What do you do when you and your partner have different sex drives?
Just because one of you is feeling less mountable doesn’t mean your sex drive differences are insurmountable.
At some point in many long-term relationships, when the initial excitement of dating fades and you’re not worried about impressing each other anymore, differences might start to surface. Most likely, one of you will want more sex than the other. This means that, maybe more often than not, the answer to ‘dtf?’ will become ‘no thanks’ or ‘not tonight’.
Rejection sucks, especially when it comes from someone you care about. What’s worse is not knowing why the rejection is happening. If you’re the partner who wants more sex, it leaves you to come up with all of your own reasons — most of them terrible — for why it’s not happening.
The other side sucks too — it feels like your boyfriend is running a stakeout on your libido. If you’re the one who’s less interested in sex, it can be really stressful when your partner is constantly circling, waiting for an opening (so to speak).
What this often means is that the sex dries up altogether. It can be especially hard to relight the fire when you’re both feeling defensive or angry, and so the cycle continues.
If this is sounding familiar, don’t worry — a mismatch in sex drives is very common, and it’s usually something you can work through together.
1. Remember that there’s no ‘normal’ amount of sex to be having
First up – ignore what you think is ‘normal’ or any advice you find on the internet (except this, obvs). There are a bunch of opinions on minimum standards out there, everything from once a week to once a day, and they all belong to people who aren’t you.
“… don’t worry — a mismatch in sex drives is very common, and it’s usually something you can work through together.”
‘Enough sex’ is exactly the amount that helps you maintain a sense of intimacy with your partner and makes you both happy. That’s it. Bear in mind that your libido will also fluctuate naturally with things like diet, stress, sleep and age, so there’s absolutely no amount of sex you ‘should’ be having.
2. Learn to communicate about the hard stuff
If you’re reading this, chances are there’s room for improvement in your communication so far. Which is absolutely understandable — sex is one of the most difficult things to talk about. But if you don’t communicate about it, your whole relationship could become tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, whose name is We Haven’t Had Sex Since Christmas. That can start to poison all of the stuff you actually love about each other.
You both need to learn how to talk honestly about what you want from your sex life. This takes vulnerability and a willingness to move outside what’s comfortable. Be open to sharing things you haven’t before and don’t hold back. When it’s his turn, listen and be receptive to change. Be especially careful not to turn it into a list of complaints or accusations. A good way to get started is the ‘when you do (behaviour), it makes me feel (emotion)’ format.
While your friends might always be up for a chat, intimate elements between you and your partner might be off-limits. Speaking to someone might be a good thing, especially if you struggle to articulate your emotions. This might be the time to see someone professionally, like a relationship counsellor. Don’t put it off — ignoring the problem is not going to make it better.
3. Broaden your definition of what ‘having sex’ is
There’s a lot more to intimacy than penetration. It may be that the partner who wants less sex actually wants different sex, and is afraid to say so. He’d love a blow job, or a massage, or watching some porn together — he just doesn’t want the expectation of fucking every time.
This is particularly true if he bottoms. Because — some real talk, just for us guys — sometimes a dick in the ass is not fun or sexy. These times can include after you’ve eaten a big meal, or dairy, or curry, or you’ve got a haemorrhoid or a tear, or you haven’t had a chance to shower or any of a whole bunch of reasons which make spontaneous anal a terrible idea.
If sex is always about penetration and one of you isn’t keen, he may be afraid of initiating anything at all, because he’s worried it will lead to the expectation of fucking. Again, communication and compromise are key. Talk about what intimacy means to both of you, and what you can do together that’s not always penetration. You may find your sex drives align a lot better in categories that aren’t just ‘anal sex’. Don’t forget, you can take the pressure off penetration with toys to help put in the work for you.
4. Try bringing in some structure
Scheduling sex may sound like the least sexy thing in the world, but here’s the thing – you used to do it all the time.
Remember dating? Remember going online to make plans that were specifically about having sex? Remember taking an hour to get ready to go to his place on a Friday night, knowing you were going to be spending the whole time in the bedroom?
In a long-term relationship, that horny glow will inevitably fade, but it’s still important to set aside time specifically for your sex life. It doesn’t have to be the same day at the same time every week, but try making regular plans that are about getting naked together. This gives everyone advance notice to prepare (see above, re: dietary precautions), brings some physical intimacy back into your lives and takes the pressure off the rest of the time you spend together. If date night is on Thursday, cuddles can just be enjoyed as cuddles in the meantime.
5. Create the right conditions
Getting each other in the mood is a big part of satisfying sex (some people call this ‘foreplay’). What are your turn-ons? Do you want rose petals in the bath or sweaty jocks in your mouth? What time of day works for you both? He may not want to go to Pound Town after a long day at work – but he could still be very interested in joining you in the shower for a soap-and-grope first thing in the morning.
“Do you want rose petals in the bath or sweaty jocks in your mouth?”
Does he like making out on the couch for a while before you get naked, or does he want to come home and find you waiting and willing? Putting a little thought and effort into setting the mood can mean the difference between ‘no thanks’ and ‘no mercy’.
6. Have a serious chat about monogamy
This one is a risk and takes a level of honesty that can be confronting. If you can’t work out your sexual differences but you don’t want to sacrifice a really great relationship, it may be worth discussing whether monogamy is right for you.
If this is what you want, you should put it on the table. You can absolutely have a mutually fulfilling relationship with your partner and still be having sex with other guys. But be aware that it’s definitely not an easier road — anyone in an open relationship will tell you it takes every bit as much work, love, communication and commitment as monogamy.