Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
Source: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

In my last post, “Negotiate Sexual Differences, Pt. I: What We Do,” I wrote about how to negotiate what will and won’t be part of your shared sexual repertoire with your romantic partner. Now let's discuss how often (and when) you do what you do.

It’s not uncommon for the two members of a couple to have at least somewhat different desires for the frequency of sex—and it’s not always the man with the higher drive. There’s probably a fair amount of biology at work that determines our desired frequency, but there is also a lot of social learning influencing how comfortable we are acting on those sexual desires when they bubble up. It can also be very situational, based on how happy or stressed we are, the comfort and/or novelty of our partner, what else is going on in our life, etc. In addition, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. has written extensively on responsive desire, wherein some people can get turned on and really enjoy sex once they get going, but don’t find themselves spontaneously desiring sex as often as others do. (More on this later.)

So a lot can influence how often we want to have sex. But even if a couple should have exactly the same drive, they still won’t always want sex at exactly the same time, so there is still a need to negotiate those differences when one wants it and the other one doesn’t.

Whether you’re the partner who wants more sex overall (or just wants it right now) or the one who generally wants it less, it all comes down to generosity—from both partners. For example, the person who is less interested may generously offer to do something to give their partner a good time, even though they’re not in the mood themselves. However, what is offered may be different from what their partner was hoping for, so that is where their generosity comes in—to graciously be happy about what is being offered, rather than get stuck on what isn’t. To enjoy what they are getting, rather than wishing for more.

At other times, when one partner is not interested in any sexual activity at a given moment, the act of generosity may involve allowing their partner to freely meet their own needs on their own if they choose. The generosity for their partner involves being good about their disappointment, making a shared sexual experience more likely next time, since nothing kills sexual desire better than guilt and resentment. Plus, if you both feel comfortable asking for sex, as well as declining it, because you are confident that you will always get a decent response either way, there will probably be more requests—and therefore more opportunities to do things together.

Nagoski has written extensively about how sexual desire can be both spontaneous and responsive. Sometimes desire arises seemingly on its own or quickly, without much effort, from passing sexy thoughts. Sometimes though, desire takes longer to build and you may find that you don’t start wanting sex until you have already started flirting, kissing, and touching.

In other words, sometimes desire follows activity. This should absolutely not be used as a manipulative justification to push someone to do something they don’t want to do, but if you know that you tend to get in the mood if you allow yourself to start down that road, then you can try to start things on good faith, with the idea that you may wind up wanting it.

Again, generosity is the key: If you feel generous and decide to play along to see if you can kindle some desire, then you still retain the right to change course along the way if the spark never turns into a flame. However, you can increase the odds by educating your partner on what to do to help you find that interest. The generosity on the more interested partner’s part is to be good about it if plans change. This good behavior will likely be rewarded with more opportunities next time to try again.

Good sex is a collaborative process, and generosity tends to be a good thing in relationships.

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