Article By Cheryl Fraser, Ph.D
~ May, 2021 ~ It’s a lazy Sunday morning. The kids are away. You wake up, enjoy a luxurious stretch, and then you lovingly reach for your tablet instead of your partner.
Remember when you first shared a bed with the person you desired? Back then when you drifted up to consciousness, you’d immediately notice the warmth of your snoozing sweetheart. Your thoughts would quickly turn to love, and your body would swiftly follow with arousal. You traced their spine with gentle fingertips, watching as they stirred awake. Your lover smiled and turned toward you with a sparkle in their eyes and a kiss waiting on their lips.
These days, instead of waking up thinking about making love, you’re thinking about making coffee.
And that is normal.
As you will see in this video, there are actually two types of sexual desire. If you rely exclusively on the first type of desire, your lazy Sunday in bed will never turn into a sexy Sunday in bed. If you long to re-ignite lost passion, you must learn to cultivate the second type of desire. Here’s how.
The two types of sexual desire
Spontaneous desire is that “I can’t wait to rip your clothes off” feeling. When you were dating, a kiss goodnight was enough to send desire and arousal flooding through your body and mind, wasn’t it? Your tongues touched, and boom, biochemical lightning bolts collided with psychological longing to create a storm of instant and easy passion.
Remember how glorious that was?
I say “was”—past tense—because, according to research (and your own experience), the vast majority of couples lose spontaneous desire over time. When I teach this concept to couples in my online Become Passion program, I say, “If you are in a long-term relationship, I want you to think of spontaneous desire as a teenager who spontaneously offers to clean the garage for you. It’s rare, it’s wonderful, and when it happens, I want you to enjoy the heck out of it. But you definitely shouldn’t count on it.”
That brings us to responsive desire. Now, what does responsive mean? Quite simply, something occurs in response to something else. So your teen cleans the garage in response to you offering to pay for their cell phone bill if they do a good job.
Now, let’s look at a sexier example. How about we revisit that lazy Sunday morning? In this version, you wake up, stretch, and think about checking the news or grabbing a coffee. Your sweetheart sits up in bed, trying to decide between a shower and a bagel. Neither of you is thinking about sex nor feeling turned on. In other words, there is no spontaneous desire.
However, what can happen if one of you says, “Hey babe, how about we make love?”
Ahh. Now you are tapping into the potential of responsive desire. Even though you are not in the mood, you choose to be open to exploring. Perhaps you start with a naked cuddle. You nuzzle and nibble necks. Maybe you reach into the bedside drawer for some massage oil to drizzle and caress. As you play, your body and mind begin to pay attention and to respond. You mindfully create desire by taking action.
Don’t just take my word for it. I invite you to check in with your own experience. Is it accurate to suggest that you are rarely swept up in spontaneous lust these days? If so, take heart. You are not broken or with the wrong person. Now that you understand responsive desire, you can choose to make your sexual life intentional and focus on this second type of erotic appetizer: responsive desire.
One of the many beautiful aspects of long-term love is learning new ways to explore the dance of eroticism together. Don’t wait for passion. Instead, choose to become passion.
I want to challenge you to create circumstances throughout the day that encourage desire. Text a lust note to your partner. Hug more often. Tease a little. Be kind. Bank the coals so that it is easier for the spark of desire to respond. Then go to bed together a little early tonight or linger in bed a little longer tomorrow morning. After all, the coffee and bagel can wait.
If you enjoyed this video, visit Dr. Cheryl Fraser’s website and sign up for LoveBytes to receive future videos.
A version of this article originally appeared on gottman.com