desire in marriage

Swoon Podcast: I Want You to Want Me: Higher Desire Partners in Relationships

Are you ready for a life and relationship that makes you swoon?

Every Monday, join Julie Jeske and Gina Senarighi, sex therapists, pleasure specialists, and relationship coaches, as they break down what everyone needs to know about sex, relationships, intimacy, love and desire.

Whether you want fresh and honest information about sex and relationships or tools to create more fulfilling intimacy and pleasure, this podcast is going to help you connect meaningfully with yourself and your lovers.

This week:

I WANT YOU TO WANT ME: Higher Desire Partners in Relationships

Being the high desire partner can seem like a simple problem form the outside, but people living this experience will tell you it's not that easy. You want to connect, share passion, and get your needs met, but you need to be careful to do it in ways that don't add pressure to what can often be a tense situation.

Let Gina and Julie help you understand how to handle high desire in mismatched desire relationships, in loving consensual ways.

This episode covers:

  • They ways “higher desire” can affect an individual and a relationship

  • Many of the factors that can influence how much desire someone experiences

  • The difference between spontaneous desire and responsive desire 

  • Practical tools you can use in your relationship or with yourself to explore willingness, pleasure and desire

Memorable Quotes in This Episode

On the inner experience of the high desire partner -

“High desire partners often experience an intense inner struggle, where on one hand they know they are entitled to have desire, and they know there's nothing wrong with asking for what I want, but at the same time I'm tired of always being the one to gets things started... so I either feel like I am pressuring someone all the time, or I take it personally.”

On our culture and sex -

“Sometimes we have a tendency to talk about sex like it's not important or it's base. We tell people to focus on love more. There's something wrong with you if you have a lot of desire. You're not enlightened if you have a lot of desire. So there can be shame around this.”

On knowing when high desire is a problem -

“There are a small number people on one extreme end of the spectrum where their desire, boundaries about sex or impulse control about sex are interruptive in their life, they can't make it work, they betray relationships, they don't respect the boundaries of others because they can't manage their sexual impulsivity BUT that is one small end of the spectrum.”

"Is it causing you emotional strife or relationship problems?"

"Is it negatively impacting your life?"

On sex and love -

“For some people, sex and love go together and that's really important. But for some people, it doesn't and that's okay. ”

On exploring desire -

"If I believe the only way for me to get my sexual needs met is to have sex with a partner that can put a lot of pressure on a relationship... When we focus in on only one pathway to pleasure and stop playing around."

"It's okay to like other stuff."

"One of the most important ingredients for a great sex life is curiosity and a willingness to explore."

Resources Shared in This Episode

Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity TED Talk, Esther Perel

Action Steps from the Podcast

Explore different ways of being in your body and connecting sexually with yourself and/or with your partner.

Esther Perel Reflection Activity

Take a piece of paper (or use your computer) and draw a line down the middle (creating two columns).

Write "Love" at the top of the left column and write down your first responses to the following questions.

"Love is..."

"When I think of love, I think of..."

"When I love, I feel..."

"When I am loved I feel..."

"In love, I look for..."

"I wish I experienced love as..."

On the top of the right column write "Sex" and write your immediate associations to the following prompts.

"Sex is..."

"When I think of sex, I think of..."

"When I desire, I feel..."

"When I am desired I feel..."

"In sex, I look for..."

"I wish I experienced sex as..."

Now take a few minutes to look at your responses. Notice any similarities? Notice any differences? How do you feel after looking at your lists? Do you wish you had different responses?

Your Swoon hosts

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sexuality counselor and communication consultant specializing in healthy boundaries, passionate relationships, jealousy, and infidelity. She supports non-traditional couples all over the world as a retreat leader and certified relationship coach.
Connect with Gina

Julie Jeske, LPC is a sex and relationship counselor. She has a private practice where she helps clients increase intimacy, ignite passion and deepen their connection to themselves and others. Julie especially loves to help women discover who they are sexually. Through counseling, online classes, or in-person retreats; her clients learn how to talk about their sexual and relationship desires, and explore ways to make them a reality.
Connect with Julie

Every Monday, join Julie Jeske and Gina Senarighi, sex therapists, pleasure specialists, and relationship coaches, as they break down what everyone needs to know about sex, relationships, intimacy, love and desire. 

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Why You're Not Having Sex: Sex Negativity

sex therapist portland sex counselor desire and passion in relationship

This is part of a series of posts about sex and desire in long-term relationships.  CLICK HERE to read the full series.

Sex negativity gets in the way somewhere along the line in almost every long-term couple I see.  Sex-negativity is the opposite of sex-positivity, meaning at it's core sex-negativity is about passing judgment that some sexual activities are good, normal, healthy, or right, while others are bad, perverted, or wrong.  

It's not uncommon for sex-negativity to come from people who actually seem to enjoy sex or want it more often.  But the judgment comes across and shuts down opportunities to sexually connect - even in the most vanilla ways. 

And because judgment is both about your thoughts AND the way they're perceived by your partner it can create problems in surprising ways. 

How sex negativity shows up

Here are a couple examples:

Partner A: "You know what I think might be hot to try sometime?"

Partner B: "No, what?  Tell me."

Partner A: "I think it would be fun to maybe try ___(insert sex act here)___ sometime.  If you're into it."

Partner B:  If you answer any form of "yuck" or "that's weird" or "gross" or "never in your freaking life, I can't believe you would ever even ask me." You're giving a sex negative response.  

And if your partner perceives that as your response, the impact still is shaming- even if that wasn't the intention.  You might just say "that's not for me." but your tone could still sound condemning.  

Often sex-negativity shows up in the giggles or smiles we give when we're uncomfortable talking about sex.  They might not be about the content of our partner's fantasy at all but about our own difficulty communicating.  The impact still is the same.

Not just for kinky sex

Sex-negativity isn't necessarily about kinky sex either.  Most often it shows up in couples practicing the most vanilla (average or mainstream) sex.  It might be one partner asking to have afternoon sex, or someone wanting to try it in the shower, or try anal sex, or watching porn together.  

Judgment isn't sexy

Unless you're into certain kinds of power play (humiliation, or brat play or a few others) judgment from your partner just isn't sexy. In most sexy situations, even unintended (but perceived) judgment will kill the mood.

But most of us don't realize when we're passing sex-negative judgment so we might keep doing it for a long time without realizing the damage we're doing to our sexual relationship.  I'm going to outline the four main forums for sex-negativity here for you to be aware.

Fantasies and desire

Couples with thriving sexual lives share fantasies far more often.  But if judgment is present it's unlikely you'll talk about what you want, dream, of or get curious about sex out in the open. 

And if there's no room to dream- there's going to be even less room to try it.  Even if you never act on shared fantasies or desires, talking about them without judgment is essential to fostering healthy sexual connection.

Saying no and setting boundaries

Okay, so what if you really don't want to do the thing your partner brings up?  What if your partner brings up something that really offends you or makes you totally uncomfortable?

It's always okay to say no to sex or sexual activities that you're not into.  That fact doesn't change here.  But the way you say no matters.  And you can say no without passing judgment.

Here's an example:

Partner A: "I think it would be fun to maybe try ___(insert totally unusual I'm really uncomfortable with sex act here)___ sometime.  If you're into it."

Partner B: "Wow that sounds really hot for you.  I need time to think about that before trying it." OR

Partner B: "I am so glad you told me.  I need to learn a lot before I would feel ready to try that with you.  How can we learn more together?"  OR

Partner B: "I can see you are really excited about that.  I love when you tell me what you're thinking.  I think it's not for me right now, but let's figure out ways to get your needs met."

You can say no without judgment if you use care in your response. 

Offering feedback

Similar to saying no, sometimes you're not into the same thing your partner is- or you might not be into it all the time.  Most of the time you might just say "I don't like the way you ___(insert action here)___." without thinking about the impact.

But if you think about it, the feedback you give is likely perceived with judgment.  Even if that's not your intention.

Just saying what you don't like shuts down the energetic connection between you when talking about sex.  Instead, try focusing on what you're interested in, what you like, and what you're curious about.  "I'm not as into ______ but I would love to try ______." is going to take you further.

Other people's business

FinallyOne last place where sex-negative judgment can seep into your relationship isn't directly related to your sex life- but can have a huge impact there.  

Think about the way you pass judgment on other people's sex acts in conversation.  Maybe you watch Fifty Shades, or you hear a Savage Love Podcast and someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable.  Do you snicker?  Do you turn to your partner and say something like "that's crazy"?

Imagine then if your partner has always been secretly curious about that same action.  By judging others you've shut down the possible conversation you and your partner might have about desire. Even if you would never try whatever the action is, talking about it brings you closer and judgment can make it really difficult to talk about anything.

Judgment can be really difficult to let go.  If you want help, give me a call, I'm happy to talk.  


  1. Biology

  2. Time Scarcity

  3. Lack of Self-Care

  4. Maintenance Sex - Break Free of Obligation

  5. Lack of Inspiration - Invest in Creativity, Wonder and Awe

  6. Assumption-Making - Get Curious and Explore

  7. Initiation Hesitation - Live Courageously and Circle Back

  8. Lacking Feedback - Highlights Reel

  9. Poor Consent Practices - Talk During

  10. Sex Negativity - Don't Yuck Their Yum

  11. Routine Boredom - Fantasy Sharing, Find Inspiration

  12. Necessary Repairs - Move Past Resentment with Apology and Personal Responsibility

  13. Desire Maintenance - Invest in Your Sexiness

  14. Alone Time



Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, insecurity or codependency
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns 
  • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  


  1. Biology - See a Doctor
  2. Time Scarcity - Prioritize Sexual Connection
  3. Lack of Self-Care - Tune It Up
  4. Maintenance Sex - Break Free of Obligation
  5. Lack of Inspiration - Invest in Creativity, Wonder and Awe
  6. Assumption-Making - Get Curious and Explore
  7. Initiation Hesitation - Live Courageously and Circle Back
  8. Lacking Feedback - Highlights Reel
  9. Poor Consent Practices - Talk During 
  10. Sex-Negativity - Don't Yuck Anyone's Yum
  11. Routine Boredom - Fantasy Sharing, Find Inspiration
  12. Necessary Repairs - Move Past Resentment with Apology and Personal Responsibility
  13. Desire Maintenance - Invest in Your Sexiness
  14. Alone Time - Masturbate and Fantasize

Two Questions to Find Passion in Long-Term Relationships

Passion in Marriage | Uncommon Love Relationship Coaching

Yeah, it happens.  Desire and passion fade in long-term relationships.  

Most of us believe terrible myths about desire; that if we're in love, our sex should be intuited without conversation, consistently fulfilling, and if it waxes and wanes there is a problem in the relationship- and one of us is doing something wrong.  

God, it stresses me out just to type that.  It's an awful lot of pressure to put on a relationship.  The truth is desire does fluctuate in long-term relationships.  But if you are unsatisfied with the frequency of quality of sex in your relationship there are some things you can do.  

Yeah, this post if about you- not your partner.  

All too often the couples I support point fingers at one another.

Finish this statement: I turn myself off when...

Not the same question as "I turn myself off when..." or "you turn me off when..."   Both of those questions look outside of you to blame.  We all choose to turn ourselves off sometimes.  Here are a few examples of responses:

  • I don't have time for myself

  • I'm overwhelmed with too much work stress

  • I'm distracted by the kids

  • I feel old

  • I don't believe I deserve pleasure

  • I don't feel safe 

  • I feel dead inside

  • I am too busy hating my body

  • I don't trust you

When do you shut yourself or your desire off?  Knowing when gives you a new access point for the conversation about passionate connection.

Now finish this statement: I turn myself on when....

Take a minute and actually write out your responses.  When are do you turn yourself on?  Learning to turn yourself on will only amplify the desire you feel from others.  Here are a few examples of responses:

  • I am sweaty from a workout

  • I wear special underwear, shoes, and perfume

  • I am well-rested

  • I'm on a dance floor

  • I am doing something I know I do well

  • I make people laugh

  • I'm making music, cooking, painting, or writing

  • I'm the center of attention

  • I feel respected

  • I have space for friends, rest, and play

Learning what fuels your desire is critical to keeping desire alive for two reasons:

1.  It helps you feel strong and confident- not clingy.  Instead of relying on others to get your needs met, knowing how to meet your own allows you empowered independence instead of codependence. 

2. It helps you know what to ask for in partnerships.  Once you're clear when you turn yourself on you can set up a life that fuels your inner fire of passion.  Create space for the things that turn you on.

These notes are based on a video I recommend to most of my clients.  If you want to watch the full TED Talk from Esther Perel check it out below. 

And if you want to talk more about passion and desire in your relationship give me a call, I'd love to help you.

Gina Senarighi Portland Couples Counselor

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.