Psychologist and author Kerry Howard answers your trickiest questions about sex, relationships and love. “Sex can be very challenging to talk about as it is often strongly linked to shame and guilt,” says Kerry. “Our sexual expression is strongly influenced by our upbringing and culture so it can be difficult to be able to raise the point about the difference in your sexual desires, for fear that you might be judged for it.” This week, she shares her expert advice on how to deal when your sex drive is out of sync with your partner.
1. My partner and I have disproportionate sexual appetites – he doesn’t want it as much as I do. It’s starting to become a real point of contention. What should I do?
Sexual appetite and expression can come from many different elements - hormones, stress and time all play their part. The main issue here is if sexual appetites have suddenly changed in the relationship, or if there has always been a difference in sex drive between the two of you.
If it has been a recent change, work stress or other emotional pressure or change in mood can impact libido and reduce desire. Physical tiredness can impact on the ability to take time to connect.
If it has always been a problem, it can be something that we overlook in the early parts of the relationship because other things are going well. Twelve months to two years into the relationship is the common time to start to become more resentful of the areas in your life that you approach differently - family and friends, money, travel, work ethic and sexual appetite.
Sexual desire and unmet expectations are areas that are strongly linked to feelings of rejection. It makes sense, it is the most 'exposed' we can become with another human being, we can feel incredibly connected but we can also become extremely self-conscious. We also have empathy for our partner, we don't want to hurt their feelings but we are often feeling hurt by the disconnect. Our fear of being rejected is often why we don't raise an issue with our partner - yet we will react to the issue as if they have refused to meet our need.
However, it is really important to raise these issues as soon as you become aware that you're unhappy about the connection. The key to resolving the issue is being able to discuss it openly. It's an important conversation, so it requires time and focus. Any important conversation should be done face-to-face, without distractions.
If you are still feeling embarrassed, it can be good to write down how you are feeling in a letter and give this to your partner to read. It can be easier to make people aware of things in writing - the ability to write it down in your own time can make it feel more controlled and provides clarity about your true feelings and gives you the space to get the words and expression right. It also provides your partner with a sense that this is really important to you because you took the time to write it down and discuss it.
Ultimately, if everything else in the relationship is good, difference in sexual appetite is not usually a deal-breaker in the relationship. You can choose to engage in self-pleasure activities to enhance your sexual expression. There is no reason to feel ashamed about this, especially because you will have discussed the differences in your sexual appetites and you're just resolving the shortfall in your own system. Sexual expression and engagement is a key part of any relationship, but it is only a part of the longevity in any relationship. Like many of the other areas in a relationship that can go wrong — it is usually the inability to be open and communicative about the issue that is the real problem.
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