In most long-term relationships, partners will experience "desire discrepancy," or mismatched libidos. If you and your partner both want to improve your sex life, and you're in tune with each other's likes, wants, and needs, the process of realigning your libidos is relatively straightforward.
But what happens when that's not the case? What if you want something your partner isn’t prepared to give, or you feel as if you're constantly initiating sex without reciprocation? If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – there are still plenty of ways to improve things. Here's what you should know when approaching the issue.
Most partners have different sex drives.
This may seem obvious, but it’s an important point. The success of your relationship depends on how you're able to navigate this difference. You can’t treat mismatched libidos as a single problem with a single solution. If one partner expects the other to suddenly start wanting sex all day long, you might be setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. In reality, it’s ok for one person in a couple to have less desire than the other. This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with either person— or that something has gone wrong in your relationship. Some people simply have lower or higher sex drives than others, and expecting them both to be at exactly the same level is unrealistic and unfair.
For the partner with higher desire...
If you experience a higher sex drive than your partner does, t's important to understand why your partner does not desire sex. Is it that they don't want to have sex or do they not desire the sex you're having with them?
Lover's co-founder and resident sex therapist, Dr. Britney Blair says "If sex is happening, but it's in the same way, every time or if your partner isn't climaxing, you may need to make adjustments where you can try to prioritize your partner's pleasure or mix up your routine. You may find that engaging in some different activity such as oral sex and body exploration, or simply just prioritizing your partner amps up their sexual desire."
For the partner with lower desire...
Dr. Blair recommends that the partner who has lower desire shouldn't "wait until you want." This is for a few reasons. "When it comes to sexual desire, the more we engage erotically, the more we want to have sex. And the more likely we are to increase our natural levels of desire. A rocking sex life requires effort and needs to be made a priority just as we would with diet, exercise, or sleep."
The key here is learning how to address a partner who wants more sex than you do—and vice versa. One way to tackle this is to schedule sex and make it a part of your weekly routine. Start slow—the important thing is to start somewhere. Also, remember that foreplay counts! In many cases, people who are upset by their partners’ low libidos are frustrated because they're actually rushing during sex. Remembering to take things slowly might help combat both problems even before intercourse begins. Again, communication is key here—let your partner know you want them to guide how far things go sexually.
Figure out what triggers desire.
Libido is highly personal and what turns you on may not be what does it for someone else. Knowing your desire type is critical to understanding what you need to get in the mood, and how to communicate this to your partner. Sometimes, though, there are outside factors that play a role in whether or not we want to get down. It could be physical issues like medical problems, medications, or illnesses that can really throw off sexual health. But sometimes it’s related to emotional issues like stress or anxiety, depression, relationship problems— or maybe even life-stage circumstances. In all these cases, try to find ways together to talk about how these things might affect your sexual desire.
Whatever you do, don’t shame one another.
Sexuality isn’t a competition, and nobody wins! The goal here is for both of you to feel confident about yourselves and each other—and happy with who you are together. Remember that you're a team. Dr. Britney Blair says, "With the lower desire person prioritizing sex more frequently and a higher desire person prioritizing their partner's pleasure, you're much more likely to meet in the middle, like a true team."
The most important thing? Be honest! Communicate openly with one another about your needs, and so that if one of you wants more sex than the other does it doesn't become an issue or hurt feelings somewhere down the line because something wasn't said at just the right time. If you think there might be some sort of underlying reason behind why one person has lost interest in sex, schedule a checkup with your doctors to make sure everything’s physically okay before anything else gets out of hand. There are lots of reasons people lose interest sexually but almost always they have nothing to do with you, personally.
Don't let mismatched sex drives be a dealbreaker.
There's no rule that says mismatched sexual needs are a deal-breaker in a relationship. Talking about them will help you determine whether or not they affect your bond so much that further discussion is warranted. But understanding each other’s desires and working together to meet them will likely strengthen your relationship—as long as both partners are willing to invest some time and effort into finding ways for everyone involved to get more than enough gratification within the context of their specific dynamic.
Don't close off lines of communication about feelings over mismatched sex drives either; talking about how each other feels (and even about fantasies) can help both people stay engaged without having sex feel like an obligation instead of something they want. If talking about things isn’t working for you two, you could always turn to a professional as well. An expert in the Lover app could lead both of you through exercises designed specifically to improve communication about your sexual needs with your partner. Even better, they may come up with new solutions that haven’t occurred to either of you yet! It may take time, but working on creating shared goals will go far toward making sure neither of you has anything missing in terms of shared pleasure and happiness with each other.
Want more personalized advice to improve your sex life, and address issues like desire discrepancy? Download the Lover app for live coaching with real experts and self-guided therapy.