Overcoming libido differences

Overcoming libido differences

When couples come to me with sexual issues, I will ask them about their libido. I ask them to give a number between 1 and 10 (10 being the highest) to indicate where they think their libido lies. More often than not our libidos are mismatched with our partner. This is then amplified when one partner is experiencing a change in their lifestyle or mood, for example: The menopause, heightened stress levels, decreased self-esteem or low mood.

Trouble can often then start when this is merged with poor communication around desire. Resentment gradually builds over time and a pattern begins to emerge: It’s common that the individual with the higher sex drive pushes for sex more than the other would like. In turn, the partner with the lower sex drive feels anxious or angry, therefore loses desire more. Then a vicious cycle ensues whereby the partner with the higher sex drive becomes increasingly worried and pushes more. The wheel keeps turning.

The issue becomes two-fold; both emotional and sexual. If one partner is feeling under pressure, they may start to retract not only sexual advances but emotional ones too. So, physical affection diminishes in order not to give the partner ‘any ideas’. What is miscommunicated and confused between the couple are the needs for sexual gratification and emotional connection. Therefore, one of the first thing to change is to increase affection and emotional connection and remove the pressure from sex.

Alongside increasing affection (cuddles, kisses and holding hands) the next best thing to do is plan in advance, set a time a week or even both deciding that to have sex a certain number of days a week. Then the individual with the lower sex drive is to initiate on those occasions, so as to avoid the cycle outlined above. I know this sounds laborious, however what this does is; improve communication with a clear decision, encourages the couple to set time aside for each other and most importantly decrease anxiety between the couple. With the anxiety decreased the risk of internalising, catastrophising and therefore resentment is less likely.

Compromising is another great way to resolve the issue of different libido. The couple must first discuss what you want from the encounter. Include light touching and massages, as these activities reinforce intimacy. If the more sexual partner wants more, the more sexual partner can masturbate, for example, while the other watches.

Finally, it won’t all be smooth sailing, there may be a few hiccups along the way. Yet, the next time one person tries to initiate sexual activity and the other isn’t interested, remember what the desire numbers are. The most important benefit of knowing a desire number is that it prevents everyone from taking sexual interest and libido levels personally.


By Aoife Drury


COSRT Accred. Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

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