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January 20, 2010 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Is a totally mismatched sex drive between two otherwise well matched people who like each other a rational reason to end a relationship?

Take away issues of stress, medications, etc. If one partner desires sex no more than 2x a week, and the other partner desires sex 6-7x a week or more, is the situation irreconcilable? If this is a new relationship and both parties are very fond of each other but this issue causes them a lot of stress, is it likely that they would be able to work past this, or is it doomed?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Irreconcilable? Not at all. Sex is just sex, and as you note there are many other good things about a relationship that are probably more important, overall. Certainly harder to find.

The usual way to reconcile this is to make an agreement that the undersexed party may pursue (safe, discreet) sex outside the relationship.

In my personal experience (friends, etc.) this sort of thing is much more common than one may think at first. It's just not talked about, or reported upon in the media much (especially in the USA), for reasons of obvious social harmony.

Sometimes one's partner hates football. So one learns to go to the pub every Sunday, instead. Harmony.
posted by rokusan at 7:17 PM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is a totally mismatched sex drive between two otherwise well matched people who like each other a rational reason to end a relationship?

Yep.

...is the situation irreconcilable?


Nope, but it will require a lot of honesty and hard work.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bettina Arndt covered this issue in The Sex Diaries (that's not necessarily an endorsement of the book, but it does raise some interesting issues). Basically she concludes that although sex should always, always, always be consensual, it sometimes can be good for a relationship if the partner with the lower sex drive agrees to have sex even when they're not particularly into it. Her ideas caused plenty of controversy when first published.
posted by embrangled at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's possible to work past it provided the partners consider working with a counselor sooner rather than later. If it can't be worked through then it's better to bail early, though, which is all the more reason to see a counselor soon.

My (uninformed, amateur) guess is that part of the problem may be that it's a new relationship. Are these parties experienced? It could well be that the partner that wants more sex will find his or her drive tapering off a bit as the relationship matures, which is the usual way of things.

Also, on the one hand, one partner wants 3 times as much sex as the other, which seems an insurmountable difference. On the other hand, the minimum of the two is still about twice as much as sex per year as the typical American has (excuse the US-centrism).
posted by jedicus at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2010


if masturbation can satisfy the one with the larger sex drive (and the one with lower sex drive will participate in the masturbation by being encouraging and open to randiness, but not sex) or if you are both able to consider an open relationship then it can be saved. otherwise, i'd say no. a relationship without sexual compatibility is a friendship where you fight a lot more and have the possibility of losing half your stuff when it fails.
posted by nadawi at 7:19 PM on January 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


It isn't necessarily doomed, but having really different sex drives can make a relationship more difficult. My best advice is to talk to your partner about it. Just sit down and both explain what your needs are and how you can work together to meet those needs.
posted by lexicakes at 7:19 PM on January 20, 2010


It's too bad you can't respond if we ask for more details. How new is "new"? How old are you two? How much relationship experience do each of you have? How much have you talked about it with each other?

Anyway, I don't know if you'll be able to work through it, but it seems possible. Try to compromise. Have sex, I don't know, 4 times a week? Would that really be so unsatisfactory for either of you?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2010


Not doomed nor irreconcilable, but rationality and reason rarely factor into relationships. A relationship is made out of give and take. I'm sure these two people can come to some kind of understanding of balance, especially with something that tends to have quite a variance in highs and lows like a sex drive.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a spectrum of choices between having sex 2x/week and 7x/week. Obviously, one of them is a split down the middle, but that would probably not please anyone. The higher-drived partner can masturbate more, use porn, etc to bridge the gap. The lower-drived partner may engage in some way that doesn't require much effort on their part; for example, watching their partner masturbate or letting their partner perform oral sex on them.

Of course, there's also non-monogamy.
posted by desjardins at 7:21 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're describing my relationship with my boyfriend. We've been together for five years, but it's been (various degrees of) an open relationship for four of them, and it would never have lasted without that. You may or may not find that a possibility you'd be open to exploring.

But, to answer your question, yes, it's a rational reason to end a relationship. From my experience, it will always be a source of stress. It can be manageable stress with appropriate safety valves (frequent masturbation and porn are probably going to be a component of a solution), but the problem - in my experience here, again - with being a high libido matched with a lower libido is that I don't just want to have more sex... I want to have more sex with the hot, funny, smart, caring man who shows up naked in my bed every night, and that's just not an option. It's really hard not to start becoming resentful, or wonder if it's really worth sticking with the relationship.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:29 PM on January 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Likely, but not necessarily. But finding a compromise that satisfies both will be very hard, and require a lot of honesty and lot of willingness to really understand what you each want and are willing to adjust. That level of honesty and work is, I think, beyond most people, and if it's a young relationship, it's a reasonable decision to bail when you don't have much invested.
posted by fatbird at 7:31 PM on January 20, 2010


-Sure, it's a fine reason.

-No, not necessarily doomed, especially if you guys haven't started trying out solutions yet.

I just want to caution you that sometimes it is a BAD idea for the person with the lower sex drive to have sex when they're just not into it, as Bettina Arndt suggests. That can act as anti-sex conditioning for that person. Sex can go from being something associated with positive feelings that they're just not always in the mood for, to something they associate with awkwardness, physical discomfort, stress, sacrifice, etc.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:37 PM on January 20, 2010


I would not describe 2x a week vs. everyday as "totally mismatched". Sex is only part of a relationship
posted by gnutron at 7:42 PM on January 20, 2010


The usual way to reconcile this is to make an agreement that the undersexed party may pursue (safe, discreet) sex outside the relationship.

I'm not sure "usual" is the most accurate word here.

My boyfriend and I have basically the same erotic ratio as you and yours. We've been together for six years and our frequencies have gradually become more synchronized, with my drive increasing a bit, and his decreasing. Our sex is fantastic. This is just as we've adjusted many of our preferences in many other areas--to mutual benefit.

I would call this "the usual way."

-
No offense, rokusan.
posted by General Tonic at 7:42 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


To add to my response, I think breaking up with someone because they won't screw you everyday is juvenile.
posted by gnutron at 7:44 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


you never need a reason to break up with someone. as reasons go, sexual incompatibility is right behind money in things that end relationships. mismatched sex drives goes so much deeper than not screwing every day. to describe that concern as juvenile is really a little shocking to me.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 PM on January 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


Sex drives are, in my own experience, extremely variable. I've had partners who wanted sex six times a week while I wanted it once, and I've had partners who wanted sex once a week while I wanted it six. More confusingly, sometimes those partners have been the same person in different months; my own sex drive, and their sex drive, has changed over time, and this sort of thing just happens.

I think what people often overlook is that matching sex drives is not nearly as important as being good at approaching the whole problem. Take it as granted that one or both of you will be having a little more or a little less sex than she or he desires at any given moment; you probably won't get past that general fact about relationships. Now: when one partner wants sex, is she or he able to express that in a respectful way? Is the other partner able to refuse without anybody feeling hurt or resentful? This can sometimes be tough, I know, because in the face of strong passions it's hard to stop and rationally consider what the other person wants and what will fulfill them most in the long run; however, the best relationships I've seen do this without worrying too much about it. The worst situations on this point usually involve one partner having simmering sexual desire for long periods of time, and having no idea how to express or fulfill that desire; and, on the other side, that always leads to a lack of intimacy, because the other partner usually knows that there's something under the surface that's not being communicated.

I think it's simplistic to see sex drives as some kind of constant, like an engine rating or something; it's much more important to make sure that, as sex drives change, you're both able to express your needs and be comfortable knowing that they'll be met to a satisfactory degree for everybody. If you're not sure of that, just talk about it and try to find a way through; if you can't even imagine talking about it, then maybe you both really should think about moving on.
posted by koeselitz at 7:55 PM on January 20, 2010 [30 favorites]


One of the things that often happens (for otherwise healthy people) is that having more sex, and more orgasms, increases the brain chemicals that make up sexual desire. So more sex, more often, can mean more desire for sex. And there are just SO MANY factors that influence sex drive in general that I wonder whether anyone can really say "I only want to do it [insert any number here] times a week" and have it be consistently true. People get tired or stressed sometimes, and people get turned on by unexpected things sometimes too.

The only way that this problem can "doom" a relationship is if one or both partners is/are not willing to figure out a meet-in-the-middle solution that will work for them.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:03 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


More succinctly:

This issue will not go away. It might decrease, it might ebb and flow, but this issue exists to some degree in every relationship, even (maybe especially) in open relationships, which require just as much communication and trust as monogamous ones. If it causes your partnership stress, the only solution is to find a way to face the issue together, on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, that doesn' cause that stress; learn how to communicate how much sex you want, learn how to listen and respectfully try to be giving in response to the other's desires while keeping in mind your own desires as well. That's possible – it's not always easy, but sometimes it is, and the whole point is that in the long run it's just better for both partners if you can communicate and share sexuality freely in a stress-free way.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 PM on January 20, 2010


I have a relatively high sex drive (6-7 times per week), and my partner would want to have sex anywhere from 2x a week to once every few weeks. When we started dating, the differences weren't so obvious. We both lived with our parents, and we didn't see each other every day. When we moved out together a few years later, the situation changed completely. My partner was NOT interested in having any sort of non-monogamous relationship. Porn helped. Masturbation/toys helped. We talked about it often. However, it was hard not resent my partner for not wanting to be intimate with me and not allowing me to be with someone else. Sex is an important part of relationships! Unfortunately, I ended up doing some awful things (cheating), and eventually we ended up as good friends that lived together. Clearly, I am just a terrible person with little self control. BUT-- I was VERY unhappy. I complained every day to my friends. And it only got worse.

Definitely talk about this with your partner. If he/she wants to work something out with you, by all means! For me, the situation got exponentially worse as time went on. I hope it works out for you!
posted by Lizsterr at 8:09 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my experience, these things tend to work themselves out over time. Libidos of both partners will rise and fall, and the other great parts of a relationship will eventually overshadow what at the beginning appeared to be a big deal.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:17 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


sex is not intimacy, and a difference in sex drives should not preclude intimacy. physical contact is deeply important to emotional stability and should be frequent, often, are given freely. it does not need to involve anything sexual, though. cuddling, hand holding, playful swats while making dinner, etc, will all give that satisfaction from interaction.

having said that, if :

the one who wants more sex can accept free reign on pornography/maturbatory habits in exchange for not looking for sex outside the committed relationship, and they can deliver 100% guilt-free interaction with their partner with regard to sexual frequency

AND

the one who wants less sex can deliver 100% guilt-free interaction with their partner with regard to pornography and maturbatory habits

then there exists the possibility for absolutely no issue whatsoever, and the relationship will continue to flower and be wonderful for all involved.
posted by radiosilents at 8:23 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


A person who only likes sex twice a week is not necessarily a person who does not like sex. For any "adult", sex is more about quality than quantity. If those 2x/week are an afternoon or evening long play of mind-numbing tantric, anything-goes sex then a partner is not wholly reasonable in dumping that other partner unless they are utterly insatiable which could cause a problem in a normal life. But if those 2x/week are of the five-minute, thank-you variety then DTMFA.
posted by JJ86 at 8:27 PM on January 20, 2010


Sexual issues need to be spoken openly but if it feels like there is a lecture every time things don't go your partner's way... that's bad. I had a relationship where my boyfriend had a very high sex drive and mine was... two times a week type of thing. He always lectured me about how I need to do this more and that. It took away the fun of being in a relationship. Our sex drives were mismatched but he cheated on me the whole time anyway, (found out after the breakup.) But the sex issue was a huge thorn in my side and I grew resentful he didn't let me be myself and respect my boundaries. Right now, things seem cool for you guys but if the sex ever becomes an issue, observe and listen very carefully. You can add your input to what you want to do but don't become a mat for his drive. Because his touch eventually will only serve to annoy you.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:39 PM on January 20, 2010


It doesn't doom the relationship as long as one of you doesn't insist on total monogamy. If your only source of sex comes from a person who doesn't want to put out, then...yeah, I think the relationship is going to be doomed out of serious frustration and resentment. If the non-horny partner can deal with your going elsewhere, then I think it could work, though not without some issues.

Though if you have psycheslamp's problem, and really only want the nookie from the source who doesn't want to give it up much...yeah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2010


@ nadawi: i understand that sex is VERY important in relationships. i just think that if you want sex every day, and your partner wants sex every 3 days, that is not a "total mismatch" to me.
posted by gnutron at 8:42 PM on January 20, 2010


I'm going to take issue with two of the more common proposed solutions: having a sit-down talk and meeting in the middle, especially taken together.

While "having a talk" is necessary to establish that a problem exists, something that both parties probably already realize, I feel like it's a bad idea to treat it as a negotiation, and create a solution by committee. Say one person wants to have sex 6-7 times a week and the other only two, or fewer. (On average, of course; I think koeselitz makes excellent points.) Say they hammer out an agreement to have sex no fewer than four times, but no more than five. This is the most likely outcome as I see it:

- The person with the lower sex drive will feel compelled to have sex more than he/she wants to, having sex will become a chore, and the person will thus be resentful.
- The person with the higher sex drive will still not be having as much sex as he/she wishes, but will feel compelled not to ask for it more than the alloted number, and will thus be resentful.

In short, no one is happy with the arrangement, but since "an arrangement" exists, will feel compelled by the forces of compromise to grin and bear it. My poor common-sense psychology tells me that it would lead to more resentment than without such an arrangement.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Dan Savage yet. He gets letters/podcast calls like this all the time (well, variations on the theme), and his advice usually strikes me as logical. To paraphrase: no, sex isn't everything, but in an adult, intimate relationship, if it's important to at least one person, it's an important factor in said relationship. He will often advocate nonmonogamy; usually not 70s shag-carpet, key-party, swinging nonmonogamy (not that there's anything wrong with that), but more like arranged (or at least understood) intentional ignorance by one party, and extreme discretion by the other. (He says the same thing to couples who take extreme opposite views of porn consumption.) Naturally, there has to be some explicit agreement; he's also gotten calls from people who've been burned by what they thought was a non-explicit, implied agreement.

Of course, that's not the first solution that most people try. If masturbation, porn, etc can bridge the gap, so much the better. And no, sex isn't everything, but if both people are unhappy, even if just one person is unhappy, especially about something as fundamental as sexual expression, it can poison other aspects of the relationship. Again, koeselitz is right-- it's about how both people approach the problem. In some ways, it's a barometer, not the weather itself.
posted by supercres at 8:57 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


i just think that if you want sex every day, and your partner wants sex every 3 days, that is not a "total mismatch" to me.

For me it was. (Maybe it's a bigger deal for the person who wants more, than it is for the person who wants less?) When this question came up previously, I wrote a really long response -- rather than do a reprint, here's the link.

Rereading it a year and a half after writing it, I think I'd stand by everything I wrote then. For me, not having a good sex life is a deal-breaker in a relationship, with "good" meaning both quantity and quality, not to mention variety and mutuality. I want my 3am quickies as well as full afternoon lovefests; I want plain-jane vanilla and hardcore kinky; I want to feel satisfied and appreciated.

I honestly have trouble imagining how to get all of that with a twice a week schedule -- but I can easily imagine someone who would find twice a week an impossible imposition. You have to be honest to yourself and your needs, and self-aware enough to understand how quality and quantity can intersect in complicated ways.
posted by Forktine at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


What koeselitz said is important. What we call "sex drive" is not some sort of fixed quality that will remain unchanged throughout a lifetime. The same person can be an insatiable rabbit and a recalcitrant violet. When I was younger I worried a lot about things like matching sex drive. At this point, it's really faded in terms of the qualities I'm looking for in a partner. Also, "sex drive," as in desire to be sexual or have orgasms, doesn't have any necessary connection to "needs to have partner sex." Masturbation is something that most people in monogamous relationships do when the desires aren't matching up, and there's nothing wrong with it. It's not true that a desire to have orgasms or be sexual necessarily equates to a desire to establish relationships outside the couple. It's important to look at the difference there. Desiring other partners is a fundamentally separate thing from desiring sexual activity more often.

The more important question is about that bigger issue: can you talk about this? Can you work out a solution? Can you both give a little? It's extremely rare that you find a partner you sync with perfectly in bed, and then even when you do, it's extremely rare that you're going to sync perfectly consistently forever and ever, despite exhaustion, illness, children, work and family stress, body image stuff, aging, whatever. So negotiating frequency and talking about relative desire are going to be part of any serious long-term monogamous relationship, full stop. And that really doesn't mean that one partner has to reconcile themselves to the other going outside. That can happen, and some people can make that work, but it's not easy.

I don't mean to justify anyone's staying in a relationship in which there is just a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. But in that case, there's probably more than just a sexual disconnect. I just wanted to put in a voice here that says: yeah, desire varies through life. Your own will, theirs will. There are a lot of ways to handle it, only some of which involve heartbreaking sacrifice or complicated relationship arrangements.
posted by Miko at 9:08 PM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Some relationships/partners are worth making sacrifices. No one can make that decision but you, of course. An important lesson about relationships is that everyone doesn't always get everything that they want. That's not misery; it's adult life. A willingness to make reasonable sacrifices is one indicator of a partner worth keeping.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:15 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sex is just sex

And money is just money, and spare time is just spare time, and family is just family, and yet all these things are incredibly important. To dismiss this issue as 'just sex' is fairly juvenile.

If your partner had a radically different idea about norms in raising children, or religion, or family, or work, then that would be an issue. The same goes for sex.

That being said, the strength of the relationship doesn't depend upon how close your libidos are, but how you deal with those differences. If you approach it together, as a team, and figure out a way to ensure both people are as happy as possible, then it's a totally (sur)mountable problem. If either of you refuses to concede any ground, or accept that the other person has a totally legitimate point of view, then you're in trouble (and not because of your sex drive).
posted by twirlypen at 10:22 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


supercres: “... no one is happy with the arrangement, but since "an arrangement" exists, will feel compelled by the forces of compromise to grin and bear it. My poor common-sense psychology tells me that it would lead to more resentment than without such an arrangement.”

This is a good point, and I feel like I want to make it a little more graphic what I think is healthiest: this is something that will inevitably come up constantly, each and every single time either person wants to have sex, so it almost never makes sense to plan to sit down and negotiate the Treaty of Versailles every time. Real-life communications need to be more natural and organic; the couples I've seen who did this best could get it all across in a look. The partner who wants to have sex has to be able to be clear and explicit enough to know that the point got across – that doesn't necessarily mean drafting a constitution, it can just be "I wanna fuck" – and has to have the trust and confidence in her or his partner to know that, sooner or later, that sex will come. On the other hand, the partner who might not want to have sex so very much has to acknowledge that communication, and has to accept it for what it is – a very important need – and try to fulfill that need as much as possible, being cheerful about it but also being clear and certain about her or his limits. "Oh – looks like partner's up for it; better take care of that tonight if I can." (May seem unromantic, but that's how it is.) A good deal here depends on the essential ability to learn to know precisely when and in what circumstance (a) one can enjoy sex simply as a service to the partner and when (b) it's going to be emotionally or spiritually wrong. And – the partner who wants sex has to learn to accept that.

I'll be honest – after a while in a partnership, I started to realize that, when I let her know I wanted it, and she wasn't as up for it but smiled and knocked one out anyway? That was a really, really nice thing. That's not really idealized as much in our society, but it's good partnering, and it's a good skill – one that I learned was as nice to be able to give as it is to be able to get.

Anyway: yeah, complex arrangements, especially those focused on things like days of the week and/or agreements and negotiations, are usually so artificial that the shadings of feeling or desire are left out, and the whole thing doesn't really work. What's needed is a direct, flexible ability to communicate with each other.

And I can tell you what two things are poison, absolute poison:

  • a situation where one partner silently feels resentment because she or he is not getting sexual needs met, and yet has no idea what to do about it; and
  • a situation where one partner silently goes through the motions of sex because she or he sees it as a duty to the other, and yet secretly feels growing resentment because she or he really isn't into it at all.


  • In fact, those are the huge things to avoid - I'd even go so far as to say that if you avoid those two things, you're probably doing pretty well. You just have to pay close attention to each other, speak up when something seems a little off ("hey - are we having enough sex for you? Are we having sex too often?") and keep the relationship moving.
    posted by koeselitz at 10:36 PM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


    One big thing is you want sex twice a week now, I'm assuming it's still early in the relationship. What happens if it wanes to once or twice a month? It seems like that is something that happens quite often with people of a lower sex drive.
    posted by mattsweaters at 11:40 PM on January 20, 2010


    Sometimes mis-matched sex drives are really just mis-matches of how often each person spontaneously gets horny on his/her own, not mis-matches of how much they would end up enjoying sex if they went ahead and did it anyway.

    My husband and I try our best to accommodate each others' sexual desires even when one of us isn't in the mood -- that's what lube or blowjobs are for, and the rule is whoever wants it has to get on top and do the work. :) Also, we've both found that even if one of us initially isn't that horny, often he/she will get into it once we get going, and if not, we're OK with not having mutual orgasms every time. Sex without orgasm still a nice, close-to-your-partner feeling... like snuggling, but slimier!

    Or, if one of us *really* isn't up for intercourse, we still make an effort to snuggle or otherwise touch while the horny one masturbates. And neither one of us is offended by the other one masturbating or watching/reading porn.

    I don't think extra-relationship sex is a good idea for most people. I don't have any moral objections to it and am fine with it in theory (for other people), but in practice, I've known a handful of poly couples/triads/quads or others in "open relationships" or with "arrangements" and usually at least one person involved seems perpetually angry, jealous, and resentful of the situation. Some people may argue that humans are not "naturally" monogamous, but that's because we evolved to spread our genes, not be happy. Whereas research has found that people in long-term monogamous relationships tend to be happier.

    Also, even "meaningless" casual sex still triggers the release of oxytocin and other bonding chemicals in the brain, running the risk of your partner growing closer to the extra-relationship lover than he/she is with you. (Or the lover becoming too attached and trying to break up the primary couple.) You can both rationally, intellectually agree to whatever arrangement you want, but there's no predicting how you'll each feel about it once those hormones and emotions get involved. It's a big risk to your relationship stability.

    In the long term, sex wanes in importance relative to other aspects of the relationship. What kind of person do you want to make a family with, spend your life with, grow old with? Character, companionship, and quality conversations are more important for choosing a life partner.
    posted by Jacqueline at 3:10 AM on January 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


    To add to my response, I think breaking up with someone because they won't screw you everyday is juvenile.

    Wrong. But using the word "everyday" in that context is juvenile.


    Another vote for "get it somewhere else and be discreet".
    posted by Zambrano at 7:41 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Read Hot Monogamy by Pat Love. She deals well with the problem of differing sex drives, going though all of the basic considerations that must be addressed or ruled out (physical problems, emotional stress, lack of sleep, etc.). Sex in a relationship is a barometer of so many things.

    But when all the medical and lifestyle complicating factors are out of the way, and your relationsip is hitting on all cylinders in other areas, it can come down to how you just have different different brain chemistry. Pat Love deals with the science of hormones and brain chemistry in her approach.

    She updates her approach in the book "How to improve your marriage without talking about it" (which I recommend for anyone in a committed relationship, not just marrieds.)

    One of the very interesting things I read there is that the lower-drive partner may work on a different model of attraction and arousal. The traditional way to think is that you become aroused and then you seek sex with your partner. But for many low-drive partners, arousal often follows the initiation of sex. In other words, get the right moves on and they catch up with their partner in the passion and desire part in due time (assuming all other roadblocks to intimacy have been eliminated, of course.)

    Being the lower-drive partner in my marriage, I find it is true for me. Before getting into bed, all I'm thinking is "Sleeeeep. Sleeeeeep." But when I decide to initiate sex, as a decision to love my spouse, my faculties, um, "snap to attention" pretty quickly. Afterwords I always think aloud, "Wow! Why don't we do this more often?" And then my wife punches me.

    And of course, Pat Love has some ideas for ways that the higher-drive person can better accommodate the lower-drive person too. It'd be a shame to end an otherwise satisfying committed relationship unnecessarily.
    posted by cross_impact at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


    No relationship is issue free. Sometimes an unparalleled sex drive is one of those stress topics. What breaks a relationship apart is not the concerns, but how those concerns are managed.
    posted by _paegan_ at 9:27 AM on January 21, 2010


    Yes, it is a perfectly valid reason to end the relationship. But, generally the relationship will end because of the way one or both partners handle the differences. This is both of your problem, not the person with the lower or higher sex drive. Both partners need to recognize the validity of the other's situation and work together to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Components of the solution can include:

    a) lower drive partner sometimes agreeing to sex even with s/he isn't 100% in the mood
    b) some degree of an open relationship (though often, the higher drive partner isn't really interested in sex with other people, s/he wants more sex with their partner)
    c) porn for the higher drive partner
    d) alternatives to full intercourse that the lower drive partner might find easier to accommodate
    e) activities that will help stoke the lower drive partner's desire, such as a pre-arranged date night, reading/watching erotica, etc.

    The important thing is for both partners to be compassionate and understanding and to never dismiss the other's needs (or lack thereof).

    To add to my response, I think breaking up with someone because they won't screw you everyday is juvenile.
    That's your opinion. Sex probably isn't that important to you. It is very important to other people, and it might end up being very important to one of your partners. 'Juvenile' is a pretty offensive term. Yes, sex is only part of a relationship, but it can be a very important part of it for many people. Try reading Chapman's Love Languages, people express and receive affection in different ways.
    posted by sid at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


    One of the interesting things that happened with me and my boyfriend when we decided to have an open relationship is that the lower-drived person wanted to have sex A LOT more with the primary. Fwiw.
    posted by herbaliser at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2010


    And money is just money, and spare time is just spare time, and family is just family, and yet all these things are incredibly important. To dismiss this issue as 'just sex' is fairly juvenile.

    Or it's an indicator that, you know, it's just sex, one part of a much deeper, broader and more complex relationship that also includes those other things you mention and many more.

    It's one thing that can be addressed and/or solved without turfing the entire relationship, was the point.
    posted by rokusan at 5:38 AM on January 22, 2010


    The usual way to reconcile this is to make an agreement that the undersexed party may pursue (safe, discreet) sex outside the relationship.

    I'm not sure "usual" is the most accurate word here.... No offense, rokusan.


    None taken, since you're right. That was not a great word choice on my part. Lazy typing from the hip at work, I suppose.

    "One common way..." would have been a better way to say that. My point was that it could be done without high drama or possessive nonsense, assuming both partners are open to creative solutions.
    posted by rokusan at 5:40 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    [few comments removed - this is a question about varying sex drives and how a relationship can or can't work, please don't derail into cheating side discussions or start with the namecalling. Thanks.]
    posted by jessamyn at 8:55 PM on January 22, 2010


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