When a new relationship begins, we experience so much anxiety and lust. Newly in love people have sex several times a week, if not several times a day. But over time, things change. Sex is only a few times a week – or several months are spent without intimacy. One partner may still want to have sex several times a week, but the other may not find the idea too tempting. Many couples are surprised by the same problem in their relationship – the mismatch of sexual desire. In fact, different libido is the most common problem that couples turn to relationship therapists.
The problem arises when there is a difference between one person’s need for sex and a partner’s need for less sex. This is nothing new and is an extremely common problem, says sex and relationship psychotherapist Miranda Christopher.
A study in the UK found that it affects a quarter of the ratio, while a study in the US suggests that the problem could be even more common, affecting even every other couple. Moreover, this is not a problem that only experienced heterosexual couples face. A gay Star News survey of 1,500 readers found that 53% wanted sex more often than their partner, while only 22% said they had similar sexual desires.
What affects libido?
Sexual desire can increase or decrease depending on how a person treats himself and his partner, or as a result of life events and changes, says Christopher. In fact, there are so many things that can affect the desire to have sex , from physical problems such as painful sex or ejaculation problems to stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. It can also affect depression, menopause, aging, pregnancy, childbirth, health problems, medications and contraceptives, alcohol, and drugs.
For some it is not a big problem – they assume that the level of sexual desire fluctuates and is able to talk about it openly, while for others it can cause problems or even break up the relationship.
There is a widespread belief that men have a greater desire for sex than women, but Christopher points out in his clinical experience that women tend to suffer more when they have a greater desire for sex than their partners.
“For some, this is definitely a significant problem,” says the psychotherapist, whose research in this area has found that it can negatively affect relationships and sexual satisfaction, as well as lead to conflict and significantly, affect a person’s self-esteem and identity.
How to solve the problem?
Inconsistent libido can become a problem that needs to be addressed if it causes controversy, affects a relationship or sexual satisfaction or makes one partner consider cheating on the other or questioning the future of their relationship.
However, sexual desire is not just a switch that can be turned on and off for a while. The key that can correct sexual mismatch problems is communication, says Christopher. But it’s easier said than done: polls show that couples are particularly reluctant to talk about sex. A survey of 24,000 respondents from 12 European countries found that people were not in a hurry to talk about sex with their partners or friends.
But to understand why desires differ, you need to talk about it! We need to talk about what excites you and, on the contrary, what suppresses the desire for sex. It is important to talk about what everyone wants and, of course, when is the time when you want to do it.
When it comes to your unwillingness or desire to have sex, you can overcome the problem together and reduce the potential negative effects.
Negotiations also allow both sides to find out if there is a solution or level of closeness that would be convenient for both – a compromise that works for both partners.
It is worth keeping in mind that sex does not always mean classic sexual intercourse. This could mean masturbating, touching, kissing, oral sex or using sex toys together .
In a study of 179 women in long-term relationships with men , participants were asked what they were doing to get their desire for sex back on track. Responses included: having sex even if you didn’t want to, using sex toys, physical intimacy with partners without sex, or planning sex.
What do the experts recommend?
Los Angeles sex therapist Jamila Dausone encourages people to focus on previous sexual experiences that were pleasing to both of you. Under what circumstances did you feel aroused enough to have sex? And what did you both do that was so exciting? “Focusing on things that have been successful and trying to turn them into the current situation can really help,” explains the therapist . “Use the positive experiences of the past to your advantage.”
Increasing overall intimacy in everyday life can also have a positive effect – it can mean cuddling while sitting next to a couch, hugs, holding hands and being more open to other aspects of your life.
But remember, “the absence of sex is not the end of the world,” says sex teacher Ruby Rera .
Rera, who identifies as queer and monogamous, suggests balancing our expectations for sex. “In my relationship, I go through different times when sometimes I want to have sex all the time, and so does my partner, and other times one or both of us just don’t want to for different reasons,” she explains.
When such a period comes, she encourages people to be kind to each other.
“It’s one thing not to be on one wave sexually, but when it starts to turn into resentment, it’s much harder to overcome.”
“If you can think with compassion and kindness about yourself and the situation you’re in, and then with the same kindness about other people in the situation, that’s a really good starting point,” says Rera.
And if the problem persists even after you’ve talked about it and tried to find a strategy or some middle ground, you might want to enlist the help of a professional.
“If people question the future of a relationship or are looking for another person outside of the relationship to fulfill their sexual desires,” says Christopher, “then this would be the time to seek the help of a sex and relationship therapist.”