We might keep the ins and outs of our sex lives quiet, but it’s no secret that a good sex life is an important factor in a healthy relationship, but what to do if your sex drives don’t match up? While it’s only natural for levels of attraction to fluctuate over the course of a long-term relationship, mismatched libidos can lead to frustration and even resentment over time. So, what can you do to tackle it? We asked sex and relationship therapist Juliet Grayson for her advice….
Firstly – is it a common problem?
Yes, most couples have differing sex drives. Something to be aware of is responsive desire and spontaneous desire – spontaneous sexual desire is when you randomly feel turned on whereas responsive desire is when you only feel turned on if something triggers it – someone on TV or your partner, for example. If you have responsive desire, you may need an external trigger to feel in the mood. Some people, as they age, move from spontaneous to responsive, and this may mean that where once they were the instigator of sex in the relationship, they no longer are. And if both partners are responsive, no one will instigate sex. If this is the case, you need to make an effort to schedule sex.
Is it always men who want sex more than women?
Not necessarily. Sometimes, it can be the woman in a relationship who has a higher sex drive and the man who has lower sexual desire. In fact, in the last three to five years, there have been an increasing amount of men reporting a lower sex drive compared to 25 years ago. The thing to remember is that you are likely to have more sex during the early ‘honeymoon period’ of a relationship, which usually lasts anywhere from six to 24 months, than you will have further down the line, so bear that in mind before you think you may have a problem.
Should the issue always be addressed?
It depends. If, as a couple, you are both happy with the amount you have sex, then it isn’t an issue. A couple who both have low sex drives works well, as does two people with a high sex drive. However, when one wants sex every three months and the other three times a day, that’s when problems arise, and they can lead to further problems if ignored.
How can you boost libido and regain intimacy with your partner?
Remember to touch even if you are not having sex. A lot of couples stop touching because the partner with the lower drive fears that the partner with the higher levels of desire will think this means they want sex, meaning they miss out on affection. I recommend that you keep the affection going, whatever is happening sexually. Try to find out what makes your partner feel sexy – one of my clients recently said, “The sexiest thing he can do is put the rubbish out. I feel grateful, and when he shares the chores I feel we are a team, then I want to have sex with him.” It’s all about connecting and remembering there is more to affection in a relationship than sex.
What are your top tips for reconnecting and having more sex?
If you and your partner both have responsive desire (which, if this has become an issue in your relationship, is quite likely) then the best thing to do is to assign Saturday night, for example, as ‘sex night’. This way, you know when it’s going to happen so you can be ready, however that preparation may look to you. Also, be open to other ways of being close, such as having a cuddle night with no sex at all.
Could you benefit from therapy?
Not everyone needs therapy, but for some couples it can be really beneficial. Over the course of my career, I have seen how couples find it tricky to be honest with each other, with conversations staying on ‘safe ground’ resulting in fake, false, politeness, avoiding the real issue. If this has happened then therapy will help you to re-learn how to be honest. This involves taking risks, and can feel very challenging, but usually leads to a more authentic closeness. Regaining that high-quality loving relationship often brings a secondary gain – sex gets better. As you learn to be more honest, the ‘wall of politeness’ that has been getting in the way is gradually dismantled, and a new kind of closeness and intimacy can develop.
Juliet Grayson is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, and author of Landscapes of the Heart: The Working World Of A Sex & Relationship Therapist, £12.99.
Juliet also runs workshops across the UK, visit TherapyAndCounselling.co.uk to find out more.