My blog, 'Mismatched Libidos', published at the end of last year, received such an enormous response, I have decided to write a follow-up. The subject set off some interesting discussions.
Some of the comments included:
"As someone that is in a sexless relationship I can tell you the communication part is very hard. People take discussions on this subject very personal [sic] and both people rarely consider the impact of the situation on the other".
"I was going to send this article to my wife but know it would inspire resentment, which revolves around the 'pressure' I place upon her. We are a classic example of the limerence issue, unable to discuss it because we end up fighting. I have given up pursuing sex as I am sick of rejection by the woman I love and lust after".
"I would like a follow up article that will give couples some methods to address mismatched libidos. I need more guidance provided then just to be told 'consult a sex therapist'. I am not asking for an article to replace a sex therapist but would like to receive more information and education of ways that might be explored".
There were also comments from some very disillusioned men, who feel trapped and cheated. They feel they can't leave the relationship as they have children and do not want to lose them, so they hang in there unhappily.
"Marriage is a social construct that only caters for the needs and wants of women. Sex is used as a tool to achieve the required result. Once married a man has few choices. Go without sex, cheat or leave. Regardless the man is either left unhappy, broke or both".
"Women really seem to be the only winners in a marriage, especially when they deny sex to their husbands."
"I look forward to when my kids are a bit older so I can leave and live my life in dignity".
But, it was not just the men who were hurting. Some other comments by women included:
"I have been married four years and we are both in our early thirties so you would think that we would have a great sex life but unfortunately that is not the case. My husband has an almost total lack of sex drive, I have spoken to him which seems to cause even more stress on his already stressful job. I have tried to be understanding and supportive, suggested he see a doctor about his health or a sex therapist but he is not interested. We both would like kids but it takes two to tango".
"Libido is just an excuse. Many things get in the way of sex but people in relationship need to make an effort. Sometimes I don't particular[ly] feel like it but I know it is important in a loving relationship so I make an effort and when I start I usually really enjoy it".
"I spent nearly ten years of my life with little to no libido, but days after quitting hormonal birth control, I was like a horny teenager again".
One of the most common sexual problems in relationships, there have been several books and articles written about 'desire discrepancy'. Dr Rosie King's Good Loving Great Sex is a book that is still very relevant and a must-read for couples who wish to have and maintain a good sexual relationship.
Dr King believes that many couples experience disputes and ongoing unhappiness because of unresolved issues in their sex lives. The majority of these couples are experiencing mismatched libidos and need practical information and common-sense strategies. When a couple acquires the skills and are willing to work together, a solution can be found.
To stop the pursuer-distancer cycle, it is important that you develop empathy for your partner's situation. Whether you are the pursuer or the distancer, it is important to stop blaming each other; both of you are missing out on a good sex life. Goodwill between partners is critical. When you forgive each other for past hurts and misunderstandings, you can start to improve your situation, but you have to change your attitudes and behaviours and work together to re-establish intimacy.
The pursuer should make the effort to back off and try to improve the relationship by being understanding and caring. This, in turn, helps to re-establish better emotional connections and rebuild trust and closeness.
The distancer should try to be more physically loving and affectionate. Show your partner that you are willing to make changes, which may encourage him or her to do the same. It is important to learn how to negotiate sex in a way that shows your partner that you care about his or her sexual needs.
It is not possible to give a one-size-fits-all answer to the comments. Every couple has different issues, but if there is still love, respect and especially goodwill in a relationship, it is worthwhile giving it another chance. Too often, clients come to see me when it is already too late to heal the hurt and disappointments that have accumulated over so many years. The best likelihood of repairing a relationship is early intervention.
In Bettina Arndt's The Bedroom Diaries, she quoted American sex therapist Michele Weiner Davis, who suggested women "just do it!" Desire is a decision, she said, you can't wait for it to come, you have to make it happen.
Weiner Davis said there is no point worrying about the reasons you are not interested in sex. She believes that knowing won't boost your desire, but doing something about it will. Indeed, she says, you may end up enjoying it in the end.
Many women feel anger at Arndt - and Weiner Davis - for seemingly taking sides with men. However, when a couple decides to marry or commit to a life together, there is a general understanding that they will work, entertain, cook, clean the house, look after the kids and have sex. All these activities need planning and take time. Maybe it is time to change our thinking about what is more important, as sex often seems to be last of the priorities.
You won't leave your partner without food or stop cleaning the house, why is it so difficult to schedule in some time for sex?