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Navigating Mismatched Libidos in Relationships

Close up of brown haired girl's lips with sparkles on them

What do you do when your partner seems to want sex all the time? Or maybe you’re the one trying to heat things up but your partner keeps throwing water on the fire? 

Mismatched libidos are very common in relationships. In fact, no couple is going to bring the same heat every single time. Fear not, differing sex drives do not mean the relationship is doomed. They just mean it might be time to reflect on, and readjust, the sex you’re having.

Let’s unpack what we actually mean by “libido”. Often when we’re thinking about libido, what we’re actually referring to is desire. Desire is the mental wanting to have sex. This happens in the mind (as opposed to arousal, which tends to physically show up in the body).

When sex is on the table, what is your mind telling you? Are you thinking, “YES, I can’t wait a moment longer”? Or is your brain ticking through your to-do list and saying, “Right now? Seriously? I’m still in my work clothes!”

If you’ve noticed changes in your libido or are having trouble matching a partner’s sex drive, we’re here to help you work out why and how to go about it.


What impacts libido?

Context.

Your level of desire in a sexual moment will likely depend on your contextual environment. How has your day been? What are you feeling towards your partner? Is something stressing you out right now? How do you feel in your body? Often there are numerous things within your immediate context or general life that are impacting your desire to have sex.

Reminder: We’re still in a pandemic. Chances are your life has changed a lot over the past few years and your libido has fluctuated alongside your changing relationship, social life, mental health, exercise patterns, stress levels, living situation or work habits.

Health.

There’s a chance that a health condition or related medication may be impacting your sex drive. Some mental or physical health conditions can impact desire and arousal. Medications such as anti-depressants or contraceptives can sometimes correlate with a change in desire. If you’re worried about how your health or medication might be influencing your sex drive, speak to your doctor.

Cycle.

If you have a menstruation cycle, your libido might oscillate throughout the month. People tend to be horniest when they’re ovulating because their body has a biological urge to reproduce. As for periods, libido is different for everyone. Some enjoy the extra lubrication or use sex as period pain relief, while others feel like a shell of a human and would prefer to spend the week alone in the fetal position.

Mirror on ground showing woman in sparkly free flowing dress

Now that we know what can impact libido, how do we change it?

Let’s get one thing straight, if you think your libido is low/high and you’re okay with that, then it’s not a problem! Your libido is only an issue if you decide it’s an issue.


“Help! My partner wants sex all the time but I have a low libido.”

Having a low libido is subjective. How frequently are you supposed to want sex? Let go of any rules you learned from Hollywood rom-coms. There shouldn’t be any pressure to be having more sex if that’s not what you want. However, if you’re looking to meet your high-libido-partner in the middle and invite more desire into your life, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Desire.

Despite what you see in the movies, not everyone experiences desire in a spontaneous and fiery way. Some people only want sex once they start feeling pleasure. When desire appears in response to good feelings, that’s called responsive desire. For example, you’re in a great mood after a fun and stress-free day, your partner makes you laugh and you start feeling turned on. Maybe it’s not low libido, maybe it’s just responsive desire. Check out Emily Nagoski’s book, Come As You Are, for more information.

Triggers.

Identify what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. Increase your daily pleasures and lust for life to increase your sexual desire. Some examples of daily pleasures may be:

  • Wearing an outfit that makes you feel confident
  • Feeling endorphins after exercise
  • Listening to a funky playlist

If you’re feeling good in your day-to-day life, you’re more likely to feel good sexually.

Turn offs are just as important to identify. In the presence of potential threats, the brain will send messages to the genitals to say reproduction is not safe. Know what triggers your off switch. Any of the contextual factors that we mentioned earlier (work stress, unstable relationship dynamics, etc.) can act as turn offs. While it’s hard to avoid some of these things, try to distance your sex life from them. For example, if your job is stressing you out, don’t try to get sexy until you’ve completely switched off from work.

Motivation.

According to sexologist Meg Callander, low libido means low motivation for the sex that’s on offer. If you’re having the same type of sex over and over again, maybe it’s time to broaden your sexual repetoire. The more you experiment, the higher your chances of finding something sexy that makes you want more sex. It’s important to note that if you truly have no motivation for sex, you could be on the asexuality spectrum. Not everyone feels sexual and that’s okay.

Bathroom sink with flowers in it

“I’m the one with the high libido! I’m sick of getting rejected.”

This is a tricky spot to be in, because you never want to put pressure on your partner, but you love the sexual moments you share and you wish they happened more often. Please know that your partner’s libido has nothing to do with you or your attractiveness. Everyone experiences desire and arousal differently.

Communication.

The first step would be to check in with your partner about how they feel about your sex life. How often do you actually speak about your sex life? If you discover there’s some sort of incompatibility in the bedroom, address it, and discuss how you can meet in the middle. Here are some questions to ask your partner:

  • How do you feel before, during and after we have sex?
  • What are your boundaries when it comes to sex?
  • If you could add anything to our sex life, what would it be?
  • Is there something that we do during sex that you don’t like?
  • What do you think about the type/amount of pleasure and orgasms you’re experiencing during sex?

Experiment.

Again, sex is not just intercourse. There are plenty of ways to be sexual that don’t include genitals, try exploring different erogenous zones. Make an effort to be sensual, affectionate, erotic and loving together outside of the bedroom. Maybe it’s not more sex you’re craving, but more flirting, vulnerability or touch.

Gender.

Let’s acknowledge the gendered element to libido for a second. There’s a common misconception that men want more sex than women. That’s simply not always the case, and if you’re familiar with the VUSH range you’ll know why (we can’t get enough!). If you’re a woman with a higher libido than your male partner, you’re not alone.

Masturbation.

Don’t forget, if your partner really isn’t into the idea of having more sex, you’ve always got your toys to help you out. Orgasms don’t always need to come from a partner. Self pleasure is a form of sex and can provide the same benefits of partnered sex. 

Libido is complex, it can be a hard thing to navigate by yourself. If these tips aren’t quite working and you’re still struggling with desire, we recommend speaking with a sexologist, couples counselor or healthcare professional.

 

 

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