The Real Truth About Sexual Desire Discrepancy and Ways to Sync Things Up
Could a decrease in desire be a self-fulfilling prophecy?
It’s common knowledge that one causal factor for decreased sexual desire, is the length of time a couple have been together. Oftentimes the first year or so of dating is marked by happily losing sleep to spend the night in the throes of passion. But, according to best-selling author and couple’s therapist Esther Perel (2006), longevity is not only a factor in the decrease of sex, but a cultural expectation for long-term relationships. This expectation leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding the intensity and frequency of marital or committed sex. The changes go from the wild, passionate sex that may or may not propel the beginning stages of a relationship to later stages of reduced desire.
Over time, the commonly held belief is that the eroticism during the early stages of a relationship will evolve into a love that is more stable and predictable and less fueled by desire (Perel, 2006).
Research on the body’s most powerful sex organ, the brain, supports this view. Neuroscience correlates the changes in passion to hormonal decreases in the brain’s “love” chemicals that are present in the early stages of romantic-sexual relations. According to anthropologist and human behavior researcher, Helen Fisher (2000), the chemicals; norepineprine, dopamine and phenethylamine (PEA), that are present in the early stages of relationships, last approximately three years.
BUT, As the relationship evolves and matures, other biochemicals take over. For example, the “snuggling drug,” oxytocin, lasts longer, and plays a more influential role over time (Fisher, 2000). The side effects of this maturing love-devotion, namely, deep friendship, and mutual respect, are often considered to be a natural and equal trade-off for erotic passion (Perel, 2006).
This merging of brain chemistry with the expectation that erotic passion will wane, provides further support for the idea that sexual function is fueled by both physical (the brain) and psychological causes- in the way of having expectations.
Emotions in Motion
What can be concluded here, is that even from the level of brain chemistry, emotion is understood to play a central role in satisfying sexual sex. So instead of mourning the decrease in the love chemicals present in the early stages of a relationship, celebrating the chemicals that increase over time is another option.
So what do intimate relationships look like from the standpoint of the Human Energy Field or what some people call the Aura? If you don’t have a background in energy anatomy, just come along for the ride.
In Donna Eden and David Feinstein’s book, “The Energies of Love, Using Energy Medicine to Keep Your Relationship Thriving,” They describe the aura of a couple during different stages of a relationship; and what it looks like energetically when the sexual charge is present and when it’s not. They also energetically distinguish the difference between “new” love, when the brain chemistry is high and what that sexual charge looks like, versus the sexual charge of a couple who have been connected over time.
For example, a new relationship has the couple encased in a world of their own. I call that experience “being in the garden,” where you could be at a big party, for example, surrounded by people. You and your partner are sitting on a love seat just gazing into each others eyes, getting each other food, holding hands and immersed in your own “love bubble.”
Eden and Feinstein state that a couple in this stage has an energy field that is electric, radiant, vivid, colorful and beautiful, even when each person is alone- although it’s not particularly grounded. The couple’s energy field lacks the refined connection that’s present in a couple who’s been through life’s ups and downs.
The description they give of a couple in a stale relationship, is one where their energy field is collapsed around each of them individually even when they are together. The energy is stagnant and no longer bright and radiant. Lastly, they describe a renewed bond, where the energies of each partner are connected in ways not found in a new relationship. Their auras overlap and are bridged with figure 8 patterns- but the energies surrounding them retain more of their individuality than in a new couple (Eden & Feinstein, 2014).
So how does the Unity of Body, Mind, and Spirit increase desire?
Psychologist Douglas LaBier (2010) has an energetic view of things as well, but he adds a stage model of couple relationships. He agrees with the changes in sexual intensity a couple experiences, but takes it further by incorporating distinctions between types of sexual relationships that he believes occur on different “planes of existence,” be it the physical, relational or spiritual realms. In doing so, he, like Eden and Feinstein, implies that the different stages of sex have an “evolutionary” quality to it, with the highest psycho-spiritual stages occurring later in the relationship.
Types of Sexual Encounters and their Evolutionary Stages
LaBier designates the type of sex many couples have when they first get together and feel that pull of lust as, “Hook-Up Sex.” This type of sex is the most primal, lacking relationship qualities, and is explosive and arousing. British people call it “just plain shagging” (2010). Next up the evolutionary scale is “Marital Sex,” which is, in many people’s minds, the boring and uninspired sex that some couples in committed relationships experience. This stage would be linked with HSDD and the decrease in desire. In terms of treatment options, because these couples have an emotional attachment to one another they’re good candidates for sex therapy. The highest on the evolutionary scale, according to LaBier is “Making Love.” This type of sex incorporates mind, body and spiritual practices, including elements drawn from Yogic and Buddhist Tantra and Chinese Qi Gong. Enhanced energy flow between partners is experienced, and the making of a self-less, unified state is the goal. La Bier declares, “this form of sex broadens, deepens, expands and sustains arousal and positive tension between you and your partner” (LaBier, 2010 p. 4).
Psychological States of Mind vs Sexual Techniques
Sex therapist Marty Klein, agrees with LaBier in a couple of ways, while making some important psychological points. He reduces the centrality of the physical organs to good sex and replaces it with a more wholistic approach. He incorporates the couple’s psychological states and – like La Bier – includes a view of sex as an energy-sharing experience. He is critical of the overly physical approach to treating sexual dysfunction that focuses on improving function of the organs: He declares that techniques don’t help people have better sex – which may be why attending all the adult toy parties your friends throw can be fun, but ineffective in action.
On Tristan Taormino’s podcast “Sex Out Loud”, Klein says, “People don’t need another [sexual] position. Their penis and vulva are fine. They’re just not having a quality experience. What helps most people is more of a sense of relaxation and comfort versus getting the genitalia to behave differently or better. If people don’t relax and enjoy themselves, then a wet vulva or a bunch of positions won’t help. People need to reshape the experience so they have more of a sense of movement of erotic energy. Sometimes that includes intercourse, sometimes not” (Dana, 2012).
Reshaping the Experience of Sex
Note in Klein’s critique the centrality of comfort, relaxation and the sharing of energy as key to satisfying sexual relations. Interestingly, the former two characteristics – comfort and relaxation – are linked both to the psychology of securely attached relationships and the physical, chemical shift in the brain toward stabilizing hormones in long term relationships. Note also the link to an energetic view of sexual relations as drawn from Asian vitalistic or energetic views. The value of Klein’s and La Bier’s approaches is that they offer a different model of how sexual relations in long term relationships change.
Rather than a “loss” of the physical function model built of a DSM-inspired view of sexual disorders, or a loss of libido and desire model, which is taken from neuroscience and marital self-report research, the energetic model points toward horizons of sexual growth. This growth holds the promise for both healing of emotional wounds and creating deeper intimacy.
Bringing it all together
To sum it all up, I took the common question, how can I increase my sexual desire and be more in tune with my partner? And answered it with the solution of looking toward the energetic model drawn from Eastern energy anatomy, to experience a sense of movement of erotic energy.
I highlighted some research, discussed diagnostic criteria, talked about the neuroscience and causal factors of decreased desire that can lead to desire discrepancy, and touched on the topics of Eastern energy anatomy and reshaping the experience of sex.
For more information or to schedule a couples or individual appointment with me, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Julie Schmit, MA, LAMFT
Legal Disclaimer- These are potential benefits and there is no guarantee that they will be achieved. Relationship enhancement is dependent entirely on the people seeking relationship help and not Julie Schmit or Jumpstart Counseling Studio.
©2018 Julie Schmit, Shakti Bodyworks, LLC, DBA Jumpstart Counseling Studio
Dana, K. (Producer). (2012, October 19). Sex out loud with Tristan Taormino [Audio podcast] Retrieved from http://www.podcastchart.com/podcasts/sex-out-loud-with-tristan-taormino/episodes/renowned-sex-therapist-dr-marty-klein-on-sexual-intelligence-sex-therapy-and-listener-questions
Eden, D & Feinstein, D (2014). The energies of love: Using energy medicine to keep your relationship thriving. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Fisher, H. (2000). Lust, attraction, attachment: Biology and evolution of the three primary emotion systems for mating, reproduction and parenting. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy. 25(1), 96-104. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wzjs20#.VYLti1x0H60
La Bier, D. (2010). The differences between hook-up sex, marital sex and making love. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-resilience/201005/the-differences-between-hook-sex-marital-sex-and-making-love
Perel, E. (2006). Mating in captivity, unlocking erotic intelligence. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Photo credit: pexels.com