We know, we know. Isn’t it only, like, old married couples that have to deal with one partner wanting sex more or less than the other? Unfortunately, as many of you readers probably know, this is not the case. In fact, more and more young women are experiencing less of a desire to have sex due to a variety of both physical and physiological causes.
In case you’re dealing with this in a relationship you’re currently in, or if you just want to be prepared, we spoke to some experts about the range of explanations for libido differences and came up with some possible solutions. Read on for some newfound sexpertise!
Why It’s Happening
A particularly high or low sex drive can result from physical, mental and other causes. Dr. Jennifer Wider, M.D., a women’s health expert and author, states that “stress can kill a person’s sex drive, as can sleep deprivation.” If you (or your partner) are under a great deal of pressure (at work, because of school or other issues), a decrease in sex drive might develop. It’s like when it’s finals and the stress is so high that all you can do is lay in bed. The last thing you want to do is exert energy, even if it may lead to pleasure!
Dr. Wider adds that certain medications can decrease libido as well; antidepressants, blood pressure meds and seizure drugs have the potential to lower your desire to have sex. For women in particular “sometimes hormonal issues get in the way,” and are related to your menstrual cycle. The symptoms of menstruation can have both negative and positive effects on your sex drive. For example, during the PMS part of your cycle, you might feel tired, exhausted, bloated or all of the above, and have no sexual desire whatsoever. While you’re ovulating, however, “the libido is usually higher,” says Dr. Wider.
Even birth control can also negatively impact libido. This is likely due to the mix of hormones that birth control supplies to the body. Birth control can also cause “less vaginal lubrication” according to Go Ask Alice!.
August McLaughlin, health and sexuality writer, states that “libido differences are hugely common.” If you’re having this issue in your relationship, you’re not alone! McLaughlin adds that “it’s probably more rare not to have some discrepancy at some point,” which totally makes sense! Sex drive is just another trait in a long list of personal attributes, and you’re not always going to line up perfectly with whomever you’re in a relationship (or just having sex) with.
It’s also a total myth that men are always more desiring of sex (and, of course, this notion is super heteronormative). Of this assumption, Dr. Wider says that she has dealt with an “almost 50/50” split of male versus female instances of sex drive discrepancies. So don’t feel weird if you’re the one feeling more sexual than your male partner. Don’t feel weird if you’re differently sexually-inclined at all!
What to Do
“Open communication,” says McLaughlin, is essential to getting over this obstacle in your relationship. With your partner, “explore your expectations, needs and desires.” Just like having sex is part of your relationship, talking about having sex might also have to be! This might seem (oddly) like a turn-off at first, but developing a comfort around the topic of sexuality with your partner will likely only lead to greater intimacy!
It might also be necessary to re-evaluate the importance of sex in your relationship, or at least the way that sex and sensuality can be experienced. For McLaughlin, “sexual empowerment isn’t about having a highly active sex life.” On the contrary, she states that “it’s about embracing your sexuality as you see fit.”
Compromise in a relationship is essential, so be sure to not only lean in to your partner’s desires, but make sure that yours are accounted for. You also don’t want to expect the world of your partner or for them to expect the world of you. McLaughlin also says that “deciding to cuddle, kiss and so on, without expectation of it necessarily leading to intercourse or orgasm” might help take the pressure off a stressed-out libido.
Modify your medication
Because your medications might be impacting your sex drive, you might want to consider changing them. Of course, talk to your doctor about this and ask them what your options are and if they think that altering your medication might be the solution to your problems. “Don’t hesitate to speak with a healthcare practitioner,” says Dr. Wider. This is, of course, an issue that has to do with your physical well-being!
According to McLaughlin, “some couples really benefit from scheduling sex, at a frequency that seems reasonable to both partners.” Compromise is essential here. Setting out a time to engage in intimacy with your partner might seem really unromantic, but it might actually increase your arousal because of all the build-up around the event! Also, this means that you can perfectly plan your shaving schedule, if you’re into that.
Masturbation can work to the benefit of individuals in relationships, not just single people! “If you’re on the lower libido side, self-stimulating may help increase arousal,” says McLaughlin. Not only will this be pleasurable for you, but your partner might find it extraordinarily stimulating as well!
Spend more time on foreplay
Foreplay, AKA all the super-sexy lead up to actual intercourse, provides a really good opportunity to hike up your sex drive. McLaughlin says that this is particularly stimulating for women, because “estrogen-based bodies tend to take longer to warm up into desire than testosterone-based bodies.” We’re hard to please, what can we say? Nothing wrong with high standards, and it just makes our pleasure that much more pleasurable!
See a professional
If you think that your or your partner’s sex drive might be abnormal or related to a physical or medical problem, definitely see (or suggest that they see) a doctor. Otherwise, the two of you might benefit from going to see a couple’s or sex therapist. This is bound to be awkward at first, but remember that they just want to help you and that they’ve dealt with this before.
Having a third party (insert threesome joke here) might help move things along if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your partner about your or their sex drive at first. It might also help to have an objective opinion if your sex drive discrepancy is an issue of miscommunication in your relationship!
Just remember that your body and your desires are your own, and as weird or uncomfortable or abnormal as you may feel, if you tackle the problem head on, a difference in sex drive does not have to be a relationship dealbreaker.