Low vs. High Sexual Desire: How To Make It Work

What I’m about to tell you may be the most important piece of information you come to accept about your sexual relationship, and something any couple could benefit from understanding: In every relationship, one of you wants sex more than the other.

I know, it doesn’t sound so profound, but it is.

In his book, Intimacy and Desire, sex therapist David Schnarch sums it up like this: In every relationship, there is a low desire partner and a high desire one. This concept doesn’t only pertain to sex—other examples can include sports, cooking, money and children—but it definitely pertains to sexual desire, especially for couples who notice a the glaring chasm of will we/won’t we do it tonight?

On some level, the high desire/low desire equation is about control—something most people try to achieve, and give up in our romantic relationships. The reality is that when it comes to how often you have sex, one of you is always in control of the sex that you have. When it comes to sex, high desire/low desire can also be about who wants it to last longer, or the various types of sex you have.

The truth is, the low desire partner always controls the sex in the relationship. A low desire partner may want sex 2 times a Toys for Couplesmonth while a high desire partner wants it at least once a week, or they may want it one time a week while the high desire partner wants it every day. And although they don’t have to want it all the time, or none of the time, if one person wants it more than the other, desire discrepancy can cause problems in the relationship.

That might leave you wondering, if the high desire partner gets sex, isn’t s/he controlling the sexual dynamic in the relationship? The short answer is no, because even when sex happens, the high desire partner has likely already given up any control around asking for, or even initiating sex. That’s because the low desire partner always gets to say yes or no to the perfunctory proposition.

So what can you do if you’re the high desire partner in the relationship?

Practice Transparency

Instead of harboring hatred towards the person who doesn’t want to have sex tonight, ask them if there are any other acts of intimacy they prefer. Maybe they’re not down for full on intercourse, but are up for making out or nipple play. Ask them what they like, and be transparent about your need to be close to them. Shutting down and turning away are emotional roadblocks that continue to distance a relationship.

Learn One Another’s Love Language

Which of the five love languages does your partner respond to? It may not be the physical touch you crave. Instead, show your partner how much you love and appreciate them through acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time or gift giving. This lets the other person feel more loved and desired by you.

You can do this by sharing a daily appreciation of your partner, by leaving sweet post it notes around the house or by ordering in so one person doesn’t have to always do the cooking. There are so many ways to express love, and sex is only one of them.

Look Through the Low Desire Lens

What is it about your relationship that has the low desire partner disinterested in sex? Is it their own libido? Or maybe it’s their commitment to their job or the family that keeps them feeling overworked? If there are lots of children in the house, is the low desire partner getting their other needs met through the kids, making sex with you a low priority. What could the high desire partner do to make the low desire partner feel more appreciated? Maybe plan a date night, or ask the low desire partner for them to share an ideal date with you. Get them out of the house, and out of their head, and remove some of the pressure to perform.

Are You Being a Generous Lover​?

Have you ever thought about how you give pleasure? Do you do it the way you like it done, or the way your partner likes it done to them? When is the last time you talked with  your partner about what type of touch he likes most, or a fantasy that she often has? How often are orgasms happening? Reevaluating the kind of sex life you’re having so that you can have the kind of sex life that works for both of you is a way to increase desire in the relationship. If she’s not getting the build up she needs to bring results, then odds are she’s not going to be that into having sex with you. If sex feels like a chore, then you’re doing it wrong. You need to find ways to make it work, not to have it feel like work.

Be Vulnerable

While the high desire partner may have a lot of resentment built up towards the partner who they feel is depriving them of sex, being vulnerable and sharing your own insecurities, fears and doubts can make the low desire partner feel closer to you. Find ways to show your own vulnerability so that your partner can be more vulnerable with you too.

Through growth, challenging yourself and your partner, and exposing your truth, you and your partner can find a happy place where low and high desire meet, and a happy medium amongst your sex drives come together.

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Jamye Waxman

Jamye Waxman

Jamye Waxman is a Sex Educator and a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern practicing in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about working with people who are exploring their sexuality and gender, and is also dedicated to working with people in alternative relationships and the LGBTQI community. Jamye is the author of four books, including her latest, "How to Break Up With Anyone." Full bio and more articles by Jamye.

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