I want sex, he doesn’t… Help!

It’s one of the most stressful issues for many couples: when one or both members of a couple feels there is a disparity in their sex drives. Very often, there’s a sense of desperation. One partner is feeling they ‘never’ get sex, while the other is feeling ‘constantly harassed’. Or so the worried lover asking for help believes.

Here’s one way to tackle this: prepare to talk to your partner. Not about the sex – or lack thereof – but about how you feel about being the partner who asks for sex, or being the partner who doesn’t ask for sex, or turns it down.

There are lots of things you might be feeling. Some of them may be:

  • worry that you are ‘oversexed’ because you are always the initiator
  • worry that your partner no longer finds you attractive because they don’t initiate sex
  • a sense of distance between you and your partner
  • sadness
  • guilt
  • frustration
  • fear that wanting sex too often/ too little will drive your partner away
  • anger that your partner doesn’t seem to see your side of things

It’s ok to feel strong emotions about this important and intimate side of your relationship, and to express them. Our aim with this process is to express them in a way that moves you, and your partner, forward instead of creating more negative emotions. Before you communicate with your partner, take a little time to sort out these feelings in your head a little. You may choose to journal, if that works for you, or just puzzle through which of these emotions or states of being seems foremost to you right now. This could change. You might be frustrated today and sad or guilty tomorrow. That’s ok, too. Just work with what seems the most important feeling to you at the time.

You’ll need to carve out some time. It’s possible one of the root causes of the issue is not enough time to be vulnerable and intimate with one another. For partners who have responsive desire, this can be a huge issue. So perhaps it is difficult to find this time. Recall that you have come to this place out of a sense of desperation; a fear that the last straw is coming if you cannot resolve these feelings. Scheduling this time is not an indulgence, but a necessity. You can both release any guilt you may be feeling about sending the kids to grandma, or begging off book club, or even leaving work an hour early if needs be. This is truly the most important work you will do on this day.

Be honest and vulnerable with your partner. Do not project your feelings on to them by saying how you think they feel. Don’t place blame for the current situation, on either of you. Just state clearly how you feel about being ‘this person’. I recommend using the Imago technique to make this conversation easier. How to use Imago Dialogue.

When you’ve each had the opportunity to speak, unhindered, about how you are feeling as ‘this person’, reflect on what your partner has told you. I’ll bet you were both surprised to discover that the feelings that you had projected onto your partner were incorrect, or at least not as strong as you believed. You may have expected anger where there is instead guilt, or believed your partner is frustrated with you when in fact they’re feeling sad about the distance they perceive between you.

Notice that you still haven’t talked about why one of you seems to want sex more than the other does, or about how to resolve that. What you have done is opened honest communication about how it makes you feel. Would you be wildly surprised to know that how you feel about your sex life makes an enormous difference to how much you want to have sex? The more anxious you’ve been about what a bad person you might be for wanting too much sex, the more self-righteous you’ve been feeling about turning down sex, the more difficult it’s been to approach one another with ease and create the right context for both of you to enjoy the sex.

This step, simply opening the communication, is the first step in re-creating that ease.

So go ahead. Download the Imago dialogue helpfile and peruse it. Take some journalling or mediation time, or just think about your feelings a little while you’re doing the school run or in the queue at the supermarket. Make a date to have this conversation, and stick to it. If you like, plan a reward for yourselves. This kind of honest communication can be challenging work, especially if you find it difficult to get in touch with your feelings. Go out to dinner (or order in pizza) afterward to relax and simply enjoy one another’s company. You deserve it!


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