Remember how passionate honeymoon sex was? You and your spouse were going at it day and night because you couldn’t get enough of each other. You thought it was going to be like this forever. Then, you returned to real life.
While most couples remain enthu about intercourse, responsibilities and demanding work schedules soon start to intrude. On Tuesday night, you’re raring for a roll in the hay, but your hubby needs to finish some work after dinner. When the weekend arrives, your man is game to do the horizontal mambo, but all you desire is Netflix!
“It’s totally normal for our individual sex drives to be constantly fluctuating over the course of our lives,” says Sara Tang, sex educator, coach and founder of Sarasense, a site that provides resources for people to enjoy a more satisfying sex life. “There are so many factors that affect sex drives ― age, lifestyle, hormones, medical reasons, relationship status, stress and other psychological reasons.”
According to Tang, it’s common for most of us to go from high-desire to low-desire, or vice versa, in a matter of days. So, it’s unlikely that our partners can match our libidos all the time. While it’s normal to have the odd period of time when your sex drives don’t match, it can become a cause for concern if it happens over a period of time, adds Tang.
“For the partner with higher sex drive, often they experience this as a personal rejection and after a few attempts, become discouraged and gave up. For the partner with lower sex drive, they often felt pressured and not listened to.”
Not just a male problem
By the way, don’t be too quick to stereotype men as sex-hungry villains who want to jump on their wives for a quickie. Here’s an interesting fact: Women have a higher sexual appetite than their male counterparts.
“In my practice, we do often see it happening the other way around where the women having higher sex drive than men,” notes Ho Shee Wai, registered psychologist and director at The Counselling Place.
Concurring, Tang explains that it’s typically because the men have high-pressure jobs that leave them drained by the end of the day.
When does the mismatch happen?
It’s not uncommon that some couples have differing libidos from the get-go. Instead of getting some help, these couples decide to wait it out, hoping that things will change. Also, most couples are able to navigate a few days or weeks of not having their sexual needs met.
The other scenario ― which is more common ― is when the thrill of being in a new marriage slowly starts to fade.
“Usually at the start of a relationship, there is a natural excitement for getting to know the other person, things tend to be more spontaneous and lots of sexy hormones, like dopamine, serotonin, are being produced, which helps boost everyone’s sex drives,” says Tang.
Over time, sex becomes routine, predictable and less exciting. She points out that parenthood is one of the biggest lifestyle factors affecting the libidos of long-term couples. “They experience fatigue, stress, hormonal changes and loss of privacy that are usually detrimental to the libido,” she adds.
This doesn’t only affect the marriage but also their efforts to have more kids.
When you ignore your mismatched libidos
Ho explains, “For the partner with higher sex drive, often they experience this as a personal rejection and after a few attempts, become discouraged and gave up. For the partner with lower sex drive, they often felt pressured and not listened to.”
Because of how sensitive the topic is, talking about it isn’t easy either. Most couples aren’t equipped with the right tools, so they don’t know how to talk about it in a healthy, non-confrontational way, which can lead to more frustration.
After a while, it can become an issue of great stress, accompanied with nagging and fighting, with one or both parties harbouring anger and resentment towards the other person. “It creates a wall and puts distance between the couple. Some partners use this as an excuse for infidelity,” Ho adds.
Sex is not just a small component of your marriage. “Sex is a form of emotional connection and intimacy so when that is threatened, then the relationship can be threatened,” warns Tang.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical cure to get your mis-matched libidos back in sync, but there are ways to work through them.
#1 Talk about what is affecting each other’s sex drive
Listen to what your spouse is saying and don’t be too quick to brush off their words as “excuses”. The key is to identify the root cause of what is affecting your sex drive (or lack thereof). It could be anything from feeling burnout at work to lack of emotional intimacy with your spouse. Then there’s also the small part that nature plays in your love-making. “Studies have shown that most men's sex drive peak in the morning while for women their sex drive tends to be higher in the evening,” Ho notes.
#2 Keep reminding yourself why sex is important in a marriage
Sex is a way to show your spouse how much they are loved, appreciated, desired and how attractive you find them, Ho says. It’s a big component to a healthy and happy marriage, so don’t think it’s unimportant. Remember, what is happening outside of the bedroom is directly related to what’s happening inside. So, an emotionally disconnected couple will be physically disconnected as well.
#3 Don’t take it personally
This is a hard one, especially for the person who’s being rejected. But try your best not to feel like you’re the problem and you are undeserving of your spouse’s love and affection. Instead, take it as an opportunity to be more open and willing to explore the real reason behind the lack of interest.
#4 Switch things up in the bedroom
“Nothing kills sex drive quicker than boredom,” says Ho. Just like how you get bored from eating the same food all the time, it’s also normal to feel bored from performing the same sexual routine day in day out. “I like the idea of taking sex off the table, and just connecting through foreplay and other forms of sensual touch.," says Tang. “Make that the entire intention of lovemaking. For example, sexy backrubs are always appreciated.”
“I like the idea of taking sex off the table, and just connecting through foreplay and other forms of sensual touch.”
#5 Recreate the time when sex was amazing for both you
Go back to the time when sex was off the charts for both you. What did you do then that you aren’t doing anymore? Maybe it’s more foreplay, a certain prop, or perhaps a bikini wax is in order? Introduce these elements to your current lovemaking routine to see if it makes a difference.
#6 Be affectionate, and not only in the bedroom
Sex is not the only way to be affectionate. Hugs, kisses and holding hands are all great ways to keep close and connected, and they don’t always have to lead to sex. Back off if your spouse feels stressed by such simple physical contact because they fear it will lead to sex. Take the pressure off and try again at a later date.
#7 Take care of your own needs
You are responsible for your own needs, so masturbate if you need to and don’t feel resentful of your partner for having to do so. It’s just something you have to do while you and your spouse work through your issues.
You can also find a compromise, says Tang. “For example, the lower-desire partner could consider ‘lending a hand’ to their partner’s masturbation, so at least, there is a shared experience between the couple.”
On that note, Tang also suggests the lower-desire partner try to masturbate as well. “Orgasms ― whether from sex or masturbation ― are greatly beneficial to health, and when those sexy hormones, such as dopamine and endorphins, flood the brain, eventually the lower-desire partner may find it easier to get aroused and their sex drive could increase,” she adds.
#8 Get help early
It’s not a problem that’s going to fix itself, so don’t wait it out. Nor should you sweep it under the rug. Leave it for too long and both of you will fall into a pattern that will be very challenging to break. Life is too short to live in a sex-less marriage, especially if you want to have kids. Communicate openly and honestly about it. If it still can’t be resolved, get help from a counsellor or sex therapist.
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