Sex drive differences between couples (Desire Discrepancy)

Desire Discrepancy (DD) is the term used to describe sex drive differences between a couple. DD is a common issue for many couples and can result in much frustration and disharmony in a relationship.

Problems of a sexual nature often overflow into other areas of a relationship and can contribute to a loss of intimacy and closeness as well as general unhappiness on a personal level. Dissatisfaction in the bedroom can be the catalyst and underlying cause of many bitter arguments.

It is important for both partners to take on board that a sexual relationship is what differentiates an intimate relationship from a close friendship. The physical, sexual element of the relationship is a part of what makes an intimate relationship special. The sharing of yourself and making love is an act of love. Desire discrepancy is not a matter of being incompatible as a couple, in fact for couples who feel they are highly compatible and well matched, when things start to go down hill in the bedroom it can be quite overwhelming, distressing and confusing. You’ll be glad to hear that DD is quite normal in relationships and can be worked through effectively. In fact in long term relationships DD is an inevitability

Quite often, when sex in a relationship becomes an issue, the kissing, cuddling and general intimacy ceases for fear that responding or initiating a cuddle or kiss means ”lets get it on!”. Avoiding offering or engaging in these affectionate interactions can create a distance that is both frustrating and confusing. Being constantly rejected or being relentlessly pursued for sex can cause pressure, distance, resentment and loneliness in a relationship. A common scenario that sometimes takes place when sexual issues become apparent is one partner may begin going to bed prior to the other, or perhaps stays up later, in the hope that there will be no wandering hands when they ever so carefully creep into bed. This is not a pleasant way to live and behave with the one you love. It doesn’t have to be this way!

The origins of sex drive are both biological and psychological. The desire to engage in sexual activity is influenced by many things; hormones, physical wellbeing, thoughts, feelings, the quality of the relationship, the environment, your day and the way you feel about your partner at any given moment.

In order for the sexual relationship to change, couples must take a shared responsibility in improving the situation as well as looking at the relationship as a whole, not only the sexual situation. Poor communication and problem solving skills, compounded with the difficulty some people experience when talking about sex, adds to the toxicity these issues can have over an entire relationship. Some couples end up heading to the divorce courts because the DD issue cannot be resolved and all other areas of the relationship suffer.

In order for problems of a sexual nature to be solved it is helpful for couples to understand more about sex drives and how they work. It is not a case of one person being abnormal because they have a higher drive or lower drive.

When DD is experienced in a relationship, it is very easy for a cycle of the pursuer and the rejecter to begin. The partner with the higher sex drive can start blaming, become demanding, critical and resentful. The partner who has the lower sex drive then has a tendency to withdraw even more and a Mexican stand off takes place which results in relationship hell and can deeply affect day to day interactions in the relationship.

Couples wishing to improve their sex lives need to have the desire to change things, have an interest in understanding each others personal and sexual needs and some strategies that will also help get things moving in the right direction. It is important that both partners take responsibility for their contribution to the situation. Overcoming this situation and getting your sex life back on track so that it can be enjoyable, provide pleasure and increase closeness in other areas of your relationship, takes teamwork and some commitment and patience in order for changes to take place.

Some relationship factors that feed desire in a positive way are:

  • Good communication
  • Consistent affection unrelated to sex (produces chemical that enhances receptiveness and sexual desire especially in women)
  • Mutual decision making
  • Equality in the relationship
  • Love, acceptance, respect and appreciation
  • Trust (resolved jealousy / fidelity issues)
  • Romance, commitment and intimacy
  • Good conflict resolution and problem solving skills
  • Attraction to partner
  • Satisfying sexual skills
  • Companionship and fun

If you are experiencing Desire Discrepancy in your relationship avoid forcing your partner to see the situation from your point of view or coerce them into changing. They key to changing the situation is acceptance and creative adjustment. Talk with your partner. Try and understand your partners experience and be interested in the fact that their sexual experience and levels of desire are different from yours, be curious about the reasons. Some things that you may be able to talk about in order to promote negotiation and compromise might be.

  • Preferred frequency by each partner
  • Sexual repertoire – discuss likes and dislikes, alternatives to intercourse
  • What does sex mean to each partner – intimacy, closeness, physical need
  • Environment – when and where do you most feel comfortable? room, day, time, after shower, tidy bedroom, dishes done, door locked if children home etc
  • Enhancers/Inhibitors to sexual desire – When are you open to sexual contact and when are you not. Enhancer may be affection, communicating, love notes, flowers, erotica, pornography, lingerie.

Main sources for this article: Good Loving Great Sex by Rosie King

If you would like to learn more about how to effectively work through desire discrepancy issues in your relationship Victoria can be contacted by telephone or email.

Click here to go to Victoria Kerr (formerly Morrissey)'s page
Email : [email protected]
Phone :

Cottesloe Counselling Centre
11 Brixton Street Cottesloe, 6011
Perth WA

For further information call Cottesloe Counselling Centre (08) 9278 6578
Or email us [email protected]

Main sources for this article: Good Loving Great Sex by Rosie King


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