The Desire Bypass Marriage

The Desire Bypass Marriage

An older couple is trying to recover from an infidelity. Newlyweds fight over their expectations of each other at home. A woman feels emotionally dropped by her female partner. It can be hard to see root commonalities in these couples when their concerns, circumstances, and life stories appear to be so varied. What emerges as a root problem in a great many couples is a woman’s inability to feel, know, and articulate her own desires. This is an essential relational ability which women in particular have been discouraged from developing in a variety of complex ways from birth onward (see “What Is The SCAM?”). To a greater or lesser degree, many women come to their romantic relationships with limited access to their deepest desires, wants, and yearnings. So what happens when a woman can’t know, feel, identify and express her desires in a marriage? A phenomenon I’ve come to call Desire Bypass. Desire Bypass is a woman’s compensatory way of avoiding the experience of her own desire. It occurs at the fringes of a woman's awareness so she is typically not conscious of it happening. Have you ever injured yourself and changed the way you sit or walk to minimize the discomfort? For many women, desire is that place of injury. Through a lifetime of accumulated micro-aggessions that directed at a woman's expressed desires, she learns that to feel desire is risky, dangerous, wrong, and unacceptable. She comes to associate desire itself as the painful experience she must intuitively, self-protectively learn to avoid it whenever possible. Women quickly learn and often repeatedly relearn that directly feeling and expressing desire is shameful, wrong, self-defeating, bad and possibly also dangerous. For women, it’s an experience that can be loaded with layers of fear, shame and grief, with old, buried traumas, personal, intergenerational, and historical. Many women transition from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood, by becoming more and more skilled at Desire Bypass. It’s part of a woman’s socialization process, part of how she learns to forge an identity in the world. Desire Bypass can, albeit temporarily, help a woman feel in control and safe. It can help reduce the internal threat of a woman’s own emotional discomfort and minimize a variety of external threats, real or imagined. So how does it impact a marriage when a woman resorts to Desire Bypass? Imagine you injure your foot and ignore the pain. You might deal with it by walking a little differently, on the arch of your foot - or more on the ball of your foot than on the heel. You might put a little more weight on the uninjured foot to reduce the discomfort. It may even appear to others that you’re walking normally and comfortably. You still do all the things you did before. Nothing appears to have changed. Over time, however, avoiding the injury will affect other parts of your body. You might hyperextend your torso or certain muscles in your legs and grow rigid or inflexible in other parts of your body. Your muscles, bones, ligaments and joints will all be impacted over time as they strive to compensate for and adapt to the unequal distribution of physical pressures and stresses. If the injury in your foot fails to heal or worsens, and you continue to compensate through avoiding treating the root problem with your foot by adjusting your stance or posture, other physical issues will arise. Your avoidance of the inital problem will result in new aches and pains in other parts of your body: in your knees, shoulders, spine or hips. You might develop chronic neck pain or migraines. Physical therapists know this phenomenon well. Avoidance of an issue in one part of the body can lead to another issue in a completely different, seemingly unrelated body part. It’s the same thing in a marriage. Desire Bypass can contribute to any number of relational issues that create suffering between a couple. Many of the problems couples struggle with are just the most visible aspect of other, submerged dynamics between them and within them individually: the “tip of the iceberg” of what needs to be explored and addressed to bring about a positive change in their connection to one another. Whether it’s infidelity, frustrated role expectations, a deadening of sexual attraction, or a sense of emotional isolation, couples need to be willing to look beyond the obvious issues in their relationship at what’s hidden. If there's a pain in one part of the relationship, couples need to consider underlying root causes within themselves that may have contributed to creating this issue over time. For women, Desire Bypass is one of those root causes that can be addressed and explored to bring about radical positive change in a relationship. The first and most important step is recognizing the problem. Women need to be willing to take responsibility for their own relationship to - or lack of relationship to - their own deepest desires.

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Sexual Destiny vs. Sexual Journey

Sexual Destiny vs. Sexual Journey

The SCAM is a modern chastity belt, though its reach goes far beyond whether or not a woman is sexually active. It puts a lockdown on a woman’s capacity to fully experience pleasure, use her pleasure as a compass, and understand the power of her own desire. It teaches that desire is something that happens to women, unpredictably and randomly, rather than a force within them. It saps a woman's energy and power, conditioning her to think her erotic experience rests in the hands of another. If she wishes to experience it, the SCAM suggests, she must continue to be worthy of it, make sacrifices and live in a cloud of uncertainty and doubt. It leads her to believe in erotic fulfillment as a sexual destiny rather than as a sexual journey. In order to awaken desire in a marriage, one of the most important perspective-shifts women can make has to do with relinquishing the comforts of sexual destiny beliefs and reframing the unpredictable and mutinous interplay of erotic energy with a committed partner as a sexual journey. This trajectory of this journey isn't a random, magical event that either happens or doesn't, if the "chemistry" is right. It's a path we can choose. In her article 'The Laws of Attraction' in the July issue of Psychology Today, Wendy Paris quotes Glenn Geher, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at New Palz and co-author of Mating Intelligence Unleashed: "We can overcome an initial, unwise attraction, no matter how powerful, and be drawn to a great partner, even if it isn't lust at first sight." Our sex appeal, our attractivness, our youthfulness, and our seduction skills may affect or add spice to the adventures that unfold on our sexual journey, however the richness and depth and scope of our what we learn will be shaped far more by qualities not traditionally linked to our sexual prowess as women: courage, vulnerability, curiosity, compassion, and willingness to open to the parts of ourselves and our mates we push away, deny and reject.

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Erotic Maturity: Women Turning On

Erotic Maturity: Women Turning On

Our societies, educational systems, and families groom us to grow up and become independent. We are encouraged to move through developmental stages toward maturity. Maturity means we are able to understand and take responsibility for our feelings, needs and behaviors while remaining aware of and sensitive to others. And yet the idea of erotic maturity is rarely if ever discussed. It seems paradoxical. Our choice, if we believe the cultural mainstream, seems to be between hot, wild, mindless attraction or tame, responsible, controlled and rather uninspired sex. Which would you choose? Why hasn't the idea of erotic maturity entered the mainstream as something more desireable that knee-jerk-reaction passion? Why are sexually soverign women rarely glorified as ideals for our daighters? What could be more inspiring than a woman who stands in the full power of all aspects of her being, with these parts integrated and balanced rather than split off and separated? Erotically mature women can be mothers and lovers. They can be innocent and sexual. They can be caretakers of themselves and nurturing through clear boundary setting and respectful refusal. They can be fierce and tender. They know what they want and they seek it. They are proactive and empowered. Erotically mature women are looking to realize themselves, embody their sexuality and mine the erotic potential in their marriages

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Three R’s To Erotic Empowerment: RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE

Three R’s To Erotic Empowerment: RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE

The acronyms RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE crystalize the theme of each phase of erotic empowerment. Phase I, RISC, focuses on Replacing Introjects with Sexual Curiosity. This phase involves embracing the risk of challenging your beliefs about your own sexuality. It involves moving through the shame of family and cultural conditioning. Phase II, REAP, centers on Researching Erotic Adventure and Pleasure. This is a phase where research into what pleases you, turns you on, and delights you leads you to gather information about who you really are versus who you think you are or should be. Phase II, RE-WIRE, integrates Phases I and II through Relating Erotically With Intention and Releasing Expectations. In this phase, the focus is on practicing new ways of connecting to yourself and your partner erotically. Over time, new behaviors result in new ways of being, thinking and experiencing your sexuality. The Three R’s organize and operationalize approaches, methods, and techniques which can be helpful with empowering women to ignore the sexual chemistry myth, create a workable desire discipline, and recalibrate their erotic compasses.

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Desire As A Discipline: A Daily Practice

Desire As A Discipline: A Daily Practice

We grow up learning that discipline is part of how we achieve excellence, and yet we rarely consider being disciplined about how we learn about, explore and develop our sexuality. We may feel ashamed about not feeling sexual or about wanting to be more sexual, or we may judge sexuality as wrong, troublesome, dangerous or unimportant. We may view it as the one area where discipline is counterproductive because things just “are the way they are” when it comes to arousal and desire. Connecting to our sexual selves takes discipline and commitment. To grow and develop erotically we must value our erotic growth as something important and valuable in and of itself. We must be prepared to experience emotions and judgements related to eroticism and sexulaity from a bit of psychological distance, so that we can make space for curiosity, learning and a new perspective. Our eroticism is tied up with how we view and feel about our bodies, our genders, our gender identity, our power, our worth, and our desirability, so creating this space takes a particular type of courage: the courage to question. A pre-requisite to this courage is the courage relinquish certainty and step into the tremulousness of the unknown. It can be a challenge to allow for the possibility that what we've come to believe about our own and others sexuality may be questionable, based on judgment and fear, or self-sabotaging in our marriages and relationships.

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Raw Sexual Chemistry: Not the Only Gateway to Marriage

Raw Sexual Chemistry: Not the Only Gateway to Marriage

What do we gain when we marry based on sexual chemistry? What do we lose when we divorce based on a lack of it? Women still grow up today, for the most part, conditioned by the media to believe that their attractiveness is something defined by others, and that attractiveness somehow correlates with their capacity to desire. They’re told and taught that sexual chemistry underlies our best romantic adventures and greatest loves, that it’s the holy grail of romance, the key to ecstasy, the ultimate prize of womanhood. Women are also taught that if you want to be happy, you better marry the person with whom you have it. If you don’t, your marriage will very likely die a slow and sexless death. Even sex and couples therapists cringe when couples admit they don’t have a strong foundation of sexual chemistry undergirding their marriage. It’s generally accepted that sexual chemistry is as close as you can come in the risky venture of marriage to a guarantor of happiness, or at least to ecstatic, orgasmic, sexy unhappiness.

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Sexuality, Shame and The SCAM

Sexuality, Shame and The SCAM

Shame about sexuality perpetuates the SCAM by reinforcing silence. If something can’t be identified, explored and understood, it can’t be challenged or known. Many women unwittingly continue to accept the myth of sexual chemistry as an alternative to truly exploring and knowing the power of their own fully embraced sexuality. The rewards of getting to know what's under the surface of our insecurities, compliance, sexual shut down, or sexual acting out seem to outweight the risks of doing our own slow, painstaking work on understanding our sexual preferences, our bodies, our peak desire experiences, and the circumstance that optimize and galvanize our desire. The taboo surrounding women's sexual self-discovery may have shape-shifted into something new and subtle, but it hasn't gone away. We as women try to do as we're expected socially and sexually for many reasons but one of our main motives for stifling our drive explore our sexuality is fear of other's judgment. In the October 2017 issue of Psychology Today, Carlin Flora notes in her article 'The Hardest Word' that "research has shown that when women act assertively in pursuit of their interests... they're punished by both men and women for violating gender stereotypes." Sometimes, it's not safe to challenge to status quo of norms we've been raised to believe and accept. It can also be hard to challenge something you're not aware of, can't see, and have always accepted as a given. A veil of confusion, silence, ambivalence and shame continues to surround women’s sexuality in the culture at large. The women and girls of today still struggle with welcoming, celebrating and owning the truth and beauty of who they are, independent of others' appraisals of them. Women and girls continue to struggle with mixed social and cultural messages related to their bodies, and to find themselves trapped in the 'mind-forg'd manacles' of false and destructive beliefs. Sexual chemistry that erupts within us, seemingly out of nowhere, as a pre-requisite, and necessity, for desire and atttraction is one of these beliefs we can examine, explore for ourselves, and challenge.

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About us & our mission

The mission of marriedtodesire.com is to debunk common myths related to women, marriage and desire while offering fresh personal insights and guidance on self-authored womanhood, erotic empowerment, and creating a passionate marriage.

Alicia Muñoz is a licensed marriage counselor and desire expert in private practice. She lives with her husband and son in Falls Church, Virginia. She’s also a speaker, author, blogger and a contributor to Counseling Today, GoodTherapy.com, YourTango, PsychCentral and other print and online magazines. For more information or therapy-related questions visit aliciamunoz.com.

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