The importance of sex often differs in each individual and each relationship. To some, it is a crucial part of any romantic endeavor. For others, it is not necessary and is more of a nuisance. But what happens when the importance of sex differs between marriage partners?
How Important is Sex?
Many couples and counselors may find themselves asking this question, and there are many factors which makes it very difficult to answer. The first is that sex can mean different things to different people. Should every sex session end in an orgasm for both partners? Is simply rubbing up against a partner count, or does it have to involve anal or vaginal sex? In many couples, the idea of what sex SHOULD be may not be the same for both partners. Another difficulty is that each individual has a different libido (sex drive). Some partners may be wanting to get freaky constantly, while others could hardly ever be bothered. Most social psychologists agree that it is incredibly rare for couples to have matching libidos, but there can be issues when the libidos differ drastically.
The reality is that for those with a high libido sex is very important. It relieves stress and more importantly makes them feel closer and connected with their partner. Sex is often their way of showing love and fulfilling their desire for intimacy. When someone with a high libido is with someone with little to no libido, this could lead to some major issues. It should also be mentioned that libidos are dynamic and can evolve over time. A lot of things can affect libido like medications, environmental stressors, aging, or body image. Often times couples may be similar in libido starting out before one partner's libido greatly increases or decreases. If a difference in libido is not addressed, it is inevitable for one partner to feel disgruntled. In extreme cases, it could lead to cases of infidelity or divorce.
So, What Can We Do?
If you and your spouse have wildly different libidos, you need to both address the issue. Below are a few things you could and should do to fix the problem.
- Talk It Out - If you and your partner are struggling in the bedroom, you need to be talking to each other. Talk about what sex means to each of you, what your ideal sex is, and how often you would like to be having it. The chances of you being on the same page with your spouse is very small, as each individual differs in what sex means to them. The key is to understand your partner's thoughts and needs and find a way to compromise. Keep in mind this talk should NOT be happening when one partner is asking to have sex or the other is rejecting sex. This puts both partners on the defensive and makes the conversation less productive. Wait until you can both sit down and have a serious conversation about your desires.
- Compromise - Relationships are full of compromises, and sex is no different. If one partner wants to have sex every day and the other only want to have it once a week, there needs to be some middle ground. An easy solution would be to agree to have sex two or three times a week. However, sometimes the amount of sex may not be the problem. Don't be afraid to talk to your partner about what you two should do, and what you should not do in your sex life. Maybe your partner feels the sessions drag on too long or are too short. Maybe they don't feel as if there is enough intimacy or foreplay to get them in the mood. Maybe they feel that your sex lives are becoming stale and boring. All of these issues are solvable, but it requires you to have a serious discussion about both of your needs.
- Examine Yourself and Your Needs - While communication with your partner is key, introspection is also a necessary part of mismatched libidos. Not only should you have an idea of what your desires are, you should have an idea why you have those desires. If you don't want to have sex, think about why. Are you too stressed or too tired? Are you not satisfied with you or your partner's physical appearance? Do you not feel as if there is a spark in the relationship anymore? On the flip side, think about why you want to have sex. Is it your favored way of showing affection and intimacy? Do you have a naturally high libido, or are you just really attracted to your partner? It's important to communicate these things honestly and bluntly so that your partner knows where you stand.
- Find Other Ways of Satisfying Your Needs - If you and your partner aren’t satisfied with your discussions and compromise, think about other things you and your partner can do to satisfy sexual desire. Infidelity is obviously out of the question here, as that is a gross violation of your partner's trust and your marriage in general. However, you or your partner could decide that an alternative lifestyle could be necessary. Some couples find that open relationships (where both partners agree that sexual partners can be found outside the marriage) or "swinging" (exchanging partners with other couples) could be what's needed to keep everyone happy. As with anything else, this requires a lot of communication to work. Each partner should be clear with expectations, boundaries, ground rules and everything else that goes with these types of arrangements. In some cases, masturbation could also be a useful tool. If your libido causes you to desire sex five times a day, you should probably realize that amount isn't often practical or realistic. Using masturbation can help satisfy those needs even without needing your partner. The key is to make sure masturbation isn’t taking precedent over sex with your partner, as that could lead to more issues.
While mismatched sex drives can be problematic, they will likely only be disastrous is the problem is ignored and swept under the rug. Many couples find that when they have serious discussions and compromises around sex, their relationship and their happiness end up being better in the long run.