When It Comes to Sexual Desire, Timing Is Everything

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We tend to speak of sexual desire in concrete terms—something we either “have” or “don’t have.” Men are often told they have a higher desire, whereas women are presumed to have a lower desire. This rigid, black-and-white way of seeing sexual desire is problematic, especially when a couple is trying to have a satisfying sex life.

While sexual desire difference is one of the most common sexual issues couples complain about, it misses one vital part of the discussion—how and when a lover approaches their partner for sex. Simply put, many people get into trouble when they approach their lover at the wrong time or wrong way for them.

Whose sexual timing are we talking about?

Men have traditionally held the role of initiators, a responsibility that can feel burdensome for many. But it can also give men the advantage of choosing a timing that is right for them. It makes sense that most people initiate sex when they feel “horny.” This timing gives the Initiator a distinct advantage because they get to approach sex in a time that feels right for their body, in a situation that suits them.

Women have traditionally been taught the opposite—to be receptive to sex. It has been considered unladylike or “slutty” to initiate sex on their own time. While this is slowly changing, many women still wait for their partners to approach them. When sex researchers Byers & Heinlein looked at how much women “consider” initiating sex, however, it turns out that they do so just as much as men do; they just don’t act on it.

So what is the right timing for sex?

Despite knowing our partners well, both men and women are routinely wrong when reading their partner’s sexual interest. Too often, a partner assumes their lover is on the same or a similar schedule that they are. In other words, “If I am turned on right now, then my partner should feel the same way.” But this is too often not the case.

In order to get a better picture of sexual timing, some clever researchers looked at the daily diaries of couples to see how sexual desire fluctuates throughout a 30-day period. They found that sexual desire is neither high, nor low, in individuals, but rather that it ebbs and flows with a predictable regularity (e.g. 3-4 days) in both men and women (Vowels, et al., 2018). A rhythm is set for most people’s desire, which is to say that if you are horny one day, you are likely to be so for the next few days, but then not again for several days. Knowing your own rhythm and communicating that with your partner helps the two of you stay in sync.

Better timing = better sex

When both people are feeling desire at the same time, it leads to a higher quality of sex, which in turn is likely to lead to more desire in the future. People having sex when they feel desire makes for better sex.

How to improve sexual timing

Here are a few tips to get the timing right.

  1. Be specific about what you actually need.
    Be honest with yourself about your specific needs and it will be easier to let your partner in on it. Tip: Break bigger needs down into smaller ones. Question yourself about what you specifically are seeking. Do you feel like being close; or more like having an orgasm; or perhaps you need a hug, or want to express your flirty side? Or maybe you just need to be desired? All are valid needs. But they don’t all require a sexual response—or the same response! By letting your partner know your specific needs, you are much more likely to have those needs met.
  2. Communicate your timing.
    Guessing your partner’s timing can cause unnecessary rejection or an endless waiting game for the “right” time. The best way to know your partner’s sexual timing is to ask them. Here are a few tips to consider:
    • Start talking outside the bedroom. Speaking about it in a no-pressure environment, without a sexual charge, can allow for a much easier, realistic, and relaxed conversation.
    • When you are the one with higher desire: Ask your partner how they can hear about your sexual interest without feeling pressured. There is no greater turn-off than the obligation to have sex. And being understanding of your partner’s need to not engage in sex is uniquely associated with both relationship and sexual satisfaction. So, let them know you respect their timing, and you will go a lot further in your seduction success.
    • When you are the one with lower desire: Talking about “not feeling sexual” without rejecting the partner is actually a little easier than it sounds. The key is to make it about you, not about your lover. For example, “I’m just not feeling very sexual right now” or “I love you, but let’s connect in a day or two,” can be respectful without rejecting them. The research says the best way to reject sex is to use a reassuring or “soft” manner to let your partner know that your low desire is about you (your state, your body, etc.), and not about your attraction to them. Desire differences are extremely common, which means that rejection is also common. Doing it with care leads to better relationships and better sex.
  3. Consider the circumstances (e.g. stress levels or time of day).
    Different times of day or levels of stress can change how we feel about sex. People have two distinctly different ways of coping with stress. While there is no right or wrong way, most of us will gravitate toward either sex as a reliever of stress or sex as another stressor. Which one are you? Which is your partner? Does this change depending on the circumstance? Knowing, and respecting, the differences between you two is crucial to creating great sex in your relationship.
  • Start talking outside the bedroom. Speaking about it in a no-pressure environment, without a sexual charge, can allow for a much easier, realistic, and relaxed conversation.
  • When you are the one with higher desire: Ask your partner how they can hear about your sexual interest without feeling pressured. There is no greater turn-off than the obligation to have sex. And being understanding of your partner’s need to not engage in sex is uniquely associated with both relationship and sexual satisfaction. So, let them know you respect their timing, and you will go a lot further in your seduction success.
  • When you are the one with lower desire: Talking about “not feeling sexual” without rejecting the partner is actually a little easier than it sounds. The key is to make it about you, not about your lover. For example, “I’m just not feeling very sexual right now” or “I love you, but let’s connect in a day or two,” can be respectful without rejecting them. The research says the best way to reject sex is to use a reassuring or “soft” manner to let your partner know that your low desire is about you (your state, your body, etc.), and not about your attraction to them. Desire differences are extremely common, which means that rejection is also common. Doing it with care leads to better relationships and better sex.

Being realistic about both lover’s sexual timing is essential to keeping a sexual connection. You also need to be aware of each other’s style of initiation. One way to start the communication is with the self-test (QTIP—Questionnaire for Turn-on Initiation Preference or watch the TED Talk on Initiation and sustaining sexual desire in long-term relationships) to discover each other’s initiation needs. Your partner can take the test too, giving you another opportunity for couple communication. The more understanding, the better.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-erotic-brain/202206/when-it-comes-sexual-desire-timing-is-everything

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