Mismatched Libidos: Advice for the Lower Desire Partner

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/04/2020

Odds are, you and your partner have differing sex drives. And odds are, as the woman you have the lower sex drive. This puts you in a tricky spot. It seems you’re forever forced to choose between going through the motions in sex you don’t want or making your partner feel bad. Fortunately, there are better solutions out there. Keep reading to discover how to navigate the complex world of mismatched libidos in a way that makes everyone a winner (it is possible!).

Before You Say No

He just asked or initiated sex and you hesitated. You’re not feeling an enthusiastic “yes” right now. But before you say no, take a second and determine whether you’re feeling a “no” or a “maybe,” If you know it’s a “no,” it’s the end of the story and that’s great! You aren’t responsible for your partner’s sexual pleasure and you should never have sex when you don’t want to.

But sometimes there’s simply a barrier keeping someone from an enthusiastic “yes.” Remove the barrier and soon you may both be scrambling to remove your clothes. Ask yourself, “Is there something I need/want that would make me desire sex?”

Maybe he wants a quickie and you need more foreplay. Maybe you two have been like ships in the night and need to spend some time chatting and reconnecting first. Maybe you have other physical needs that need attending first, such as feeling hungry or cold. Maybe it’s the timing of the request and you need a few minutes to unwind after work first. It’s not about giving yourself time to rally and begrudgingly have sex—it’s about seeing if there’s a world where you can’t wait to jump into that bed.

If you can pinpoint what it would take to get you more interested in having sex, express that to your partner. But here’s the important thing: this isn’t you giving a guarantee that you will later have sex. It’s simply you explaining whatever external factor is pumping your brakes, which gives him a chance to address it and see if your desire changes. Sometimes it does and you get to enjoy enthusiastic sex. Sometimes it doesn’t cut it and you still won’t want to have sex. That’s fine too! But going through this process helps both parties feel better about the no.

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Reframe How You View Sex

Another key step is reframing how you both view sex. People often fall into the trap of thinking sex just means penetration. But plenty of activities (oral, hand play, kissing, etc.) can fit the definition. Right now you don’t feel like being penetrated—and that’s totally understandable. But there could be another form of sex you could enjoy, such as 69’ing or mutual masturbation. There are many ways to enjoy being physical without penetrative sex.

When You Say No

Even when you remove any holdups and adopt a holistic view sex, you’re still going to encounter times where the answer is still no. Again, that is great and never feel bad about saying no! But how you deliver that “no” will affect how your partners feels.

First, give reassurances about the why. Rejection stings and sexual rejection can feel deeply personal. Stress that it has nothing to do with your desire for him.

Second, see if there is a way your partner’s needs can still be met. Try to pinpoint the motivation behind why he wanted sex and see if there’s a viable alternative:

  • Purely physical? Create a pro-masturbation atmosphere where he can still get the orgasm he’s seeking on his own.

  • Connection with you? Curl up and chat or engage in an activity together.

  • Affection from you? Snuggle up together, give each other massages, etc.

  • Stressed and blowing off steam? Go for a run or hike together.

If You Say No Often

Sometimes women fall into a rut where their sexual desire is zapped—and they don’t want it to be! Reflect on what could be at play to keep you from wanting to tear his clothes off.

Maybe each time he touches you, he’s instigating sex. This can create a subconscious (but immediate) tension each time you feel his touch. Express that you need more affectionate touching that has zero pressure of leading to sex.

Maybe the sex, if you’re honest with yourself, isn’t that great for you. It lasts a few forgettable minutes, he comes and you don’t, it’s stuck in a routine, etc. Of course you aren’t itching to say yes to this! See if you can insert more passion, variety, and orgasms for you!

Or maybe the sex just doesn’t feel good. Too many women experience physical pain during sex. They chalk it up to a lack of lube or not being turned on enough. But there could be an actual physical issue happening. Talk to your gynecology practitioner or healthcare provider! There could be a solution such as medication to calm down irritated tissue, surgery to remove issues like a cyst or endometriosis, or physical therapy to reduce the tensions in the tissue. 

With a little proactivity, you and your partner can navigate the world of mismatched libidos with ease. Stay in tune with yourself and you’ll be enjoying the enthusiastic sex life you deserve—no’s and all.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.