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You and your partner probably have a lot in common. Or if you’re not partnered, you likely seek common traits in a prospective mate. Whether it’s a love of baseball, camping, or rock concerts, these commonalities help keep you close as a couple.
So, what happens if your sex drives don’t sync?
Having mismatched sex drives is a frequent problem for couples, especially as their relationship matures. One partner might want sex all the time. The other might not be as interested. Does that mean there is a problem with the relationship?
Not necessarily. Some people are just wired to have higher sex drives than others. And that’s okay – until a mismatch happens. Partners who want more sex may take their partner’s rejection personally and feel frustrated and angry. Partners who don’t want sex may feel guilty about disappointing their partner or annoyed and pressured if they are constantly approached about sex.
If you find yourself in this situation, first consider whether one partner’s libido has changed over time.
Sometimes, a medical issue causes sex drive to drop:
Sexual desire is driven largely by hormones, and hormone production – for both men and women – changes over time. As men get older, their bodies start making less testosterone, and some find themselves less interested in sex. A woman’s libido may also decline during and after menopause, when her estrogen levels drop.
Some medications, like antidepressants, have sexual side effects that can include a dip in sex drive.
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
Women with HSDD develop a lack of sexual interest, along with distress, that can’t be easily explained by other factors.
A doctor’s visit and treatment could be all that’s needed to bring one’s sex drive back into the usual range.
When people are hurt or angry with each other, they can feel less inclined to have sex. Working out the conflict with a trained counselor or therapist can help couples better communicate with each other and decide on their goals, including sexual goals.
Sometimes, mismatched libidos have nothing to do with hormones or relationships. Some people are just more sexual than others.
Understanding this is the key to compromising.
With that clear, couples can talk together about meeting each other in the middle. Some strategies might include:
Many couples sweep sexual incompatibility under the rug. But chances are, if you’re sensing a mismatch in sex drive, your partner is too. Have an open discussion about the situation at a time when you’re not feeling angry or frustrated. Ask each other what you want and need. Then try framing a plan.
Understanding exactly what your partner’s needs are.
It can be easy to say that one partner needs more sex than the other. But it might also be that the less sexual partner needs more non-sexual intimacy to feel sexually inclined. Try working on your friendship and romance. Think of activities that can bring you together and nurture your relationship. You might play games together, cook a great meal, take walks after dinner. This time can reinforce your emotional bond and, eventually, your sexual relationship. You can nurture this bond even when you’re not together. If you’re thinking of your partner during the work day, send a romantic email or text. Or pick up his or her favorite dessert on the way home.
Expanding your sexual definitions and repertoire.
Touching, massage, and cuddling while watching TV are other ways to be intimate, which may satisfy the more sexual partner. Some people masturbate, either alone or with their partner watching, kissing, or massaging them. In this way, both partners can still be involved in an intimate act.
In some cases, partners feel that ending or straying from the relationship (as opposed to negotiating an open one) is the only solution to sexual incompatibility. They should be honest about their feelings and give their partner a chance to respond and make changes, if possible.
Remember that communication and respect are key aspects of compromise. Staying open with your partner and working out a plan together can keep your relationship strong, even if your sex drives are different.
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