. Be candid and honest about what you want and how to turn you on. There are plenty of new things you can try to enhance your sex life if things have gotten dull.

The easy way? Make a game out of it so there’s less stress. Each of you agree to take a week and come up with a scenario akin to your partners preferences. Even if your relationship is far from new, that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce some new ideas into your love life!

If you’re both into trying new and exciting things, discuss what you might have in mind. You never know if your partner might be thinking the same thing! Novelty in general has been shown to boost desire and arousal, so there are plenty of options that provide a new twist on normal sex. These could include a new toy, a hot set of lingerie or a simple blindfold.

Even if you don’t decide to spice things up, communication will inevitably lead to more understanding and hopefully create a way forward.

It’s well known that more rewarding relationships come from great sex. The better you are able to meet in the middle with your respective desires, the more satisfying your love life will be.

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