This article is based on this YouTube video by a certified sexologist. If you want to learn more, check out this video and more on her channel.
You and your partner’s willingness to have sex is what we commonly refer to as a sex drive (even though it isn’t actually a drive, more on that here). To be clear, wherever you fall on the spectrum of ‘not interested at all in sex’ to ‘sex is often on your mind’ is completely normal and okay. There is no “right amount” of wanting sex. If it happens to bother you, though, I suggest you seek out help either in a support group or at a sexologist.
Here, I’m going to more talk about when two partners are bothered by the fact that their sex drives happen to not neatly match together. One partner wants to have more sex more often than they are having currently, and the other either wants less or is happy with the current amount.
Other than your natural differences in sex drives, there might be other issues influencing you or your partner’s willingness to have sex. Here are just a couple of examples:
- There is stuff to be learned to make the current sex you are having more pleasurable for
- all parties involved (which is not to say that someone is to blame): learn about your bodies, how they work, and talk about what would either of you find fun. No one wants unsatisfying sex. Here is where most of our sex education is lacking since we don’t often talk about sex in the context of making it a pleasurable experience. Two books that can help you out are: Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers and Come As You Are.
- There is a lack of attraction or desire between you: This may also happen for a number of reasons since both are influenced not just by physiological factors like our hormonal changes or our stress levels but also our emotional state. It is definitely not a judgment on either partner’s value as a partner! A couple of resources to get you started on understanding:
- Someone is struggling with body image: someone who has a hard time accepting their own body likely struggles to believe that their partner(s) find their body attractive and/or find it hard to relax and enjoy themselves during sex. We all struggle with this to an extent. If this is bothering you in your everyday life, get help, you deserve it!
- Closeted gender identity / sexual orientation: these might shift on their own during the course of someone’s life, or they might just now come to terms with their feelings on the subject. It is important to note, that like body image, one’s gender or sexual orientation is not a judgment passed on one’s partner, even though one’s partner might find it challenging to adjust to such changes.
- Stress: About school, an unwanted pregnancy or getting STIs, etc. Perhaps one partner lost their job and is struggling with job search fatigue, (helpful information can find at lensa.com) Or maybe they can’t figure it out. Unfortunately, this can also draw away energy and focus from having a good time in bed. Focus on what you have control over. A book that can help you out in this area is Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.
- One or more of the parties in the relationship are not investing enough energy in the relationship: Relationships are not one of those things that you can set and forget about. At the start, you probably have a boost of new relationship energy, where you are obsessed with how awesome the other person is, but that naturally fades out. Your relationship and your sex life only stay awesome if you invest time, attention, and energy into it.
- An affair, a breach of trust: We all have agreements in our relationships (whether they are monogamous or not) and when these are broken it can be devastating for all involved. And it will take work to rebuild lost trust. I highly recommend Esther Perel’s “Where Should We Begin” podcast on the subject, and her talk below:
What to do?
No matter what the reason is, the important part is how you react to the situation. Sadly our education and dominant narrative about sex don’t take into account all the factors that can influence our sex lives.
When we’re faced with a situation we have three options: we can either control it, influence it or there is nothing left but to accept it. Control is what we least often have (unless we are managing a project for example), more often we are left with the two other options. Think hard on what you actually have an influence on and work on accepting the rest. This is easier said than done. It most likely involves letting go of some beliefs that you held before about what your sex life would look like.
For example, if your partner is on the asexuality spectrum, that is not a fact you have control or influence over. What you could do is have deep, trusting, and empathetic conversations with them about what asexuality looks like for them. Talk about what situations they might be open to having sex. Do your share in helping create these types of situations.
And ultimately if you feel that you have exhausted all of your creative ideas and curiosity about the situation and still feel unhappy with your current sex life with your partner(s) you can choose to not continue the relationship(s). Which is again, easier said than done.
But remember, we always have more than two choices.