Sexual Desire & Arousal

We live such busy lives nowadays having to juggle work, family, studies, volunteering, managing the household, etc. it is understandable that sexual desire may not come on as spontaneously as it once did when we had less responsibilities to attend to. Media and pop culture can sometimes lead us to believe that desire and arousal ‘should’ just come on and in fact, come on as frequently as it used to and preferably our partner should be wanting and aroused as well!

Firstly, so that we are all on the same page, let’s define desire and arousal. Desire is the mental state (thoughts, emotions, fantasy) where one is willing, open and perhaps wanting to be sexual with their partner/s. This might look like day-dreaming about being sexual with your partner later that night, wanting to initiate some sexual activity, being open to saying yes to your partner/s when they suggest being sexual. Arousal is the physiological and psychological state of feeling turned on. This might be increased blood flow to your genitals, feeling flush, feeling sexual or having sexual thoughts, etc. The reality is that desire and arousal need to be fostered to experience them at a later time. Ideally, we should start fostering these states from the time the most recent sexual experience finishes. Building desire starts outside the bedroom. We build desire by laying the foundation or, like plants, fertilising the ground to encourage desire, and ideally, then arousal grows. Because desire isn’t an on/off switch, your partner and you will have certain contexts that are more likely to swing a desire pendulum towards being open/willing to be sexual and towards closed off from being sexual.

Think to yourself, under what circumstances do you find yourself more open/willing to be sexual?

Examples of what might turn your desire on:

  • Having time to exercise
  • A passionate kiss when I get home
  • Expressions of appreciation
  • A non-sexual massage before bed
  • Organising date night
  • Telling me you love me
  • Rubbing my feet after a long day
  • Sending me a flirty text
  • Expressing gratitude and appreciation
  • Dancing together
  • Organising some quality time for us or with the family
  • Preparing dinner to surprise me when I get home

Examples of what might your desire off:

  • Stressful day at work
  • Pain/chronic health issues
  • Arguments/conflict
  • Not greeting me when I come home
  • Grabbing my bum/breasts/genitals
  • Not having time to myself
  • Not having time together as a couple (rather than as parents)
  • Doing chores without help e.g. getting kids ready for bed on my own whilst you relax
  • Not having much sleep
  • Withdrawing from me if I say I am not in the mood

It is useful to have this conversation with your partner as their pendulum may swing differently to yours. Ask...

  • Under what circumstances are you more open or likely to be willing to engage in sexual activity?
  • What things can I do to help turn you on? (outside the bedroom!)
  • How can I help you transition from ‘home-life brain’ to your sexuality?
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