Having mismatched libidos in a couple’s sex life or an intimate relationship can be difficult. Any kind of sexual desire discrepancy, whether in how often you want to have sex to what kind of sex you want to have, can get in the way of overall relationship satisfaction. I’ve worked with a lot of couples with mismatched sex drives to help them feel connected and improve their sex lives. Here’s everything to know about having mismatched libidos in your relationship.

What Is The Libido Gap?

The libido gap is where there is a significant difference in sexual desire between partners in a relationship. It’s a common issue where one partner has a higher or more frequent sexual desire, while the other has a lower or less frequent desire.

Here are a few examples of a libido gap in a relationship:

  • Jamie has a high sexual desire and is interested in being intimate several times a week. On the other hand, Taylor’s interest in sexual activity is much lower, perhaps only seeking sexual activity once a week or less. This difference in their sexual desires is what we call the libido gap.
  • Chris desires sexual encounters many times each week and enjoys oral sex, but Alex prefers sexual activity only a few times a month and is not a fan of giving or receiving oral sex, instead favoring penetration.
  • Sam is keen on exploring various sexual activities, including intercourse, while Jordan prefers less frequent sexual encounters and is more inclined towards non-penetrative intimacy.
  • Morgan has a strong preference for frequent and adventurous sexual activities, including role-playing and BDSM, but their partner, Riley, has a lower libido and prefers more conventional sexual practices.
  • Dana enjoys a high level of sexual activity, including oral sex and multiple rounds of intercourse in a single session, whereas their partner, Lee, has a much lower sexual drive and is satisfied with occasional sexual encounters.

This sexual desire discrepancy can lead to various problems in a relationship. The partner with the higher sex drive might feel rejected and undesired, while the partner with the lower sex drive might feel pressured and inadequate. It can create a cycle of frustration, misunderstanding, low self esteem and emotional distance if not addressed with understanding and communication.

Common Libido Differences In Relationships

In my experience as a sex coach, I’ve seen how varying libidos can create unique dynamics in relationships. Commonly, one partner might have a spontaneous desire, feeling desire suddenly and intensely, while the other might have a responsive desire, where desire emerges gradually, often in response to emotional connection or specific stimuli.

For example, consider Drew and Sam. Drew’s desire is immediate and intense, often feeling ready for intimacy at a moment’s notice. Sam, on the other hand, needs time to warm up, with their desire often kindled by romantic gestures or a particular emotional closeness. This difference can lead to misunderstandings, where Drew might feel rejected, and Sam might feel pressured.

Another common scenario involves stress-related libido differences. Take Quinn and Charlie. Quinn, under work stress, finds his sexual desire diminishes, while Charlie finds intimacy a way to relieve stress. This mismatch can lead to a disconnect, where Charlie’s advances might seem untimely to Quinn, and his lack of interest can leave Charlie feeling undesired.

In relationships, it’s crucial to recognize and respect these differences. Open communication, empathy, and a willingness to find middle ground are key to navigating the complexities of mismatched libidos. It’s about understanding each other’s needs and finding ways to honor both partners’ desires.

How To Deal With Different Sex Drives

Navigating different sex drives in a relationship can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. It’s about finding a balance that respects both partners’ needs and desires. Here are some strategies to help you manage this delicate dance of sexual desire.

How To Deal With A Partner With Low Libido

  • Communicate Openly: Check in with your partner and see how they’re doing.  It’s important to approach this topic with sensitivity. Really LISTEN.
  • Explore Underlying Causes: Sometimes, a low libido can be linked to stress, health issues, or emotional factors. See if there is any support you can offer or something you can take off their plate. If not, encourage your partner to explore professional help if needed.
  • Focus on Intimacy: Remember that intimacy isn’t just about sex. Explore other forms of closeness like cuddling, kissing, or shared activities that can strengthen your bond.
  • Be Patient: Pressuring a partner with a low libido can often exacerbate the issue. Show understanding and patience as you work through this together.

How To Deal With A Partner With High Libido

  • Set Boundaries: It’s okay to set boundaries regarding your comfort level with sexual activity. Communicate these clearly and kindly to your partner.
  • Nurture Emotional Intimacy: Instead of focusing on frequency, invite conversations about desires, fears, and dreams. This nurturing space allows both partners to express their needs without the pressure of meeting specific expectations.
  • Explore Alternative Outlets: Recognize that sexual energy is a powerful force that can be expressed in multiple, healthy ways beyond the physical act of sex. Encourage exploring outlets that channel this energy creatively and constructively—such as through art, dance, writing, or even engaging in passionate projects or causes.
  • Seek Understanding: Try to understand your partner’s high libido without judgment. It’s a part of who they are, and understanding can lead to deeper empathy in your relationship.

Dealing with differing sex drives is about teamwork, understanding, and compromise. It’s a journey that, when navigated thoughtfully, can lead to a deeper and more fulfilling connection.

sexual foreplay

Fun Ways for Couples to Be Intimate with Mismatched Libidos

Navigating mismatched libidos in a relationship doesn’t mean sacrificing sexual intimacy. In fact, it’s an opportunity to explore new, creative ways to connect. Here are some fun and meaningful activities to enhance intimacy:

  • Sensual Touching Exercises: Set aside time for non-sexual, sensual touching. This can include massages, cuddling, or simply holding each other. It’s about physical closeness without the pressure of sexual performance. Try my Touch Lab Cheat Sheet to explore each other’s bodies in a fun and playful way!
  • Communication Games: Engage in games that encourage open communication about desires and boundaries. This can be as simple as a ‘question and answer’ game where you both ask and answer personal, intimate questions.
  • Exploring Fantasies: Share and explore each other’s fantasies. This doesn’t mean you have to act them out, but being curious and discussing them can be a thrilling way to connect and understand each other’s desires.
  • Intimacy Outside the Bedroom: Find activities that foster emotional intimacy. This could be anything from cooking together, taking a dance class, or simply going for a walk. The goal is to strengthen your emotional connection.
  • Mindful Intimacy Practices: Try activities like synchronized breathing or eye gazing, which can create a deep sense of connection and intimacy without being sexual.
  • Creative Expression: Engage in creative activities together, like painting or writing. This can be a playful and revealing way to connect on a deeper level. Try my Chocolate After Dark for a unique collaboration that will take your connection with your partner to new heights! 🔥
  • Scheduled Intimacy: If spontaneous intimacy is challenging, consider scheduling sex. Scheduling sex helps in managing expectations and building anticipation.
  • Professional Guidance: Sometimes, attending a workshop or a session with a sex therapist or sex coach can open new avenues for intimacy. It can provide you with tools and ideas tailored to your unique relationship dynamics.

Remember, intimacy is not just about sex. It’s about connection, understanding, and exploring the depths of your relationship in various ways. By trying these activities, you can deepen your bond and enjoy each other’s company, with enjoyable sex, regardless of libido differences.

Working Together Towards Intimacy and Understanding

Navigating the complexities of mismatched libidos and sexual intimacy challenges in a relationship can sometimes feel overwhelming. But you’re not alone in this journey. As a certified sex coach, I’m here to guide and support you through these challenges, helping you and your partner find a path to greater understanding of your own styles and sexual interests, deepen connection, and expand the pleasure.

dr. lanae st.john

In our sessions, we’ll explore the unique dynamics of your sexual and relationship satisfaction, addressing any concerns or frustrations you may have. We’ll work together to develop strategies that are tailored to your specific needs, ensuring that both you and your partner feel heard, valued, and satisfied.

Whether it’s through communication exercises, intimacy-building activities, or exploring new aspects of your sexual relationship, my goal is to help you create a fulfilling and joyful intimate life. We’ll navigate these waters together, with empathy, openness, and a touch of fun.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards a more satisfying and connected relationship, I invite you to book a call with me. Let’s work together to transform your intimate life into something extraordinary.

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About the Author

The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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