For most people, intimacy is an essential part of a loving relationship but what if your sex drive doesn’t match that of your partner?
A mismatch between libidos is probably the main reason for couples to seek sex therapy. Many people feel the need to match up to society’s idea of “normal” but if one partner has a different expectation of how often they would like to have sex, it can lead to difficulties. This is a far more common problem than you might imagine but it’s not anyone’s fault. We are all individuals with many differences on hormonal, psychological and emotional levels. What matters most is that both partners are happy and comfortable with the physical side of their relationship.
If your sex drive is higher or lower than your partners, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your relationship. If one of you isn’t satisfied, try to find ways to make it work. It might or might not solve the problem - people change and that’s also OK. But if there’s something about the relationship that’s worth saving, you’ll find that a thoughtful approach and good communication might even bring the two of you closer together.
It’s important to consider if your sex drives have always been mismatched, or whether this is a recent change. Health problems can often be at the root of a change in libido. Ask yourself if your partner has had a change of medication or could they be in pain? Hormonal changes in pregnancy and at the menopause can temporarily affect the female sex drive and men can also suffer from low testosterone.
Although it can be hard not to take it personally when your partner repeatedly rejects your advances, remember that their lack of interest in sex is not necessarily just all about you and your attractiveness. It could also be caused by psychological problems or health problems. Your partner may be feeling inadequate and might well be wondering what has gone wrong between you, even if he or she appears defensive. Empathy and understanding will often go a long way towards resolving this situation.
Many people assume that in a relationship where the couple’s libidos are out of sync, it is always the man who wants more sex but this is just not true. Sexual appetites span a wide spectrum in both sexes, and same-sex couples face the same problems when one partner has a higher sex drive than the other. If your situation doesn’t match up with the norms presented by the media, don't blame yourself. You aren’t unusual, you are completely normal. Societal norms do have an impact so if you’re a woman with a higher sex drive or a man who wants sex less often, this might add to your anxiety. However, focus your energy on trying to understand how you and your partner can make one another happy and ignore the rest.
It’s a common pattern for couples to brood silently over frustrations and difficulties regarding their sex lives. But unless they talk to each other, nothing can change. While it can be quite a challenge, communicating honestly with your partner is essential - and as well as telling them what you’re thinking, it also means listening to what they have to say. Don’t start the conversation when you’re initiating or rejecting sex, an occasion when it’s better to be direct and concise. Choose a time when the two of you are calm and relaxed but not feeling vulnerable, and try to talk as openly and honestly as you can about your sexual relationship. It can be hard to get started, but if you can be specific and honest about your desires and concerns, you could be well on the way to resolving your differences.
Simply listening to what the partner with the lower sex drive says can be very effective. For example, levels of testosterone (a hormone that controls sexual responses in both men and women) in men are at their highest between 7 and 8 am, while for women, levels peak during the evening. If a woman says she doesn’t enjoy morning sex, she’s not just making an excuse! Waiting until she’s feeling relaxed and comfortable and making an effort to get the atmosphere right will be more conducive to mutually enjoyable sex.
Can you work through your differences, or are you just sexually incompatible? Sex is inevitably linked with emotions and this makes it more difficult to think rationally about your relationship. When you’re deeply involved with a partner, it can be hard to see what’s really going on. While many couples are reluctant to turn to a counsellor or sex therapist, professional help can be very beneficial. Seeking guidance from a skilled third party who can take a more detached perspective can be very beneficial.
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Sexual desire is a complex interaction of hormones, emotions and well-being. When your partner is not as interested in sex as you are, it’s rarely a rejection of you as a person. So it’s essential to be as empathetic as you can regarding your differing libidos.
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