Jun 29, 2022


Your relationship might be filled with commitment, love and trust, but that doesn’t mean you and your partner will always be on the same page when it comes to sex. Sometimes, the smouldering kisses and lingering glances that underpin sexual desire fade. Stress, hormones, the pandemic or a lack of love for our bodies — the reasons why are infinite.

Unmatched desire can be a source of frustration in relationships and, at times, may feel impossible to overcome. Sex coach Georgia Grace reassures us that there are ways to communicate and navigate desire discrepancy. Below, she runs through mismatched libido, reclaiming our sexual confidence and how we can handle conversations about desire differences in our relationships.

On desire discrepancy

Whether you’re dating or in a relationship, it is not unusual for one person to desire sex at a different rate or a different frequency to their partner. This mismatch in sexual desire is referred to as desire discrepancy. Desire discrepancy is completely normal in couples, and it’s common! Many people in long-term relationships are likely to experience a mismatch in libido levels at some point, yet the taboo nature of desire discrepancy ­— and sex in general — means people may not fully understand what desire discrepancy is, and what it isn’t. They may take desire discrepancy to mean that they are not compatible, that the relationship isn’t meant to be, or that it isn’t healthy or loving.

First, desire discrepancy is no one’s fault. For a lot of people, sex is an important part of their relationship, for more than just the physical intimacy of it. Sex may be intrinsically connected to their sense of self, and they may feel frequent sex is necessary for the strength of the relationship. Their partner, on the other hand, might not feel that sex is essential for the relationship to be fulfilling. Both are valid feelings, but for obvious reasons, they can be different to navigate.

On managing unmatched libido

Desire discrepancy can be challenging and frustrating for all involved, but that’s not to say you can’t work through it. An important step in managing desire discrepancy is considering which of the two main patterns of sexual desire we fall into: ‘spontaneous’ or ‘responsive’. Most of us will be more familiar with the latter, meaning we desire sex only after being stimulated by our situation, surroundings or our partner. Once we become familiar with our turn-ons and our turn-offs, as well as our partner’s, it becomes easier to work with unmatched libidos.

Understanding our own feelings around sex is also key. Ask yourself the question, Why is sex important to me? You might be surprised to find that sex is not that important to you (and not desiring sex or not wanting sex is completely valid). On the other hand, you may feel that sex is the ultimate expression of love in your relationship, even if you do not have a strong desire for it. If this is the case, and sex is important to you, the next step is finding ways to build desire.

On reclaiming your sexual confidence

It’s an uncomfortable feeling when your partner doesn’t want to have sex with you. It can feel like a rejection of who you are, and this can have profound impacts on your confidence levels. While you might feel hurt initially, desire discrepancy can be a chance to set some boundaries with your partner. Practise saying, hearing and receiving ‘no’ with one another, even if you’re usually the one saying yes. Valuing your partner’s boundaries, and having yours valued in return, can alter the way you view this perceived rejection.

Working on sexual confidence, particularly if you are the person who is desiring more sex, might also mean exploring sexuality and pleasure in different ways. From solo sex to mutual masturbation or erotica, there are many ways to have both a fulfilling relationship and meet your own desire needs  (without necessarily needing another person there the entire time).

Don’t be afraid to explore intimacy without sex, too. Often, a desire for sex can be a desire for physical or emotional intimacy with our partners. If your partner is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of sex, consider exploring non-sexual intimacy like cuddling or kissing. Listening to something together, or touching each other in more sensual ways can help build intimacy and balance any tension around desire discrepancy in the relationship.