How can I boost my libido to keep up with my girlfriend's?
July 21, 2007 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Girlfriend's sex drive is higher than mine - how to compromise?

My girlfriend more or less said to me that I am not fulfilling my duties in the bedroom. i.e. my apparent habit of 'shutting her down' when she comes on to me. Most of the time I am not aware of it because it is extremely subtle, and I am probably interpreting it as just normal hugging/kissing closeness. When she is being not so subtle, the timing is bad - it's either when I am not in the mood or am too tired to 'put out', and that's when the hurt feelings and fighting usually starts.

She has admitted to me that she gets turned on a lot by me and says her ideal love life would include sex 4-5 times a week. I am a little worried because 1-2 times a week seems more than enough to me. She did not do much partying when she was younger, she married at a young age and it was a bad situation - the ex-husband had mental issues and was abusive towards her. She hasn't had but one or two serious relationships outside of that. As for myself, I look like Wilt Chamberlain compared to her...while sex is important, it doesn't have as much importance that it once used to. Having a solid base of friendship/love/caring/commitment has become basically equally important to me, maybe more than the sex.

We are both in our early 30's and have a good, strong relationship. But my low libido is making her a little angry at me and not doing her any good either (she is very insecure at times). I have issues with my job right now that aren't helping, and I am trying to make things better on that front, and additionally making a more conscious effort to 'step up to the plate' with my girlfriend in bed. But sometimes I just don't give a damn about sex and feel almost asexual about it.

One more thing - I have been taking Propecia for my hair loss since my late twenties. Has using this for years destroyed my sex drive? Or am I just older, wiser and plain bored with sex?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1. Has she tried self stimulation?
2. "Sex" does not have to be intercourse, perhaps if you guys compromised a little and you spent time with her a few times a week engaging in one way oral or manual (hands and fingers) sex, looking at it as spending "time together" rather than elaborate full blown sex.
3. She has to be less subtle.
4. There is some reporting that says Propecia does negatively affect male sex drive (~3% officially), if this is the case you well might want to invest in #2 more as you've been chemically altered
5. CV says that females tend to ramp up a bit sexually in their early 30s while men deescalate at bit.
6. If she is genuinely feeling sexually frustrated something is going to have to happen/change.
7. Man, if you could switch partners with this fellow things would be perfect! (joke)
posted by edgeways at 3:21 PM on July 21, 2007

First of all, I suppose you said duties as a figure of speech, but I would stress there is no duty and nothing owed sexually, unless people make such a (strange) contract. She has to understand that you are overloaded. You, in my opinion, ought to pay attention to when she's lusty and become more attuned to it and communicate about it at the time rather than shutting down. The attunement is a starting point for communication, play, closeness, and sex, if that happens. I suggest that sometimes you could go along with it even if you aren't very turned on, too. At least, I think you might be able to. I am female and I do that with my partner as a form of closeness. I think I'm a bit like you because the frequencies are similar and I have done more than my partner and it's not as important to me. Consequently, I can go along quite often when I'm not in the mood so much. It's about respecting each other, and yourself, and communication. Ultimately, if getting some is more important to her than how you feel or how you communicate or other important things (not saying it is, but you two will identify where you stand in that regard) then you know all you need to know, it seems to me. If you are utterly not interested in giving her that at any given time and you need something else, that's valid.
posted by Listener at 3:30 PM on July 21, 2007

I had a girlfriend that was like that once. After being worn down to a numb, I realized how codependent she was and dumped her. The sex was great, but she couldn't do 'companionship' without 'sex' -- and, in fact, she tried to continue the sex beyond the end of a relationship, even when I was starting another one. I hate to say this, but 'Uh, run' is what I'd do based on my past experience... I'm sorry that's the only advice I have, but... *shrug*
posted by SpecialK at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2007

Take a good look at your health. Are you getting enough sleep? Is your nutrition ok? Do you have any untreated health problems that may be impacting your libido?

Listener and Edgeways have said good stuff. However, I think if Iwere you I'd also go down to the local GNC and buy some Arginmax. If you don't like giving money to them, get some l-arginine from the local health food and vitamin shoppe. You'll want to take 1000-2000 mg daily.
posted by ilsa at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2007

1. Is there anything else from this relationship she wants but isn't getting (more commitment, less commitment, more time together, less time together, etc)? I know I've personally been guilty of trying to use sex to make up for something else that was wrong.

2. Is there anything else *you* want but aren't getting?

3. Make sure you initiate something sexual (even if not intercourse) at least some of the time. It's hard for her to be the person who always starts things, and you'll be more into it if you pick a time you're interested.

4. Mayber her libido is just higher than yours. If the relationshp is fundamentally good, then either she needs to learn to satisfy herself alone, or you need to find a way to participate that is ok for you (watch, or hold her, or somesuch).

5. It sounds like the hurt feelings are coming mostly from her not thinking you're not attracted to her enough. Find *other* ways to show her you are, be it words, gifts, non-sexual touch, etc. The less ambiguous, the better.
posted by nat at 4:26 PM on July 21, 2007

Man you should have moved in next to me when I was single. I would have been more than happy to take up the slack. ;)

Actually, I am with SpecialK. This reeks of codependency. Sure, it is fun at first, but it gets old when you realize that the entire relationship is an extended one night stand. I hope that isn't your case, but it is a good possibility.
posted by caddis at 6:14 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, her getting angry with you certainly isn't helping things. That's not really fair of her.

I agree with nat that you should find other ways to express your affection that aren't necessarily sex: little touches or stolen kisses here and there, genuine compliments and the like will make her feel appreciated.

The job stress probably isn't helping your libido, and if she doesn't understand that you're stressed out at work (or how stressed out you are) then it would probably help to tell her this. Is there anything she can do to help you out on that front? Ask her.

Do you use sex toys? If not, would you consider it? My husband and I use a vibrator like this (sorry if that's TMI) when one of us is feeling tired: the vibrator does pretty much all the work which really helps when you're not particularly in the mood. If you're having trouble getting or staying hard, would you be open to going down on her or using a sex toy on her? Watching her masturbate? Letting her know it's okay with you if she masturbates without you? There's a bunch of things you can do that don't require as much energy on your part that will still get her off.

Finally, get a check-up from your doctor if you're concerned that your libido isn't where you want it to be. There could be a perfectly treatable medical reason for why you're not feeling as randy as you want to be.

And seriously guys, "co-dependent?" (which, by the way, doesn't mean what you think it means) If a woman doesn't want sex as much as her SO she's frigid. If she wants it more, then she's too needy. Um - or, it could just be that different people have different libidos and different things going on in their lives. Sheesh.
posted by AV at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in your girlfriend's situation. First point, make an effort to sit down and discuss this issue when sex hasn't been brought up. Five minutes after you just turned her down is not going to be helpful. It may be that she's more understanding about it if you make it perfectly clear that you still find her attractive. Second, relationships are all about compromise. Explain to her that you'll make more of effort to express your feelings physically and you need her to be a little more understanding when you're not in the mood.

Some women just like sex. And considering her background she may have just recently discovered just how much fun it is. Remember when you were younger and figured out just how much it was when done right? Yeah, remember how much you wanted to do it? This may be her situation.

Regardless, this is a difficult situation. It's important to make this not about her desirabilty, and not about how much you love her. It's about you two having a different view on a specific aspect of the relationship. Like what temp the a/c is set on. Find a middle and respect each other.

Good luck.
posted by teleri025 at 9:05 PM on July 21, 2007

This problem destroyed my last long-term relationship. Admittedly, my interest waned to much less than twice a week. But I truly loved her, as well as liked her more than anyone I've been with. We were extremely good and compatible in terms of the friendly part of relationships.

But she has a high sex drive. I don't think she'd have an upper limit on frequency, as long as the sex is good and she had time for it.

So, anyway, we were never able to resolve this problem. She fundamentally couldn't get beyond the idea that if I truly loved her, I'd want to have sex with her as often as she wanted. It was part of her whole sense of being valued as a romantic partner as well as being deeply involved in her sense of self-worth. It's not the core of how I see a romantic relationship, and so I was never able to really understand how much my lack of interest deeply unsettled her.

In the end, she decided to cheat on me. I found out about it before she did it, but it ended the relationship just the same. (Well, we got back together later, but it was never the way it was and the second-time around ended, too, because we were both basically not able to completely trust the other.)

So, from that experience, I have a couple of pieces of advice for you. One, you need to evaluate whether or not this is something you can work out or if you are fundamentally incompatible. If it's the latter, then you need to end the relationship on the best terms possible.

How do you know it's the former? Well, you won't know until you've tried.

I do believe now in retrospect that if one partner has a higher sex drive than the other and that person expects the lower sex drive person to keep up, the higher sex drive person basically has a (limited) responsibility to try to find ways to interest the person in sex. That's true whatever the genders. Usually, it's the man who isn't getting enough sex and rarely do people say that it's wrong for the woman to ask that the man find ways to make her more interested in sex and sex more enjoyable to her. It works both ways.

Now, that said, you only have a responsibility to each other to the degree to which you've agreed with each other to be responsible to the relationship and that only within reason. Neither should be required to do anything noxious to them, or to shoulder more than their share of the burden. And if one person shares more of the sexual burden, it just might be that the other should be doing more than an equal part of something else to compensate.

Of course, the problem you'll face here is that if you can't find some way to compromise where you both feel good about the situation, you'll both feel like the other person is taking advantage of you. If she does more to try to interest you but you don't respond to her satisfaction, she'll resent you for it. And you'll resent her for the constant sexual pressure. This is why I say that you need to work very hard to discover if you can come to a happy compromise and walk away if you find that you cannot.

Because if you don't do this, and drag it out, you'll get to the other thing I have to say. There's a high probability she'll cheat on you. I firmly believe that men and women—as a generalization and certainly not true in every individual case—tend to cheat for different reasons. I think men cheat more out of sexual desire. For more sex, or better sex, or different sex. Or just because they can. But I think that women will mostly only cheat if they feel pretty unhappy in the relationship. They'll cheat because they're looking for the sexual happiness in an emotional, relationship sense they're missing. And when they cheat, they'll feel justified. They'll feel angry. It will be hard to salvage the relationship at that point. In a real sense, it will already be long over. Don't let it get to that point.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:35 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

What I think would be really helpful for you is if you could, occasionally, say yes when she outright asks for sex. Even if it's set up ahead of time, so you're both aware that she's going to ask and you're going to agree (like a trial run), it'll probably help. She needs to learn that asking for sex isn't a major risk, that it will sometimes end the way that she wants, and that it is alright for her to feel more free to ask. In other words, she needs to feel comfortable with the task of initiating sex, so that she doesn't wait until she's already so frustrated to initiate that being turned down is a major disappointment. If she feels comfortable asking, she will be more comfortable being turned down. And, furthermore, if she's more comfortable asking, she'll be more likely to ask when you actually are somewhat in the mood.

Of course, that won't solve everything. But it may be a good baby step for the two of you to get better at communicating intimately.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:27 PM on July 21, 2007

I originally laughed at this, then I thought about it, and some previous relationships, and here I am.

a) In some situations, massive sex drive is, as other people are talking about, a sign of deeper problems.

b) 4-5 times a week is not something that I would consider significant enough to qualify for A. Are you just not that into her?

c) The above may be invalid if I have deeper problems myself. Chances are that I do.
posted by blacklite at 2:44 AM on July 22, 2007

1) Define what you mean by 'too tired to put out'. Too tired for traditional man on top missionary intercourse is not the same as too tired for mutual masturbation while talking dirty. Sex =! intercourse, and there are a lot of things you can do to get her off when you are too tired for getting yourself off.

2) She needs a vibrator (or multiple ones). Take her to the sex toy store and help her pick some out. Then enjoy helping her get to know them.

3) Ask her to tell you when you are subconsciously shutting her down. Then try not to get defensive when she does so. Be open to the fact that you are probably doing things that hurt her feelings, even though you don't mean to. Then work together on finding ways to communicate when sex is on and off the table without making it about rejection of her.

4) Bedtime is probably the worst time for sex if one partner is tired and has stress. Your body wants to shut down, not perform. Try mornings and early evenings.

5) Being able to have sex 1-2 x a week does not sound like 'see your doctor' territory. But general health improving things like exercise and nutrition will improve your libido. Exercise with the girlfriend even more so.

While libido disparity can be a relationship breaking issue, your case does not seem insurmountable. The disparity is not huge, and most importantly, the lower libido partner is willing to address the issue. Good luck to you.

Example of the insurmountable kind: me thinking daily was good, ex thinking once or twice a month okay, with him laughing at me when he caught me masturbating and resentfully saying 'are you trying to kill me?' when I wanted sex. But you don't sound like that guy.
posted by happyturtle at 8:35 AM on July 22, 2007

I worry about a man in his early thirties unwilling or unable to have sex more than one or two times a week. Are you out of shape? Do you work ninety hours a week? It's possible that you're at an extreme end of the curve, of course, but don't act like it's not unusual.

Sometimes women go see dumb movies because the men they love want to see them. Sometimes men remodel bathrooms because the women they love want new tile. People make sacrifices for each other. And if fucking is so much of a sacrifice that you can barely get it up more than once a week for someone you supposedly care about, you need to reconsider what's going on in your head.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Loss of libido is one of the recognized side effects of Propecia. Googling 'propecia libido' has left me with the impression that 1-2% is the consensus for the incidence of this, but I did see 5% on one site.

I found an anecdote from a patient on the blog of a doctor who specializes in treating baldness which may interest you:

I am 22 and started taking propecia around 8 months ago and had some side effects that I did not mind much at all, increased libido and increased ejaculate volume. But a few weeks ago out of nowhere I completely lost all sex drive, it was a very drastic decrease in libido....

Here is the doctors advice:

The effects of Propecia should be out of your body in a couple of days. Some of it may be bound to some tissue receptors, but within a week, I would expect to see you return to your normal libido. Taking 1/2mg each day will not be as effective as the 1mg, but it is better than taking none at all. Go off of it until the libido returns to normal and then try a half pill. That has worked for half of the patients who reported libido problem to me.
posted by jamjam at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2007

Stop taking the Propecia?

Your sex drive might improve, and if she's not into bald guys, hers might decrease.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2007

You ask two very different questions: how to compromise on sex drives, and how to boost your libido. For compromising, there isn't any way around you having to say "yes" more often than you are now (and probably even better from her point of view, start being the one to make the come-on in the first place more often). You can have all the discussions in the world, and agree on "date nights" and so on, but in the end you are going to have to start being willing to put out at times when you aren't 100% in the mood, or are tired. She's already doing an awful lot of compromising (she wants it 5x/week, is getting it 2x/week, and so is compromising at least those three times already); the goal if you go the compromise route is to share that burden a bit more equally. I guess I'm saying that if you have the energy to have a big late-night argument about it, you probably had the energy to have some low-key sex of one kind or another. It's certainly faster, at any rate, and you sleep better afterwards.

But then your title poses a very different question: how to boost your libido. That's the ideal situation: she ends up happy, you are happy because you are wanting sex and getting sex, and your lucky neighbors get to listen to those happy sounds every night. It sounds like you need to experiment with quitting the balding medication for a while (and anyway, bald men are sexy). But you also need to cover the real basics of libido: exercise, stress, nutrition, sleep, etc. Eating well, sleeping enough, and getting lots of good exercise will, for most men, really make a difference in their libidos. Maybe you can't change how stressful your job is (although if you job is killing your relationship, maybe it is time to start looking around at other opportunities), but the exercise, sleep, and good food will help mediate that stress. Moreover, these are activities that can be done with your girlfriend, adding intimacy and getting nice "together time" without the charged issue of sex. Go for a run or walk together, come home and cook a nice dinner, then have a shower together -- who wouldn't feel snuggly after that? And even if it doesn't lead directly to sex, it is way more intimate and nice than having an argument in front of the TV while eating takeout.

Definitely talk to your doctor (although don't wait to start doing the basic stuff first), in case there is some medical issue (like low testosterone, say) that can be easily dealt with. And if you are ramping up your exercise and changing your diet, talking to the doctor is probably a smart idea, just in case.

And make sure you are communicating your needs and desires really clearly with your girlfriend. If there are things she does that really help turn you on, tell her directly and explicitly what those are. Too often all of us tend to assume that "it is obvious that I feel...." and never actually bother to say it in words, and then feel hurt when our partner doesn't read our thoughts. If you really love those short skirts, or the just-showered smell, or having your ear tickled in a certain way, tell her so. Do you like being approached, or to be the one doing the approaching? Tell her! Conversely, ask her what she needs. Does she really really really need to get plowed five nights a week, or would she be just about as happy with two acts of intercourse, one good licking session, and three amazing backrubs? If so, your libido is off the hook, and you just need to start learning how to give the best backrub that woman has ever received. "Communication" is a total cliche, but that's because it really works.
posted by Forktine at 1:45 PM on July 22, 2007

I think it's funny that people says things like she's codependent or emotionally needy when the only data we have is that she wants sex 4-5 times a week; if the male partner wanted that i've no doubt people would just say, well, that's the male sex drive for ya. But anyway.

Neither of you has particularly unusual sex drives, but they are different. First you should consider whether you have different levels of desire for one another to start with, ie, do you think perhaps she's a bit more into you than the reverse? Do you think she's a great girl but not necessarily feel your knees drop away when she enters the room? If that doesn't really strike any sort of chord, you think you do think she's totally your type etc, you should take seriously the possibility that your sex drive has decreased for medical reasons and go off the propecia as an experiment (with doctor's oversight). If none of that makes a difference, then you move on to dealing with the mismatch in real life - you can let her be on top so you do less work, for instance, but in general you just have work out compromises by talking about it.
posted by mdn at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

mdn: I think it's funny that people says things like she's codependent or emotionally needy when the only data we have is that she wants sex 4-5 times a week; if the male partner wanted that i've no doubt people would just say, well, that's the male sex drive for ya. But anyway.

Holy crap, yes. The double standard on this topic is mind-blowing.

There's nothing wrong with you for wanting to have sex only once or twice a week (although your view that sex is just for partying young people is curious), and there's nothing wrong with her for wanting it 4-5 times a week. Try to compromise.

But as someone who'd have it every day in an ideal world, I can't say I'd ever be satisfied with only once or twice a week, and I'd have to seriously question whether or not we were compatible. No one at fault -- just possibly incompatible.

And I certainly wouldn't be impressed by anyone trying to tell me that my very natural, innate, instinctive human need for sex was dysfunctional, needy, codependent or any other pejorative in the book. Come on, people.
posted by loiseau at 5:35 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

you've got a few options, and none of them are that great.

1. just do it anyway, even if you're not feeling it. rejection sucks, and every time you turn her down you're putting up walls between the two of you, lowering her self esteem, and she's probably getting more and more reluctant to ask for it for fear of further rejection. try just saying yes, doing it anyway, and look at it as something you're doing for her, because you care about her, not something you're doing to get off because you're horny and want to have sex. invest in sex toys, go down on her, or whatever, but at least show some interest.

2. since you know she wants sex more often but her timing is bad, find a good time and initiate it. she'll feel better about herself and be more satisfied. you'll still have the rejection problem from #1 if you're saying no when she asks, but she'll probably ask less at inconvenient times if you're initiating more. even if you're not necessarily turned on, try to judge when you have enough energy to put out and just do it.

if neither of those are palatable options for you, you're left with 3. break up with her. if you're not willing to put out and she (obviously) doesn't want to go without, you're not really fulfilling your end of the bargain and you two will probably never be compatible in this regard.
posted by booknerd at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

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