Intimacy and Desire

Passion in Long-Term Relationships

Normal Healthy Couples Have Sexual Desire Problems

Nothing may be going wrong when sexual desire dies!

"Idea To Ponder" from Intimacy & Desire:

"Normal couples have sexual desire problems. Virtually all couples have sexual desire problems sooner or later. Thirty six percent of almost 20,000 people have desire problems virtually all time time, and another 25% have them most times before sex."

David Schnarch If you are having sexual desire problems, and there's a very good chance you are, do you feel inadequate, ashamed or embarrassed, in addition to feeling deprived, frustrated, or royally pissed-off? Even if you don't have sexual desire problems now, you can imagine how people feel. You know how you would feel, and you're normal, aren't you?

It's normal to think you're abnormal
When I was trained as a sex therapist, and for the most part throughout my career, professionals and the general public alike thought that when couples have sexual desire problems, it's a sure sign of something going wrong. Married couples, marital therapists, and sex therapists all have different notions about what that "wrong" might be, but there has been no doubt amongst therapists and couples around the world: If you''re not swinging from the chandeliers on a regular basis, and you don't have medical problems, then something must be off because "sex is a natural function."

Most people look at sexual desire as the biological drive to reproduce the species, or libido (sex drive), or the byproduct of romantic love or attachment and bonding. And once you adopt this normal point of view...you're screwed (so to speak). Not just because you're galloping off with the herd in the wrong direction. You're also now convinced that either you, or your partner, or your relationship is screwed up. Something must be going wrong to block your natural, biologically-encoded, hormonally driven, and libidinally explosive sex drive! You're going against Mother Nature, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and God, don't you know!

20,000 people can't be wrong
Over the last four years I've collected responses from almost 20,000 people on the Crucible4Points.com web site about their sex life. We asked nitty-gritty details of how people had sex, how often they did it, their eagerness to have it, and how long they went without it. We not only inquired about desire problems before having sex, we asked about desire during sex. People also rated their overall sexual relationship. Here's some of what we found:
  • 12% had no sex in the last year.
  • 21% have sex several times a year.
  • 34% have sex once or twice a month
  • 26% have sex once or twice a week
  • 7% have sex 4 or 5 times a week.
Whereas many people think sex once or twice a week is average for most couples, that's really a minority, one out of four couples (26%). Only 7% are really burning up the sheets. The vast majority of people (67%) are having sex once or twice a month or less. For one out of three people (33%) it's a lot less. This lines up with what people told us about sexual desire problems:
  • 35% almost always have sexual desire problems before they have sex.
  • Another 25% usually have desire problems.
  • And another 25% have desire problems some times.
  • Only 9% rarely have desire problems.
  • Another 6% were Energizer Bunnies, never had desire problems, and were ready to keep going...and going...and going.

When 60% of people have ongoing sexual desire problems, and another 25% have them intermittently, by any scientific standard it's prudent to say normal people have sexual desire problems. Arguably, you're abnormal if you don't!

Natural ecology of love relationships

How to make sense of this? By conventional ways to seeing things, the data proves there's a lot more screwed up people than you believed. Perhaps you thought something was wrong with you and a few others, but you never imagined this epidemic! Or maybe this means widespread suspicion that emotional commitment kills sex is true after all! Or maybe this means humans weren't meant to be monogamous.

Notice there isn't a healthy explanation in the bunch. If it isn't you or your partner that's messed up in some way, then it's your particular relationship, or relationships in general, or social expectations gone wrong.

Finally, a book that deals with sexual realities
But what if these results don't indicate something a miss.

  • What if everything is going right?
  • What if committed relationships are a lot harder, and unbelievably more sophisticated, than you ever imagined?
  • What if sexual desire problems are common and normal because they're part of the "people-growing machinery" of committed relationships? 

Well, that would make the fact you have sexual desire problems look quite different. It would change the way you feel about yourself, your partner, and your relationship. You'd stop thinking of yourself as a freak of nature. It would also make you darn curious about this "people-growing machine" idea.


My latest book  Intimacy & Desire is the first explanation why normal healthy book covercouples have sexual desire problems. The "people-growing machinery" is my way of talking about the natural ecology of love relationships. Relationships have their own ecology, just like world ecology, and the rules of both ecologies pre-exist us. They are there of their own accord, evolved over centuries. Intimacy and Desire details how sexual desire problems are built into the processes of self-development that permeate love relationships (which I call "differentiation"). It offers time-proven practical ways for resolving sexual desire problems, which also harness your relationship's natural ecology to help you become a more resilient, loving, passionate, intimate, solid adult (i.e, more differentiated).

I suggest you check it out. Paperback version is now available on our new DesireBook.com web site, where you'll find loads of information about Intimacy & Desire.


© 2011 Crucible Institute. All rights reserved.

Dr. David Schnarch is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of numerous books and articles on intimacy, sexuality, and relationships.

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