It’s one of the MOST common problems in relationships that can lead to resentment, arguments, and pressure building up when you don’t acknowledge it.
Desire discrepancy, simply put, is when your desire to have sex isn’t the same as your partner’s—your sexual desire doesn’t align. And most couples experience this imbalance at some point in their relationship, especially after the initial brain-chemical buzz of falling in love wears off.
Desire discrepancy is about your sexual availability in the relationship, and how you communicate that availability. Often, these lines of communication have entirely shut down between you and your partner—it’s pretty common for the topic of sex to go on the back burner, after all, if you’ve stopped connecting that way!
But desire discrepancy asks you to STAND UP for your pleasure. Desire discrepancy is a reminder that sex isn’t just important for your relationship—it actually nourishes your connection to your partner.
This does require that you connect with your body and your own sensual experience first, though. When you work with the imbalance of desire discrepancy, you’ll learn to own your OWN pleasure, improve communication, and deepen intimacy with your partner.
However you wind up in this imbalance, you’re definitely not alone. And we’ve got MORE great news because working through this imbalance, despite its challenges, can help to forge an even stronger, enthusiastic, more PASSIONATE connection between you and your partner.
Working through desire discrepancy in your relationship is a HUGE opportunity for you and your partner—an opportunity for healing, passion, and a deeper intimate connection.
In fact, the SUPERPOWER of desire discrepancy is intimacy.
Because when you face this imbalance in your relationship, it’s your chance to really and truly check in with each other. Opening up intimate discussion will address some of the more subtle problems that can crop up in your relationship: miscommunication, petty drama, neglect, etc.
Bringing intimacy to the forefront of your relationship doesn’t just strengthen communication and connection, it WAKES UP your sexual energy again and allows it to evolve even deeper than it was before.
Desire discrepancy knows that in long-term sexual relationships intimacy = sex. So, if you find yourself feeling like you aren’t getting the sexual attention you need from your partner, you know that your intimate connection needs to be tended and cultivated. Desire discrepancy is a sign of lack of intimacy.
One partner’s need to have sex more often and with more intensity than the other can create sexual pressure in the relationship. This can devolve into sexual anxiety (usually for the lower sexual desire partner), and even a FEAR of sex, or major sexual avoidance.
But when you shift your shared focus from intercourse to INTIMACY, the healing begins because sexual pressure is relieved. Working through desire discrepancy to find intimacy can inspire enthusiasm and curiosity about your sexuality again because it asks you to approach your sexual connection differently … and better (oh, and deeper). That’s why desire discrepancy can be such a POWERFUL tool in your relationship: it’s like a cheerleader for your intimate connection!
But you also need to take the extra time to understand yourself and what fulfills YOU. Build intimacy with yourself, too! See, this healing process has to start with connecting (or REconnecting) to your sensation first—because if you’re not tending to your own sensual needs, how can you communicate them to your partner? This is especially true for the lower sexual desire partner in a sexual relationship.
Finding your own sexual pleasure with yourself builds a renewed CONFIDENCE inside of you. Desire discrepancy challenges YOU to stand up for your sexuality and thereby opens your relationship to even more intimacy and healing. WOW … right?
Sexual attraction often feels like you’re high on drugs, and that’s because there is a SUPER powerful chemical reaction going on in your body. When you feel “chemistry” with someone, you’re really just reacting to hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine, and neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine (PEA).
That’s why, in the first stages of a relationship, you might notice sensations of euphoria, a higher energy level, and even less need for sleep (similar to how you might feel when you’re at Coachella or some other music festival).
All of the chemicals in this super-attractor potion increase your sexual desire, boosting passion between the two of you. But eventually, you build up a tolerance to these hardcore love-fest party drugs, and the intensity and desire start to fade away—in fact, within two years of a couple’s relationship, the effects of PEA are often no longer as powerful.
The stress that you experience on a regular basis also plays a role in desire discrepancy and, for some, a loss of sexual desire. When cortisol is produced in your body, you tense up and contract, which makes it harder for you to relax and open yourself to sensation (and our partners).
All of this makes it a LOT harder to communicate with your partner about your needs! When you struggle with connecting to your pleasure because of stress, it can feel like you’re “blocked” (you might even feel numb), making it harder to get comfortable enough to share any kind of energy with your partner.
Through building INTIMACY, however, your body can actually defend itself against stress. Even just face-to-face communication can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body to rest-and-digest and triggers the production of oxytocin (what some neuroscientists are calling the “relationship-building” hormone).
Oxytocin can STOP the production of cortisol, and this powerful hormone also plays a big role in human reproduction and social bonding. Oxytocin is associated with feelings of empathy: that’s why drugs like MDMA (that stimulate oxytocin production) generate feelings of love and connection towards others.
You might already be familiar with desire discrepancy and what that feels like in a relationship, but here are some questions that we often get about this imbalance:
What should I do if I have a higher sexual desire than my partner?
Getting turned down by your partner can feel like rejection, but it helps to shift your perspective a little. Don’t think of it as flat out rejection (because that will totally bomb your self-confidence), but think of the NO to sex as a YES to intimacy. Ask your partner if that feels more in line with what they desire. Then you can find different ways (other than sexual intercourse) to be intimate and connect more deeply with your partner. This brave and simple shift in your perspective builds a stronger and more fulfilling connection (which is really the goal here, not just having more sex).
And be sure to turn some attention towards your own personal sensual practice. Focus on building your own healthy sex life first.
I’m the one with the lower libido. What if I never want to have sex?
Think about the ways that you like being with your partner (that don’t involve intercourse). EXPLORE with them and find other ways to establish intimacy: cuddle more often, try out a new hobby together, or maybe read to each other. The goal is to build a stronger connection with your partner, which ultimately builds a better sex life between the two of you.
It’s also key for you to reconnect with your own sensation. Focus some attention on yourself and spend time on (at least) on a weekly basis to explore your own pleasure (our Full Body Orgasm Guide is an excellent place to start!). When it comes time to connect with your partner, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your sensation and what connects you to arousal—and you’ll be able to share more fully with them.
Won’t this just work itself out? Should I just push through and have sex anyway (even if I don’t want to)?
Forcing a connection doesn’t usually work out well in the long run. Having sex when you’re not feeling connected to your sensation will only feel stressful, and stress around sex is probably what got you into this mess in the first place. NEVER have sex if you don’t feel like it, but always do your best to FEEL like it 😉
Can I take a pill to solve my desire discrepancy?
While there are pills that increase your libido or suppress it, these affect your circulatory and nervous system, and can even cause permanent damage. A pill is a quick fix—and doesn’t actually address why you’re not able to connect with your partner.
The first step to healing desire discrepancy in your relationship is to take responsibility for your pleasure and connect with your own sensation. You can also work to find ways to connect intimately in your relationship, and here are a few of our favorites:
Here’s a library of curated articles and additional resources on desire discrepancy.