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Abstracts from “Good Loving, Great Sex: Finding balance when your sex drives differ”
By Dr Rosie King,  ISBN    Publisher: Random House Australia

The Desire Dilemma – Catastrophe or Challenge?
Desire discrepancy is not only common, it is normal and inevitable at some time in all long-term relationships. What is not inevitable is the unhappiness and conflict that most couples experience when sex drives differ.

Our ideas about what is sexually normal go in and out of fashion. Currently, a high level of sexual interest is in fashion. Anything less is wrongly regarded as inadequate or abnormal.

When a couple has the skills and willingness to work together to achieve sexual compatibility, DD (desire discrepancy) need not cause problems in the relationship.

DD is a challenge, not a catastrophe. It is an opportunity for personal, sexual and relationship growth.

The River of Desire
The origins of sex drive are both biological and psychological. The biological factors include the brain and the nervous system, hormones and physical wellbeing.

High sexual desire makes it easier to get sexually aroused and low sexual interest makes it more difficult to get turned on through the action of the brain on the sexual reflexes in the lower part of the spinal cord.

The desire centres in the brain are activated or depressed by a number of hormones. The main desire hormone in both men and women is the male hormone, testosterone. Men produce 10 to 20 times more testosterone than women do, but women are highly sensitive to it.

The role played by the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, in sexual desire remains unclear. Oestrogen stimulates the senses, and progesterone inhibits them in both men and women.

Some women may benefit from the addition of testosterone therapy to their hormonal replacement therapy after the menopause. Indiscriminate administration of testosterone in either men or women is unhelpful and may be dangerous.

Any impairment in physical wellbeing may reduce sexual interest. What’s good for you is also good for your sex drive.
The Psychology of Desire – Our Thoughts, Feelings and Relationships
How you feel and what we think can either promote or suppress sexual desire.

It is possible to think yourself into and out of sex. To enhance sex drive, focus on the positive and tune out the negatives about yourself, your partner, your relationship and your sex life.

Lifestyle and environmental factors impact on sexual desire through the way we think and feel.

Sexual desire is deeply affected by what is happening between two people in their relationship. To enjoy a happy healthy sex life you need to build a happy, healthy relationship. Great sex comes from good living.

Pass Me the Ruler – Measuring Your Sex Drive
Sex drive is defined as the “motivation and inclination to be sexual”. The more sex drive we experience, the more willing we will be to participate in sexual activity and the easier it is to become aroused.

It is more effective to measure sex drive by describing desire behaviours than by comparing one person’s libido with another’s.

There are a range of desire behaviours, including initiatory, receptive, available, neutral and disinterested. It is normal to move from one desire behaviour zone to another.
Is My Sex Drive Normal?
A wide range of levels of sexual desire is considered to be perfectly normal. For this reason, DD (desire discrepancy) should be approached with a non-blaming “I’m OK, You’re OK” attitude.

Low sexual interest is a lifelong experience of low sexual desire.

Inhibited sexual desire applies to people who have been more interested in sex in the past but currently experience reduced sexual desire.

Loss of desire can be total (reducing interest in any sort of sexual activity) or situational (sexual desire is reduced only under certain circumstances). Situational loss of interest in sex in respect to a partner is a strong indicator of relationship difficulties.

Sexual compatibility does not rely on equal levels of sex drive, but on similar attitudes towards sex drive.

Sexual phobia is a fear reaction to sex, while sexual dependency is a compulsive behaviour carried out to medicate painful feelings. Neither problem is classed as a disorder of sexual desire.
Flames of Passion – The Highs and Lows of Sex Drive
Sex drive is modified by inhibitors which decrease desire, and enhancers which promote it. Response to these influencers is variable. It is impossible to accurately predict how any individual will respond to any particular factor.

To experience the full potential of sex drive, enhancers must be maximised and inhibitors minimised.

Couples may have differing inhibitors and enhancers, but this need not be a source of conflict if the relationship can be expanded so that both partners get their needs met.

The only way to find out what your partner’s enhancers and inhibitors are is to make the relationship safe enough for your partner to express their needs openly, without fear of judgement or rejection.

In a healthy relationship, enhancers are provided freely or negotiated with regard to the feelings of both partners, while inhibitors are minimised.
His Desire, Her Desire – Bridging the Gap Between the Sexes
Men’s sex drive differs from women’s sex drive in quality rather than quantity. This difference is due to both social and biological factor.

Women’s sex drive is more likely to be turned down by the stresses and strains of everyday life and love than men’s. This gender difference in sex drives is based on primitive reproductive needs.

These days, women are expected to express a high level of interest in sex. However, many women experience little if any interest in sex on a regular basis.

Boys and girls growing up experience their sexuality differently. A woman’s full sexual potential may not be experienced until she is in her twenties, thirties or even later.
br> is especially difficult for couples where the man is the partner with the lower sex drive, although this is quite a normal and common occurrence. Regardless of who has the lower sex drive, sexual compatibility is still possible.
Her Enhancers – Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice
To experience optimal levels of desire, arousal and sexual fulfilment, men and women need their preferred enhancers in the relationship.

Men respond to anything that denotes fertility, sexual availability and novelty. A women’s desire is excited by elements of affection, commitment and security in the relationship.

Female enhancers are present most intensively in the courtship phase of relationships, known as limerence. Female sexual desire is usually highest in this early phase of romantic relationship.

Limerence junkies are people who go from relationship to relationship looking for the emotional and sexual high of early courtship.

For a women to have a sustained and enthusiastic interest in sex, her enhancer needs must be met on a daily basis. Sporadic romantic or emotional gestures are useless and may serve to increase resentment.

Women are supported by society in their demands for female-based enhancers. Men’s enhancers are not viewed with the same enthusiasm by women or society in general.
His Enhancers – Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails?
Men’s enhancers are related to signs of fertility, youth, good health and female sexual availability.

Men’s response to visual stimulation is biologically engineered to promote rapid arousal. Centuries of social conditioning with erotic stimulation have built on this biological basis. Women who understand the biological and social conditioning behind men’s enhancers will be more accepting to them.

Women reach poorly to men’s need for enhancers because they feel personally and sexually threatened. Men make matters worse by forcing the introduction of enhancers or enjoying them in secret.

Pornography is politically threatening to some women because it objectifies and subjugates them. Pornography is personally threatening to some women because it sparks feelings of sexual and physical inadequacy.

Covert messages in pornography require men and women to be highly selective about the erotic material they expose themselves to. These messages promote negative attitudes between men and women and unrealistic sexual expectations.

The introduction of male enhancers into a relationship should be based on open discussion, negotiation and mutual consent.

Inclusion of a range of male enhancers in a relationship can benefit both partners.  The quality of sex for men is improved, and their willingness to contribute to the relationship both emotionally and sensually may well be increased by higher levels of mutual goodwill.
Pursuer/Distancer – A Vicious Cycle in Action
The pursuer/distancer cycle begins when a couple does not know how to handle differing levels of sexual interest.

Under the influence of this vicious cycle, the desire behaviours of both the pursuer and the distancer change, only serving to make the problem worse.

cycle enhances the pursuer’s sexual desire and inhibits that of the distancer, making the initial DD (desire discrepancy) even worse.

Neither partner is to blame for the situation and both are suffering equally.

The P/D (pursuer/distancer) cycle must be interrupted for DD  (desire discrepancy) to be resolved.
Good Loving – Caring and Communication
Good loving is the key to great sex. Loss of loving feelings results in loss of sexual desire and arousal.

Sustaining love is an active process that requires daily effort.

Communication involves careful speaking and thoughtful listening. It is impossible to resolve conflicts and negotiate with each other if you cannot communicate effectively.
Up Close and Personal – Intimacy and Trust
Intimacy means disclosing to each other who you really are. This degree of vulnerability requires a high level of trust.

True intimacy is total – it embraces the thinking and feeling realities of both partners completely, without regard for approval or agreement. True intimacy celebrates our differences as well as our similarities.

Couples may experience differing needs for emotional and physical intimacy. To experience maximum desire, emotional and physical intimacy needs must be negotiated and met to the satisfaction of both partners.

Trust is the fuel of desire. Once trust is damaged in a relationship, it may take years of hard work by both partners to rebuild it.
Maintaining Love – Commitment, Respect and Equality
Commitment to the relationship must be total for desire to thrive.

Insecurity is a sign of lack of commitment, low levels of trust or personal insecurities. A person who is uncertain in the relationship will also be uncertain about sex.

Jealousy can give us important information about ourselves and our relationship.

Lack of respect between partners will eat away at sexual desire. Respect allows each partner to blossom and grow as individuals.

Chemistry dies in relationships because partners stop making the effort to make each other feel special and important every day.

A healthy relationship has boundaries strong enough to repel even the strongest intrusions.

you dominate and control your partner, you might gain power, but your partner will lose desire for you.
Creating Passion – Friends and Lovers
The more conflict you have in a relationship, the less desire you are likely to experience. The only effective way to deal with conflict is to learn to negotiate with your partner.

Negotiation works because it doesn’t set partners up as adversaries. It brings partners together on the same side and pits them against the problem, rather than against each other.

Fighting doesn’t resolve conflicts and both parties lose. A more effective solution is to confront problems and reach compromises where both parties can be winners.
Problem Solving – Conflict and Negotiation
Couples with high levels of recreational intimacy, who have fun and enjoy activities together, have higher levels of interest in sex.

Affection that doesn’t necessarily lead to sex will enhance sexual desire through hormonal pathways. If you want more sex, share more hugs, kisses and cuddles with your partner – every day.
Getting Your Sex Life Back on Track
Partner empathy and a cessation of judging and blaming begin the process of interrupting the P/D cycle. Respect for and acceptance of each partner’s bonding behaviours is the next step.

Pursuers and distancers must identify and desist from pursuing and avoiding behaviours. The pursuer can put effort into rebuilding and maintaining the nonsexual side of the relationship, while the distancer can take steps to gradually re-enter the sexual relationship again.

There is much more to lovemaking than intercourse, orgasm, erections and lubrication. Outercourse options are key strategies in overcoming DD (desire discrepancy).

Lower drive partners need not wait until they experience sexual urge to enjoy sex. Desire is only one sexual motivator. There are many other good reasons for sex, and sexual activity can be mutually negotiated to suit the lower drive partner.
Making it Easier To Say “YES” to Sex
DD (desire discrepancy) not only reduces sexual frequency but it also shrinks a couple’s sexual repertoire, restricts their sexual styles, and reduces the lower drive partner’s participation in sex.

A broad sexual repertoire provides more choices for couples with DD, as well as adding more variety. It can only be achieved when both partners experiment with activities that fall outside their comfort zones. Partners are much likely to experiment if the general relationship is happy and supportive.

The sexual hierarchy allows couples to negotiate both choice of sexual activity and degree of participation.
Putting the Sexual Hierarchy to Work
Learn from your partner what sort of initiation techniques works best for them. Women’s sexual tension often needs to be built up and they prefer a less direct physical approach than men do.

Conditions for good sex maximise desire and arousal and enhance willingness to be sexual.

The soft “No” sandwich and the sexual hierarchy allow both partners to say “Yes” to sex more often.

You and your partner may need to take a break from sex to heal your relationship and re-create communication, intimacy and sensuality.
Reducing Inhibitors of Sexual Desire
It is reassuring to know that we have some control over our own and our partner’s level of sexual interest. By increasing enhancers and minimising inhibitors, every couple has a surefire way to maximise their sex drives and improve their relationship if they are prepared to make the effort.
Special Circumstances – Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, Menopause and Ageing
Pregancy and childbirth have a variable effect on sexual desire in both men and women. Desire discrepancy often surfaces at this time, and effective handling at these early stages can prevent long-term sexual problems.

Contrary to popular opinion the majority of women don’t notice a huge change in sex drive with the menopause. Loss of interest in sex may be improved by hormone replacement therapy alone or in conjunction with testosterone replacement therapy. Dealing with long-term relationship problems and unresolved conflicts will also improve sexual interest.

Older people don’t necessarily lose interest in sex. Often they are bowing to widespread prejudice that relegates the elderly into asexuality. Humans are sexual from the cradle to the grave.

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