In recent years, my partner and I have grown to have mismatched sex drives. Now, I have a higher libido than my partner, and while I want to be supportive and certainly don't want them to feel pressured to have sex, I do wonder if there's anything I can do to help rejuvenate their interest. Regardless of their libido, though, how can I make sure that I'm still satisfied within my confines of my relationship?
Mainstream society has grown to idealize fiery relationships denoted by passionate partners who can’t keep their hands off each other. The truth is, though, that libido fluctuates every day, and the chances that one’s libido will always match the level of their partner is quite slim. In fact, one of the most common issues couples face in relationships is mismatched libidos. Often, partners adapt to this reality and find a balance that works for them. Other times, though, mismatched libidos can snowball into bigger issues full of frustration, guilt, and resentment.
In particular, people with a higher libido than their partner tend to feel as if their needs are not being met, shame that they want sex more often or rejection when sex is off the table. By contrast, people with lower libido than their partner tend to feel frustrated, pressured, and anxious about their desire not being on par with their partner. Thankfully, though, a mismatched libido is a solvable issue so long as everyone involved is willing to be honest, empathetic, and to prioritize the relationship.
Being on either side of the sex drive seesaw can be frustrating, but let’s consider ways the partner with the higher sex drive can be both supportive and satisfied.
1. Access their stressors
Before you can begin addressing intimacy concerns, take inventory of what is going on in your partner’s life. The partner with the lower sex drive may be contending with a combination of libido-compromising stressors. Some of these lifestyle or health factors may include high stress, medications, chronic health issues, work demands, mental illness, family responsibilities, financial strain, or lack of sleep.
Now, what can you do about it? Well, if you know, for instance, that your partner is stressed, consider how you might be able to help them to feel better. Communicate that your intention is always to help them feel good in order to show that you're not just trying to address your own sexual desires. Simple acts of support—like offering to cook breakfast for the week, taking a walk together at lunch or allowing them to sleep in on the weekend—can help revitalize their overall mood.
If your partner is going through a change that is more permanent than a period of stress, consider building support into your daily routine. Depending on the severity of the issue, you’ll want to pace yourself and be consistent in your support in a way that feels manageable to you.
2. Rate your sex drives
One easy way to begin healthy sexual communication on this topic is for each person in the relationship to rate their sex drive from one to 10 and explain their ranking. For the partner with the higher drive, make sure you actively listen to why your partner describes the number they share. Regardless of whether your numbers are very different or not too far from each other, use this exercise as an opportunity to empathize with your partner and try to understand their perspective.
3. Expand your definition of sex
Consider this an invitation to unlearn bad sex ed, including unhealthy myths that sex (only) means penetration and that orgasm is always the end goal. Now is a good time to expand your definition and expectations of what diverse pleasure can mean. To do so, have partner write down 10 intimate activities that they enjoy doing with their partner and 10 intimate things they’d like to try. Share the lists with one another and allow it to be the starting ground for an expanded list of acts all parties can enjoy together.
4. Try breathwork together
A few moments before bed, or when you both have downtime together, face one another and take deep breaths together. Unwinding together can help you both feel at ease next to each other. Gently reminding your partner with a lower libido to connect in breath with you allows you both to feel more synced.
5. Don’t forget you-time
While you are working on intimacy in your relationship, do not forget to build intimacy with yourself. Ideas that a partner should “fulfill you” or that they must be your sole source of pleasure aren’t healthy and put too much pressure on one person. You should be a primary part of your pleasure equation and spend time exploring and enjoying your body alone, regardless of your relationship status. Some ideas to bring more pleasure to your life can include full-body massages in the shower, a lunchtime masturbation session or a date night alone in your room with aromatherapy, music, and your favorite toys.
6. Throwback dates
Sometimes, the easiest solution for couples struggling with mismatched libidos is to go back to the basics. Many couples get stuck in a routine and don’t plan out date nights together the way they may have early on in the relationship. There's no need to reinvent the wheel here, either. Instead, book consistent date nights and hit up old spots you used to enjoy together. Having dedicated time to look forward to helps build desire before the dates; meanwhile, spending quality time together on the dates helps you reconnect more intimately.
7. Work with a professional
It can be scary navigating intimacy concerns with your partner. Whether you are new to the relationship or are in a committed, long-term partnership, working with a professional can be a source of comfort. Sex therapists, sexologists, and intimacy experts are trained to help you talk about difficult topics and guide you on how to reach your goals together. There may also be instances where the best option for the relationship may not be one you have been open to before. Consider working with an expert if you want support navigating mismatched libidos.
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