I have a strong sex drive, but my older partner couldn’t care less about sex. What are our options?
Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on September 12, 2011
First, you’re not alone…many couples are challenged by differences in sexual desire, and it can be difficult to figure out what to do about it. I’ll try to help by describing a few options for your consideration.
Communicate and compromise. From your question, it seems that you and your partner want things to work out between you...so you'll have to learn how to compromise on this issue and meet each other halfway. Your partner may never have the level of desire that you do, but he may be able to increase it somewhat through open communication and various other techniques that I’ll touch on, here.
Have you and your partner talked openly about your different level of interest in sexual activity? If you haven't, or if you have but it's been unproductive, here are suggestions that might help get the conversation started:
- Choose a time when neither of you is feeling defensive or rushed. When you're in the mood for sex and he’s not interested probably isn’t the time to bring up this sensitive issue.
- Try to stay out of the bedroom while you talk. Why? Because it’s generally a good idea for a couple that’s having sexual difficulty to only use the bedroom and bed for sleeping and sex. That way, you’re less likely to associate that setting with negative or stressful events.
- Avoid accusatory language, or an accusatory tone…for example, “You do this, you don't do that.” Instead use “I language,” speaking from the perspective of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions. For example, “I feel like we don't have sex as often as I would like to…and when you aren’t interested in having sex with me, it makes me feel like I’m unattractive to you.”
- Speak calmly and lovingly, explaining to your partner what you see as the problem and your suggestions for how you might be able to work together to come up with a solution that’s mutually satisfying.
- Be open and inviting to your partner’s comments about you, too. Keep in mind that, in couples, problems are rarely all one person’s “fault”…usually, both people are contributing to the problem to some degree. So it’s important to create for your partner the opportunity to also express his point of view. Try to listen and respond from an open, non-defensive perspective.
- Ask your partner how he feels about his lack of sexual desire...is he comfortable with it? Would he like to change it if he could? Has he always been like this, or is it a recent issue?
- Find out what activities might be likely to turn him on…if anything. Perhaps your partner gets sexually aroused from talking sexy, or viewing erotic images or videos. Knowing what turns him on might give you an opportunity to join him in those activities, rather than coming on to him in ways that may not appeal to him. In other words, you may want to ask him to help you identify how he would like you to initiate sex, and whether he would consider initiating once in a while.
Another option is couples therapy...a therapist might be able to help you and your partner come to a new understanding about your differences in desire, and what to do about it.
Hopefully, this information provides you and partner with a starting point for how you can begin to address this issue. I wish you both good luck in achieving a common understanding of how best to express your sexuality within the context of your relationship.
Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.