- Each partner in a relationship needs to take personal responsibility for making things better, and this includes sex.
- If you desire more sex in your relationship, changing your own behavior and having more empathy for your partner could turn things around.
- If all else fails and you can't tolerate the lack of sex in your relationship, be honest with your partner without blame or criticism.
If you are someone whose sexual desire needs no boosting, but your partner is not, that doesn't mean that you need to sit back and wait for him or her to change: You are equally responsible for changing how you handle this issue.
Following are nine tips to approach your partner in ways that will increase the likelihood that she or he will want to be close to you:
1. Don't take it personally.
Differences in sexual desire within couples are very common. Although it is hard to have your advances rejected repeatedly without taking it personally, you need to remind yourself that a partner's lack of interest in sex just may not be about you, your attractiveness, or your qualities as a human being. It may be a matter of a hormone deficiency or other physiological problems—or feelings the person has about himself or herself.
Although you undoubtedly want things to change, try to develop a little empathy. Chances are, given the choice, he or she would prefer to feel turned on easily. It's no picnic to feel disinterested in something your partner thrives on. He or she may feel inadequate, for example. The situation hurts you, but don't underestimate how painful it is for your partner. Even if he or she acts defensively, your partner probably spends lots of time wondering why things aren't easier between you. Try to be understanding.
2. Break free from the Catch-22.
- If you are a man whose partner is less interested in sex than you, start paying attention to your friendship. Many women are wired this way—they can't get turned on unless they feel close to you. This means doing the things that are important to her—doing things as a couple, pitching in more at home, being more available, and asking about her day. Do small things as well: Bring her a cup of coffee in the morning. Leave a note professing your love. Call her from work just to say you're thinking of her. Bring home a single rose. Show your affection through random acts of kindness and she may be more likely to want to be close to you sexually when you do.
If your wife has been rejecting your advances, the last thing you might feel like doing is being kind and thoughtful. All I can say is that if you want to improve your sex life and your wife needs to feel emotionally close to you as a prerequisite, doing the things that bring you closer to her is the only way you are going to get there. You can either hold out because you're angry, or break free of the Catch-22 and be loving. Experiment and watch what happens.
- If you are a woman and the more highly sexual partner, the same theory applies: So many men have told me that their wives' nagging about such issues really turns them off. Men can become passive-aggressive, agreeing to your demands but turning off to you emotionally and sexually. Why not approach things differently? You might feel hurt, rejected, or unsexy because your spouse has been apathetic, but don't be critical; be kind and complimentary. Catch your husband in the act of doing something right and tell him about it.
Look at your own behavior as well: Figure out what you might be doing that could be making your partner respond defensively. Become more of the person he wants you to be and he might become more of the person you want him to be.
3. Do something different.
Without knowing you, I can say with some certainty that your "more of the same" behavior has been to pursue your partner for sex. And if this has become a heated, ongoing issue, you've probably gotten into roles with each other: You pursue him or her for sex, and he or she declines. And the more you push, the more your partner feels pressured or angry and pulls away.
It's time to try a new approach.
First, back off for a while. No matter how attracted you might be to your partner or how ready you might be to make love, for a certain period of time you should commit to not approaching him or her. Do not initiate sex for a while and see what happens. Don't talk about the plan; just back off and wait. Sometimes the lower-sexed person simply needs more time to allow his or her batteries to recharge. When the tug of war has ended, he or she might feel more amorous. It's worth a shot.
Backing off isn't easy, especially if you're feeling turned on. But if you haven't tried it yet, at least for a few weeks at a time, put this on your shortlist of things to try.
Also, stop talking about sex and focus on yourself for a change. You may have been so focused on your relationship, at least the sexual part of it, that you may have put your other needs aside. Rather than arguing about what is or isn't happening in your relationship, use the time to focus on yourself and find things to do that fulfill you: Go out with friends. Join a health club. Volunteer. Once your partner sees you focusing on yourself rather than your sex life, he or she just might want to be more involved in your life—in every way.
Or do a 180: Wouldn't it just blow your partner's mind if you were to tell him or her that you have been doing some reading and that you now have a better understanding of his or her feelings and you're sorry about all the fighting? Think about it: Your partner has been making you feel like a sex maniac and you've been making him or her feel like a celibate. You're convinced that you're right, and he or she is convinced of the opposite. And where has all of it gotten you? I can't guarantee that telling your partner that you understand his or her feelings better will make that person want to jump into bed, but I can tell you that making your partner "wrong" won't do it.
4. Focus on what works.
Have there been times in your marriage when your sex life was more passionate? (Yes, I know, in the very beginning—newness makes hormones run amuck. But that is not the case any longer.) Examine your marriage beyond the very beginning. Ask yourself, "What was different about the times when my spouse was more interested in sex?" See if any of those conditions are reproducible. Then reproduce them.
5. Touch affectionately without thinking sex is imminent.
Women often complain that their husbands never touch them unless they want sex. This turns them off. If, as the man, you are the more highly-sexed partner, it will serve you well to remember this about your wife. She might want you to hug, cuddle, hold hands, sit next to her on the couch, or kiss her in ways that are affectionate but not sexual. Lots of women say that men are incapable of hugging without their hands sliding slowly down their bodies. Since many women have a strong need for affection without sexual overtones, they get annoyed when every touch becomes a means of foreplay.
If this sounds familiar to you, try being affectionate and stop there. Your partner will appreciate it, and you. She might wonder what in the world is going on. And that's exactly what you want to do—break out of old unproductive patterns. When you start doing the things that touch her soul, she will be more inclined to do the things that touch your body.
If your sex drives are so disparate, it's unreasonable for you to expect your partner to take care of each and every desire. You need to take responsibility for satisfying your own needs from time to time. In all likelihood, you are already doing this but you may be resentful about it. That's not good or fair. Although your partner could try to meet you halfway, there will still be times when you are ready to go and he or she isn't. That's normal; you need to accept it. As long as your spouse is making more of an effort to understand and care for your needs, you need to accept your differences and take care of yourself occasionally—without feeling resentment.
7. Accept a gift of love.
Sometimes, as things improve and your spouse tries to be more caring about your needs, he or she might decide to become intimate with you even though sex might not be a burning desire. Rather than feeling insulted or put off, you should accept this as a gift of love. In good relationships, people do things for their partners all the time that may not be exactly what they feel like doing at the moment. That's more than okay—that's real giving, when you give to your partner what he or she wants and needs whether or not you understand, like, or agree with it. Allow your partner to show his or her love by being sexual even if it wasn't his or her favorite thing to do at the moment. Accept the gift and appreciate it. Good relationships are built on this kind of caring.
8. Respect your partner's sexual prerequisites.
Here's a really good suggestion from Dr. Pat Love: When a partner with low sexual desire tells his or her spouse about the conditions that need to be in place in order to engage in or enjoy sex, the higher-sexed spouse often does not understand or accept the requests at face value. For example, if a wife tells her husband that she prefers making love at night rather than in the morning, the husband might think she is just making up excuses. (For most men, testosterone peaks between 7 to 8 a.m.; women's testosterone levels peak in the evening.) If a husband tells his wife that he feels more turned on after they take a shower or when the kids are asleep, she may think he is just putting things off so that sex never happens. But the truth is these may not just be excuses. You may have a hard time believing this because you are ready to go at the drop of a hat, but your spouse may really need things to be a certain way in order to feel relaxed, comfortable, and turned on. As much as possible, try to honor these requests and not discredit your partner when he or she confides in you about them. Take them at face value, and try to create the kind of atmosphere that is most likely to be conducive to your partner desiring sex.
9. If all else fails, be brutally honest.
I've worked with countless couples in which one partner was so dissatisfied with the sexual relationship that he or she eventually had an affair or left a marriage. You might be thinking of these alternatives too. But an affair is a lousy solution. Even if it satisfies you temporarily, it will only make things more difficult at home. Although an affair or separation sometimes serves as a wake-up call to a partner, you can't always count on that.
Still, as the more highly sexed person, you might be at the end of your rope. You might be fantasizing about someone else—or about packing your bags and leaving. Before you act, make sure your spouse knows in no uncertain terms the seriousness of the situation. Make certain he or she understands what will happen if nothing changes. Don't threaten in the heat of an argument. Don't blame or criticize. Just say calmly that because of the differences in your sexual appetites, you are so unhappy that you are considering doing something you really don't want to. Spell out what you've been thinking about. Tell your partner that this is not a threat; rather, you are so desperate you don't know what else to do. Ask your partner one more time to seek help. Then wait and see what happens.
Each partner in a relationship needs to take personal responsibility for making things better. When both of you make more of an effort to understand each other's needs and feelings, you will undoubtedly feel closer and more connected emotionally and physically. And at the end of the day, isn't that what healthy relationships are all about?