Managing Sexual Desire Differences

According to  David Schnarch, Ph.D., “Virtually all couples have sexual desire problems sooner or later.” The first line of defense is to see if there is a biological origin to the problem.

Next, check your perspective on your sex life. There is a misconception about what a ‘normal’ amount of sex are in relationships.  You may think sex once or twice a week is average for most couples, but Schnark’s research shows that to be true of only one out of four couples (26%).  The vast majority of people (67%) are having sex once or twice a month or less, or less (33%) it’s a lot less. If you once had a great deal of sex but things of slow down, you may have simply regressed the mean.

If partners are struggling to have a healthy a sex life, a mismatch may be occurring in which one partner is experiencing a significant lack of sex drive while the other partner is still functioning at a high level. This can put a strain on the relationship. In order to prevent spillover into other areas of functioning, partners can use a few of the following tips to help manage the mismatch more effectively.

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Tips for Partner with Low Sex Drive

1. Make having a satisfying sexual relationship a bigger priority in your life. Your marriage, your future, and both partner’s self esteem depend on it. Don’t think you can have a great relationship without satisfying sex. Take a moment and think back to a time when sex was more fulfilling–Wasn’t it wonderful? Didn’t it feel great? Don’t you want to feel that way again? Forget about doing this strictly for your partner or the marriage, do it for you!

TIP: Start by telling yourself that you deserve to feel sexy and have a sexual life. Explore what makes you feel good about yourself and share that with your partner. Then set aside time each week to engage yourself and your mate in sexual activity.


2. Care about your spouse‘s feelings. Remember, part of a healthy relationship involves your active participation in things that will help your partner feel better. Find ways to boost your spouse’s morale in spite of your difference in sex drive.

 TIP: Engage in overt playfulness, flirt more, use his/her love language to let them know you care. Put more energy into letting your spouse know that s/he is attractive. Don’t just say “no” when not in the mood-  make an alternative suggestion (e.g., oral pleasuring, a different time, etc.) and follow through.


3. Put on your running shoes. Joggers always say that the hardest part about running is putting on your running shoes. So too with sex. When people nudge themselves, even halfheartedly, to “get their feet moving,” their pleasurable physical sensations often override any reason to resist. Women in particular can benefit from this little extra personal push since we are biologically quite good at repressing sexual desire more efficiently over time (use it or lose it). In fact, if it has been a while since you had sex, be prepared to get over a hump (pun intended).

TIP: you don’t necessarily need to feel turned in order to initiate sex or respond to your partner’s advances. If you push yourself a bit, you will see whether the caressing and touching puts you in the mood. Give it some time and have a sense of humor about it.

4. Talk openly about your preferences. As you begin to figure out what you like and don’t like, you have to commit to discussing it openly and specifically with your spouse. Work through embarrassment. Unless you address this directly, you aren’t going to get very far.

TIP: Use action-oriented terms and hands on demonstrations. For example, it isn’t enough to tell your partner, “I would prefer we ‘make love’ rather than ‘have sex’.” You need to be able to show and tell them what you mean. It might feel strange at first to be this specific about your sexual encounters, but your partner won’t understand your needs unless you are.

5. Touch affectionately without worrying that sex is imminent if you do. It may get annoying when each and every touch becomes a means of foreplay for your partner. Then touch has become a warning sign instead of a natural part of affection for someone.

TIP: Remember that touch serves many functions in a relationship; it can signal that you are a couple to others, a way to comfort each other, and to feel close to your partner or express love. Take time to touch your partner in these other ways.

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Tips for Partner with High Sex Drive

1. Don’t take it personally. Differences in sexual desire among couples are very, very common. Although it is hard to have your advances rejected repeatedly, remind yourself that you spouse’s lack of interest may not be about you, your attractiveness, or your qualities as a human being. It may simply be a matter of a hormone deficiency, other physiological problems, or feelings s/he has about himself/herself. 

TIP: Use empathy.  S/he probably feels inadequate and questions his/her own sexuality. Don’t underestimate how painful this is for your spouse either. Even if s/he acts defensively, s/he probably spends lots of time wondering why things aren’t easier between you. And plant positive counter thoughts to marginalize negative impact on self esteem.
2. Build Intimacy. If you are a man whose wife is less interested in sex than you, and she wants you to be more communicative and attentive before she is interested in sex, it’s time to start paying attention to your friendship with your wife. Many women are wired this way. They can’t get turned on unless they feel close to you.

TIP: Start doing the things that are important to her. These are the kinds of things that soften women’s hearts. And use love languages to get your mate warmed up for sex. They are much more likely to want to be close to you sexually when you do.
3. Do something different. You pursue him or her for sex, and s/he declines your offer. The more you pursue, the more your spouse feels pressured and angry and pulls away. So, it’s time for you to try a new approach.

TIP: Back off for a while – Stop talking about sex and focus on yourself for a change. And for a certain period of time you should commit to not approaching him or her. Don’t talk about your plan. Don’t threaten. Just back off and wait. Sometimes the lower-sexed person simply needs to recharge and feel valuable without sex pressures. When the tug of war has ended, s/he might feel more amorous.
4. Focus on what works
Have there been times in your marriage when your sex life was more passionate? Ask yourself, “What was different about the times when my spouse was more interested in sex?” See if any of the conditions are reproducible. Then do that.
5. Touch affectionately without thinking sex is imminent. Since many women have a strong need for affection without sexual overtones, they get annoyed when each and every touch becomes a means of foreplay. And if they have been pursued frequently, touch has become a warning sign instead of a natural part of affection for someone.

TIP: Practice nonsexual touch and stopping sexual progression sometimes to show respect for touch. Example, “I want you so bad right now but just touching your arm and smelling your hair feels so amazing I want to keep doing that for a bit.”

Sources:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/divorce-busting/201001/9-tips-the-spouse-higher-sex-drive?page=2

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intimacy-and-desire/201105/normal-healthy-couples-have-sexual-desire-problems

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