We used to be so in sync! Handling differing levels of desire

Many couples experience differences in their individual levels of desire for each other. This can lead to conflict in the relationship. Briony provides some practical advice to navigate these differing levels of desire.

What Affects Sexual Desire?

Has the desire for sex in your relationship changed for one or both partners? Are you having trouble resolving or even discussing the issue?

Over time relationships change, it’s inevitable and unavoidable.  Our libidos are influenced by many things including:

So What is Normal?

In the age of mass and social media in Western Society, sex has been portrayed as a fantasy full of multitudes of positions, sophistication and high desire levels for both partners.  In reality it’s normal to:

In other words, the breadth of normality is enormous and changes for each of us over time.  It would be unusual for a couple to be always completely in sync.

Good sex is more than using the “right” techniques, it’s about both of you listening and responding to your partner. Sex can be pleasing, impulsive, warm, reassuring, distracted, playful, funny, ridiculous, mind-blowing, joyful, lacklustre, fulfilling and comforting among others. The most sexually satisfied couples have been together for 15 years or more!

Communicating With Your Partner About Sex

The key to successfully achieving harmony with your partner is mutual generosity towards each other and a kindness and gentleness in communication. Your needs are both right and it is up to both of you to accommodate each other in your sex life. Sex will become more enjoyable as a result.

Keep away from discussing your sex life with friends. These conversations lead to issues about conformity and normality. This can poison what you would otherwise enjoy with your partner. You and your partner are the only ones that matter when it comes to how you want to enjoy sex together.

Recognise that you both may have different wants and needs in a sexual relationship. One person may be quick to respond to sexual cues, for others they need more time to “warm up”.  Equally, some prefer quiet and cuddly sex as opposed to urgent and explosive sex like we see in the media. For many, this changes with time and mood.

Try not to let sex become too serious. In the movies there is no awkwardness, difficulty getting into different positions, farting etc. Sex is sometimes a funny passtime, laugh together. Here’s a reality check from New Zealand band “The Flight of the Conchords”, but be warned, the content is a bit risque so don’t watch if you may be offended:

Lack of confidence to express desires and feelings of love can ruin an otherwise great relationship, so it’s important to find a way of doing this. Therapy can be particularly useful for this.

Gender Differences

Note that the following points are generalisations and will not necessarily apply to your partner.

What Should We Do?

For the High Sex Drive Partner

You can sometimes be seen as insensitive to your partner’s needs if you ask for sex more often than they are comfortable with. When you get rejected:

Recognise that sex drive and sexual response are not always linked, so your partner might be quite responsive once they get started.

Treat you and your partner’s affection needs with the same respect as you treat sexual needs. If your partner feels more emotionally secure this may lead to a higher interest in sex at other times.

In the immortal words of Mick Jagger…

You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes... you get what you need!

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

For the Low Sex Drive Partner

You can be perceived as less committed to your relationship if you don’t want sex as often as your partner.

Be sensitive to your partner if you really don’t want sex. It’s hard to hear for them, so be gentle.

 It can be confusing for your partner if you normally don’t initiate sex, but when you get into it you respond enthusiastically. 

Staying up until your partner is asleep or too tired for sex or thinking “I can’t be bothered” is an indication that you are thinking about what you have to give, not what you can get from sex. Instead of dismissing or talking yourself out of sex, ask yourself what benefits sex might bring at the moment:

See if you can talk yourself into being “in the mood”.

Pay attention to the times when you think “sex might be nice”:

This can help you understand yourself better and help you create the conditions where you are sexually receptive to your partner.  Equally it is important to identify your turn-offs and sensitively but clearly explain these to your partner.  If you don’t think you can do this, seeing a therapist may help.

When Can Sex Therapy Help?

Sex Therapy can be useful when:

It’s important to have realistic expectations about the results of therapy. It is not an immediate fix-all and couples will need to continue to work on their sexual relationship just as successful couples work on other aspects of their relationship throughout the time they have together.

Briony has 30+ years professional counselling experience and has helped many couples revitalise their sex lives. This site has more information about Sex Therapy and a What happens during a Sex Therapy Session FAQ. You can see a full list of Briony’s qualifications in her Qualifications FAQ.

Much of this article was drawn from a book about Female Low Libido from Sandra Pertot.  You can find other articles by this highly qualified Australian author at the Huffington Post.

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