Chances are, you're reading this because you have a higher sex drive than your partner. Or maybe you’re in a monogamous long-distance relationship. Or maybe you have too many options and want to stay true to your partner. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to lower your sex drive.
But it’s important to start by noting that there are no medically recommended ways to lower your sex drive. That’s because sex drive is part of overall good health and rarely (if ever) is having a high sex drive a sign of poor mental or physical health.
When partners in a relationship have enough difference in sex drive that it becomes a consistent issue, sex therapists call this “drive disparity.” Mismatched mojo can be distressing, but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with either of you.
Often, the more you can accept yourself and each other, the higher your chances of finding a sexual rhythm that works. Sometimes what's required is patience, sometimes it's creativity and often it's a little bit of both. Communication and compassion are also crucial elements in this process.
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What Influences Sex Drive?
Sex drive varies vastly among different people and changes over the course of a lifetime. So it’s no surprise that at any given time in your life, you might not be a perfect match with your partner.
While this conjugal conundrum can be immensely frustrating, it doesn't mean something is wrong with you. In all likelihood, your sex drive fits within the expansive range of normal. And the same goes for your partner’s.
Diet, fitness, trauma, sleep, medication, stress, menopause, nursing, screen time, self-esteem, genetics, financial stress, fertility challenges, emotional connection with your partner — these are a few of the many factors that can play a role in diminishing one’s interest in sex.
Understanding Mismatched Libidos
Drive disparity can be symptomatic of deeper problems in relationship, but just as often (and perhaps even more frustrating), this intimacy imbalance can take place in otherwise happy relationships.
As Esther Perel explains in her book Mating in Captivity, in a cruel twist of biology, the cozy comfort of a long-term relationship can be the very thing that dampens desire. Many couples start out sharing reasonably well-matched interest in sex — as in, LOTS of interest — and then over time, one partner finds themselves far more interested in sex than the other.
In addition to craving sex itself, many people find themselves yearning for physical intimacy such as cuddling and kissing. Unfortunately, it’s very common for couples to get caught in a cycle where the lower drive person feels pressure to have sex, which pushes down their desire even further.
Even a little cuddling/kissing might raise the higher drive partner’s expectations, so the lower-sex drive partner pulls away to avoid arousing potential pressure. But rejection from someone you love and desire is painful. While the common stereotype is that it’s the wife turning down sex, it’s just as common for men to be the ones with a lower sex drive.
And since woman are taught that men always want to have sex, being rejected in bed can be a major blow to their self esteem. Many women are so embarrassed by this they won’t even talk to their friends about their un-horny husbands and end up feeling all the more alone.
How to Deal With a High Sex Drive
So what the heck can you do to tamp down that burning fire?
- Masturbate! Still the hands-down, tried-and-true approach to taking the erotic edge off.
- Open up your relationship. Bringing a special friend into the equation might help you blow off some steam (but could potentially cause other problems). This requires a lot of communication without any pressure of expectation. You may want to get a therapist involved beforehand to make sure you're not doing permanent damage to your relationship.
- Start running marathons/exercise vigorously to burn up that extra energy.
More likely though, you’re going to find relief by figuring out a way to meet your and your partner’s needs.
Talk to Your Partner About Your Sex Life
As every good couples' therapist will tell you, it's absolutely essential to talk to your partner! Sex drive is a touchy subject that tends to be rife with miscommunication. A couples’ or sex therapist could help you work through your issues and potentially save your relationship.
Good communication and/or professional support can help you understand yourself and each other better, get creative and hopefully meet somewhere in the middle. A skilled sex therapist can help you learn more about what turns each of you on. Become a detective and learn everything you can about your partner’s arousal and you will likely reap the rewards of your newfound expertise.
Jack Morin’s book, The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion, is a wonderful place to get started in learning more about what turns each of you on. Your therapist will be your guide and your ally in this process.
One final thing to keep in mind is that female and male arousal work totally differently. Men frequently report spontaneous arousal — their minds wander to sex and they get turned on while doing just about anything.
That's not usually the case with women. As Emily Nagoski writes in her book Come as You Are, women often need the context to be just right. As in, draw her a bath, pour her a glass of wine, ask her how her day was. Get to know your partner’s specific needs and do your best to meet them. Oftentimes, all it takes is removing some pressure from the equation. Ask for sex less often and your partner just might surprise you with more!
When to See a Doctor
If you're still concerned about your sex drive, you may want to consider getting checked out by an M.D. to rule out any potential (and often treatable) contributing factors like low testosterone, low thyroid or low estrogen. This is rarely the issue, but it’s important to rule it out.
Lauren Ditzian, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Northern California. Originally from Madison, CT, Ditzian studied philosophy at Brown University and earned a master's degree in somatic psychology at The California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. For the last four years she has worked at expressive arts centers and community mental health agencies in Northern California.