Do You & Your Partner Have Mismatched Sex Drives? Here's Your Action Plan

Photo by Sonja Lekovic

Mismatched sex drives happen in even the most loving long-term relationships. When our drives don’t line up, it can be miserable for both of us. I know, because I’ve lived on both sides of the sexless marriage equation. Being rejected sexually by a partner is humiliating and lonely. I remember lying awake at night, my body burning with desire. I wanted him to keep me up at night because I was so damn sexy, but instead, he kept me up with his snoring. I felt like a wilting flower inside, fading in beauty and losing my spark.

When my own libido waned, I was equally distressed about my lack of sex drive. My partner grew frustrated and upset with my lack of passion, too, and we ended up having the same fight about sex over and over again. Here's the problem: When mismatched sex drives don’t get resolved, our happiness plummets. Our relationships suffer. Tension mounts in every other area of life, and soon we're disagreeing about kids, nitpicking about money, and resent each other’s Netflix and work habits.

The good news is that I've come out the other side, and my relationship is now stronger than ever. You can, too. Because having mismatched sex drives is not a death sentence: Instead, it’s a starting point for creating lasting sexual happiness. Here's how to make it happen:

1. Remember that it's your sex life, so it's your responsibility to own it.

The starting point for a fantastic sex life is to first own that your sex life is yours. It’s not your mother's or your neighbor's or even your partner's. It's yours, so own it!

"The way he touches me just doesn't turn me on," is not the savvy woman’s plan for her sexual fulfillment. "She’s shut down and distant," is not a reason to back down on your own pleasure. For the most part, blaming your partner won't do much—your sex drive is largely in your hands. Sex lives sputter when one or both people put their sexual fulfillment and desire into their partner's hands and say, "It’s your job to make me happy!"

What would it be like to show up to your relationship ready to engage? If you want to create lasting love and passion, no matter who wants more sex than who right now, you’ll both benefit from taking responsibility for your own turn-on. This gives you your power back because you’re no longer at the whim of your partner’s bad mood. It also kicks your creativity into gear because now two people are coming together to make great things happen rather than one person dragging the other one around trying to do it all alone.

Try this: Ask yourself, "How am I not 'owning' my sex life? In what ways am I expecting my partner to work harder than I do?" Find those ways, eliminate them, and then take responsibility—because it’s your sex life, after all.

2. Depressurize your bedroom.

We think age, familiarity, or relationship problems are the top killers of libido, but that’s not the case. The biggest libido killer I’ve ever known is pressure—the pressure we put on ourselves and each other around sex.

If sex isn’t working in your relationship, you may feel pent up inside. Unexpressed frustrations clog the air flow in your house—it's hard to breathe in your bedroom because you’re anxious. You might not know how to successfully talk about the problem, so the pressure mounts. I remember not wanting to go to bed at night because I didn’t want to face "that same fight about sex" again.

Who could possibly relax under such pressure? Not me. Nothing sends my libido into hiding more quickly than expectations and pressure: the pressure to perform, to do it right, to look sexy, to have sex. These expectations emotionally and physically disable our desire. Instead, give your libido a chance by lowering the pressure in your household around sex. Breathe right now, as you’re reading this. Many people have struggled with their sex lives and come back to enjoy great passion and connection.

Try this: Examine your current strategies for trying to get turned on or fix your sex life. Do they leave you both feeling tingly, turned on, and connected? Or are they more like eating cold pizza? If your strategies aren't working, try something new. Start by intentionally lowering the pressure you feel around sex. Take sex off the table if it helps you relax, then it's on to the next step.

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3. Enjoy the small, sensual moments.

If the pressure to have sex is lingering in your bedroom, then we misinterpret every little look and touch. That butt grab in the kitchen suddenly feels like an attack because we interpret it to mean, "All he wants is sex." Her invitation to "talk" sounds like falling into a black pit of doom, because we assume she’s going to start complaining about what we’re doing wrong (again).

When we lift the sexual pressure and expectations, we can start enjoying the little things with each other: those small gestures of genuine connection. For couples in long-term relationships, small, sensual moments are vitally important.

Maybe it’s a bear hug in the kitchen before breakfast or a slight brushing by each other in the hallway. Maybe it’s seeing your partner’s smile in the bathroom mirror or holding hands watching a movie. One of my favorite small moments is when my partner puts his hand on my leg while he’s driving. That one simple gesture lights me up every time and makes me feel special.

If you’re thinking, "But I love and need more sex! I don’t want to settle for a five-second hug," keep this in mind: Noticing and relishing the small moments is not settling for less; it’s building the groundwork for more.

Try this: When you notice a sweet feeling with your partner, capitalize on that. When you feel that little tingle in your body, linger for a few extra moments. Remember, small moments aren’t foreplay, so don’t try to make anything extra happen. Instead, enjoy a moment of loving, flirty fun with each other, then move on with your day. Those small moments will add up to more passion and pleasure.

Not enjoying sex? Here are 10 culprits that might be behind it.

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