Sexual desire and the search for self in a relationship

I think desire is a moving and changing force of energy that is in all areas of life, including sexual desire. The desire is not for sex alone but also for intimacy, connection, and pleasure. We can spend years searching for that other because we feel a lacking of something within ourselves. I think it is important that we explore the shadow side of desire and what happens when our desire is not met and our longing not satisfied in the way we feel we deserve or hoped for. How do we manager our expectations? Do we accept it and move on or are we left we feelings of hopelessness and despair?

One of the roles of a therapist is to explore the blocks to relationships, intimacy and connection and how it impacts sexual desire and sexual expression. Sexual desire doesn’t happen in isolation, how does it fit within our lives? What is the context? How is desire experienced in other areas of our life, friendships, hobbies and career? Is it satisfied or frustrated? We live in a highly sexualised culture yet more and more people are unhappy with their sex lives and are unsure what to do about it.

It’s difficult and confusing to be present and always in touch with our true self. It’s an ongoing discovery and battle between who you are, who you think you should be, and who you want to become. Seeking our true self and being at peace with who we are is a lifelong goal, and central to desire and sexual desire is one facet of this, we seek to be ourselves with others or to find meaning in relationships yet we also fear being seen by others as we may feel exposed and vulnerable.  

Sexual desire is an aspect of a a person's sexuality, which varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time, so it is constantly moving and complex to understand the ups and downs of desire and troublesome attractions. Why do we go for people that are not always good for us? We are we often drawn to the forbidden. Morin (2012) suggests we are unconsciously drawn to act out childhood experiences and trauma in in an attempt to resolve them.

Sexual desire can be aroused through imagination and sexual fantasies, or perceiving an individual that one finds attractive. Sexual desire is also created and amplified through sexual tension, which is caused by sexual desire that has yet to be consummated (Toates, F. 2009).

I think sexual tension is a very important part of desire and is perhaps overlooked.  How can sexual tension be built up and maintained? When we think of sex, often we think the goal is to release the sexual tension, but what if we work with this energy with a sense of fun and play without expectation. How can we remove the idea that sex is a performance something to be judged as good or bad, as too much or too little. What if instead we looks at it as an expression of ourselves in relation to another. How can we seek to be more at ease with our sexual selves and our attractions?

Sexual desire is dynamic, it can either be positive or negative, and can vary in intensity depending on the desired object (person). The sexual desire spectrum Levine (2007) says desire falls along a spectrum of:

Aversion  Disinclination  Indifference  Interest  Need  Passion.

Negative                                  Neutral                                    Positive

Sexual desire can shift from intensely positive to neutral to intensively negative. In the positive range an individual will initiate sex, to the neutral disinclination range where an individual participates in sexual activity, only because of the other’s interest. Negative desire ranges where sex is unappealing to being repulsed by the thought of sex.

Our sexual desire is influenced by our culture, what is acceptable, our religious or spiritual beliefs or families expectations and our previous relationship experiences. It is normal for sexual desire to go up and down at different times in our lives. The main issue is if this is causing you distress that you are able to discuss it and find a way to reduce this distress. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SW4 0JY
Written by Thomas Sherry, BA Psychotherapy , Dip Sex and Relationship Therapy. MBACP
London, SW4 0JY

Taking ownership of your life and well-being At times we can become stuck in our lives and relationships and unsure what to do about it. Sometimes we lose sight of what our needs are and if these needs are not met it can cause us to feel sad, frustrated, lonely, depressed,  and anxious.Welcome....

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