A mismatched sex drive can often become a big issue in long-term relationships. While it would be ideal to have a lover with a similar sex drive they are a lot less common than people think. It’s not until couples settle down or marry that this not-so-little issue rears it’s ugly head. And it’s not intentional, nor is it about love or attraction – it comes down to individual sexual desire.
Now, the initial period of a relationship is called the limerence phase – this is when new couples can’t get enough of each other. Can you remember that? Energy levels and sex drives are usually at their peak as all those euphoric chemicals race around people’s bodies.
As most of us know, this honeymoon stage doesn’t last. The chemicals go back to normal within 6 months to 3 years and life settles down – this can be when a mismatched sex drive surfaces. It can also be brought on by other factors later on in the relationship, however. These include: Mental and physical health, hormones, stress and some medications like anti-depressants, all of which effect sexual desire.
People can misinterpret what’s happening because of the obvious change in their sex life. It can be very easy to take personally and assume the worst. Eventually a pursuer-distancer cycle begins –this is when one partner can become the pursuer and the other becomes the distancer (either gender can take on these roles).
When a women becomes the pursuer it goes against societal norms as she assumes her sex drive will either be equal to or less than her lovers. When this doesn’t occur, it can leave her feeling ashamed and rejected. In many cases women remain silent and feel their partners lack of desire for them is personal. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for women experiencing this to put on large amounts of weight or compensate their rejection in other ways.
Men can also experience this, however they have been conditioned to believe their mismatched sex drive is more normal. Due to this difference male pursuers are more likely to speak up. Plus, overall men are much less ashamed of a mismatched libido or heightened sex drive.
Regardless of who’s playing what role, desire discrepancy can cause heated arguments. Even solid relationships can suffer as a result. The pursuer with the higher sex drive will try and persuade the less interested person to have sex. Rejection after rejection, they get angry, frustrated and arguments which have nothing to do with sex, often lead back to it.
The sexual distancer will then place further restriction on the pursuer. They will avoid all types of physical intimacy like kissing or hugging because they don’t want it to lead to sex. This places additional stress on the pursuer, who will eventually stop arguing, pursuing and will eventually give up.
It often takes some years to materialise into an end result. The movie Hope Springs was an excellent example: If couples remain together despite an avoidance of intimacy, the situation can do a complete 180 and the roles reverse.
How to fix a mismatched sex drive
The best way to fix a mismatched sex drive is through communication and compromise as soon as possible. It won’t go away and will only get worse if not addressed. Initially, find out if it’s a medical problem – men who experience erection problems can become distancers to hide it. For women, it might be an inability to orgasm or if sex is painful. It might also be psychological, linked to trauma, or caused by use of medications, alcohol or tobacco.
If it simply comes down to an incompatible sex drive, you’ll need to compromise. Sex contracts are a great way to do this. If it does persist over time, the issue can affect not only a couples sex life, but their entire relationship. They will likely stop talking about sex and will find the topic difficult to approach. In this case, they may need some intervention to discover the cause and to work to find a solution.
It’s not something you just have to tolerate, from either perspective. So don’t wait any longer and get it sorted.
Image via chatelaine.com
Kim is a writer and SHESAID's resident psychologist. A self-proclaimed tomboy who understands more about relationships and men than she ever will about glitz and glamour. Follow Kim on Google+.