Reactive vs Responsive Desire
by Tracy Lee
Reactive vs Responsive Desire in Intimacy, a story of Paul and Mary.
I recently worked with a couple, Paul and Mary, whose desire for intimacy was mismatched. I want to tell you about them because they are a perfect example of a reaction vs response dynamic in sexuality. Paul was a pleaser and always made sure his wife, Mary, had multiple orgasms during sex but despite his efforts to please her, Mary rarely initiated sex. As a result, Paul felt undesirable and unwanted.
“But the sex is good!” He kept on saying and Mary would agree with him. Let’s look a bit deeper at their dynamic.
I like to use a prankster analogy here. I’m sure at some point in your life a prankster friend has hidden around a corner and jumped out with a “BOO!!” to watch you jump and hear you shriek. Once you catch your breath, you laugh, and shake off the fight, flight, freeze jolt that just coursed through your body. The prankster friend got pleasure from your reaction. We all know this scenario, it’s a bit extreme, but it gives us an idea of the sex between Paul and Mary.
Now let’s talk about statistics and the difference between the sexes. What we know scientifically is that men are faster to arouse than women. Men on average take 3-5 min. Women’s average is 20 min. Paul was doing all the right things to Mary to “get a response” but he was doing it too soon in their sexual encounters. Mary’s body was in fight, flight, freeze state with too much stimulation, too fast. Paul was getting the shriek of “Eeek!” and confusing it for her pleasure when all Mary’s body was trying to do was to keep up. Mary was having all the right bodily reactions, just not from the relaxed state where we find deeper pleasure.
As we sorted through this dynamic and worked much more slowly with Mary’s body, response started showing up. Response with arousal, response with desire, and a response of more please!! Now the Eeek! sounds more like, Aahhhh, Oh yeah, Mmmmm… and a much heartier OMG! during her orgasms. They worked together to learn the tell-tale signs unique to Mary’s body that informed them both she was relaxed, aroused, and fully ready to engage sexually. Now Mary is much more interested in sex as her pleasure is now responsive vs reactive, and she has started initiating closeness and sexual intimacy with Paul.
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