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Building Sexual Desire

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. 

So we are all on the same page, let’s define sexual desire and arousal.

Sexual 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 sexual 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 sexual desire starts away from sexual activity. 

We build sexual 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 actions/things 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?

Some examples to shift the pendulum to being more open/desiring may be:

Having time to exerciseA passionate kiss when I come homeExpressions of appreciation 
Expressing your gratitude towards mePreparing dinner so I have some time to myselfA non-sexual massage before bed
Organising some quality time together and/or with the familyOrganising a date nightTelling me I look attractive
Sending me a flirty textTelling me you love meDressing up in lingerie 
Dancing togetherRubbing my feet after a long day

Some examples that shift the pendulum to being less open/desiring may be:

Not greeting me when I come homeGrabbing my bum/breastsDoing the entire night routine and prep for next day without help
ArgumentsStressful day at workNot having much sleep 
Saying “you wanna wink wink” at bedtimeNot having time for myselfNot having time together as a couple (rather than as parents) 

Relationship Reflection

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? 

I hope this has provided you with a new way of framing sexual desire and learning more about your own sexual desire.

Dr Hilary Lindberg

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