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Guidelines for Revitalizing and Maintaining Sexual Desire

The prescription to revitalize sexual desire: intimacy, pleasuring & eroticism.

1. The keys to sexual desire are positive anticipation and feeling you deserve sexual satisfaction in your relationship.

2. Each person is responsible for his/her desire with the couple functioning as an intimate team to nurture and enhance desire. Revitalizing sexual desire is a couple task. Guilt, blame, and pressure subvert the change process.

3. Inhibited desire and conflicts over desire discrepancies is the most common sexual dysfunction, effecting one in three couples. Desire problems drain intimacy and good feelings from your relationship.

4. One in five married couples has a non-sexual marriage (being sexual less than ten times a year). One in three non-married couples who have been together two years or longer have a non-sexual relationship.

5. The initial romantic love/passionate relationship phase which fires desire lasts less than two years and often less than six months. Desire in ongoing relationships is maintained by developing a comfortable, functional couple sexual style.

6. The essence of sexuality is giving and receiving pleasure-oriented touching. The prescription to revitalize and maintain sexual desire is intimacy, pleasuring, and eroticism.

7. Touching occurs both inside and outside the bedroom. Touching is valued for itself, touching does not always lead to intercourse.

8. Couples who maintain a vital sexual relationship can use the metaphor of touching as having "five gears". First gear is clothes on, affectionate touch (holding hands, kissing, hugging). Second gear is non-genital, sensual touch, which can be clothed, semi-clothed, or nude (non-genital body massage, cuddling on the couch, holding and caressing, touching going to sleep or on awakening). Third gear is playful touching which intermixes genital and non-genital touching, clothed or unclothed, romantic or erotic dancing, touching in the bath or shower, on the couch or in bed, whole body massage, playing strip poker or Twister. Fourth gear is erotic touching (manual, oral, rubbing, or vibrator stimulation) to high arousal and orgasm for one or both partners. Fifth gear integrates pleasurable and erotic touch, which flows into intercourse. Intercourse is a natural continuation of the pleasuring/eroticism process, not a sex pass-fail test.

9. Both the man and woman value affectionate, sensual, playful, erotic, and intercourse experiences.

10. Both the man and woman are comfortable initiating touching and intercourse. Both feel free to say "no" and suggest an alternative way to connect and share pleasure.

11. A key strategy is to develop "her," "his," and "our" bridges to sexual desire. This involves ways of thinking, talking, anticipating, and feeling which invite being sexual.

12. Sexuality has a number of positive functions for the relationship--a shared pleasure, a means to reinforce and deepen intimacy, and a tension reducer to deal with the stresses of life and a relationship.

13. The average frequency of sexual intercourse is from four times a week to once every two weeks. For couples in their twenties, it is two-three times a week, couples in their fifties once-twice a week.

14. Personal turn-ons (fantasies, special celebrations or memories, feeling caring and close, anniversaries or birthdays, sex with the goal of pregnancy, initiating a favorite erotic scenario, being playful or spontaneous, sexuality to celebrate a career success or sooth a personal disappointment) facilitate sexual anticipation and desire.

15. External turn-ons (R or X-rated videos, music, candles, sex toys, visual feedback from mirrors, being sexual outside the bedroom, a weekend away without the kids) facilitate anticipation and desire.

16. Non-demand pleasuring can be a way to connect physically, a means to share pleasure and/or a bridge to sexual desire.

17. "Intimate coercion" is not acceptable. Sexuality is neither a reward nor a punishment. Sexuality is voluntary, and pleasure-oriented.

18. Realistic expectations are crucial for maintaining a vital sexual relationship. It is self-defeating and harmful to demand equal desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction each time. Realistically, thirty-five to forty-five percent of experiences are very good for both people. Twenty percent are very good for one (usually the man) and okay for the other. Fifteen to twenty percent are okay for one and the other finds it acceptable. Be aware that five to fifteen percent of sexual experiences are dissatisfying or dysfunctional. Couples who accept occasional mediocre or dysfunctional experiences without guilt or blaming and try again when they are aware and receptive have a vital, resilient sexual relationship. Satisfied couples use the guideline of "good enough sex" with positive, realistic sexual expectations.

19. Contrary to the myth that "horniness" occurs after not being sexual for weeks, desire is facilitated by a regular rhythm of sexual activity. When sex is less than twice a month, you can become self-conscious and fall into a cycle of anticipatory anxiety, tense and unsatisfying sex, and avoidance.

20. Healthy sexuality plays a positive, integral role in your relationship, fifteen-twenty percent, with the main function to energize your bond and generate special feelings of desire and desirability. Paradoxically, conflictual or non-existent sex plays a more powerful negative role in a relationship than the positive role of good sex.

Resource: McCarthy, Barry and McCarthy, Emily (2003). Rekindling Desire. Brunner/Routledge.

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