High Desire, Low Desire, and Control: Part 1

High Desire, Low Desire, and Control

Have you ever noticed that there are certain things within your relationship that you are much more likely to do than your partner? What about things you just don’t care about as much as your partner does? If this sounds like you, you are not alone- this is an extremely common experience within romantic relationships! If this isn’t resonating with you, I encourage you to keep reading while thinking of some common disagreements you run into in your relationship.


David Schnarch, a famous and groundbreaking therapist in the world of marriage and sex therapy, proposed that there is a “high desire” and a “low desire” partner for everything in your relationship. Schnarch most commonly worked with this belief when helping clients through problems with sex and intimacy, but expanded the concept of desire differences to just about anything you can think of: chores, spending/saving money, visiting family and friends, trying new things, etc. You name it, we can figure out which partner has higher desire, and which has lower.

Now you might be thinking something along the lines of: “Hmm. We both love going out with our friends/trying new things/insert any example here and are usually agreeable to doing so when the opportunity comes. I think we both actually have the same desire level.” It may absolutely be true that you both rarely turn down the chance to hang out with friends. You could also say that you both have an objectively high desire to socialize with your friends. However, we have to change our frame of reference for this to really make sense. Consider this example:

A couple is discussing how often they prefer to have sex. Partner A desires sex 7 days a week, twice per day. Partner B desires sex 6-7 days per week, once per day.

You could definitely say that each partner objectively has a high desire for sex. However, relative to each other, Partner A has a higher desire for sex than Partner B. In other words, Partner A takes the higher desire position while, compared to Partner A, Partner B takes the lower desire position regarding frequency of sex.

So…why does this matter? Let’s use another scenario. Pretend (or maybe this is your reality) that you feel like you are constantly asking your partner to do the dishes. You may find yourself asking for several days until they either begrudgingly do them or you finally just do them yourself. You likely find yourself frustrated with your partner that they can’t just do this simple thing for you. In this scenario, you are in the higher desire position for getting the dishes done, automatically putting your partner in the lower desire position. Or, vice versa, your partner is in the lower desire position for doing dishes, automatically putting you in the higher desire position.

Neither position should be considered “wrong” or a personal deficiency of any sort. Using the example above, you, the higher desire dish cleaner, would be considered the lower desire dish cleaner if you were in a relationship with someone who wanted the dishes done even more often than you do. You are automatically put in the lower desire position simply because the other person wanted them done more often than you. See where this is going?

In part two of this blog post, you will learn more about higher desire and lower desire positions in terms of control, including a common misconception about which position holds most control. If you found yourself resonating with this post but aren’t sure what to do about desire differences within your relationship, I encourage you and your partner to reach out and schedule an appointment with me to talk about how to navigate and reframe these differences.


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