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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cydelle Berlin

How to Manage Mismatched Sex Drives in a Relationship


In a recent Here to Help article by the NY Times, the discussion around libido differences in their relationships was a nice 'how to' for couples struggling to find a compatible sexual relationship.


Many factors can influence libido: interpersonal dynamics, physical and mental health, the social messages around sexuality that people absorb during childhood and adolescence. The list goes on, and there are seldom easy fixes. Here are some suggestions from experts, writes Catherine Pearson.


Aim to improve communication. When she sees clients with libido differences, Elisabeth Gordon a psychiatrist and sex therapist, doesn't focus on lowering one partner's sex drive or increasing the other's. Instead, she helps partners understand what is driving those differences and how to talk about the. "Communication is the bedrock of sexual health," Dr. Gordon writes.


Take the time to identify intimacy inside and outside the bedroom. Sex therapists who work with couples experiencing desire discrepancies may nudge their clients to expand their so-called sexual scripts. These are ideas people sometimes cling to about what sexual intimacy "should" look like. What matters is that you're setting aside time for intimacy, Dr. Gordon said.


Be open to the different types of desire. Lauren Fogel Mersy, a psychologist and sex therapist, said there are generally thought to be two types of sexual desire: spontaneous and responsive. Spontaneous desire comes on suddenly. Responsive desire happens in reaction to physical arousal through any of the five senses, like a pleasing touch or visual cue. It can happen quickly, or it can take some time to build up. People tend to overlook the benefits of responsive desire, said Dr. Fogel Mersy.


Seek outside help. Therapists, particularly sex therapists, can be a valuable, and often underutilized, resource for couples with mismatched libidos. If the desire imbalance is causing fights or distance in your relationship, you might consider couples counseling. Ask prospective therapists whether they have dealt with your issue before, and don't be afraid to offer feedback after a few sessions. Research shows it can make therapy more effective.

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