Is Your Sex Drive Different to Your Partner’s?

One of the most common things I hear when working with clients who are in a relationship is “my sex drive is different to my partner’s”. A mismatched sex drive is particularly common in long-term relationships, where sexual desire may have changed for one, or both, over time. Some contributing factors to this can be changes in physical health, having children, physical changes such as the menopause for women or worsening erectile function for men, finding sex ‘routine’ and stress.

Sometimes it is the man with the higher libido, sometimes the woman. The mismatch can feel frustrating for both parties, becoming a source of tension over the months or years. In some cases it can play a significant contributing role to the breakdown or even break up of the relationship.

Is there anything which can be done?

Tip: If your partner doesn’t want to have sex with you, do your best to not take it personally! It is usually not about you

Talk About It

It is surprising how many people don’t speak with their partners about sex or intimacy. This is particularly true of couples who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s as many of them grew up in environments where talking about anything sexual was taboo. Although this is still the case for many of us today, talking about intimacy seems to be a little easier for the younger generations. This is likely due to greater availability of information and changing social paradigms.

Even if it is difficult, talking to your partner about any concerns you may have can open doors to helping you understand each other’s perspectives. Here are ten communication tips you may find useful when it comes to having challenging conversations. Sometimes, this may unearth ways to resolve the issue, and at other times not, but at least you will have honestly shared what you would like. This may be “I want to have more intimacy with you” or it may be “I am no longer interested in intimacy, and I want you to stop asking me for it”. Please note, this does not need to be the end of the conversation but rather, a beginning. 

Tip: If your partner wants to have more intimacy with you than you would like, be honest and kindly let them know that you don’t want to – without being judgmental or critical of them

Find New Ways of Sharing Intimacy

Being open to continuing the conversation can lead to finding new ways to enjoy intimacy that may work well enough for both parties. For example, it may be that the man has been avoiding all intimacy because he feels ashamed that he can no longer get a strong enough erection for penetrative sex. This couple may choose to still have other forms of intimacy, such as massage or oral pleasure, or even using a strap on! Another example may be that the woman has been avoiding intimacy because she now has pain in her body in certain positions, and she has not felt comfortable to talk about it. In this case, the couple may explore finding positions or activities that don’t cause pain.

Try New Things

It is both common and normal for sex to become less exciting over the years, with routine setting in. Trying new things, or engaging in some long-forgotten activities, can help to re-ignite that spark. Some couples enjoy going shopping together for toys or lingerie, sharing and acting out fantasies, or trying out kink or BDSM. If this sounds unfamiliar, there are workshops that can help you to get acquainted with these topics in a safe way. Tantra and conscious sexuality events can also be a great way to learn to connect more from the heart, learn new skills and have fun together.

Have (Couples) Therapy

Of course, things are not always that simple. It may be that the couple have talked endlessly about the issue, but without much resolution, and with frustration levels building up on both sides. In some cases, couples therapy can help. Not having desire for your partner, or, on the other hand, needing sex and intimacy frequently, may be indicative of some deeper issues going on within the relationship (but not necessarily). It is recommended to work with a therapist who is both comfortable and familiar with discussing such topics. For couples looking for a deeper dive, there are weekend or week-long couples retreats, focusing on resolving any issues and deepening the connection.

Outside factors, such as stress at work or having elderly relatives who require care, can also impact on libido. In these cases, individual therapy may be suitable, to help address any underlying issues and to find better ways of coping. This may include a greater focus on self-care, learning relaxation exercises, or working on having stronger personal boundaries.

Tip: Be kind and understanding towards your partner’s needs, listen to them with care and compassion, and without putting pressure on them to engage or not engage in intimacy with you

OK, We’ve Considered Or Tried the Above, And We Still Have a Mismatched Sex Drive

Many couples will end up in this place. Sometimes, the difference in libido is not down to issues in the relationship or the lack of something new. Talking about it or trying to find a middle ground hasn’t helped much. One person still wants to have more sex and intimacy, and the other less, or none at all. Both are valid choices, and no one should force themselves to be intimate in order to satisfy their partner, if they don’t want to. So, what do such couples do to resolve the issue?

  • In rare cases, staying together whilst opening up the relationship to include other partners or lovers can work. I say rare because, in my experience, when couples discuss this option, there is not usually agreement on the format this can take, and it becomes not an option for most. However, it does work for some – if you are considering it, read more about the pros and cons of opening up.
  • Find a new ‘middle ground’ that is a lesser version of opening up. It is more acceptable to many couples for the partner with the higher sex driver to get some of their intimacy needs met by attending tantra events or having tantric therapy sessions. This way, there is no engagement or deepening emotional connection with a regular lover or other partner, and it can feel safer.
  • Find other ways to get your needs met – this mostly applies to those with the higher sex drive. If non-monogamy is not an option, there is always self-pleasure for meeting some of the physical needs. The options for meeting intimacy and connection needs are much wider – sex is not necessary! You can show your partner hundreds of ways in which you love and appreciate them with kind and loving words and gestures, many times a day.
  • Finally, there is acceptance. You just can’t force yourself to feel aroused and wanting intimacy when you don’t want it, and you certainly can’t force someone else to want it with you. If you have tried everything and have decided that you still want to be together whilst honouring any relationship commitments you may have, it may be time to accept the situation. However, this need not be forever – for example, you can agree to review it in six months’ time, in case something has shifted for either one of you, or both.

I offer individual and couples’ sessions online and in person in London (Bermondsey) and Teesside (TS12, near Saltburn-by-the-Sea). For more information

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