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Reader Question – Differences In Sex Drive + No Compromise = Trouble

Last semester I received a question from a reader that was SO long that I decided I needed help answering it. Exile LOVES to help me with reader questions, so of course I recruited him to see what he thought about this question:

I have noticed both in my own personal life and in those of friends that differences in sex drives between couples can cause tension in many aspects of the relationship. While we often joke about boys being overly horny (I would place myself in this category anyways) I think this is a simplification of the problem. I believe tension arises when there is a disparity between two people’s sexual desire/libido and that the solution should focus on the existence of a difference, not that one person wants too much sex or the other person wants too little…I think simply stating the average number of times a couple should have sex a day/week/month and then classifying people as having a high or low libido fails to account for individual differences and the social dynamics present in a monogamous couple. One can’t change their libido (easily) nor should they.

So my question for you is: What are some ways to help couples who have different levels of libido maintain a happy sex life while still allowing both partners to feel like they’re getting what they want (or don’t want in the case of the person with the lower libido) from the sexual aspect of the relationship? I think the answer that comes most readily to mind is a compromise of some kind, either splitting the difference and having sex more often than one person wants but less than the other but this just results in two moderately dissatisfied people. Also, engaging in other types of sexual activities such as hand jobs or oral sex when one partner desires sex but the other does not is another form of compromise where the person with the lower libido can pleasure the other person but doesn’t have to receive sexual stimulation themselves. This, however; may just end up feeling like work for the person not desiring sex, it might feel awkward and forced if that person is not in the mood for intimacy, or at its worst, compromise of this kind may result in the person doing the pleasuring feeling used – as though they’re little more than a sex toy. So it would seem to me (unless I’m missing another possbility) that compromise is not the answer, either both partners have sex (intercourse or otherwise) or they don’t, you can’t have “half a sex” like you can an apple.

The other option that I can see is masturbation to satisfy the partner with the higher libido. While this is effective to a point, I have always likened masturbation to eating appetizers at a restaurant…they taste good but just wet (no pun intended) your appetitie for the main course and even if you eat a meals worth of appetizers it still isn’t as satisfying as eating the main course (sex with a partner that is). As I see it, masturbation can help to some degree but there is more to sex than having an orgasm. Having sex with another person also includes: the social aspect of interacting with another person, the kissing, the touching, the warmth, the affection, the feelings of love, etc. All of which cannot be equivalently replicated during masturbation. In short, my masturbation sleeve has lips and a mouth, but it has never given me a kiss, or a hug for that matter.

As you may have detected by now, I have spent more than a little time thinking about this topic and so will try to wrap this up. As I said earlier it is a problem in my current and has been a problem in past relationships but from conversations I have had with friends on campus, I believe I am far from alone in struggling to deal with this issue. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on ways for couples with differing sex drives to find middle ground without one partner having to do something they aren’t comfortable with as may be the case in compromise solutions.

My answer to this question is short – to me it seems that this reader has talked himself into a corner with very few real practical solutions.

If you find that you aren’t a good match with your partner (in terms of sex drive) and also aren’t willing to compromise with hand/blowjobs or masturbation, then I see only two solutions: either break up or become polyamourous (i.e. bring in a third partner to fulfill the desires of the higher sex drive partner – with the other partner’s consent, of course).

[P.S. if the partner with the low sex drive is a woman who used to have a higher sex drive, she should check her medication; anti-depressants and the pill can have an effect on your sex drive - but more on that another time.]

Looks like Exile’s answer is similar to mine:
Wow, somehow you managed to not only ask questions, but also propose solutions while simultaneously shooting down said propositions. (I thought I was the only one that did this…)

To summarize, (as I feel I must) you want to know if and how two people of differing sexual appetites can reach a level of acceptable nookie.

See, inherently there is a flaw here with your situation. You want to know if two people can meet a compromise involving their sexual tendencies, unfortunately there isn’t really a compromise to be made. Let’s face it, you want more sex, your partner wants less (I’m saying you cause, well, It’s you). But you only want this “compromise” to wind up with you having more sex, but that’s not a compromise, that’s you just getting your way.

See, in a comprise of this fashion you will have to have a lot less sex than you want, and your partner will have to have a lot more than she wants (I’m assuming it’s a she, that way I don’t have to write he/she).

You see Timmy (I’ve decided your name is Timmy), a lot of the time; a lack of sex drive is something far more than “just not wanting to do it.” A person’s sex drive is not an opinion that can be changed, but a part of what makes them what they are. It is true that different chemicals can affect a person’s sex drive much in the same way chemicals can also affect depression, but even with chemicals (yes, I mean drugs) it doesn’t change what it is that is causing the depression (lack of sex drive). A lot of times Timmy, a lack of sex drive stems from far more than want.

The question you should be asking your self is: “can I give up sex?”

A hard question to answer? Well just think about her, because for her to force her self to have sex when she doesn’t want to is worse than you giving up sex.

Now, there are many drugs on the market (certain anti-depressants) that can actually hinder and even suppress the sex drive… But is this the answer?

Not quite, in fact, none of these are, because of all these rash actions, not one of them involved you talking to your partner about this. In the end that is the only solution, you need to sit down and decided if this is really negotiable.

If you do want to make it work you can consult your doctors and see if there is anything to assist in this matter (hormone therapy, stimulants, etc.). If you feel that you can’t do this, then you know that there is another decision you need to make.

Oh, and Timmy, if and when you decided to talk things through, be sure to discuss any drug (prescription or non) with your doctor, you’d be surprised what can affect sex drive.

What about you sweet readers, what do you think?

12 comments to Reader Question – Differences In Sex Drive + No Compromise = Trouble

  • Jim

    The key thing for him is that he has not yet married this woman. That takes the tension level up a notch or two, believe me, lol.


  • Anonymous

    I know what you are going through. My wife and I had the same problem. But one thing you need to ask your self is the classic “are you putting her in the mood”. Sometimes all it takes are some flowers on the way home from work, running a bath for her, making her feel like a women. I too have a very high sex drive, and sometimes my wife just can’t keep up.Though there is no one solotion to your problem there may be plenty. Some people say women have a switch, and it’s either on or off, I say it’s more like a dimmer switch,and if the light is to low to read by well better luck the next time. Which brings up another thing, it maybe all in the timing of things some women are more active in the day then at night. There are just so many variables that you just have to find out what works for the two of you. I feel communication and love is the biggest thing. If the both of you can at least talk about the situation then the both of you should be able to come up with a solution.

  • Gadfly

    If the disparity is due to a psychological situation that can be resolved, maybe …

    But a massive biological disparity in sex drive between two people in a permanent relationship?

    The one with the lower sex drive, one way or the other, is going to need to be very open minded to make this a lasting, harmonious relationship.

    That’s why vampire mythology so easily mixes with human sexuality. Sooner or later, the thirst always wins ;-)

  • Rf-Des

    Wow, sounds like quite the problem, but if it is anything at all like the problem that my girlfriend and I had awhile ago then I think the best answer would be just to talk it out. I have to agree with the Anonymous when they said that it could be as simple as getting her into the mood or trying to start something at different times of the day, or it could require you to spice things up a little with your loved one.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that some people aren’t willing to discuss with their partners if they are having a problem with their current sex life, or if they feel like it is getting dull because they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings or they’re embarrassed. This of course just leads to them being unhappy with sex and thus they want it less and less until eventually they’re hardly ever interested in it and while I’m not insinuating that this is the case here that example is just to make my point that communication is the key when dealing with this sort of problem.

    Just be careful though, because I communicated with my girlfriend awhile ago and found ways to turn her on to the point that she wants sex quite often, but for some reason now my libido has decreased…quite annoying really.

  • Shay

    Jim – I believe this is a mainly hypothetical question.

    Anon1 – Excellent, and yes, women can be more active during the day (which means they might be more interested in an afternoon quickie than a romp just before bedtime). But I suspect this was a more hypothetical question about couples made up of two people whose natural sex drives are at different levels even when (very hypothetically) everything is being done right for the person with the lower sex drive.

    Gad – You are ridiculous! I love that you brought vampires into this discussion! ^_^

    Rups – *hug* there there

    RF – I believe this is a mainly hypothetical question. Also RF, we all remeber that your gf is a little unusual. ^_~ Sorry to hear that your libido is a little low right now though, maybe you’ve been too stressed/busy at school/work lately.

  • Jim

    Oh . . . well, my response was . . . [cough] hypothetical, too.


  • Rf-Des

    Yes, well…yeah. Oh and I’m glad to say that most of the problems which we had regarding pornography has passed, not as in she allows it, but as in I’ve just overcome my addiction to it.

  • Quilzas

    If it works for the couple in question, I think going poly is a good solution. But, poly is not for everyone, and since there are more people involved, you do have more potential pitfalls to watch out for.

    Beyond that, there is no good solution – break up with them, deal with it, a compromise that may or may not work or may or may not leave partner(s) dissatisfied with how things are. *shrugs* It’s a bit of a pickle.

    Though I also found the pill killed my sex drive after I was on it for a few years. Once I was off of it, it came screaming back. Lots of things effect the ole libido.

    Libidos do also change over time, not just in response to chemicals as well.

  • Kim

    Hi, This is the first time I’ve ever left a comment, so please be gentle.

    My situation is not exactly the same as “Timmys’”, but I’ll try and sum up the struggle my husband and I are currently going through.

    We’ve been married 13 years, both started out with very strong libido’s, tapered off just a little till we found our groove, and things had been great for many years. The last five have been a huge struggle for both of us. He had a serious back injury at this time, and he deals with pain daily, he’s also on medication for the condition. I became sober at that time, and for a year was struggling to learn who I was, how to stay sober, and learn to love & forgive myself. Because of these two factors for a while there, neither one of us had much of a libido.

    The problem is this though, I haven’t had sex with the man I love (very dearly) in the last 3 years. Yes, I masturbate (wearing batteries out), but that doesn’t replace the intimacy we get from each other. What started to happen over the last 3 years was nobody wanted to talk about it (sex), he stopped touching, kissing, hugging, etc.. unless I initiated. I also sleep in a separate bed because of his back. What has happened is that we’ve become more like room mates, than a husband and wife – not good.

    What triggered this realization were a couple of factors. I’ve become very healthy, inside and out. I’m back to the figure I had in high school. I feel great about me! WooHoo! Well here I am feeling great about me, and he doesn’t notice, I make passes at him, he ignores, I leave hints, and condoms all over the house, again ignores. I become frustrated, and my head almost implodes. At this point I start talking to other women to get opinions and advice. Guess what, COMMUNICATION is the answer to my prayers. I started asking him questions, Does it hurt to have sex, do you still get an erection, can you ejaculate or is it to painful, do miss blow jobs, do you miss sex????? We had avoided talking about sex, just as much as we avoided having it, that it became to uncomfortable for either one of us to deal with. I was afraid of rejection, and he was afraid of intimacy. A friend put an analogy like this to our situation, “If you keep filling up a garbage can, and don’t empty it, start to avoid it, pretend it’s not there, it’s eventually gonna stink, and be to heavy to move.”

    By me talking it has started the ball rolling. We are slowly making progress, we decided that professional therapy would be best for us also. There could be more issues than just what we see, and they need to be addressed. I still get a little freaked, because I’m horny, but I’m also being patient because I love him. Keep cheering for me, and maybe I can get you an update on our situation soon.

    I don’t know if this really applied to “Timmy”, but maybe it helped someone else.

    P.S. and then I’ll shut up – Thank you Shay, so much! I love read your blog, and have found tons of helpful and interesting information. Bless You!

  • Shay

    Kim, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story. Communication is SO important for keeping relationships healthy (like you said) and sometimes I forget to drive that point home enough. I’m so happy to hear that you two are working on making things better in your relationship and I wish you all the best! ^_^

  • Kamile

    Unfortunately, and I know this post is very very old, but it caught my attention, I know what happens when you try to force your libido on an unwilling partner. I was the unwilling partner for some time in a marriage, and he was the overactive one (wanted sex daily and I wanted nothing to do with it, and it just got worse and worse.) It can be a marriage destroyer if you don’t talk it out or even realize it before hand.

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