Sexual desire requires certain conditions in order to thrive. Think of your sexuality (and the desire to be sexual) as a potential rather than a constant or given. Barring any untreated medical issues, we all have the potential to be sexual—to become aroused, feel desirous and want to have sex. When this occurs, your “sexual-self” is awakened.
The question each of us must reflect on is: What conditions are optimal for our sexual-self to exist—what helps bring out this potential experience rather than hamper it?
The Self-Kaleidoscope: Are You Nurturing All of You?
Your sexual-self is just one dimension of a kaleidoscope of self-experiences; we all exhibit different traits that are part of a larger fabric of our complex natures. And under certain conditions, these potential selves or self-experiences are more likely to seek recognition and full expression.
For instance, isn’t it likely that the same person can exhibit the following traits in different contexts: the assertive business person, confident civic leader, loving and gentle parent, friendly neighbor, fierce soldier, compassionate caregiver, shy party-goer, loyal friend, supportive partner, seductive and playful spouse, protective sibling…
The fact is, the ongoing conditions of our life have a profound impact on how we feel, act and respond to others, and on which parts of us become most active and which parts become dormant and hidden.
Are the conditions of your marriage/relationship friendly to your sexual-self?
Marriage and Sex: Time to Awaken Your Sexual-self
Under certain conditions, certain self-potentials may become highly active to the point where they override other self-potentials. A common example: parenting young children. Many couples report that after having a child, parental care-giving traits become highly active while one’s sexual-self becomes dormant.
Relationship reality: While it might be common for certain conditions to reduce your sexual desire, relationships become strained (and marital/relationship problems can result) when one’s sexual-self remains inactive long after the circumstances that initially interfered have passed.
To reconnect (and stay connected) to your sexual-self, it’s important to become attuned to the unique contexts that allow your sexual potential to be realized. Couples often miss this important step and try to engage sexually without creating helpful conditions. For instance, lying around in frayed sweatpants with a toothpick in your mouth while asking your spouse, “Babe, you in the mood to do it?” more often than not fails miserably because this approach ignores the power that context has over one’s sexual-self.
The reality is that some people are more sensitive to context than others, and you might be married to someone who can jump-start his/her libido in a nanosecond and under any conditions. But there are many couples who are highly responsive to the influence of context, and when this is the case, attending to context is vital for connecting with your sexual-self.
Establishing the conditions that will nurture desire doesn’t have to be hard work– sometimes small tweaks are all that’s needed to get one’s sexual-self ready.
Awakening Your Sexual-Self: What Conditions Does Your Sexual-Self Require?
The challenge for us all is to become aware of the conditions we need to feel sensual. These conditions may already exist for you and your partner, or maybe they existed in the past and need to be reinstated, or maybe you both need to work to create new contexts that are sexually inviting. It can be fun creating new conditions that awaken sexual desire—flirtatious playfulness is one context your sexual-self might be drawn to.
Since there are no universal conditions that will nurture everyone’s sexual-self, it’s important to give this question ample time and thought:
What conditions do you need in order to connect with and nurture your sexual-self? Can the circumstances and conditions that surround your sexual fantasies help you answer this question?
Reflecting on this question (and others you might think of) is important in helping you widen the scope of what is needed for a fulfilling sex life with your spouse/partner. Remember, the goal is to awaken and nurture your sexual-self by first creating conditions that will allow your sexual-self to become a priority.
This is best thought of as an active process, a journey that will evolve and change, rather than a one- time, isolated event (one “date night” isn’t going to do the trick in helping your sexual-self re-emerge, though it’s a start).
One final note about the power that context has over sexual desire
In addition to having self-experiences which may conflict at times (for instance, the parental/caregiver role suppressing the sexual/sensual spouse role), there are certain conditions to be mindful of that have become so commonplace that couples tend to ignore or minimize the profound impact they have on sexual desire and intimacy.
Hurried lives, juggling too many responsibilities, poor self-care, refusing to slow down and check in with each other, and falling prey to the new and ever-changing cultural norms that glorify multitasking and an almost non-stop form of superficial communication (marketed as “staying connected”) is replacing the slower-paced, one-on-one connection that requires a deeper level of emotional presence. Many couples find these new conditions hostile to sexual desire.
Clearly these lifestyle changes (and the pressures they place upon your relationship) set up serious hurdles to the conditions needed for meaningful emotional and physical intimacy—establishing healthy-protective boundaries around your relationship is now more important than ever in nurturing sexual desire.
Relationship Books-Resources for a Passionate Marriage
I’ve created an comprehensive workbook to help couples keep passion alive in their relationship. Click sexual desire to find out more about my Passion, Sex and Intimacy resource.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro