In the past few days I have seen a lot f posts and research about the links between intimacy and desire, some saying that too much intimacy and familiarity reduces desire, while others saying that it increases it....so which is true....actually both.
Esther Perel talks about us needing both surprise and security to have desire and good sex. Security provides love, consistency and intimacy while surprise provides novelty and mystery and an otherness that is attractive.....how do we have both. Esther talks about us having the intimacy we require to feel secure but also how we can still maintain the mystery and excitement, how we can HAVE and WANT. To listen to her click on the link here.
Recent research by Birbaum (2016) echoes Perel "the need for security that intimacy typically provides may clash with the sense of uncertainty, novelty, and separateness that fuels desire, such that high levels of intimacy between partners may stifle sexual desire." But then goes on to show how the two can work together, how we can have both and may possibly need both to feed off each other. When our partner turns towards us, is responsive in an empathetic, intimate and caring way to what we are saying we feel heard, desired and worthy......this can increase our feelings of desirability and thus our desire for our partner.....this was especially the case for women. The conclusions of the research were "Overall, the findings elucidate the intimacy-desire paradox, suggesting that, under certain circumstances, it may not be a paradox: What determines whether intimacy instigates or inhibits desire is not the mere existence of intimacy, but its meaning in the larger context of a relationship. Responsiveness is most likely to instigate desire when it conveys the impression that the partner is worth pursuing and when engaging in sex with such a desirable partner is likely to promote an already valuable relationship."
So we can have both intimacy and desire, the wish to be sexual with each other does not always have to decrease over time as intimacy increases, but it takes work from all involved, to remain responsive to each other, to create excitement, to show each other that they are desirable and desired.
LBD or Lesbian Bed Death, a myth or a reality?
Is a reduction in sexual frequency a natural occurrence in all long term relationships or specific to lesbian ones?
Anyone in a long term relationship will tell you that sexual frequency does decline over time, with the rush of hormones and limerence of the romantic/honeymoon period fading out and long term, deep companionable love taking over, the amount of time spent having sex each week does reduce. Life gets in the way, kids come along, work and stress can impact, as well as illness and changes associated with ageing, it does not mean the relationship is in peril if there is still intimacy in other areas. One of the things that can happen in lesbian relationships is a reduction in sexual activity quite early in a relationship, when this happens there can be several things going on.....rushing into the relationship before really knowing if they are compatible, emotional enmeshment where the relationship is more emotional than physical (really just meant to be mates, but slipped into girlfriends), or just not not being into each other.
Research has shown that generally lesbians have less sex than heterosexual couple or gay men, averaging once fortnight rather than 1-2 times a week. But what it also shows is that when lesbians do have sex they have it for longer, 30-120 minutes, they expect to and do have more orgasms and they often have more oral sex. Whereas heterosexual women may have sex more often, but they often do not expect to have an orgasm or oral sex, and it usually lasts less than 30 minutes.
So may it is a case of looking not at the frequency of sex but the satisfaction that people experience with their sex life, with lesbians experiencing quality over quantity.
But what do you do if you are having sex less than you both want to? Looking at what might be impacting on the lack of sex and dealing with that is a good place to start.
Is there a physical reason, illness, pain, tiredness, medications etc?
Is it a social issue, work, time, lack of experience or education?
Is it a psychological issue, past experiences, mental health, changes in feelings?
What can you change.....can you improve your work/life balance, make more time, change medications, deal with issues of lack of knowledge, change the time of day you have sex, get therapy?
What cant you change and how can you work around it?
If it is important to both of you, make it a priority, schedule time to be together to be intimate, to focus on each other, to communicate thoughts, desires and feelings, explore new things together, have fun.
So apparently today 8th of the 8th is a special day for intentions setting and after watching some interesting things happening in people's relationships I think that it might be a good day to set intentions for the relationship you currently have, or if single, are looking to have in the future.
Take some time today to consider what you want and need on your relationships, maybe write it down, think about the positive things you need and in your mind see it as a reality.
Now as I said I have seen some interesting things about relationships over the past few weeks, from single people putting themselves out there, or bemoaning their lack of a relationship to seemingly committed couples ending theirs, both a year long to over 5 years together and then to the on again off again couples, who every time they break up you quietly think "about time and is it really for good this time" and every time they get back together you think "here we go again I wonder how long it is going to last this time".
I would like to look at the last type first,what I like to call the 'merry go round' relationship, we have all seen them and possibly even been in one of them. When it is on it is full on, all over social media, very over the top and when it is off it is there for all to see, it is nasty and often we hear from one or the other participant " That's it I am never going back". So what is it that keeps these people on the merry go round, there can be a range of things: scared of being alone, their own self worth is bound up in being in a relationship they have low self esteem and think no one else will have them or they dont deserve to be treated better, they are addicted to the drama, they are addicted to the passion of when it is on, they may not have healthy conflict skills, they have an unhealthy view of what a relationships is like and sometimes it is a case of 'better the devil you know". Now none of this is healthy but it is a very difficult cycle to break, sometimes very similar to the cycle of abuse. Often counselling is required for the people involved to work out why they do this 'on again, off again" behaviour and to move towards a healthier way to interact.
What I have observed recently in the committed relationships that have ended, is that one person is pulling away and when questioned is not willing to engage in the work required to fix any problems, they are already done. They have often pulled away and the other partner has sensed this and it comes to a conversation about what is going on. Sometimes it is about growing apart over time rather than growing together and other times it is that the relationships was not what one person was expecting and now they want out, they may still love the other person but am not sure how to end it, so they pull away, maybe have an affair or do something that they know their partner would not like to bring things to a head. What can be done in this situation? Communication through out the whole relationship is essential, knowing yourself and what you need and want in a partner and a relationship is also important. Being able to discuss where you are at and what you want and need before the relationship starts enables both people to know if this is what they want, and continuing to do so throughout the relationship allows them to work through any differences as they arise.
And finally the first point I made, those single people who are wanting a relationship. I have seen a lot of people putting themselves out there in a way that is actually very off putting. Social media posts such as "Am I ever going to find a partner?", "Would anyone want me?", "Why is it so hard to find someone sane, honest, loyal...etc?". Posts like these have an air of desperation, neediness and attention seeking which can be very unappealing. Other people put them selves out there by having fun, meeting new people, making new friends and not putting any pressure on themselves to find a partner....this can be very attractive, independent, fun loving and living life.....I know which I would be drawn to.
Relationships require work, communication, negotiation and finding a compromise that suits everyone, but they should not be constant hard work....when it is right it will work on many levels and things will be discussed and worked on together as a team.....a relationship is several entities, all of those involved and the relationship itself.
For more information and posts about relationships, check out Love Is...Respectful Relationships on Facebook
Richelle has had a passion for sexuality and sexual health since 2001. She has worked in the field since 2006, providing sexuality education in schools, and adult education in the topics of diverse sexualities and gender identities, LGBT health issues, sexual health and LGBT relationships.
This is a space for me to share with you my journey as a Sexologist, the things I learn and the people I meet and what I think and feel along the way.