Most would agree that intimacy is an essential part of romantic relationships, but the amount of sexual activity involved is totally up to you and your partner. Many couples worry that their sex lives don’t match up to some societal idea of “normal,” but all that matters is both people are comfortable and happy. Where it gets difficult is when each partner has a different idea of how much sex they’d like to be having. It’s much more common than you might think, and no one is really at fault because every individual is different on a physical, hormonal, and psychological level.
Mismatched libidos don’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker in a relationship. So if you suspect that something is off, or one of you isn’t totally satisfied, don’t throw in the towel immediately. With the right approach, even couples with different sexual appetites can find ways to make it work. And if it doesn’t work out in the end, that’s OK too. But if there’s something in the relationship that’s worth holding on to, you owe it to yourself to give it your best try. Then, at the very least, you’ll know you did what you could to meet your significant other halfway. And who knows, the two of you could end up closer than ever.
Here are three important steps to take when your partner’s sex drive doesn’t match yours.
1. Don’t worry about traditional gender roles
A lot of people assume that sex drive discrepancies usually happen when a man wants it more, but this is simply not the case. A wide range of sexual appetites can be found in both men and women, and same-sex couples grapple with mismatched libidos just as heterosexual couples do. So if your situation doesn’t match the narrative that pop culture typically promotes, don’t be down on yourself. You are not a freak; you’re actually totally normal. Of course, it’s OK to give weight to the fact that being the woman who wants it more or the man who wants it less might be adding to your anxiety. But try to focus on how you and your partner can compromise and make each other happy — and let go of the rest.
2. Communicate with your partner
It’s all too common for people in relationships to silently stew over their worries and frustrations about their sex life. Without clear communication, nothing is going to change. So although it can be uncomfortable and challenging, bite the bullet and have an honest talk with your partner. It’s best to be clear and direct when initiating or rejecting sex, but save larger conversations about your sex life for a time when the two of you are less vulnerable. Choose a time when you are both calm and in a good mood, perhaps in the middle of the day rather than before bed, and have an open conversation about sex. It might be hard to get started, but if you are both honest and specific about your needs, desires, and concerns, you’ll probably leave the conversation feeling much better.
3. See a sex therapist
When you are deep into a romantic and sexual relationship, it can be hard to figure out whether you can work through your issues, or if you just aren’t sexually compatible. You don’t have to work through the decision alone. Many are reluctant to get professional help from a sex therapist or couples counselor, but an outside perspective can actually take a lot of the pressure off. Sex invariably makes it difficult to wade through our emotions, so allowing a trained third-party to offer guidance may be more beneficial than you think. To find a sex therapist near you, visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, or the American Board of Sexology.
Sexual psychologist Justin Lehmiller advises couples experiencing sexual desire discrepancy to also consider whether libidos have always been mismatched or if there was a significant change recently. A new medication may have caused the shift, for example. If you suspect a medical issue is causing you or your partner to have a particularly high or low libido, consider seeing a doctor.