What level of desire do each of you have to:
- Visit the in-laws
- Learn a foreign language for an overseas trip
- Go running in the morning
- Help the kids with their homework
- Plant a vegetable garden
- Renovate the bathroom
- Have sex?
There’s always a lower desire partner, and always a higher desire partner. Every couple has to come to terms with that basic difference and work with it. I’ve had three major relationships in my life (well, four actually, but the first was as a teenager so we never found out if there was a higher or lower desire partner - we just grabbed the chance whenever we could!).
In the first I was the higher desire partner; in the second, we were pretty equal, with periods of variation, such as when our three children were babies where some modification and negotiation was required to see us through; and in my current relationship I am definitely the lower desire partner.
I sometimes stamp my feet (light-heartedly) and declare: “I will not be the lower desire partner, I refuse to be the lower desire partner. I am a sexpert I can’t be the lower desire partner!” But, quite simply, I am.
It’s fine to be the lower desire partner, and it’s fine to be the higher desire partner.
Neither is right or wrong. Neither one is better or worse.
“Mismatched libido” is one of the most common reasons couples come to see me, frequently with one claiming the other has a problem. I’ve noticed that it’s the partner with the lower self-confidence who always has “the problem” - regardless of whether they’re the higher or the lower desire partner - and the partner with the higher self-confidence is the one declaring that the other has “the problem”.
“He’s over-sexed!”; “She needs to understand sex isn’t that important,” declare the high self-confidence low-desire partners.
“What’s wrong with him, it’s not natural for a man not to want sex”; “She needs fixing, she’s frigid,” declare the high self-confidence, high-desire partners.
Actually, no one has a “problem”, the couple simply have a reality that they need to learn to work with. In doing so each individual might have some stuff they need to work on themselves: such as to ditch limiting beliefs, become more confident, become more tolerant, deal with past traumas, learn to prioritize or relax, craft a better life balance, and so forth. But overall both partners need to assume responsibility, without blame, for their love life.
The first step in moving beyond a stalemate over differing levels of desire is to understand that it is normal. Then start looking at what you can do as individuals and as a couple to identify what the lower desire partner needs and what you can do to facilitate more desire, or at least an openness to the possibility; and what the higher desire partner can do to sublimate their urge to some degree, which means channeling that interest and energy in sex into something else.
This is an ongoing process for most couples. The more openly, honestly and constructively you can work together the easier it will be, till you barely realise there’s a difference. Even if you are fairly well matched, there will be times of stress or challenge in your time together where desire on one or both sides will dip or rise.
As with anything, it’s all about flow, and learning to surf the waves of life and love. The better you get at the surfing, the happier you will be.