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Intimacy & Desire

Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship

By Dr. David Schnarch
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Intimacy & Desire by Dr. David Schnarch

Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship (2009) explains why all people in committed, long-term relationships run into sexual problems. Driven by case studies of real couples in sex therapy, the book demonstrates how people in relationships can transform their perspective – and confront themselves and each other – to reawaken sexual passion.

Key idea 1 of 9

In every relationship, there is always a low desire partner and a high desire partner.

When you think of a healthy romantic relationship, what comes to mind? You probably picture a couple in love – a pair of people who are psychologically and physically compatible. And, if asked, you’d probably say they have a functional sex life. After all, a healthy relationship implies a healthy level of desire, right? If partners don’t desire one another, the relationship is as good as over. 

Or so the myth about relationships goes. But that premise is based on a faulty assumption: that sustained desire is an index of a healthy relationship. In reality, sexual desire problems exist in all committed relationships.

The key message in this blink is: In every relationship, there is always a low desire partner and a high desire partner. 

In every long-term relationship, there is a high desire partner (the HDP) and a low desire partner (the LDP). This is just another way of saying that one partner will always want sex more than the other. It doesn’t mean that the HDP is biologically predisposed to desirousness and the LDP is not. In fact, the positions say nothing about the individual partner – they only exist in relation to each other.

For example, if your partner desires sex daily and you only want it once a week, then you’re the LDP. But if your partner wants sex every other week and you desire it weekly, then you are the HDP. It’s always relative. 

The positions can even shift throughout the course of your relationship, with partners potentially exchanging roles over time. Even if you were the HDP in the first few years of the relationship, you might become the LDP later on. 

Understanding that there is always an LDP and an HDP can help you let go of worries that something is wrong with you. If you’ve ever been accused of not wanting enough sex, or of wanting too much sex, this framework should inspire you to put those reproaches to rest for good. Whatever the situation, you were filling the role of either LDP or HDP – relative to your partner. 

Since the HDP-LDP dynamic exists in all relationships, you can also be sure that desire problems are not only inevitable but natural. All long-term relationships encounter desire problems at some point. It’s healthy. It’s normal. And it doesn’t mean your relationship is failing. 

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