What To Do If Your Partner Has The Higher Sex Drive, According To A Toronto Psychotherapist
Don't freak out!
“Dear Brooke, My boyfriend and I have sex about once a month, but he says he’s unsatisfied with our sex life. I’ve been stressed out at work, and I don’t feel in the mood nowadays, and I’m happy with the frequency. He says he wants more intimacy in our relationship, but I don’t have the time or energy. What do I do?
Take a breath and release some of that stress!
Sex is one of the most common issues in a relationship, and it's normal for your sex drive to fluctuate based on your life circumstances.
Work stress is not an aphrodisiac.
Most people don't come home from a long, tiresome workday ready to put in another hour of elbow grease in the bedroom.
When I'm stressed out, sex is the last thing on my to-do list right after answering emails and folding laundry, and this is a common bodily response, according to Ontario psychotherapist and Ph.D. student Kat Kova, who specializes in sex therapy.
Can stress cause lack of arousal?
A woman stressed out at work.
"Stress is for sure something that impacts people's levels of sexual desire. It increases the cortisol stress hormone, and this dampens desire in most people," Kova told Narcity.
Having a demanding job can literally suck the sexual juice out of you, and from the sound of your letter, it seems like work is really taking up your time and energy.
It's great that your partner was able to communicate that they're looking for more sex and intimacy in your relationship, and I hope they were able to do this in a loving and guilt-free way.
There is nothing wrong with having a lower or higher sex drive in a relationship, but you may want to take an introspective look into why you want sex once a month.
If work wasn't stressful, would you still want sex at that frequency? Or is your sexual drive just being dampened, and your partner feels that fizzle in your relationship as a result?
Kova recommends imagining yourself on a deserted island with your partner where work and money aren't issues. What would you do all day? Do you think you'd still want to have sex once a month?
Kova says this exercise can help you determine what your sexual baseline is without outside factors intruding.
So, if you'd still only want to get jiggy once a month, there is nothing wrong with that! You might just have a lower natural sex drive than your partner at this point in your relationship.
However, if you'd be taking the train to funky town daily or weekly on an island with no worries, you might be spreading yourself too thin, and your sexual self could be suffering as a result.
You can't always control when work gears up, and in this economy, not everyone can afford to slow down and take a day off to relax. You may be living in survival mode, and that affects your sex drive.
"When we're in survival mode, our sympathetic nervous system is jacked all the way up," says Kova. "On a physiological level, it sends blood to our limbs to get us ready for fight or flight, and for some people, it's freeze, but the blood is flowing away from the genitals."
So if you're trying to survive at work right now, it makes sense that sex isn't the most pressing item on your calendar.
Kova says you can manage your stress through these difficult periods by taking care of your physical health. That means "getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating foods that are high in nutritional value."
She also suggests checking in and seeing if there is anything in your life you can say no to or delegate to help reduce the amount of stress on plate.
What to do when your partner wants more sex?
A messy bed.
Your partner mentioned wanting more intimacy and sex, and I'd challenge you to ask them what they're looking for at the core of that request. Intimacy and sex have a different meaning for each person.
When they say they want more intimacy, is that quality time cuddling on the couch or sweet kisses and hugs in the morning? Or is it a physical desire for an orgasm?
Kova says many couples work through having mismatched sex drives, and some planning and communication can go a long way toward bridge the sexual gap in your relationship.
Since energy and time is an issue for you, Kova suggests taking a team approach with your partner and scheduling sex when you're likely to have more energy.
For example, if your partner always wants to have sex on a weeknight after work, you might suggest morning sex on a Saturday after a good night's sleep.
That being said, you should never push yourself to do something that you don't want to do. If sex just feels too daunting or overwhelming at the moment, even if your partner wants more, It's not your job to have it.
You don't have to push your boundaries to satisfy your partner at the expense of your own desires.
Kova suggests talking to you partner, explaining your boundaries and exploring other ways you can be intimate together outside of sex.
Having a partner with a different sex drive can be isolating, frustrating, and cause friction in your relationship, but most couples go through it.
"I think it's important to remember that,these desire discrepancies are common. They do happen, and in the early stages of relationships, people don't necessarily see that that could be a thing in the future," says Kova.
The honeymoon stage may be hot and heavy, but Kova says with time, the novelty can wear off and things do change. So if you don't work on talking about sex in this relationship, you may end up doing the work in the next one.
A mismatched sex drive with your partner is bound to happen sometime in your relationship.
Keep your channels of communication open and approach the topic with empathy.
Take some time to explore your own sex drive and get to the bottom of whether your desire is just a lower baseline or if work is really impacting your mood.
If it's work, you can reduce stress through healthy habits and find time to schedule sex when your energy levels might be higher.
Kova also suggests going out and having new experiences with your partner to bolster the novelty and sexual desire in your relationship.
If this discrepancy becomes the proverbial thorn in your relationship and you can't come to a happy medium with your partner by finding alternative routes to intimacy, you may want to seek out couples counselling.
Sex is complicated and in every relationship, you're going to have highs and lows, but working on the discrepancy with a growth mindset may help your relationship in the long run.
"People who are growth believers tend to deal with sexual challenges a little bit better and be more satisfied in their relationship and more sexually satisfied," says Kova.
Put the work into your relationship and carve out time for you and your partner to both feel heard.
If you think this rough patch is a deal breaker after putting in the work, you can always end the relationship, but just remember you may run into this issue down the line, so now's the time to grow your communication tool kit.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Cheaper Than Therapy is a spicy column and video series hosted by Brooke Houghton where readers can share their own anonymous questions and get expert advice for free. Brooke speaks from her own experiences as a single 20-something woman in Toronto and brings on expert guests from therapists to celebrities to help solve your relationship, sex and love issues. So if you can't afford therapy from an actual professional, ask her a question here and tune in next month for another episode of Cheaper Than Therapy.