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Spontaneous Vs. Responsive Desire Explained

Spontaneous Vs. Responsive Desire Explained

Are you more likely to feel aroused *after* your partner starts initiating? Or is horniness more spur-of-the-moment for you, making you want to do the actual initiating in the first place? Either way, both are totally normal—and they’re referred to as *responsive versus spontaneous desire.*

Here’s what they mean, exactly, per sex and relationship counselor Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Responsive Desire

Basically, you’re someone who needs sexual stimulation or context to initiate sexual desire. You may not feel the urge for sex out of nowhere, but instead, you’ll require a certain level of intimacy before wanting more sexual activity. (Think: Your partner kissing your neck from behind and caressing your skin is what gets you in the mood.)

Spontaneous Desire

You have an urge for sexual activity that arises without any specific external triggers. These desires are strong and immediate, emerging seemingly out of nowhere. People with spontaneous desire may experience sexual thoughts, fantasies, or physical sensations that lead them to seek out sexual activity without any particular context or stimulation.

TBH: On average, women tend to identify more with responsive desire. (But both can exist within people on some level! Your desires can also change over time, so don’t stress or make this about labeling yourself one or the other.) 

So, why is it important to learn about spontaneous versus sexual desire? 

“Couples with mismatched desire patterns may face challenges in understanding and meeting each other's needs,” Lee explains. “If one partner has spontaneous desire and expects their partner to have the same level of immediate arousal, it can create frustration or disappointment if their partner has responsive desire and requires more time or stimulation to feel desire.” Are you following?

That’s why it’s important to know yourself and communicate with your partner about how you’d characterize your desire, Lee says. It’ll help you feel more connected sexually, and if need be, it will allow you both to meet each other where you’re at for a more pleasurable sexual experience. 

Here’s what else you can do, per Lee….

Schedule sex! 

We’ve said it before: Scheduling sex is great! “While it may sound unromantic, scheduling dedicated time for intimacy can help both partners prepare mentally and physically, allowing for a more responsive or spontaneous desire to emerge,” Lee says. 

Surprise each other

Incorporate elements of novelty into your sexual routine, since it’ll help spark some spontaneous desire in both partners. “Try new activities, explore fantasies, sensual massages, or introduce toys or role-playing to create excitement and anticipation,” Lee notes. 

Above all: compromise is key

Be open to and find a middle ground. “It may require some flexibility and creativity to find a balance. Be willing to meet each other halfway and explore new approaches that can accommodate both styles,” Lee says. 

Trust: finding ways to meet each other's spontaneous and responsive desires will make for a more satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationship for you both. You’ve got this!

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