What To Do When You Want More Sex Than Your PartnerRelationships
If you’ve ever been in a long-term romantic relationship, odds are you’ve found that you and your partner weren’t always on the same page about sex. There were probably times when you were in the mood, but your partner wasn’t, as well as times when your partner was in the mood, but you weren’t. That’s normal. It happens from time to time in every relationship, and it isn’t a big deal. However, when partners get completely out of sync when it comes to sexual desire, such that sexual connection becomes next to impossible, that’s another story. When this dynamic persists for several months or perhaps even years, it is known as a sexual desire discrepancy. Desire discrepancies can be highly distressing and are actually the single most common issue that prompts couples to seek sex therapy.
Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to bridge the divide. While the solution ultimately necessitates buy-in from both partners (this is a relationship problem, not an individual problem), a good place to start is for each partner to really try and understand their own sexuality and sexual motivations. Once equipped with this information, you’ll be in a much stronger position to figure out a productive path forward. In this article, we’re going to focus on where the higher-desire partner’s journey begins. Next time, we’ll address the lower-desire partner.
Drop the Sexual Shame
In relationships with desire discrepancies, partners shame and blame each other all too often. And, in the case of the higher-desire partner, they are often accused of wanting “too much” sex or as being a “sex addict.” This isn’t helpful. At all. Odds are, you just have a healthy but high libido. Of course, your libido doesn’t necessarily even have to be that high—it’s just that it seems high relative to your partner. The only exception to this would be if you feel as though your sexual desire and/or behavior is out of control and this is either creating distress or causing problems in your life (e.g., if you masturbate so much that you’re chronically late for work). If your sex drive feels out of control, talk to a therapist. Otherwise, relax, embrace your sexuality, and don’t let yourself be shamed for it.
Assess Your Sexual Motivations
Take a few moments to reflect on why you have sex. In other words, when you pursue sex, what is it that’s motivating you? What are you needing or wanting in that moment? Everyone is a little different when it comes to sexual motivation. In fact, it turns out there are a ton of reasons people report for having sex (237, to be exact!). Are you looking to connect with your partner emotionally? To experience physical pleasure? To have an orgasm? To feel wanted and desired? To relieve stress? To the extent that you can pinpoint the underlying need(s), you’re likely to find that sex isn’t the only way to meet that need. For example, if you’re looking to feel connected, there are any number of intimate activities you can pursue instead of always going for sex. To be clear, this isn’t to say you should stop having or wanting sex—just that it’s worth putting more options on the menu so that you can find additional ways to regularly meet those needs when sex isn’t a possibility.
Take Sexual Initiation Slow and be a Supportive Partner
People with higher libidos are often more sexually “eager.” These folks tend to experience more spontaneous desire that appears out of the blue—and when it hits, they’re ready to go. They don’t necessarily need a warm-up period. This can potentially create an issue because they might push for too much too soon when they initiate sex, which can lead their partner to withdraw. Your partner might need a bit more time than you to feel aroused and for the responsive desire to kick in. And if they start to feel like they’re always being pushed to speed things up, that can create a very unhealthy relationship dynamic that may lead the lower desire partner to start withdrawing at the first sign that their partner seems to be expressing interest in sex. So, slow things down a bit—it’s not a race! Stop thinking of sexual initiation as necessarily meaning, “Let’s do this right now!” Sexual initiation is a process that can begin early in the evening, early in the day, or early in the week. The goal is to give your partner time and space for desire to set in. The key here is also understanding what it is that gets your partner going. Just as that self-understanding we mentioned above is important, it’s also as important to be in tune with what your partner needs in order to feel desire. In other words, consider your partner’s motivations for sex (e.g., do they need to feel safe? Loved? Desired? Something else?) and invest in meeting their needs.
Think About Solutions That Align With Your Sexual Motivations
The reality of resolving a sexual desire discrepancy is that some compromise will need to be reached on sexual frequency. The goal here isn’t about getting two people’s libidos to match perfectly—that’s unrealistic. Rather, it’s to figure out a workable solution. As the higher-desire partner, there’s going to be some amount of “excess” libido above and beyond the amount of sex your partner is comfortable with. So, what are you going to do with that in order to avoid feeling sexually frustrated or resentful? One solution is to take things into your own hands by engaging in more self-pleasure. As part of this, you might consider expanding your masturbatory horizons. You don’t have to masturbate in the same exact way every time—explore the countless possibilities! For example, this might involve trying some new sex toys, exploring different forms of erotica, or crafting a new fantasy. Think of self-pleasure as embarking on a new “choose your own adventure” scenario each time, as well as an opportunity to further explore your own body and sexuality. Another solution that can potentially work (although not for everyone) is to open the relationship in some way. This is something that can also take a lot of forms. The key is to carefully craft a relationship agreement that works for everyone. In thinking about solutions, revisit the sexual motivations exercise referenced earlier. What is it that you really need/want from sex, and what are some healthy ways for you to get those needs met, whether alone or with your partner?
If you find yourself consistently wanting more sex than your partner and this is creating issues in your relationship, you’re definitely not alone. This is amongst the most common sexual concerns. Fortunately, however, there are many steps you can take to bridge desire discrepancies in healthy and productive ways. It all starts with shedding sexual shame, reassessing your motivations for sex, slowing down sexual initiation and being supportive of your partner’s needs, and thinking about concrete solutions that align with your sexual motivations.
Mersy, L. F., & Vencill, J. A. (2023). Desire: An Inclusive Guide to Navigating Libido Differences in Relationships. Beacon Press.
Meston, C. M., & Buss, D. M. (2007). Why humans have sex. Archives of sexual behavior, 36, 477-507.
Herbenick, D., Mullinax, M., & Mark, K. (2014). Sexual desire discrepancy as a feature, not a bug, of long‐term relationships: Women’s self‐reported strategies for modulating sexual desire. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11(9), 2196-2206.
Vowels, L. M., & Mark, K. P. (2020). Strategies for mitigating sexual desire discrepancy in relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(3), 1017-1028.