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We Really Love Each Other...But The Sex Part Is Off

Think back to the beginning of your relationship. Likely the sex was fiery, fantastic—and frequent.

Then as time went on, routines replaced passions; contentment eclipsed excitement; ardor gave way to affection. You “settled in” and cozied up.

Sex became a rut—not in the animalistic sense—or even a duty or a chore. Cycling the same positions, places, procedures. Perhaps feeling pressured, or suffering performance anxiety, or just finding it easier not to bother.

If you’re like 80% of couples, you’ve experienced what’s known as desire discrepancy.

How do I get my partner to want sex as much as I do?

First try thinking of it in different terms. The language you use regarding sexual encounters does make a difference. Attitudes like “getting” or “making” someone do something can come off as aggressive. They’re about bending someone to your will and wishes. Your partner never owes you anything. Relationships and sex aren’t transactional.

Instead focus on empathy; on understanding why your partner isn’t as interested in sex. Maybe they’re stressed and there’s something you can do to help. Maybe there’s something you do sexually that they don’t like—or vice versa. Maybe they had a bad experience at some point. Or maybe they just aren’t that into sex right now.

But evaluative thinking isn’t helpful, nor is comparing your present sex life with any other time in the past. For a partner who isn’t happy with the sexual side of the relationship, positive results can only come through calm communication—never through accusation, manipulation, or any other type of force.

How do I get my partner to stop pestering me about sex?

Through empathy you can understand what your partner is going through. True or otherwise, they could be questioning your interest in them, or whether they’re doing something wrong in the bedroom. Feeling rejected is hurtful and over time can add up to resentment.

The first step is communicating through love and transparency, and explaining your thoughts and feelings about sex and your own sexual needs. Discuss your boundaries, your likes & dislikes, what causes you anxiety or self-doubt. Shared sexuality is an ongoing conversation that evolves through time.

What causes desire discrepancy

Regardless of gender or sexuality, desire discrepancy is par for the course in lasting relationships. Each person prioritizes sexuality in their own way. And sexuality changes through time and circumstance. Because of that, long-term relationships go through evolutions of sexual desire and closeness.

Common causes of low sexual desire

  • Stress

  • Depression & anxiety

  • Recent or childhood trauma (sexual or otherwise)

  • Poor physical health

  • Reduction in testosterone

  • Certain medicines & drugs

  • Pressure & expectations

  • Pain during sex

Desire discrepancy is natural—but that doesn’t make it any less alarming or frustrating to either party. One person can feel unsatisfied and abandoned, while the other feels pressured and objectified.

Only through transparency and empathetic communication—along with patience, tolerance, and curiosity—can couples get to the bottom of what’s causing disparity in sexual interest, and work together to find common ground.

Solving desire discrepancy

Desire discrepancy can be both a cause and a symptom of relationship problems. And the truth of the matter is, there’s no silver-bullet fix. Like most aspects of sexuality, desire discrepancy can only be addressed through open-minded, empathetic, and frank communication.

But sexologists have developed a lot of tools to help people get over this obstacle.

Improve relationship communication

Sometimes desire discrepancy is caused by one partner feeling unseen/unheard by the other. They feel their emotional needs aren’t being met, which can be devastating for confidence and passion. Couple’s therapy techniques like Mirroring Dialogue can boost empathy and connection, and sometimes help bridge sexual imbalance.


Over 78% of US adults use self-pleasure to satisfy natural sexual urges, safely visit fantasies, relieve stress, and for various other reasons. If one partner is feeling aroused but the other is anxiously focused on work, masturbation can offer a pressure valve. But to ensure resentment doesn’t build up, it’s important to communicate any pent-up feelings before they explode.

Sensate Focus

One of the best ways to address desire discrepancy is to explore non-sexual connections. Sensate Focus, a technique developed by Masters & Johnson, helps partners duck the pressure and expectation of sex—instead focusing on touching each other for a focused, dedicated stretch of time. Couples practicing sensate focus often experience breakthroughs and discoveries that help them get over the, uh...hump.

Open the relationship

When sexual expectations & needs don’t line up with reality, either person can feel like part of themselves is a prisoner to the relationship. In some cases people find that mutually agreeing to open their relationship to other sexual partners helps each of them feel more free to express and experience their sexuality in their own way.

See a sex therapist

If desire discrepancy is getting in the way of your relationship, it can help to confer with an outside expert who can offer guidance, techniques, exercises, and just an outside viewpoint of the overall issue. Sometimes relationships face problems totally unrelated to the relationship itself—and professional coaching can help everyone understand the big picture.

Practice patience & empathy

Relationships take work and there is no “there” to get to; just the journey. Our individuality gives us each unique needs and desires, based on the sum of our past experiences and present concerns. When two individuals come together, some of those desires will align—and some just won’t.

Being in a relationship is a balancing act—one that works best with clear communication about expectations, boundaries, and desires for sexual activity.

For actionable sex therapy techniques and exercises you can do right at home, check out Lipservice: DIY sex talk tool


Wordwork by Quillpower


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