In Part 1 of this blog post, we discussed the general idea that, in your relationship with your partner, one of you will occupy the higher desire position and the other will hold the lower desire position for any given thing. These roles can shift and change over time, and you will likely occupy different roles in different topics or situations. Additionally, we learned that occupying one position over the other doesn’t make you “right” and your partner “wrong”; they are simply positions you are in because of your level of desire for a certain thing relative to your partner’s desire level.
As you read Part 1, you may have found yourself feeling some relief with this shift in perspective. Or, you may have found yourself feeling frustrated about what this information means for your relationship. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a perfect, step by step “solution” to these differences. This is largely because in and of themselves, desire differences aren’t necessarily problems that need to be (or can be) “fixed.” This is where the aspect of control comes in.
Let’s go back to the dishwashing example from Part 1. If you are the partner in the lower desire position for washing dishes, you may feel like you have no control over the situation due to your partner constantly being on your back about getting the dishes done. You may feel like you can’t say no or feel frustrated by having the topic come up so often. Your higher desire counterpart is likely feeling similar frustration because they are having to ask so often. So…who has control in this situation?
Interestingly enough, Schnarch (the genius behind this conceptualization for desire differences) says that the lower desire partner is always in control. Keep in mind that you and your partner’s desire levels are relative to one another and neither of you asked to be in the position you are in. This also means that the partner in the lower desire position did not ask to be automatically in control of whatever situation they have lower desire for. This is usually an extremely frustrating position for them to be in, and they often do not feel like they have the control (nor do they want the control).
If you are the higher desire partner for, let’s say, sex, you may have felt at some point that your partner is withholding or avoiding sex on purpose as some scheme to upset you. In most situations, this is not the case, and your lower desire partner is very likely feeling the opposite of “in control.” Your partner may even be feeling like you have the control since you are likely the one initiating sex most of the time. Again, this can be an extremely frustrating position for you as the higher desire partner to be in because you don’t know what else to do to motivate your partner to engage.
I can’t emphasize enough that the lower desire partner does not choose to be in control, and they are probably not enjoying the pressure that often comes with this position. This often leaves the higher desire partner feeling helpless, wondering what they can do to change the current dynamic.
As I mentioned, there isn’t a perfect, five-step solution to this dilemma. Couples often find that seeing their situation objectively for what it is, rather than assigning meaning to your partner’s actions that leave you feeling personally attacked or wronged, can help lower the intensity they are feeling by the dynamic. This is not to say that you will magically feel better about the positions that you and your partner hold, but it is a way for you to grow as individuals and together as a couple through tolerating the anxiety of your differences.
If this is an area of your relationship where you would like to grow and feel like you might find freedom in learning to not take your partner’s actions so personally, please feel free to reach out and schedule an appointment or free consult call with me. I would love to help you both find new perspectives and make new meanings for desire differences in your relationship.