Hint: It’s probably not who you think.
There is always a lower desire partner and a higher desire partner in every relationship.
These may not follow societal gender roles and may change throughout the relationship.
For example, early in the relationship, the woman might be the higher desire partner for sex. She may want sex every other day, while her partner is happy with once a week. Then, after having birth, she may be the lower desire partner sex. She may only feel like sex once a month, whereas her partner would like things to continue once a week.
These roles exist in every area of life, from unpacking the dishwasher to seeing the in-laws or spending vs saving money.
What might not be so apparent from the outset is that the person in the relationship with the lower desire always controls sex, whether they like it or not.
In other words, the lower desire partner may not want to control sex, but they do nonetheless. Let me explain.
By definition, the higher desire partner wants to have sex more than the lower desire partner. This leads the higher desire partner to make the majority of the advances. They will initiate most, if not all, of the sexual encounters. Then, the lower desire partner will decide which invitations they want to participate in. This is how the couple decide when they will or won’t have sex.
This means that whenever the lower desire partner says yes, they will have sex, and whenever the lower desire partner says no, they won’t. The higher sex is almost a default yes, so the only choice that makes a difference is the lower desire partners.
This pattern may not be amiable to the lower desire partner or the higher desire partner, yet it is how sex is decided and thus reveals the lower desire partner’s default control.
This is so simple, and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Julia would come home from work and “test the waters” to see if Tim might be in the mood for sex. She’d enquire superficially about his day. Some days, if he’d been able to put deals together, he responded well. Other days he shared work frustrations, and she knew that meant no action tonight.
If confronted about this fact of relationships, Tim might outright disagree. How could he be in control? Clearly, he’s the one that’s out of control. He always felt pressured to have sex with Julia, whether he really wanted it or not.
Remember that the lower desire partner gets to control whether they like it or not.
Said another way: The higher desire partner’s answer to sex is always “yes”, which means the only “no” to sex will come from the lower desire partner. Thus they decide when the noes will occur and how often.
You only need one no to stop sex from happening, but you need two yeses.
Because marriage is a partnership and most of us will only have sex if there’s consent, thus as long as the lower desire partner’s “no” is in place, it becomes a roadblock to sex ever getting off the ground.
As every relationship continues, this dynamic escalates, and the tension can become unbearable. Each partner feels more frustrated and powerless—but in the opposite direction—feeling less and less hopeful about the future and more frustrated at the other person for “ruining sex”.
When you take up these roles (higher desire vs lower desire) for a bit of time, you start to identify with them.
As the lower desire partner, you may feel inadequate, sexually defective, uptight or just not that “into” sex.
Meanwhile, the higher desire partner might feel more experienced but also defeated, deflated, trapped, held back or like they’re stuck with a sexually defective partner.
Whether you’re the higher or lower desire you will be able to enjoy the best sex of your life, if you can find a way through the tumultuous terrain of the higher vs lower desire partner dilemma.
To enjoy better sex, you’ll need to harness four tools. Now, in truth, you can call them whatever you want. This is the easier way I’ve discovered to describe the principles. Some couples will find these spontaneously, but it does help to have a framework to know “what’s what” when you’re learning a new way of approaching sex.
The framework includes four tools: Confident & Unguarded, Calm-Connected Responding, Emotionally Self-Controlled and Grit & Growth.
If you can be Confident & Unguarded while practising Calm-Connected Responding to react productively in an Emotionally Self-Controlled way to your partner when you’re frustrated about sex, then you’re well on your way to having hotter more meaningful sex. Using these 3 tools while harnessing the “staying power” of Grit & Growth, you will condition yourself to access incredible sex.
What do these tools mean?
✔ Calm-Connected Responding is the ability to not over or under-react when things become stressful—but to engage and reply in a productive way to your partner.
✔ Emotionally Self-Controlled is the ability to soothe yourself when you feel overwhelmed, blamed or threatened.
✔ Confident & Unguarded is the ability to be fully yourself, with others you deeply love and respect, without shrinking, hiding or moulding yourself into a person you think they will be more willing to accept.
✔ Grit & Growth is the ability to stay connected with your partner while tolerating the pain that’s part of growing.
In this article, we’ve looked at why every relationship has a higher and lower desire partner. These are just roles and the change depending on the topic. There’ll be a higher and lower desire partner for everything from cleaning, to visiting in-laws, to having sex.
We also covered the truth about who controls sex. The lower desire partner controls when and how sex occurs because they are more likely to say no, and it only takes one no to stop sex from happening.
Lastly, we touched on four tools that you can use to have better sex.
Next, I would recommend you read Want Intimate Sex? See Why “Give & Take” Doesn’t Work—And What To Do Instead.
Stephanie Renee Cluff