I don’t want sex as much as I used to. How do I get that spark back?

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I can remember lying in bed at night wondering if something was wrong with me. I had no desire to have sex with my partner at the time, and while the sex was OK when we did have it, it was largely non-existent. In fact, we fought about it quite a lot.

I felt sad, frustrated, and even a little ashamed. How had I, one of the most sexual people in my circle of friends, gotten to a place where sex just wasn’t part of my life?

That place can feel lonely. That place can drive a huge wedge between you and your partner(s). It can make you feel undesirable, unwanted, and utterly hopeless.

But there is a way out of that place. It starts with busting some pretty large myths we have about sex. Well, one in particular.

Specifically, the myth of how sex should be something you want all the time.

This myth is one of the most common and pervasive in our world.

It’s the myth that tells us that desire and passion and great sex are spontaneous. That when you see your partner you should experience this surge of need and immediately want to get naked. That as soon as you start touching, you should be rock hard or super wet and ready to go.

This myth informs us that if sex doesn’t happen spontaneously then it’s not sexy or real or good.

In fact, the story even suggests that if you don’t want sex just because your partner is available to you then something may be wrong.

That’s when the little voice starts wondering and worrying…are we drifting apart? Do they not find me as attractive? Am I with the wrong person? Is something wrong with me? Is it because I put on some weight or we had the kids or… Maybe I’m just not a very sexual person?

And on and on and on.

Sex becomes an elephant in the room because you think you should (there’s that word) want sex more. That it should be easier. It should be like it was when you first met when you couldn’t keep your hands off of each other and sex happened without a second thought.

This is where the “low libido” language comes in. But that’s another myth for another day.

So, let’s talk about this belief that desire should be spontaneous.

Spontaneous desire, like almost all information about sex, comes from a very limited understanding of sex based entirely on the experience of folks with a penis (and only certain ones, at that).

We all know the cultural stories that tell us men always want sex. That it’s all they think about. That they can’t help themselves. It’s a terribly toxic masculinity myth for all genders, even cis men.

Unfortunately, almost all sex information is built on a foundation that is exclusively informed by the young, able-bodied, male sexual experience.

I know that sounds super fancy, but basically almost everything the media, medical communities, and schools teach us about sex is based on the way “normal” dudes are thought to have sex. Seriously.

But what about the rest of us?

I’m going to generalize for a second and say – if all of the stuff we know about sex is created entirely from a place of what young guys experience, then it’s no wonder so many women feel like something is broken or wrong, right? The stories around trans and queer sex are even more skewed.

Think about that for just a moment.

The norms you know about how sex is supposed to be are based on something that has nothing to do with you.

Talk about frustrating. (I could get into the why of all that, but I’d need several books to do that, and people much smarter and much more informed than me have already started doing that. So I’ll leave it to them.)

For most people, especially women, desire is, as Emily Nagoski calls it, responsive.

What does that mean?

It means that desire, that wanting sex, doesn’t just magically happen for most of us.

Instead, desire and wanting sex only happen AFTER some sexual stimuli has started. You’re responding to something, so that makes you responsive.

Now, unless you’re asexual, many of us experience both spontaneous and responsive desire at different points in our lives. Responsive desire is the default for many of us.

When you’re in a new relationship and your brain is high as a kite on love chemicals (that’s a real thing), everything seems tantalizing and exciting and arousing, so desire and sex tend to happen much more spontaneously.

But even then, there’s already a certain amount of stimulation happening from all of the kissing and the puppy love looks at each other and the touching…

The bottom line? The way you experience desire and sex is NORMAL, even if it seems like everything is telling you otherwise.

Having an understanding that our cultural stories about sex are so narrowly defined means when you learn the truth, you can begin exploring what sex means to you on your own terms.

So, what can you do if you want more desire in your life? Stop waiting for it to magically happen.

Give me the stink eye all you like. I know that’s not the most satisfying answer, since we all want the magic pill, the quick fix, the easy way out. But part of what makes your sexual experiences and your pleasure so incredible is how unique and nuanced they are.

It’s not one size fits all.

For most of us, waiting until you want sex is like waiting in the tower of a castle in a distant land for a knight in shining armor to come find you.

Isn’t it a much more exciting story to find a way your own way out of that tower, so that you can embark on an adventure that makes you feel empowered and happy?

In other words, if you want desire and sex, you can make it happen by creating circumstances that make you feel sexy.

It’s like you’re sending an invitation to your sexual self, inviting her out to play.

This is where I get a lot of resistance from clients. Because if sex doesn’t just magically happen (which is a passive approach), then it means you have to show up and participate.

But how freaking fun is that?!?!

You can literally do anything, say anything, think anything, try anything that feels good to you. On your terms. Whenever you want to – whether that’s daily, weekly, monthly, or once per decade.

It’s the ultimate adventure!

And it doesn’t have to be fancy. You can invite desire in anytime, anywhere.

As you start to understand how your desire works and what turns you on (this changes all the time, by the way), then you can start really taking advantage of your own sexual power.

There are two critical keys to tapping into your desire if you tend to be responsive rather than spontaneous.

First, remove as many stressors as possible. People overlook this, but you need to start here. What’s most likely to keep you from enjoying yourself? Find ways to eliminate it or put it on hold for a minute.

Because if you’re in your head worrying about doing the laundry or when the kids will walk in, you probably aren’t really connecting with yourself or the moment.

Second, have fun. Tease yourself. Build anticipation. Flirt. Do what feels good. Check out these posts on what to do if you don’t have time for sex, how to talk dirty, and claiming pleasure on your own terms. Start there and then the sky is the limit.

When you take control of your desire and make sex happen when you want it to happen, it takes on a whole new juicy dimension.

It’s about being your own hero, it’s about opening to your own potential and seeing all of the delicious possibilities you have at your fingertips.

Desire follows your lead. So, lead her down a sexy path and she’ll go there with you.

So, let’s recap. The myth of spontaneous desire makes many people feel inadequate and frustrated.

If you don’t magically want sex at the drop of a hat or if sex just seems terribly elusive, there is nothing wrong with you. It just means you get to take matters into your own hands.

Spontaneous sex is awesome in the movies and in romance novels, but in the real world where you’re juggling one million things all of the time, that’s just not how many of us are built.

Spontaneous desire may come and go, but responsive desire is much more common. Which is a fancy way of saying:

Your desire is simply waiting for an invitation to come out and play.

Instead of waiting for desire to come to you, what can you do to invite yourself to experience pleasure? What kind of permission can you give yourself to open to desire and tap into your arousal?

One last thought – don’t be hard on yourself if you’re in a phase where sex isn’t high on your priority list. Sex will ebb and flow for many of us.

Just remember you’re in the driver’s seat of your own pleasure, so whether it’s by yourself or with a partner, you can decide when and how desire can be a part of your life. You just have to be willing to get a little creative and a little playful, and amazing things can happen.

[callout title=”Let’s chat” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/lets-chat/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re ready to stop ignoring the places where you’re stuck and find new ways to connect, I’m here for you. [/callout]
  • Dana

    Been there done that. Makes for a very unhappy hubby and very unhappy relationship. But, one day I decided it is like riding a bicycle. I totally sucked it up for my hubby and my marriage and we went from having sex two to three times per year (not kidding) to two to three times a month and now two to three times per week. Married 14 years this past May. It has done wonders for both of us.

    • Yes! One of my favorite things is working with women to help them learn how to fall in love with themselves, discovering how to seduce their own mind and senses so that they feel excited about their own pleasure again. And when that happens, the transformations it has on relationships is profound.

      I love hearing it’s done wonders for both of you. Any kind of sexual connection that brings you together has so much power and feels amazing.

      Thanks for stopping by, Dana. I appreciate it!

  • Lamisha Serf

    I love the idea of responsive desire. That’s definitely what I feel most of the time. It makes a huge difference when you are aware of it and want to change it. I’ve fallen into the loop of wanting it to be spontaneous and if it wasn’t it felt forced or off somehow, but after having our son the responsive desire is much more realistic. Thank you for this!

    • Spontaneous vs responsive desire comes from Emily Nagoski’s AMAZING book, “Come As You Are.” It’s one of the main books I recommend to my clients. You should check it out. It’s a really easy read and is the foundation for a lot of the work I do. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Alice Williams

    I have been searching the web for help and while this article didn’t really touch on my issues it helped a ton.
    You see my boyfriend and I used to have lots of sex, most of it he would start. We had a long distance relationship so we only got to spend time with each other one a week or longer durning holidays. During those times we used to have lots of sex. The past month or so I noticed a change in him, he seemed more withdrawn and it felt like I had to fight for time with him.
    A about a month ago I moved in with him. (We’re 19 and 20 if that makes a difference) The sex was becoming less frequent before I moved and now we have sex maybe once a week.
    I kept asking him if anything was wrong because he used to always have his hands on me, even just a subtle caress when we cuddled. He told me after awhile that he found sex to be “messy” and that it was like an “insert peg A into slot B” scenario for him now. He also doesn’t like kissing anymore and this is a guy who accidentally left hickeys on my neck when we just started dating.
    I want sex with him, not just for the physical sensation but for the emotional element. I’m demisexual so I understand how he is feeling, and I don’t want to rush things. I just want him to be happy, and the sudden (ish) lack of sex has thrown me off guard.
    If you or anyone else can help me get back my flirty, happy, energetic boyfriend I would thank you for life.

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