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  • Michaela Josephson

Mismatched Libidos

One of the most common sexual issues that couples see a sex therapist for is a discrepancy in sexual desire. One of the most interesting things about this is that desire problems plague newly married couples as well as unmarried couples just as much as couples who have been married for 20 years!

When sex in a relationship goes well, it is a positive, integral part of your relationship but not a major component- adding only 15-20% to couple vitality and satisfaction. However, when sex is dysfunctional or nonexistent, it assumes an inordinate powerful role, robbing your relationship of 50-70% of its intimacy and vitality!

I wanted to write on this topic to help couples that are experiencing the challenges of mismatched libidos but also to help couples avoid it becoming a problem! These suggestions apply to couples who don’t experience any sexual dysfunctions or challenges such as pain during intercourse.

Five things the person with the higher sex drive can do:


  • Accept that you might always be the sexual initiator - If your partner has low desire, your longing to be approached for sex and to be seduced may not occur. So the key is, don’t take it personally! You will make yourself miserable if you mix up being lusted over with being loved. Remember, your partner can have low levels of desire but love you dearly and want to have sex with you when they are warmed up sexually.


  • Accept negotiation at any stage- this means even during intercourse your partner should be given the choice to opt out of sexual activity. If the less interested partner knows they can stop, slow down or swap activities anytime, they are more likely to start sex. Sex therapist, Barry McCarthy, talks about non-demand sexual pleasure and the most important part of this is being able to negotiate throughout the sexual journey.


  • What do you really want- does an orgasm through masturbation not satisfy you when it is the only option left after negotiating with the lower drive partner? If this is the case a non sexual need such as being held or emotionally close to your partner is probably presenting itself. So without seeking or demanding sex, approach your partner directly for what you want and you can get these emotional needs met. Remember, you might feel loved from sex, but being loved can make the low libido person feel more like sex.

  • Stop pursuing- try and focus on your partner’s desire for you and redirect your energy away from pursuing sex. Put your energy in to creating maximum levels of goodwill between you and your partner rather than shutting down, sulking, or critiquing your partner. Sex therapist, Rosie King, reminds us that, you can go a long way toward increasing your partner’s inclination to have sex by adopting more constructive attitudes and behaviours when desire discrepancies present.


  • Promote the other’s desire- to maximise your partner’s enhancers work together to reduce any inhibitors of sexual desire they might experience. In particular, do as much as you can to create a happy relationship. You need to push yourself to be the very best partner you can be rather than expecting that your partner will make an effort to meet your sexual needs. Listen to your partner’s complaints and address these issues properly because that is their way of telling you what you need to do to improve your relationship.

Five things the person with the lower sex drive can do:

  • Develop a pro sex point of view - sex is crucial for your partner’s wellbeing and it plays an important role in your relationship. At the heart of your romantic relationship is an agreement to meet each other’s needs including sexual. Avoiding sex with your partner will have huge impacts on the relationship. A pro sex attitude will make you aware of the benefits that sex brings not only your partner and your relationship but also yourself which will prompt you to engage in sex when you haven’t made love for a while. Its ok for it to start as a thought rather than a feeling in the body. So put it on your priority list in life for all the other reasons sex is great for your relationship.


  • Boost your libido- Once you have a pro sex point of view it is important to then take responsibility of doing things that will boost your libido as the low libido partner. The libido works on a ‘you don’t use it, you lose it’ rule. If you don’t have sex, masturbate or think about sex then the neural pathways in your brain responsible for sexual response will not fire and go into a sort of hibernation. We can wake them up by encouraging ourselves to have sexual thoughts, making time to be sensual with ourselves, grooming and dressing to feel sexy. Other things to consider here are general health factors such as getting enough exercise and sleep. We don’t need to wait for our sex drive to magically appear to then want to have sex. We can encourage it and boost it and that part is the responsibility of the low libido partner.


  • Look at your whole relationship- Your relationship deserves a long hard look at if you don’t feel willing to have sex with your partner. A happy and satisfying relationship embodies goodwill which fosters a willingness to be sexual. Before you address your sexual problem you need to address your relationship needs if you lack goodwill towards your partner. However, if your relationship is ok but your willingness to have sex with your partner is low take a look at the kind of sex you’re having. If the quality of the sex on offer is poor, your willingness to have it will be reduced regardless of your level of desire.


  • Practice negotiation techniques- when your partner is sexually needy it is beneficial to be sensitive about how you respond to them. Making sure you demonstrate that you respect their sexual needs in a time that they are extremely emotionally vulnerable. You may be reluctant to engage in sexual activity because you’ve felt pressured to do more than you wanted to in the past. Negotiate the right to either stop sexual activity altogether or go back to a lower level of participation where you feel more comfortable. Be open with your partner about how you’re feeling and remember all the benefits a healthy sex life brings to a relationship. Your partner might be just as happy with a cuddle plus orgasm through manual stimulation as they would with intercourse. By using negotiating with sexual options besides penetration, you can say yes to sex more often.


  • Build bridges to sexual activity- when your life is busy and stressful it can be difficult to feel in the mood when you have low libido. For sex to happen, you need to create bridges that can take you from the cares and worries of everyday life towards sexual activity. This includes things that you know put you in the mood for sex and they function as bridges! Examples include a dinner date for two, a nap together in the afternoon on a weekend, having a shower together, sharing a glass of wine, reading or viewing sexy material, cuddling in bed, watching a chick flick, sending the kids away for a few hours or spending the day together. To properly use your bridges towards sexual desire find out what helps you feel in the mood for sex and communicate these to your partner.


My hope with this article is to help revitalise your relationship or at least revive hopefulness and motivate you to talk about different ways to approach a discrepancy in sexual desire.

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