I have a high sex drive and my partner has a low sex drive. How do I navigate this? My sex life has been leaving me disappointed for a while now but I’m afraid of putting pressure on my partner. If I ask for sex I feel like I’m coercing them into it and it makes me feel predatory and very unsexy.
Our communication seems to always be a little shakey because we both have some insecurities about our own sex drives and it’s hard not to take things personally.
In Not-So-Hot Pursuit
Questions about mixed desire couples (where one has a significantly higher desire for sex than the other) pop up in my inbox often so, there are a variety of pieces of advice I’ve offered about this dilemma here, here, and here and by searching key word “desire” on my website yanatallonhicks.com.
In a nutshell, it’s important for couples experiencing a mixed level of desire to view their sex lives as a collaborative project that they both can and do contribute to in both positive and negative ways. By looking at the desire cycle as an interactive issue happening between the two of you rather than as a “problem” or “something wrong” with one or the other of you, you’ll be less likely to get bogged down by internalized shame and finger-pointing and more likely to see this issue as one you can work on together, as a team.
For you, in particular, it seems important to check in with yourself about the difference between stating your desire for sex and coercing your partner into having sex with you.
How do you know that you’re advocating for a sexual desire or need rather than putting pressure on someone to have sex with you or fulfill a particular desire? My coworker in my therapy practice puts this distinction in a succinct way that I like to repeat: “Individual needs are not negotiable. But, how they get met always is”.
Meaning, you are absolutely allowed to desire sex, have a high sex drive, and want to have sex with your partner. What you are not allowed to do is demand that your partner meets this need for you or dictate how they meet this need for you, if they choose to do-so.
Sex-negativity and purity culture can trick us into thinking that having a higher desire is the “wrong” position to be in or is somehow debaucherous, predatory, slutty, or incorrect and that, in contrast, the person with the lower sex drive is somehow more innocent, in need of protection (from you), or is erring on the side of social rightness.
This is disempowering to you both as it posits both of you as at the mercy of some “uncontrollable” sex drive directing your intimate relationship rather than centering the valid needs and boundaries you both have, no matter your desire level.
Regain shared power and control over your sex life by being clear about boundaries and needs and working together to navigate this difference in your relationship. For you, this might look like asking your partner about their boundaries around how you talk about wanting to have sex. Is there a certain time they feel more able to have this conversation with you? Do they want to take a break about talking about it for a certain amount of time to see how this shifts things? Can you have a way of pausing a conversation about sex if/when they feel overwhelmed by it?
By asking your partner for their consent in talking about your need and desire for sex, you might notice that you, as the initiator, feel better about how this topic is addressed. Plus, maintaining a consent practice in your conversations about sex sets a great precedent for your actual sex life.
Ask your partner about their boundaries, respect the boundaries that are set, hold space for discussing each others needs with consent and optionality always on the table and you’ll be avoiding the very behaviors that make a sexual predator predatory.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.