When a couple has mismatched sex drives, the assumption is that the man is the one who is craving more bedroom action. So when the reverse situation occurs in your own love life and you have a higher sex drive than your partner, it can feel downright unsettling for you—and him, too.
But this situation is hardly uncommon, says California-based sex therapist Nagma V. Clark, PhD. “Recent research indicates that women’s sexual desire is on par with men’s,” she tells Health. Statistics are hard to come by, but one 2017 study found that while 34% of women reported a lack of interest in sex for at least three months over the last year, so did 15% of guys.
The fact that many women find themselves in this scenario doesn’t make it any easier. Having a higher libido can strain your relationship, weaken your self-esteem, and leave you sexually frustrated. If you’re raring to go yet your partner is much less so, here’s what you need to know.
His low sex drive could be a physical issue
The first thing many women think is that their partner’s low libido is a reflection of his interest (or lack thereof) in them. But the male libido is heavily influenced by physical factors, such as testosterone levels. If he has low testosterone, it stands to reason that his sex drive will be low too. Guys who are obese may be more likely to have decreased testosterone, reported one 2014 study. As a man ages, levels of this hormone decline as well.
Many medications can also put the brakes on desire, says Clark, including antidepressants and drugs that treat high blood pressure. Heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes can also cause your partner’s sex drive to plummet, says clinical sexologist and relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, founder of Relationup.
Don’t rule out a relationship problem
Resentment, frustration, and anger are not emotions that put anyone, male or female, in a sexy mood. Add in the effects of relationship stress or anxiety, and it makes sense that his passion is in park. If you have an ongoing conflict, he might reject sex to send the message that he’s upset, points out Milrad.
Mismatched libidos puts your bond at risk
Regardless of why your partner’s sex drive isn’t on par with yours, it’s a serious relationship stressor. While you feel rejected and undesirable, your boyfriend or husband may experience guilt, says Clark. He may grow anxious about any kind of physical touch, even hugs or non-sexual cuddles, fearing it’ll lead to pressure to have sex he doesn’t desire, she says. As displays of affection dwindle, the distance between you two increases . . . unless you address the issue.
The first step should come as no surprise: Talk about what’s happening, even though it’s tough to face. “It is important that couples discuss their differences, find ways to accept them, support one another, and even brainstorm about creative ways to handle their differences,” says Milrad.
These ideas can help bridge the gap
First, unless you’re absolutely sure it isn’t a physical issue, encourage him to see his doctor, who may administer tests or simply switch him to a medication that doesn’t have low libido as a side effect.
Once you can rule out a physical condition or medication, have a discussion about your relationship and if anything is troubling him. Of course, this isn’t an easy conversation to have—but it can shed light on what’s going on. You want to establish ground rules that make it okay for either partner to express their emotions without fear that they’ll be blamed or shamed.
Let’s say his doctor gives him the all-clear and he says he is happy with your relationship. Clark suggests finding ways to be intimate that don’t revolve around penis-in-vagina sex, or even around orgasms. This helps “break the cycle of initiation followed by rejection, and also alleviates the anxiety that surrounds sexual intimacy,” she says. The partner with lower desire is more likely to want to engage in these behaviors, and the partner with higher desire begins to feel validated, she adds.
Masturbation is another option. Says Milrad: “Some people masturbate with their partner present and attentive, but not engaged in the sexual act.” Ask your significant other to touch you—or share deep, intimate kisses—while you masturbate, suggests Michael Reitano, MD, sexual health expert and physician in residence at the men’s health service Roman.
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If it’s still a problem, seek help
Having conversations and taking action is challenging, as is finding a solution that feels right to both you and your partner. “If a couple is not able to tackle the issue of differing sex drives on their own, I recommend getting professional help and working with a trained and experienced sex therapist,” says Clark.