Have you and your partner not been able to sync up on times when you want to have sex? Is one of you always saying "I'm not in the mood" or "maybe later?" It often leaves one of you feeling guilty or anxious, the other a little frustrated, and both feeling totally stuck.
Or maybe it feels like your sexual desires have been clashing with your partner's and the bedroom is a source of contention and anxiety instead of desire, pleasure, and peaceful sleep? Having different levels of desire is totally normal, there are many things that can affect it on a day-to-day or even year-on-year basis. It’s unrealistic to expect both of you to want sex at the exact same time, in the same way every time.
But the problem comes when this becomes a stressor on your relationship. Research shows that up to 80% of couples regularly experience situations where one partner has a desire for sex and the other doesn’t (Day, Muise, Joel, & Impett, 2015). While sex therapists would tell you that low sexual desire is the most common sexual problem, desire discrepancy is considered more distressing due to its dampening down the romance in a relationship (Mark, 2015).
Don't worry, you are not alone. Many couples experience sexual desire discrepancy (SDD) and there are ways to work with it!
Sexual desire discrepancy does not mean that you and your partner will never enjoy intimacy anymore, or that you don’t have an active sex life right now. In any relationship, there will be a number of challenges that you will go through with your partner. One of the most common challenges for couples to overcome in the bedroom is sexual desire discrepancy. This guide explains everything you need to know about SDD.
In the most simple terms, sexual desire discrepancy is when two partners do not share the same levels of sex drive or libido, or it can mean they do not share the same desires, interests, or kinks. This also needs to have been a problem for six months or more, and be causing significant distress in the relationship. If you have similar needs and those are met, you’re fine!
If you have different needs but you’re both ok with it, also fine! Sexual compatibility is not a fixed concept. People are constantly changing, and with them, so are their libido levels and desires. Certain life events, hormone changes, or behavioral changes can cause changes in a couple's sexual compatibility.
There are many reasons why a person may decline or not be interested in having sex. No matter what the reason is, it is important to remember that sexual desire does not represent love.
Just because one partner is not wanting to have sex as much as the other, it does not mean that they love them any less. If you are committed to doing the work to overcome sexual challenges, then there is help out there for you. First, get to know your problem a little better.
Here are some common reasons why someone may not think that sex sounds appealing at the moment:
If someone doesn't feel attractive, sexual activities may be difficult to perform. It is hard to overpower your own thoughts sometimes. If you or your partner has been feeling self-conscious about their appearance, it may be hard to get in the mood. Someone may lose interest in sex if the sex isn't satisfying for them. Communication is an important element in all aspects of any relationship, including the bedroom.
If you are not getting your needs met in bed, communicating your desires, sexual interests, and talking about sex can be a big help. If one of you is dealing with any conflicting emotions, it could create a rift between you two in the bedroom.
A lot of people will find it difficult to engage in sexual activity when they are upset about something else in their life. If you or your partner are going through bodily or hormonal changes, you may experience a reduced sex drive. Hormones play a big part in sexual desire.
Going through a big hormonal change, like pregnancy or starting a new medication, can drastically change your sex drive.
If you or your partner have had big life events happen recently, or don't have the energy. Sometimes, they really mean it when they say they are "just too tired." Mismatched energy can be a reason for a mismatched sex drive.
The quick answer would be that it is very common. Sexual desire discrepancy is one of the most commonly reported reasons for couples to seek out counseling.
In fact, desire changes are a normal part of just about every relationship. Changes will happen in life and as a result, people's sex drives, desires, and kinks change or shift. This means that sexual desire discrepancy is a natural occurrence, it’s when it causes distress that it becomes a problem.
It is important to remember that experiencing sexual desire discrepancy with your partner does not mean that you are no longer in love, or that something is wrong with one or both partners. It’s not a ‘you’ problem, it’s a relationship problem, and you can work it out together. This is relationship advice that applies to many many problems that will come up in your relationship. Shifting that mindset of being incompatible to one of: “we can work through this and be better because of it”, will change your outlook on life.
Don't be discouraged if you are experiencing SDD with your partner. Sexual desire discrepancy is experienced across relationships varying in gender, sexual orientation, and age. It’s just one of those needlessly taboo subjects, so you don’t see it spoken about in the media enough. It’s highly likely that many couples you know are also going through something similar.
There is no, repeat no, ‘normal’ amount of sex. No government guidelines, no perfect number, nothing like that. If you have been wondering how much the people around you are having sex compared with you, that’s totally natural. We’re made to think that everybody else is having movie-star sex on the kitchen counter all the time, and that we are the only ones missing out.
There is no "normal" amount of sex because every couple is different and has different desires. If you and your partner have mismatched libidos, it is important to think about what you’re basing your expectations on. Is it that it doesn’t match up to what you really want? Or that it doesn’t match up to what you just think you should be doing.
You’ll notice we often use language such as “the person with higher libido” or “the person with the lower libido” this is because there’s kind of not really this perfect medium amount, or high or low. The scale is relative to you and what you may be used to your body feeling, or relative to your partner. There’s also a stereotypical belief that it’s always the woman who has a lack of sex drive, but that’s definitely not always true.
If the higher libido partner feels unappreciated or rejected, it may stir up some discomfort between you two. Likewise, if the lower libido partner feels pressured or like they aren't giving enough, it can create some unwanted feelings as well. Check out our video on how much sex is normal.
There is a different number for every couple. If you have sex once a decade but you’re both happy with that, there’s no problem!
As long as you are communicating with your partner on each other's desires and you are both generally satisfied, the number doesn't matter.
While there is no "normal," if you are not having sex at all there may be some other underlying issues. Consider seeking counseling to identify and resolve any potential emotional riffs between you and your partner to increase both your sexual and emotional intimacy.
If your libido is lower than your partner's, there are a few things you can do to address the sexual desire discrepancy you may be experiencing.
First, try to identify why you are not wanting to have sex. Identifying what is going on in your own head will help you to better communicate with your partner, which will result in improving your sex life as a couple.
This may be a difficult task for you because reasons for not wanting to have sex can be complex. There may be a lot to unpack and this is why it’s a great time to seek help from a professional to help you through the process.
If you are unsure where to start, here are some common reasons for having a low sex drive:
A therapist can walk you through steps that will help you deal with any mental health issue or crisis you may be dealing with.
If your libido is changing due to medication, talk to your doctor to see if there are other options that you could try. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to find the right fit.
Most importantly, talk to your partner. If something is troubling you or you want to try something different, let them know. This can be difficult to do, so find resources on how to deal with this subject in a productive way.
You may think that all they want is sex, but it’s important to remember that your partner may be reaching out to have sex as a sign that they want attention and intimacy from you. Physical touch may be their love language, so refraining from sex may be more difficult.
This, of course, does not mean that you should force yourself to have sex that you don't want to have. Rather, it means that it may mean something different to your partner, like introducing touch and contact in a different way. A tried and tested way to do this is something called sensate focus, a course of activities and learning that any sex therapist worth their salt would use to address libido problems.
As the partner with the higher sex drive, it can be frustrating when your partner is not reciprocating the same amount of desire as you are. You may feel rejected, hurt, or self-conscious because of it.
As the high libido partner, it is important to remember that your lower-libido partner may be going through something that is causing their lower sex drive that doesn't necessarily have to do with you. Your partner needs you to be patient and understanding, rebuilding will take time. This doesn’t mean waiting around for a magic wand to fix things, you can be proactive. You already are by reading up on the problem now.
Researching from reputable sources is a great place to start, you might find a lot of bad advice online so make sure the content you read is coming from doctors and professionals.
Learning to communicate sensitively and productively is a skill, and it takes practice, you may have already had a few arguments or fallings-out when trying to raise the subject. Listen to your partner and try to help them navigate what they are going through. This will bring you closer together and will help your partner to get any help they may need to increase their sex drive.
Offering a solution can give hope to both of you when addressing a problem. Give them time to digest the information and see if it’s right for both of you. The best thing you can do is offer up support and commitment to putting time and attention into the solution, so they know you’re in it together. If you want some tips on how to bring up the idea of therapy with your partner, we’ve got you covered in this guide. When you’re ready, you can try Blueheart's app for free for 14 days together.
Talking about sexual desire discrepancy can help you to cope with any struggles you may be having. Finding a community to share your feelings and concerns could be helpful to you.
If you and your partner are experiencing SDD, don't worry. It’s a very common issue. There’s even a very active subreddit called /r/DeadBedrooms with 351,000 (grown from 311,000 since we published this article) members, where people openly talk about their sexless relationships. Again, with any source not written by professionals, be sure to research thoroughly before taking advice from forums. If you have any questions feel free to email us.
People on this popular Reddit thread are discovering Sensate Focus and it’s saving their sex lives. Sensate Focus is the core of Blueheart’s sex therapy program and can help couples deal with sexual desire discrepancy in their relationship.
This is a prevalent issue and the members of this Reddit thread prove it, it can be reassuring to hear stories exactly like your own to know you’re not alone.
Sexual desire discrepancy can be a result of other underlying sexual disorders. It is common for a person to experience a change in sexual desire over their lifetime, but some people experience changes that require more treatment to solve.
Female sexual interest/arousal disorder, or FSIAD, is a condition where someone's body does not respond to sexual stimulation. Being a fairly common condition, it is often one of the causes of low libido in women and the sexual desire discrepancy in the relationship.
Symptoms of FSIAD include loss or lessened feelings in erogenous zones, decreased sexual desire, fewer thoughts related to sex or lack of interest in sex in general, and decreased arousal and sexual excitement.
Female sexual interest/arousal disorder was previously referred to as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. They used to be referred to as two distinct entities, but differentiation between them is very difficult.
If you have hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) your sex drive will be very low or nonexistent for an extended period of time. Like FSIAD, it is a common disorder to have and is often a factor behind SDD.
If you have hypoactive sexual desire disorder, you will have little to no sex drive. You will not often think about sex, and may not find it desirable. The idea of sex may even bother you.
HSDD can either be a lifelong disorder or it could develop over time. If you or your partner is suddenly experiencing a lack of interest in sex, you can talk to your doctor about HSDD and treatment options.
HSDD used to be for all genders, but recently the DSM has split them out into HSDD for men, and FSIAD for women. There is much overlap with them as you will read on to find out.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a disorder or simply have a lower libido, sensate focus can help you.
HSDD in women has recently been amended to FSIAD in the DSM.
During its time in the DSM, Hypoactive sexual desire disorder affected around 10% of women, making it a fairly common disorder to have. Women of all ages can experience HSDD and it is not something that can be refined to one age group.
Hormonal changes are often part of the cause for women to experience HSDD. Because of this, many women will notice symptoms of HSDD during menopause or during and after pregnancy.
It can also be caused by things like underlying health conditions, medications, sexual trauma/abuse, or mental health issues.
While not explicitly stated, the DSM considers men with Low libido to fall into the category of HSDD. Men can also experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder. A man with HSDD may experience difficulty orgasming, extreme disinterest in sex for a long period of time or distress and discomfort regarding sex.
Men can experience HSDD as a result of a number of factors, similar to women. Lower testosterone levels can be a cause of HSDD in men, so older men or men going through hormonal changes may experience it.
Mental health can also play a part in men experiencing HSDD. Anxiety and depression both have the potential to lower a person's interest in sex. As well as lifestyle such as alcohol, cigarettes, and stress. If you feel that mental health is impacting your libido, it can be worth seeing a mental health professional.
HSDD is a common sexual disorder to have. If you think you or your partner might have hypoactive sexual desire disorder, here are some symptoms that you can look out for.
If you or your partner are experiencing HSDD symptoms, don't worry. There are many different routes you can take for treatment options.
The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor or GP. You will then be referred to a psychiatrist or sex therapist who will be able to help you find an HSDD treatment plan that will best fit you and your life.
This is likely to be a course of Sensate Focus, which is the basis of Blueheart’s plan created by qualified doctors and therapists.
Your doctor can help you to evaluate the cause of your HSDD so you can find the best treatment option. If you are taking a medication that is causing you to experience symptoms, you may be able to change it to one that has fewer side effects.
Reducing stress in your life can be helpful for someone with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. This can help with underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to HSDD.
This is a really common phrase from people or couples who are experiencing libido problems. It can feel like something you used to have just isn’t coming back and you’re not sure what to do.
If you and your partner are not matching your sexual interests or libido, it can really feel like your sex life is broken. It may feel like your efforts are pointless, or that you are never matching up.
Conditions like HSDD, FSIAD, and SDD, can make us feel this way, but don't worry, you and your partner are not broken. There are many ways you can fix a "broken" sex life.
If you feel like your sex life in your relationship isn’t making you both happy, you may be wondering, are my partner and I sexually compatible? Could we ever work this out? Is this something that’s just built in and we’ll never match up again?
It’s a reason many of us end relationships early on “we just didn’t click”. But if it’s something you want to fight for, and want to get back, chances are if you put the work in - you absolutely can and it’s not a reason to break up before you’ve tried. If the other person is not willing to change at all or put any time into working things out, that’s a different story.
It may feel disheartening when you and your partner are not meshing well sexually. For some, it may be too much to handle. However, there are ways to navigate sexual incompatibility that can help you and your partner to improve your sex life, and bring it back to a pleasurable experience again. For starters, it will be good to have a conversation with your partner about your sex life. Communication is after all the basis for a better sex life.
This is a common thought couples with desire differences encounter. But it’s advised not to rush into angrily confronting your partner about this before taking a moment to think.
Often, people who have a higher libido than their partner, find it difficult to understand how their partner can possibly survive on the little sex they are having, and therefore must be seeking pleasure somewhere else. It’s important to note that if your partner does have a lower libido or desire, they aren’t having sex because they do not want to have sex.
It can be difficult to put yourself in their shoes, but think about it like you’ve gone out for a meal, you had a salad and they had a 7 course dinner, and then you’re wondering why they couldn’t possibly want dessert. They don’t have the same craving or wanting that you do.
If you do truly think your partner is cheating on you then this is something to take to therapy together, you will learn ways to communicate and deal with it in a healthy way.
Being sexually incompatible with your partner can refer to several aspects of your relationship. In general, it refers to a difference in desires in your sex life. You may be sexually incompatible if you and your partner do not share the same sexual interests. If your partner wants to do things with you that you are not into, it could be hard to get into the moment and be comfortable in sex.
It can also mean that one of you wants sex a lot more often than the other. All of these things are really common and not necessarily a reason to part ways. They are fluid, changeable things that wax and wane throughout our lifetimes. We are not assigned a certain number of times we need sex each month and can only be with someone with the same number. Perhaps an idea for a sci-fi rom-com, but not real life.
If you recognize any of these things in your relationship, and it’s causing you distress, it sounds like you are experiencing sexual desire discrepancy. But don’t worry, there is help.
The best way you and your partner can deal with any problems you may be experiencing in the bedroom is to get better at talking about sex with them.
Discuss your different sexual interests and try to find a middle ground that works for you. Try out different ways you both can explore your sexuality in a way that is comfortable for both of you. When you talk to your partner about sex, make sure you keep an open mind. It can be hard to open yourself up to someone and express your desires. Don't accuse them of being the reason your sex life may be suffering.
It will require both of you to be completely vulnerable and honest with each other, but doing so will help you to start improving your sex life. It’s not an easy task which is why we’ve created free resources for you to try even before you start your therapy with us.
Did you know that around 15% of married couples have not had sex in the past year? This may come as a shock, but sexless marriages are actually a lot more common than you may think.
A marriage without sex can mean many different things, and may not be a bad thing. If both partners are happy and satisfied, a sexless marriage could function just fine.
If the lack of sex in your marriage is bothering you or your partner, it may be more of an issue. Here is what you need to know about sexless marriages.
A sexless marriage refers to a marriage where the couple does not have sex. We often find people with questions such as: “My husband has lost interest in me sexually”, or “Why is my wife not interested in me sexually?”. They draw this conclusion themselves, instead of talking with their partner about their sex life.
There may be other underlying reasons why someone loses interest in sex, to create sexual desire discrepancy in your relationship. Having a sexless marriage can have many possibilities behind its reasoning. Here are a few tips on how to get the passion back in your marriage.
The wife having to please their husbands is a common, unhealthy belief about healthy relationships. Likewise, a husband having to please their wife is an equally unhealthy belief. Everyone is put under pressure by these myths that a dutiful partner must satisfy their loved one at all costs. While it is important for partners to both give as well as receive pleasure during sexual activities, this mindset can be extremely harmful.
`Forcing either member of the marriage into a belief that they need to please the other person can create hostility and resentment. This will ultimately hurt the couple's sex life. This idea can lead to having sex while you’re not aroused or wanting to at all and unhappiness in the bedroom, which can create a rift between partners.
Gender roles can also play a part in causing sexual desire discrepancy, if one member of the relationship is expected to do all of the childcare for example, or one is under stress as the main or sole breadwinner. Stress is one of the major causes of sexual dysfunction.
Marriages can still work without sex. For some, sex is not an important factor in their relationship, but rather base their relationship on their love or connection and do not engage in any sexual activities. This is what is referred to as a platonic marriage. Platonic marriages work great for some, but it's not for everyone. It is important that you and your partner are on the same page about sexual expectations in your marriage. If you are in a platonic marriage and want help introducing more contact or intimacy (it can but doesn’t have to include sex) into your relationship, sensate focus is a brilliant tool for that and the basis of everything we do at Blueheart.
Intimacy does not exclusively refer to sexual intimacy. You can share emotional and physical intimacy without having sex involved at all.
Being open and vulnerable with each other and expressing your affection through your words can be a way to display your emotional intimacy without engaging in sexual activity. Showing physical intimacy without sex could look like holding your partner's hand, cuddling, or having a general closeness with them.
Marriages can work without sexual intimacy if both partners are on board, but a marriage without any form of intimacy may struggle. It is important for you and your partner to feel effort coming for each other.
Whether you want to bring more intimacy into your relationship, expanding on your idea of what that means is a great place to start. Increasing daily touch and contact can do wonders for you both, and can build up at your own pace. If you like the sound of this, check out our guide here on sensate focus ground rules.
If a sexless marriage is an issue in your household, it may cause some problems in your relationship. It’s something that is worth addressing as soon as you can. There is no immediate rush if you are not ready, but there will also never feel like ‘the perfect time’. The longer you leave it, it’s more likely to build up more anxiety and pressure.
You may notice some resentment, frustration, or feelings of rejection from your partner if you are the one with a lower libido.
This may create feelings of guilt, loneliness, and anxiety about your relationship. It will generate a general uneasiness between the two of you. This can start to cause a strain on your relationship. You may find that it is harder to show kindness or openness with your partner, or that you find yourselves losing your temper more often.
There is no direct negative physical effect to you not having ‘enough sex’ so you don’t need to worry about that.
Some people find that sleeping in separate bedrooms has actually helped their relationship. They find that they sleep better when they aren't sharing their bed space, or interrupted by their partner's snoring, tossing and turning, or duvet hogging.
Couples with very different sleep schedules also have noted the benefit of sleeping in separate bedrooms. They are less likely to be disrupted when their partner comes to bed or wakes up when they have their own space.
However, sleeping in separate bedrooms can take away a level of intimacy that may be very important to your relationship. If you are in a sexless marriage, your intimacy level is already lower.
If that is the case for your marriage, sleeping in separate bedrooms may end up causing you and your partner to drift apart. Or is it the case that you sleep in separate rooms because you have relationship problems? If it’s this way round you may wish to discuss your situation with a sex therapist or couples therapist.
If you want to keep the closeness with your partner while sleeping separately, you might want to learn how to introduce touch into your relationship throughout the day, as well as how to rethink seeing sex or intimacy as a bedtime-only ritual. And it doesn’t mean you have to give up your comfy feather-filled oasis, you can have both.
If you and your partner cannot find a way to communicate your sexual needs, it may put a strain on your relationship. It can feel like a sexless marriage is killing your relationship, causing you or your partner to think about looking for sex elsewhere.
If your sexless marriage is too much of a strain on you, here are some legitimate reasons for walking away:
SDD is one of the main causes of divorce, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It may be easy to walk away from a strained relationship, but therapy can help to solve problems you may be having and heal your marriage.
If you are living in a sexless marriage that is making you or your partner unhappy, one of the best things you can do is talk to your partner about getting therapy together.
Talking about sex with your partner in a therapeutic setting will allow you to be open with each other and receive encouragement and education regarding the techniques you can use to overcome your sexless relationship.
Dealing with a sexless marriage requires communication and effort on both ends. It is important for both partners to understand the reasoning behind your sexless marriage to face the issue. You may not understand the reason until you address it with therapy. After that, you can work together to fix it.
Openness with each other can help to alleviate the discomfort or tension that your marriage may be experiencing.
Many couples experience a sexual drought in their love lives after having a child. It’s totally understandable. You’re both absolutely exhausted, one of you might have been pregnant and your body may be healing for a long while, and when you have kids, sex does just get lower on the priority list for many people.
First and most importantly to note, the mother needs to rest and heal after giving birth. It’s advised to abstain from sex for several weeks after childbirth to make sure everything has healed. Even after you have been given the OK from the doctor, that doesn’t mean you should magically be ready for or wanting sex.
If you’re looking for a gradual way to introduce touch and intimacy back into your relationship, sensate focus is a great option. Find out more about how having a baby affects your sex life here.
It’s extremely common for your sex life to deplete after having children, you have less time, less energy and your bed is full of soft toys and crumbs. Becoming a parent does not have to mean losing the spark forever, all you need to do is find out the ways to look again at your sex life. Learn some new things, and find a new, maybe even more fulfilling one.
Marriage isn't the only place you will find couples going without sex. Sexless relationships are also common.
Like sexless marriages, sexless relationships require communication and effort from both ends to fix. Both partners are integral in making a change to rekindle the relationship. Exploring sex therapy together is your best chance of finding that spark again.
A common thing we hear is “my boyfriend has lost interest in me sexually”, or "my girlfriend is not interested in me sexually".
Roommate syndrome refers to the feeling some couples get when they lose intimacy with their partners. It is the feeling that you are no longer in a relationship, but rather just live together as roommates or housemates. We can often get lost in the admin of life and forget why we were attracted to our partners in the first place, and why they made us feel attractive.
This type of feeling can occur in a sexless relationship when communication is left out of the picture. It also happens when sex is taken out of the picture and the couple loses all intimate love languages like kisses, cuddles, or touches. These can be taught to incorporate back into your relationship as gradually as they left, giving you both time to fall back into the relationship and feel like lovers again.
If you are in a sexless relationship, it can not only cause a strain between you and your partner, but it can also affect your mental health.
Feeling like you are not compatible with your partner can be extremely disheartening. You may find yourself getting depressed over the lack of intimacy in your relationship.
If you notice yourself getting depressed, make sure to communicate this with your partner and talk to a therapist for the best solutions for you.
It can also work the other way, if you have depression it can often affect your sexual desire, as can the medication often prescribed for depression.
Identifying and dealing with sexual desire discrepancy can seem like a difficult or scary task, but it doesn't have to be.
Blueheart is dedicated to providing anybody experiencing libido problems such as sexual desire discrepancy with expert help. Our course of guided sessions was created by Dr Katherine Hertlein and Dr Laura Vowels, experts in the field. We’ve put all their knowledge, experience and treatments into an app that works around you. You and your partner can work on your issue together, and learn ways to bring back the passion in your relationship. Leaving you happier, healthier and closer than ever.
Now you know more about Sexual Desire Discrepancy and how it can affect your relationship, why not take a look at our 14-day free trial? After just two weeks with Blueheart, couples reported on average:
If you feel ready, try taking the assessment so we can make a personalized therapy plan for you in our app. You'll get the outcome at the end of the assessment.