Do you and your partner have difficulty agreeing on sex? As a sex researcher, I’m familiar with all the ways couples differ in their sexual preferences. One of the biggest differences? Your sex drives.
Your individual sex drive will ebb and flow throughout your life. So the chance of being in a long-term relationship with someone who has the same ebb and flow pattern as you is incredibly unlikely – and you’re bound to be mismatched at times. But what happens when her libido is always high and yours is perpetually low? This is where we have a problem.
If this is the case in your relationship, you’re not alone. In fact, some experts estimate that one in every three couples deal with perpetual mismatched desire in their relationship. This tends to be characteristic of long-term relationships. Why? Because in the beginning, you’re so caught up in the excitement of a new sexual partner that all that novelty – and those raging hormones – hides what your sex drives are really like. Once that settles down, your hormones regulate, and your regular sex drives return.
This is when the desire discrepancy sets in and it can lead, not only to a sexless relationship, but dissatisfaction and perhaps feelings of rejection or resentment. This is especially true when men are the one with the lower desire. As a society, we expect men to always be sexually responsive and ready to go. So when they aren’t, it can lead to the partner wondering what’s wrong with them. But this gender stereotype isn’t very accurate.
In a study I’m currently conducting, a colleague and I are interviewing women on their levels of sexual desire. We have found that just as many women are reporting higher desire relative to their partner as men. Also, in another study I conducted on desire discrepancy, where we measured desire levels of both members of the couple, there were no significant differences between women and men in terms of who had lower desire.
Often, the one with the low desire is pathologized, believed to be the one who needs to change. But desire is more interpersonal than that. There are things you can do to battle against desire discrepancy impacting your relationship in a negative way.
Meet Half Way. The most important thing you can do to save your sex life if your relationship is suffering from desire discrepancy problems is meet half way. If you have higher desire than your partner, masturbate more often in order to make up for the sex you feel you want but aren’t getting. If you have lower desire than your partner, make the conscious decision to give in to sex every now and then as a way to please your partner. By doing this, you will elicit what we call responsive desire where your desire will stem from the arousal you get from sexual touch. You may not be in the mood at first, but you just might find that your desire rises as you get into it.
Compromise Your Schedules. Maybe you have similar levels of desire, but you want morning sex and your partner goes straight for the shower (without you) in the morning and prefers sex at night. Schedules don’t always line up the way we want them to, and if you get home from work exhausted, the last thing you want to do is have sex. To remedy this, as unromantic as it sounds, you may have to schedule sex. If you know you are having a long day at work, have sex in the morning. It will make your partner happy, give you more energy for the workday, and allow you to fit sex into your relationship regardless of your mismatched schedules.
Talk About It. If you feel like you aren’t getting as much sex as you’d like or you feel like your sexual desire has depleted, explain it to your partner. There might be real reasons you don’t feel like having sex as often, such as finances, employment, or other sources of stress. And if you’re the friskier person in the relationship, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. As I mentioned above, our sex drives aren’t set in stone, they ebb and flow throughout life. There might be some things you can do to help bring their desire up again. But you’ll never know if you don’t talk about it.
Redefine Sex. Intercourse doesn’t have to be your only option. Take the pressure off of yourself by focusing on fun, flirty activities that don’t involve penetration or even orgasm, such as massage, kissing, or cuddling. This may also result in responsive desire, but by engaging in it for the sake of intimacy rather than sex, you’re removing the pressure that is often a barrier to sex.
When it comes down to it, you have to address your sex drives as a couple – together. By opening the lines of communication and acknowledging that there is a discrepancy in sexual desire, you’ll be more likely to make it through to the next stage in your relationship when your desire may be more in sync. Anticipate the ebbs and flows, and take the tips above to make sure they don’t take the sex out of your relationship.
This post was originally on Evolved World.