Glasses of Desire
. . . . . Desire discrepancy is a clinical-sounding way to say that one person in a relationship wants sex more often than the other. It’s really common, of course! It’s just another sexual preference – the length of time a person prefers between sexual encounters. It can change throughout a person’s life for all kinds of reasons. In the beginning of a relationship when everything is super exciting you might be going at it all the time, but sooner or later people settle down into their default desire mode. There’s no “right” frequency to want sex: once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year. If your level of desire causes you distress, talk to a doctor: it could be medical. If one person basically never wants sex, and the other does, that’s for another column.
But lets talk about just run-of-the-mill, mild desire discrepancy. Maybe one person wants sex every day and the other person wants sex once a week. That’s a small difference, but it can still cause a lot of tension and distress in the relationship. One person may always feel pressured, and the other may often feel frustrated.
Let’s say they compromise by having sex a certain number of times a month – a little more than the lower-desire partner (the LDP) wants and a little less than the HDP wants. Consider this: it may be that the LDP in that situation is farther from their ideal than the HDP is from theirs. Here’s what’s going on. Often in those situations there is a constant tension: the LDP applying brakes to get less sex, the HDP applying pressure in various ways to get more sex (maybe just a heavy sigh once in a while, but it can still feel like pressure). It can create a lot of relationship coolness because the LDP may avoid affectionate intimacy out of fear that the HDP will try to turn a hug and a snuggle into sex. This will continue for some time, the pressure from one partner, the resistance of the other. The LDP does want some sexual element to the relationship, so they will at some point decide their desire level is close enough to wanting sex and they will consent to or initiate sex. Even though they are not feeling 100% desirous, their desire is close enough and they know the other partner wants it so much. Think of it like filling a glass: when the glass is full you are full of desire. The LDP will have sex when their glass is only partly full because they know the other partner really wants it, and they figure they are close, so they will go ahead and have sex. The result is that they never get to have that full glass of desire. They are always having sex at half desire, which isn’t that great, especially long term. In that sense they are farther from their ideal. The sex they are having is never with the level of desire they want.
The HDP is at full desire when sex happens, but they might want to consider — is it really the sex they want? Presumably they would enjoy sex more if their partner had full desire, it’s just that they can’t seem to wait until they get there.
So what if the HDP just stops. Just takes all pressure off. What if they don’t attempt to get the other person to have sex for a long time. They don’t initiate, they don’t ask, they don’t roll their eyes, they don’t do whatever signaling they do to indicate they want sex. They allow the other partner to let their glass fill all the way up. It make take a while. Longer than they thought. It might take a while for the other partner to notice how it feels when the pressure is off and to notice the sense of relief they feel. And it might take a while for them to realize they have to initiate. It might take a while to realize they do feel full desire. Maybe then they will initiate, and they will get to feel what it’s like to have sex on a full glass of desire. It might be that when they have the experience of having sex on their actual time preference schedule, that they might find that their time preference can shift in the direction of the HDP’s preference. Maybe it will take less to fill their glass. And then maybe they wouldn’t mind trying to have sex for a while on HDP’s time preference.
That’s a lot of maybe’s but it’s worth thinking about, and talking about. See if you can have a conversation about desire discrepancy with neither making the other feel like their level of desire is wrong – it’s just a difference, like so many others.
Whatever each person’s activity level preference is, they are both valid, and the ideal to shoot for is that both partners sometimes get to have sex when their desire just reaches that perfect point of almost, but not quite, overflowing. At least now and then.