An illustrated sloth and cheetah. The cheetah is on top of a branch, running with energy. The sloth is hanging from the branch. The picture is a metaphor of mismatched libidos. The high libido partner is the cheetah, the other the sloth.
Illustration by Marta Pucci

Mismatched libidos in a relationship

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

You may have been going through this for weeks, months or years. You might feel like it’s ruining your relationship or feel like your relationship is going really well except for this one thing. Either way, that’s a long time to spend unhappy. That speaks to the person who wants sex as well as for the person that doesn't want it.

How it feels 

For one of you, it’s a long time worrying a kiss might lead to sex which might lead to an argument, worrying your partner might look elsewhere, being stressed about the stress on your sex life which guessed it, more stress. 

For the other, it’s a long time to be feeling rejection and a bit of loneliness, feeling like you’ve tried everything, wondering how your partner can be ok without sex for so long, asking yourself if they still find you attractive.

There may be some crossover there of course, and both of you have probably been stressed, anxious, and absolutely at a loss with what to do. 

The good news

You have a thing. The thing isn’t your fault, or your partner’s. The thing has a name, and it has a solution. 

It can be reassuring to learn the name for what you have. It helps us know it’s recognised by doctors and that you can take the next step towards fixing the issue. 

Sexual Desire Discrepancy: 

When the sex each of you wants doesn’t match within your relationship causing anxiety or distress.

This is the official term of differing libidos, if you’ve never heard of it, we’re not surprised. For something so common, that affects so many relationships, it has had very little airtime, so we’re glad you made it here to us. 

The term is normally used to describe a situation in which two people in a relationship want different levels or different frequencies of sex. However, it can also be helpful to think about this discrepancy, not just in terms of frequency, but what type of sex you want to have, as well as how, when, and where you want to have it. 

If anyone has a nicer name for it, we’re on the lookout for one. 

So, Low libido, low sex drive - which is right?  

Kind of none of them really. We use the term libido as we know that’s what most people commonly know as something that connects with how much sex they want or don’t want. The problem with all of these terms is they put the onus on one person in the relationship. When you are the person in the relationship with lower desire, it can really feel like you are the problem, and this just isn’t the case. It’s nobody's fault, and it’ll take you both to fix it. 

How common is Sexual Desire Discrepancy? Are we weird?

Most people in the world will encounter a sexual issue in their lifetime (ref). Not some, most. You are most people. And for your specific issue? According to a recent national survey in the UK, 34% of women, and 15% of men, reported experiencing low sexual desire (ref). Worldwide, it’s the most common sexual issue.’re officially not weird, or alone. It’s easy to think other people don’t have the same problems as us because we aren’t used to talking about them with even our closest people. You may have assumed the young newlyweds down the road are at it like rabbits and your 80-year-old neighbours haven’t had sex in years, it could easily be the other way around. But enough about them, we’re here for you. 

What causes these differences?

There are lots of different things that could cause a discrepancy in sexual desire, but the important thing to remember is that, whoever you are, desire fluctuates naturally over the course of our lives, as well as on a day to day basis, so a mismatch in desire between two people in a long term sexual relationship is completely normal and practically inevitable. You wouldn’t expect to always want to be hungry at the exact same time as your partner, with exactly the same regularity - but when it comes to sex, we can often put pressure on ourselves to expect an unreasonable level of synchronicity. 

However, even though it’s normal to experience periods of mismatched desire, the problem starts when it becomes persistent, and distressing for one or both of you. There are many reasons that a couple might experience a prolonged period of sexual desire discrepancy, including stress, fatigue, a lack of quality time together, hormone changes, and issues with body image or self-esteem, to name a few. Whatever the cause, there is help and hope, so don’t be put off if you think you know your reason, it doesn’t mean someone can’t help you. 

You’re here now because you’ve realised that things haven’t quite gone back to the way they were before, and you’re making a start and trying something new to fix it. 

What can we do about it? 

You can breathe a sigh of relief as here’s the part where we tall you there is help available. Sexual Desire Discrepancy is a recognized sexual dysfunction and therefore has had years of research put into helping couples who experience it. 

One of the most effective therapeutic interventions is a technique called Sensate Focus. Read all about Sensate Focus in this extensive guide.

Blueheart delivers guided Sensate Focus sessions along with key education, and guided conversations to help you regain control of your sex lives. 

If you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app here.

Work on your libido differences
Blueheart has helped numerous people reduce their anxiety and stress around sex. After 2 weeks, users report to feel 105% more satisfied with their amount of intimacy.
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