Couples want to talk about sex but often have a hard time starting the conversation. When topics are emotionally heavy with hurt, guilt, or shame, sometimes people think it’s easier to keep quiet.
So couples tend to avoid talking about it and keep repeating the same patterns. One spouse asks for sex, and the other one says not now. The more the one spouse asks, the more he or she feels rejected. And the more the other spouse says no, the more he or she feels guilty. Neither of which is a great turn on or intimacy builder.
Couples with Different Desires for Sexual Frequency
Some couples are equally matched in how often they want to have sex. While other couples experience differing levels of desire for the frequency of sex. How do couples deal with different desires when it comes to sex without it leading to more conflict and distance in their marriage?
To start, know that there is no normal frequency of sex in marriage. I know this may surprise some of you, so let me say it again, there is no normal when it comes to sexual frequency and desire. And if you are perfectly content and satisfied with how often you are having sex, then that’s what’s normal for you.
On the other hand, if you aren’t satisfied with your sex life, then there are things you can do to deal with different desire levels in your marriage. And this doesn’t mean focusing more on making the other person feel bad for their own desire level. Any pressured contact and communication is not a mood enhancer but an intimacy blocker.
When You are the High Libido Spouse
If you are the one with the higher desire, you are probably doing most of the initiating. Which means you may get more responses that include “not tonight.” It can be hard to not take this personally and feel hopeless and rejected. You definitely don’t want to ruin the mood and block intimacy, but how do you cope with having a higher desire for sex than your spouse?
- Stop Taking Your Spouse Saying No as a Personal Rejection: So many things can be getting in the way of your spouse not wanting to have sex. It doesn’t have to mean they care less about you. Find a way to reassure yourself that it’s not always about how your spouse feels about you, and you will be able to relax and still connect.
- Focus Less on Outcomes and Expectations: If you keep a mental tally of how many times you’ve had sex this month, that will probably be a turn off for one or both of you. If you focus more on being present and trying to manage your own reactions, you will be able to see other ways to connect that you may have missed.
- Focus More on Finding Non-Sex Ways to Connect: You can still connect physically without sex. If you don’t take it as rejection, you are more likely to be open to other ways to touch or connect. Think about all the ways you can touch or connect when your partner doesn’t want to have sex. You will feel less desperate if you remember there’s more than one way to feel close.
When You are the Low Libido Spouse
And if you are the spouse with a lower desire for sex, you may feel guilty and bad when you aren’t in the mood. So sometimes you go along with sex or you do anything to avoid the situation. Both of these are only making you feel worse and more distant. So how do you cope with being the spouse with less frequent desire for sexual contact?
- Reserve Some Energy for Nourishing Yourself: It’s very common for sexual desire to diminish when you feel like you have been giving all of yourself to your family or job. If there’s nothing left over for you, it would be hard to think about giving any more of yourself. Find ways to nurture yourself by reserving some energy for yourself. For many of you, this probably means letting go of something.
- Learn What Turns You On: Think about each sense and what turns you on sexually. What kind of touch, smells, sights turn you onto the idea of sex. Let this be a fun exploration of getting to know yourself more than having to do something for someone else.
- Know that Desire is Tied to Arousal: For many people, desire for sex doesn’t get turned on until they are aroused physically. Meaning a desire for sex isn’t always spontaneous. It’s important to know whether or not you are a person that needs to be warmed up to the idea of having sex. So then you can communicate this to your spouse without making either of you feel bad about it.
Sexual Frequency in Marriage is Variable
So many things can change the frequency of sex in a marriage. Stress is one of the biggest diminishers of desire for sex. The more energy that goes into managing the stress or problem, the less there is for being playful with your spouse and that includes interest or energy for sex.
Again if you are both happy with the amount of sex you have, then there’s nothing to change. But if there’s a discontent in either spouse, focus on managing your own reactions and respecting the differences without making the other person feel bad about their own level of desire.
And lastly, decreasing physical intimacy can also be a sign that there is a decrease in emotional intimacy. Meaning if it’s hard to connect emotionally and/or verbally, it gets harder to connect in the bedroom for most couples. Typically, focusing on your own emotional distance tendencies can help physical intimacy too.
Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers marriage counseling for one at her practice in Independence MO. She helps men and women who are struggling in their relationships find better ways to connect even if there is only one spouse in the therapy room. Schedule your free 15-minute phone consult with Marci to determine if working with a counselor near you is the next best step to take. (Relationship counseling for one includes surrounding areas of Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Lee’s Summit MO).