I read this article recently, and you should click the link and read it before continuing on. It’s alright, I’ll wait.
While the author makes some good points, she missed a key reason many of us get turned down in the sack: sex drive difference. This is where one partner’s sex drive is different from another’s. I’m not talking about instances where there is medical sexual dysfunction, an asexual orientation, or Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome. I’m talking about the normal range of sexual drive and desire in otherwise healthy sexually active adults.
I want to take a minute and address something that the author stated, that I see often, and that I myself have experienced. Sometimes, in cisgender heterosexual relationships or marriages, the husband has the lower drive, and this seems to cause bigger problems. This is really the kind of sexism that hurts men. With rote binary gender roles come expectations of men that don’t reflect reality. For men, virility is a positive trait, while a man who lacks sex drive is to be mocked. This also assigns sexual power dynamics to men. This is problematic for a lot of reasons. First, it’s common for male partners to have a lower sex drive, and it’s often completely normal. The other partner simply has a higher drive.
Higher-drive partners equally worry something needed fixing. They may feel unattractive. It may affect self esteem. Both partners end up in a shame spiral and intimacy has a breakdown. Many couples decide to end the relationship over this, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 10 things you can do:
- Don’t blame. I can’t stress this enough. Understand that there is nothing “wrong” with either of you. Start here. Yes, you can have a healthy, happy sex life you both can live with, but until you stop shaming and blaming yourselves and each other, you won’t build the skills necessary to get there.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Be open, be honest. Get vulnerable, and practice empathy and gratitude.
- Seek Help. If you can’t speak to one another about this without arguing, shaming yourself or your partner, seek out a professional sex therapist, psychologist, or other licensed professional to walk you through correctly communicating.
- Get the TV out of the bedroom. The TV is a time-waster, a mind-number, and a mood-killer most of the time. It’s going to distract the low-drive partner out of the right head space, and reinforce gendered stereotypes to the high drive partner.
- Masturbate. When done alone, it can release that sexual tension that’s been building up in the higher-drive partner, and. builds on the body’s positive feedback loop for sex in the lower drive partner. Masturbating together can be a way around logistical issues. And don’t forget – women who use sex toys reach orgasm much faster with them, so they can be a real time-saver!
- Forgive each other. It’s natural to want to feel inadequate or rejected. Grab a hold of those emotions and see them for what they are: emotions in the moment. They are not a reflection of the love you have for each other or the life you’ve built together.
- Avoid novelty/violent/mainstream porn. Due to changes in the brain that can happen with high novelty porn, this can have a negative effect when with a partner. It also builds on the stereotypes and expectations that are a part of the thinking that’s hurting you. Indie porn is a lot more conducive to adding a human element. If you need porn to become aroused at all, there’s a bigger problem at play.
- Add novelty. This almost sounds counter to what I just said, but when you’re in a long-term relationship, the brain starts to look for novelty (hence porn “addiction”), so you need to spice it up in your own bed. You don’t need to learn special acrobatics, though. It can be simple to add a little bit of fun to your sexcapades.
- Check in to maintain balance. Once you have found what works for you, set a date to check in weekly, monthly, bimonthly, and then quarterly with one another (maybe semi-annually, but that’s only if you’ve been successfully maintaining a healthy balance for several years). Things change. Life changes. We age. Hormones shift. Technological advances in sex utensils happen. Maybe you need to seek counseling again for a few months – there’s no shame in doing everything you can to keep your long-term relationship working.
- Realize it won’t be this way forever. As people grow older, as pregnancies happen, as hormones usher in a new set of desires, as cancer strikes, as tragedies and depressions hit, your sex drives change throughout your relationship.
I did not include swinging on this list, because it’s a bad idea in this case, for a variety of reasons. Jealousy, financial obligations, health risks – it’s more to take on in a relationship where emotions are already running high.
Sex drive difference is more common than you might think. Just about every couple experiences this to some degree. With patience, vulnerability, mutual respect, and being intentional about your intimacy, your relationship can not only survive, it can thrive.