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Who Wants it More?: How to Improve Your Sex Life

A fairly common problem I see in the couples I work with is differing libidos. In these cases, the person who wants more sex feels chronically rejected, and the other person feels chronically pressured. Here are some thoughts on how to handle this tricky dynamic.

We live in a society where we get the message we should be having good sex, and often. If we’re not, then we must be deficient in some way.

That cultural backdrop makes it very difficult to have open conversations about sex. When there’s trouble in the bedroom, couples often feel ashamed. Each person might think they’re the problem (“If I were more attractive…”, “If I didn’t have these sexual hang-ups…”)

The truth is, we all have sexual preferences, and hang-ups. We desire closeness and intimacy but aren’t always sure how to achieve it.

If things aren’t working well sexually in your relationship, the best thing you can do is acknowledge it, and initiate a non-blaming, collaborative conversation. Then you can determine whether you’re in a natural lull in the relationship (this happens to all couples at some point) and it’ll work itself out, or if you need to take additional steps.

If you were once compatible sexually with your partner but aren’t anymore, it’s important to talk about why that might be. One of the more common scenarios is having a baby, which can lead to exhaustion for all parties and post-partum hormonal changes for the woman (these can last longer than you’d think; it’s worth discussing with a gynecologist if it’s persisted past the first year.)

In some relationships, the partners were never compatible. It might have looked more compatible initially, as the pheromones lead to increased activity, but over time, people will return to their more typical levels. That might mean that one person desires sex far more often than the other.

This can lead to a frustrating situation. The partner who wants more sex wants to feel desired, too, and not always be in the pursuer role. The partner who desires sex less frequently doesn’t want to feel like a constant disappointment and might also relish being the pursuer some of the time.

Talking about the feelings that this brings up can lead to reassurance, and also generate solutions. I have some couples who schedule “erotic time” (which is when they try to create a mood that can lead to sex, though it doesn’t have to.) They might engage in sensual massage, or just snuggling and talking, away from any distractions.

Talk to your partner about what’s erotic for them, specifically. This might involve sexual toys or aids. It could involve role play and fantasy. Or they might want to try new positions or locations. Just the act of sharing this begins to create an erotic space in the relationship.

Too often, we get in a sexual rut with our partners where we assume that our usual sexual positions are all that’s available. I once read a line that said, “Women want sex, they just don’t want the sex they’re getting.” This doesn’t only apply to women, by the way. But it’s something worth thinking about. Is the sex you’re having worthy of true desire?

Another thing to consider is that for many people–women especially–the desire and the lust actually kicks in once the foreplay has begun. We’re taught to think that lust is its own phase in the sexual response cycle but that may not be true. It’s a dangerous idea as it has led to many people (women especially) feeling deficient for not having enough independent desire. But once the sexual act has started, those same people can have extremely satisfying experiences.

Most crucial is that we accept ourselves and our partners for the full range and expression of their sexuality. It’s about finding the compromise and the compatibility.

Couple in bed photo available from Shutterstock

Who Wants it More?: How to Improve Your Sex Life

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2015). Who Wants it More?: How to Improve Your Sex Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Apr 2015
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