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Sexual Desire Differences

In the mythical land of perfect love, two partners are supposed to be hot for one another almost all the time.  Some guy you just met at a bar might turn you down, but not your lover, right?

For couples nowadays, there can be a lot of pressure to have not just a good sex life, but a great sex life.  Books abound with titles like “The Art of Sexual Ecstasy,” “Total Sex” and “Hot Monogamy.”  (And those are just some of the books on my bookshelf, all of which I think are pretty good!)  If we’re not engaged in wildly passionate lovemaking, we suspect there is something wrong with us, or wrong with our partner.  At worst, we think it may be proof we’re just not right for one another.

The truth is that two lovers having the same level of sex drive is almost as unlikely as winning the lottery.   In most couples one partner’s drive is higher than the other’s.  Sometimes that difference is significant.  When that happens, sexologists and relationship therapists describe the situation as one of desire discrepancy – a difference in how much the two people want sex.

Desire discrepancy isn’t unusual, but it sure can be uncomfortable for the two parties involved.  The person with more drive may feel rejected when the lower-drive partner isn’t interested in sex.  He’s not interested in me, he thinks.  He doesn’t think I’m hot.  Maybe he’s having an affair.

Things aren’t better for the lower-drive guy.  He may feel inadequate as a lover or may question his masculinity.  He may feel pressured. What’s wrong with me? he thinks.  Or he gets angry at his lover and blames him.  All he wants is sex.  Why does he have to be such a pain in the ass?

Because fears about our own inadequacies can really push our buttons, the couple with a significant desire discrepancy can get into some pretty bruising arguments – especially if the guys involved are feeling so defensive that they can’t really hear their partner’s point of view.

Desire is controlled by several factors.  One is testosterone level, which is present in both men and women.  The higher the level of testosterone, the higher the level of sex drive.  There is a considerable variation in testosterone level from person to person.  Levels often decline with age.  Replacement therapy sometimes helps, but it’s controversial and may have other health effects.  Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks before considering the new hormone therapies available.

For most guys, the problem is not so much hormone levels as stress levels.  Worry about work, bills or the relationship itself can really take the zing out of sexuality.  Too little restful sleep also causes interest in sex to drop.

If there is a difference in sex drive within your relationship, there are several things you can do to help.  Find a way to talk about the issue without accusing one another or becoming defensive.  Speak up for yourself without pressuring your partner.  Don’t accuse him of anything.  Be supportive and gentle, and affirm your love for one another and your commitment to the relationship.  Talk with one another about what you really want – and make sure that you are able to hear your partner’s point of view.  Get professional help if you need it.

Sexual intimacy is a place where we can feel uncomfortably vulnerable at times.  Negotiating through difficult spots brings a couple closer together and makes sex more fun and more meaningful.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.