Mismatched Libidos: The Science of Your Desire, Causes of Low Libido, and How To Manage It in Your Relationship
Mismatched libidos is a very common issue couples deal with. Once the high of a new relationship dies down and you're settled in a routine, it gets harder to get turned on and be in the mood for sex. The good news is that even if you and your partner have mismatched libidos, there are things that can help you navigate it.
But before we dive into the ways to deal with different levels of sexual desire, we need to truly understand the way desire works in the first place.
The science of desire
There is a lot of misinformation about women's and men's libidos and how they work. For most of our lives, we're told that women are less sexual than men. But recent findings from sex researchers show that we're not so different from each other and that sexual desire depends not on gender but on individual needs.
According to sex therapist Leigh Noren, there are two sexual desire styles. "There are in fact two distinct styles of sexual desire – spontaneous and responsive," she writes.
People with spontaneous desire get turned on out of nowhere. It just hits them during different times of day, without anything prompting it. Now, people with responsive sexual desire are different. They need something to spark the desire for them to feel turned on. For example, reading erotica or receiving a naughty text massage from their partner.
The issue we run into here is that we're more accustomed to a spontaneous desire style as it's been considered a norm in society for the longest time. And this is all because we live in a patriarchal society that caters to men’s needs more. "Generally speaking, men are more inclined to have a spontaneous desire style, whereas women drift more towards a responsive desire style," Noren explains.
Reasons behind your partner's low libido
Because sexual desire is a very individual and ever-changing thing, it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason behind low libido. But here are some of the most common causes:
They don't orgasm during sex
Your partner might not want to have sex with you often because they don’t enjoy having sex as much as you do. If your partner is not orgasming during sex, then they might not be as interested in having it.
The orgasm gap is a serious issue, with way fewer heterosexual women reaching orgasms during sex than heterosexual men. And because of societal pressure, women are shyer to communicate their desires with their partners, which often leads to less satisfaction during sex for them.
If that's the case in your relationship, then you might need to be the one who will help your partner figure out what makes them orgasm during sex. Study their anatomy, research the best tips to make your partner scream with pleasure, and bring the newly learned knowledge to the bedroom.
Your sexual desire response styles are different
If your partner has responsive desire while you have a spontaneous one, and you're not aware of the differences, it might be a reason why you have a hard time navigating sex. But, as I said before, both desire responses are normal, so neither you nor your partner should try to change.
The first step in navigating your differences would be to acknowledge the different desire styles you have. Then, work together to find the best way to help the partner with a responsive desire style get in the mood for sex.
They take medication that affects their sex drive
If your partner takes any antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication like Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, or any other SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medication, they might have lower libido. One of the common side effects of those medications is a lower or non-existent sex drive.
The solution to this would be to consult with the psychiatrist and let them know about the unwanted side effects so they could help by prescribing other medications or suggesting a different way to deal with the lowered sex drive.
They naturally have lower libido
Sexuality is a spectrum, and we all fall on different parts of it. So, it might be that your partner is naturally less interested in sex than you. And that's fine. If that's the case, it's important to communicate with your partner and be open about your feelings.
8 things to help you navigate a relationship with mismatched libidos
When navigating mismatched libidos in your relationship, it's important to focus on finding common ground instead of forcing one partner to match the other partner's drive. These eight tips will help you do that:
1. Expand the meaning of sex in your life
The best way to deal with mismatched libidos and not let them interrupt the relationship is by re-evaluating what sex means to you. Sex is so much more than just the old-school P-into-V action that ends with a male orgasm.
Expand the meaning of sex in your relationship, removing any stigma you might have about it. Things like foreplay, making out, oral sex, tantric sex, and even mutual masturbation can all count as sex.
Let's say you're horny, but your partner doesn't feel like having penetrative sex that night. There are many different activities both of you can do that are intimate and sexy and will bring both of you pleasure. Try a whole-body massage. By the end of it, your partner might actually be very much into the idea of penetrative sex.
Or maybe, both of you just end up making out and masturbating together that night. That would count as sex as well, even if it didn't look as you traditionally imagine sex to be.
2. Get to know yourself better and communicate
The next thing you can do to deal with the mismatched libidos is to simply understand your own desires. First, determine which sexual desire response style you and your partner have. Once you know this, you'll be able to move forward and improve your relationship.
Another thing that you might want to figure out is what are your sexual accelerators and brakes. It's a concept that sex researcher Emily Nagoski explains in her book Come As You Are. Sexual accelerators are the things that turn you on, and your brain is constantly scanning the environment to find those things. And your sexual brakes are things that kill your desire. It's your turn-offs.
You might not even know that something you might be doing is actually a sexual brake for your partner. Or vice versa. Learning these things about yourself will help you understand your sexuality better and make sex life so much more pleasurable.
Now, once you know yourself, it's time to share your feelings, most intimate thoughts, and what you learned about your sexual desires with your partner. It's not going to be easy at first because we're not used to communicating about sex openly.
But with small steps, you can learn to create emotional intimacy with your partner and a safe space for both of you to improve your sexual relationship with respect for your differences and boundaries.
3. Make sex pleasurable for both of you
If your partner doesn't want to have sex often because they don't enjoy it, it's time for you to figure out how to make them come during sex. Of course, the first thing you'll want to do is learn about their body. If your line of communication is open, the easiest way forward is to simply ask them what they like.
But maybe they're shy or uncomfortable with communicating about their sexual preferences. Well, then you can make them comfortable by prioritizing their pleasure during sex.
Incorporate long foreplays, where you spend a long time kissing and simply touching, getting them turned on. Then, pleasure them with your mouth and your fingers. And as you're doing all these different things, ask them how it feels.
Surely, once you're in the middle of the action, they'll be more inclined to let you know what feels good. And if you pay enough attention, you'll see their body react to things you do. Which can then help you learn which things your partner enjoys the most.
The chances are that if your partner starts enjoying sex and orgasm regularly, the issue of mismatched libidos will be nowhere in sight.
4. Touch and kiss without the pressure of sex
If you only touch and kiss your partner when you want to initiate sexual activity, it might be putting a lot of pressure on them, and it's time to re-evaluate your actions. Learn to kiss and touch your partner as a way to show them you love and care about them. Not only when you're horny.
If your partner feels that you're only interested in them when you want to get laid, they might feel unfulfilled and used in a relationship. And that's going to kill all the flames of desires faster than anything else.
Your partner might need a lot of emotional intimacy and genuine affection from you without the pressure of what comes next to feel comfortable. Give them that as it's the best way to cultivate a healthy and mature relationship.
When your partner doesn't feel like having sex, then you've got to take care of yourself. Masturbating is one of the best ways to release the pent-up sexual tension, and there is no reason why you shouldn't participate in the activity if you're horny but your partner is not in the mood.
You might even want to invite them to watch you while you play with yourself. This way, your partner will feel included if they have any insecurities. They might even feel desired if they see that you're turned on by them watching you pleasure yourself.
And it might even spring their desire to life and lead to both of you having partnered sex. Or, your partner might join you in a quick mutual masturbation play. And even if they don't, you still share an intimate moment together where you get what you need without pressuring your partner into sex.
6. Make things exciting again
Sometimes the flames in the bedroom die down after you've been together for a long time. Routine in the bedroom can be a cause for lowered sex drive. There is a reason why people usually have more sex at the beginning of their relationships when everything is new and exciting.
In the case where things are dull, it's time to start venturing out and exploring. Together with your partner, make a list of things you would like to experiment with within the bedroom. Maybe you've never tried sex in front of the mirror or tantric sex. List all the things that both of you find exciting. And then try those things in the bedroom.
Another thing you can do is bring in the toys. Maybe something small like a vibrating cock ring can be a great way to add extra stimulation. Or, a couples massager with remote control will surely provide extra pleasure for both partners.
If you're brave enough, blindfold your partner and experiment with the sensory play when one of their senses is taken away. Or, go as far as wearing something daring, as leather restraints, and experiment with BDSM and roleplay.
7. Improve your lifestyle
Research shows that our lifestyles have a huge impact on our physical and mental health. This means that certain lifestyle changes could affect the libido. So, including regular movement and a healthy balanced diet into your lifestyle can positively impact your desire to have sex.
Stress is a known libido killer, so making changes to your lifestyle that help lower stress levels can also help boost the libido. Things like walks in nature, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced whole food diet while taking supplements to fill in any gaps can help lower stress levels, improving your libido. Bijoux Indiscrets’ Orgasm Glow has ingredients like ashwagandha that help lower stress and Tribulus Terrestris that helps boost libido at the same time.
So, it might be worth considering looking into ways to improve your lifestyle overall to increase your sexual desire and enjoy sex more.
8. See a therapist
If nothing else works and both of you are still struggling to manage your mismatched libidos, it might be a good idea to actually seek professional help. Sex therapists can help you communicate your feelings and desires if you cannot do it alone. And they can also offer a plethora of things to ignite the flame in the bedroom once again.
Mismatched libido is not the end of the world
As you can see, there are plenty of things you and your partner can do to deal with mismatched libidos. The key is to be willing to respect each other's boundaries, understand that your desires are normal, and be willing to communicate and learn together.