A sex therapist’s brutally honest advice for couples with different sex drives
“It’ll be quick! You’ll just have to lay there.”
“I cleaned the entire house for you. You owe me.”
“You make me feel worthless when you refuse to have sex with me.”
When the partners of a couple have mismatched sex drives, things can get real ugly real fast.
Begging. Bargaining. Nagging. Guilt-tripping. These are the desperate attempts that partners will make to settle problematic differences in their libidos. When they inevitably reach the end of their rope, they turn to professionals like Dr. Laura Deitsch, sex therapist, DHS (doctor of human sexuality), and resident sexologist of Vibrant, Planned Parenthood's sex toy e-tailer.
“This is a problem that can end a relationship. I’ve seen it in both my personal life and my professional life,” Dr. Deitsch tells Rooster. “If there’s an incredibly mismatched libido, it takes a lot of hard work to bridge that gap.”
On the surface of a sex drive disparity, it often seems that the person with the higher sex drive suffers the most. They repeatedly offer their intimacy to their loved one, only to see their partner turn their nose up — as if their genitals are some disgusting foreign Indian dish that would likely result in explosive diarrhea. They’re made to feel unattractive, unwanted, and so desperate for sexual gratification that they’re willing to fuck the vegetables in the produce drawer.
However, the person with the lower sex drive endures their own fair share of misery. They’re consistently pressured by their loved one, which leads to guilt and anxiety. When they’re compelled to put out, they feel their desires are secondary to their partner’s excessive need to cum, which fosters resentment.
“It’s a struggle for both partners. One is going to feel pressured and the other one is going to feel lacking,” Dr. Deitsch says. “This is two sides of the same coin.”
When a couple with mismatched libidos ends up in her office, Dr. Deitsch runs through a simple checklist. This list of questions helps her rule out all the different shit that might be going wrong when it comes time to hump.
“I start with health concerns. Is everybody healthy? Are we going to sleep and feeling rested? How much stress are the partners under and what are they doing for stress reduction?” Dr Deitsch says. “Then I’d go to internal issues. Does someone have body issues? Internal shame around sex? Discomfort with a certain sex act? Embarrassment about not feeling fresh enough?”
For younger couples, young children can often cause complications. For older couples, there’s greater potential for health issues or chronic pain.
In all types of couples, sex can be used as a weapon. The narrative of “I asked you to unload the dishwasher, you didn’t do it, and now you want to fuck?!” can play out whenever a relationship leaves one partner with unmet needs or resentment.
But if none of these problems are to blame, Dr. Deitsch settles on the final verdict: a naturally-occurring difference in libidos. When they have drastically different sex drives, couples have to get creative, Dr. Deitsch explains.
“We have to explore ways the high-sex drive partner can get their needs met without their partner,” she says. “There’s mutual masturbation [or solo masturbation]. Or if we think about the world of kink, sexual gratification doesn’t always have to involve actual sex. Someone might get aroused and attain satisfaction just by being involved in a leather or BDSM or furry community. It satisfies a need but places rules around physical limitations.”
NURTURE YOUR HORNINESS
The low-sex drive partner needs to put in work, as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “suck it up and fuck.” If the partner even has a desire for a higher sex drive, they’ll need to explore what might boost their libido. It could be as simple as diet and exercise. It could be as complicated as re-enacting that puppet-porn sex scene from Bride of Chuckie that they always found strangely arousing.
COMMUNICATE TO FORNICATE
“For the lower libido partner, it’s necessary that there’s clear communication. As soon as they have the desire and the drive to have sex, they have to feel comfortable to express it,” Dr. Deitsch says. “Someone with lower libido or history of shame approaches their partner and are ever met with mocking or rejection, its going to be much more hurtful. They went out on a limb and they’re being smacked down.”
Nothing’s a bigger boner-killer than being harassed for sex. If lower libido partner has free permission to say no whenever they want without excuses, it helps create an environment where they might stretch their comfort zone and be more willing to share their genitals. It’s a shift in expectation and transactionality that makes both partners more comfortable, and allows them to screw without animosity.
YOUR ULTIMATE SEX LIFE
“An interesting question I ask my clients is describe their ideal sex life,” Dr. Deitsch says. “Unfortunately, many folks answer that in narrow construct. ‘I want to have sex 3 times a week.’ But that's a frequency desire. It doesn't tell me — Do you like kink? Quickies? Anal? Multiple positions? Making sure the conversation isn’t limited to frequency can enhance communication.”
Lovers are hardly ever on the same page about love-making, Dr. Deitsch assures us.
“It’s very unusual to have 100% matching libidos. There’s almost always going to be a disparity,” she says.
At times, elements of our culture can make differences in sex drive seem like an impossible problem to discuss. One solution that may solve a libido disparity — opening up a relationship — is not something most couples would even consider given its cultural stigma.
It’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t want an open relationship. However, you do have to keep an open mind. With kindness, communication, and creativity, a couple with significantly different sex drives can always find their happy medium.