Different Sex Drives in Relationships
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    Feel good by contributing – help others to gain clarity on their sexual health. Note: TBD Health Inc. is not a non-profit.

    go wild!
    3 minutes read
    Oct 16, 2023
    sexual pleasure
    How to Deal with Different Libidos

    Written by: Dr. Sophia Murphy, DBH, SXI

    Libido is a term that refers to a person’s desire to engage in sexual activity, often known to one’s “sex drive.” Many people think there is a “normal” sex drive for everyone when in actuality, it varies widely person to person. It can even change over time for the same person (1). In relationships, it’s not uncommon for partners to have different libidos and varying levels of sexual drive. Sometimes this is stressful as people tend to assign meaning to the others’ level of drive, i.e., higher drive means the other person wants me more and lower drive means they don’t want me at all. A person’s sex drive is specific to them and not an indicator of how they feel about you. There is no one “right” amount of sex drive and there is nothing “wrong” with you whether your drive seems higher or lower than anyone else’s.

    You Might Have Different Types of Desires! Some people experience what is classed “responsive desire” while other people experience what is called “spontaneous desire” which is probably what most people think of when they consider “desire” at all. Spontaneous desire refers to an internal experience that arises and drives someone to seek out sexual connection either with themselves or a partner. It is created internally and occurs, as the name suggests, spontaneously. Responsive desire occurs in reaction to a stimuli. For people with a responsive style, they may not report being in the mood until they start to engage in a sexual activity or become aroused. These people may report their desire as the outcome of some behavior, touch, or activity (2).

    Knowing your own style and the style(s) of your partner(s) can be incredibly helpful for everyone involved. Society often presents desire as something that “should” be spontaneous, meaning that people “should” just want sexual engagement and they “should” want it often. This narrative is even more true in long-term relationships. People often become upset or disconnected when there is a perception that a partner doesn’t want the other “enough.”

    Read More: What is Sex Coaching and Who Can Benefit? _**

    Ways to Navigate Different Desire Levels in Relationships If partners have different styles, it can be even more important to understand and discuss. When one partner knows themselves and how their desire framework operates, they can ask for what they want and collaborate with their partner(s). For someone who has a spontaneous style, it can feel rejecting to have to initiate sex or “turn their partner on” for their partner to experience and communicate desire. Knowing that it’s not personal and that’s it’s part of how the other person’s sexuality operates can lead to helpful conversations!

    For a person with responsive desire, it’s helpful to be clear and open about what works and what’s needed to activate desire. Some partners with spontaneous desire may feel exhausted or even worried that they are being “pushy” in asking for sex or initiating sex. The partner with a responsive style can assist by being clear as to when they truly are not in the mood versus when a little initiation will go a long way.

    Additionally, partners can get creative! · Mutual masturbation or shared space during masturbation: masturbating together in the same room or, if one person is in the mood and the other isn’t, try masturbating in front of your partner while they watch! This is a great way to increase emotional connection and vulnerability while respecting where each person is at during that moment. This removes pressure to “perform” and simply allows for shared experience. The partner who wasn’t in the mood initially may find themselves turned on by the sexy show and want to participate!

    · Shift the focus away from penetration: partners often place too much emphasis and focus on penetrative sex alone. This is a byproduct of larger society and can contribute to unrealistic or unhelpful expectations with sexual partners. Some people feel sexier and enjoy themselves more when penetration is off the table. Go back to basics and focus on touch, exploring each other without a “goal” of penetration, and maybe even have an old-fashioned make-out session. For the partner who may be in the mood more often, work on asking for what feels good from the other person/people you share your body with. How does each partner feel about oral sex or sensual massage? Identify what options might feel good to the partner who’s in the mood. Explore how each person feels about the idea of receiving pleasure without reciprocation or giving pleasure because it’s asked for. These are great conversations to facilitate connection and redefine what sex is in your relationship(s).

    · Get support: if you’re struggling to speak up or address varying levels of desire in your relationship(s), it can be super helpful to see a sex coach together. Sometimes having a designated space and time to have hard conversations can make a huge difference. Many people haven’t learned to be assertive or might struggle to be vulnerable about their sexual wants/needs. A sex coach is a great resource and can be a person who helps you learn and practice new communication skills in your relationships.

    Desire Over Time Desire will ebb and flow over time both for individuals and in relationships. Libido can be impacted by many things such as stress and even hormonal changes. If you’ve experienced a sudden change in your own libido, it might be helpful to see your doctor for a check-up and to ensure hormone levels are within range. It’s also helpful to keep an eye on your stress and mental health to support whole health and wellness. Changes in desire in relationships can sometimes indicate unresolved conflict so it’s also important to practice assertive communication and be open and honest with each other. When all these variables have been addressed and varying desires are still present, utilize the tips above for connection and conflict management. There’s nothing wrong with needing different things from your partner(s) and knowing that is often the first step to increased satisfaction!

    References: 1) Demmer, J. (2023). Understanding libido and its variability 2) Dubinskaya, A. (n.d). What is responsive sexual desire?

    Reviewed by Adrienne Ton, NP on Oct 16, 2023

    This article provides information about sexual health, healthcare and/or related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of TBD Health Inc.

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