Bedroom Insider

A blog about relationships, intimacy and sex toys.

Friday, November 2, 2018

What to Do About A Mismatch in Libido

Low stamina and sexual drive

Last month we talked about what's normal when it comes to having sex. We looked at the numbers for Americans and broke it down by sex, relationship status, age/generation, and more. You can look at that post if you want to learn more about the statistics. We think it's more important for people to be happy than be normal. But people often ask this question and not without reason.

It may also matter more why so many people to know what is “normal” than what they want to know is normal. It should come as no surprise that many people are concerned over how often they have sex. If you fall into this group, rest assured that what is normal in the realm of human sexuality covers a wide range. It's highly unlikely that you're abnormal; although, you may be atypical.

But people often ask this question because they're concerned about a libido mismatch in their relationships. You might feel one of two things.

1. You wish you had more sex.

If you fall into this group of people, you don't have as much sex as you'd like. It could be that you're single and would have more consistent sex in a relationship. Perhaps you just need to put yourself out there and meet new people so you can have sex more frequently.

And if you're in a relationship? You might want sex more often than your partner does (excluding issues such as long distance). He or she may even accuse you of being obsessed with sex. But you can just as easily feel sexually frustrated if you have a “normal” sex drive compared to your partner's extremely-low sex drive as you would if you had a hyperactive sex drive and your partner experiences a more average drive for sex.

One thing is clear: pushing or nagging your partner to have more sex isn't going to help. It will likely cause your partner to retreat more while resentment builds in yourself.

But what if you're on the other side?

2. You don't have desire to have sex.

If you're the partner with low or no sex drive, you might think that your partner is exaggerating his or her needs and want statistics that back that up. But, again, this isn't quite the right way to go about things.

First, you need to examine why your sex drive is low. Note that sex drive waxes and wanes, but serious drops in sex drive might require you to step in and do something to level back out.

Ask yourself:

  • How long has your sex drive been low? 
  • If there was a sudden drop, does it coincide with something? Major life changes, cheating, illnesses, menopause/andropause, weight gain, taking a new medication (high blood pressure medicine and birth control are two common culprits).
  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of sex? Do you expect for it always to be perfect or romantic? Do you avoid actively discussing sex with your partner?
  • Are you satisfied with your relationship? Many problems in the bedroom start on the other side of the bedroom door.
  • Is sex satisfying? If you've never had really good sex, you might be fine putting it by the wayside as life's other priorities take over.
  • Do you have negative perceptions about sex, the people who enjoy it, or those who have sex “too much”?

Your partner might also consider these questions if he or she is the one who desires sex less than you do.

Closing the Libido Gap

Depending on what this self-reflection reveals, you might seek help with a therapist (perhaps with your partner) or your doctor. Solutions may vary to switching medications or dosages, to trying new things sexually (vibrators can be just as fun as a partner as alone, and masturbation is crucial to learning what you like in bed) to developing new relationship skills.

A sex-positive therapist might even point out that there's nothing wrong with your sex life and that you are happy with your relationship and sex life but you've internalized some sex-negative messages. This often happens to people who grow up in environments that shame sexual behaviors, including masturbating.

There's More to Desire Than You Realize

It's important to note, however, that the issue of sex drive isn't as cut-or-dry as some people make it out to people. First, desire is the result of how your sexual accelerators and brakes work together (otherwise known as the dual-control model). Accelerators are the things that make you want to have sex: sights, sounds, touches, media, smells, hormones, and even thoughts. Brakes do the opposite. Anxiety, poor body image, relationship issues, depression and even hunger can all put on the brakes.

Once you recognize your brakes and accelerators, you can experiment to see what boosts your sex drive. While you might want to add or increase accelerators, remember that you can't go anywhere as long as the breaks are on. Women, especially, are more likely to have sensitive breaks, and reducing them is crucial to helping sex drive. Instead of trying to make things sexier, you might have to find ways to calm your mind, minimize body-image issues or improve your relationship.

Secondly, some people mistakenly believe they have low sex drive when what they actually have is responsive sex drive.  Women, especially, are more likely to have responsive sex drives than spontaneous ones. What this means is that desire might not make an appearance until after you're started the physical process of arousal.

This is completely normal! It's the reason why you might not want to have sex if your partner asks but watching them masturbate turns you on until you do want to have sex. To make responsive desire work for you, figure out what it is that you respond to. Many women like when their partners go down on them before they're really in the mood, for example. As you can guess, foreplay is a great way to activate that responsive desire!

If you want to learn more about responsive desire and the dual-control model, check out Emily Nagoski's book Come As You Are. While it's aimed at a female audience, everyone can benefit from the information it contains!

Understanding desire can help you to close that gap, so you and your partner both feel better about how much sex you're having or come to terms if you cannot shrink that discrepancy. But remember that it's better to compare your sex life to your personal desires than to some overly-simplified statistic that represents what's normal for others' sex lives.

By: Adriana Ravenlust
Follow on Twitter @adriana_r