Differences in desire are completely normal, but this doesn’t mean they’re a walk in the park. As a sex therapist, I talk with a lot of people about how to cope with different libidos. The key is to deal with it early on and find ways of synching up. Here’s how you do just that.
Sex is seldom just about sex – it’s about lots of different things; love, appreciation, validation, stress-relief, and play, to name a few.
Because sex can mean so many different things, it easily affects how you feel about differences in sex drive.
The partner with more desire might take their partner’s low libido as a sign of disinterest – that they’ve become unattractive, or like their partner has fallen out of love with them.
The partner with less desire or no sex drive at all, can start to feel like they’re never enough – that their partner only ever wants them for sex or that there’s something wrong with them for not wanting it more.
When we start comparing our own sex drive to that of our partner’s – things may quickly escalate – and what perhaps started out as “just sex” turns into a situation where both parties experience pain – pain that has its roots in the meaning we ascribe to sex.
Part of dealing with different levels of desire hinges on understanding one another’s perspective and acceptance of the situation at hand.
When you don’t address a desire discrepancy early on, it’s easy to find yourself feeling like you’re the normal one because you’re the one who is feeling unwanted in your relationship, and that your partner’s relationship with sex is strange..
Instead of looking at it from the lens of who is the most “normal” or who is being hurt the most – try seeing your partner’s point of view.
The fact of the matter is there is no “normal” amount of sexual desire (you can read more about this in my blog post on how much sexual desire is normal).
Both of you are normal.
And accepting the normalcy of both of your experiences is paramount.
Acceptance isn’t about admitting defeat. It’s about recognising and appreciating that there are differences between the two of you. You can still work towards a sex life you both want, while honouring that these differences exist and all that they entail.
This means working on things like:
By accepting your differences you’ll reduce hurt feelings – spinning situations that might have turned into the blame game, into moments where you can meet in the middle.
And when you both feel better – and truly seen by your partner – you’ll likely feel more inclined to getting close and experiencing more intimacy together – sexual or otherwise.
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Learning how to cope with different libidos is also about understanding the differences in how you and your partner may approach sex. Because there are lots of reasons we have sex.
Talk with your partner about what sex means to you and listen when they tell you what sex means to them.
Even if you’ve been together for years or decades, this is likely a conversation you haven’t had before, which means you might very well find sex means different things to you both. Knowing about these differences will deepen your understanding and empathy for one another – as well as help you accept your discrepant desire.
In order to make your conversation go as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to keep track of two things: how you talk about sex and what you talk about. For tips on how to talk about sex, you can read my blog post: how to talk about sex without losing it when you and your partner have mismatched libidos.
Focusing on what sex means to you is a good starting point and will help keep the conversation positive and constructive, which is an important part of learning how to cope with different libidos. Sex might be:
By talking about these differences and getting to know what sex means to one another, you might also be able to bridge the gap between your differing desires and edge closer to one another’s preferred frequency.
For the person with low libido, sex might feel like something you want more if you know it’s a means of your partner getting close to you.
For the partner with more desire, knowing sex feels like pressure to perform, will help you understand you both need to approach sex differently, perhaps by switching up how sex is initiated.
Sex means many things to different people – and wanting sex more or less than your partner is par for the course in a long-term relationship. It doesn’t have to mean there’s anything wrong with the relationship or with any one of you.
By learning to accept your mismatched libidos, talking about what sex means to you, and how to change things to accommodate for both of your relationships with sex – you’ll create more peace and more intimacy – keeping your relationship alive.
Because the more you understand about what sex means to the other, the easier it will be to create opportunities for sex and opportunities for non-sexual validation.
How to cope with different libidos is a skill, and an important one to learn as soon as you can. Because no matter what your sex life looks like today – if you’re together for a long time things will change. It’s how you approach this change and your differences that will make a difference.
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