“He Says I Don’t Want It Enough. I Think He Wants It Too Much.” Dealing With A Sexual Desire Discrepancy
July 23, 2015 by Justin Lehmiller
A reader submitted the following question:
“Is there such a thing as wanting too much sex? He says I don’t want it enough. I think he wants it too much. He fully admitted to thinking twice a day would be good. I think that’s excessive considering that we are parents and have lives. Is there some study out there about this issue?”
It sounds like you and your partner may have a sexual desire discrepancy, a situation in which two people prefer different amounts or types of sex. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common sexual problems out there. Consider this: a national survey of British adults found that 27.4% of women and 23.4% of men reported having a sexual desire discrepancy.
In heterosexual relationships, desire discrepancies can go either way–sometimes it is the woman who desires more sex, while other times it is the man. Desire discrepancies can occur in same-sex relationships, too, so we’re not really talking about a gender issue—this is a relationship issue. When desire discrepancies occur, it is best for partners not to blame each other for wanting “too much” or “too little” sex, but rather to focus on understanding why the discrepancy exists and work to resolve it in a mutually agreeable way.
That said, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether this is a new issue or something that has always been present. That is, has he always wanted more sex than you, or is it that you now want less sex than you used to? If it’s the latter, what accounts for the change in desire? It could potentially be attributable to stress relating to work or parenting; however, it could also stem from a number of biological factors (e.g., age-related hormone declines, new medications, etc.). If you have experienced a decrease in desire and are worried about it, consulting with a health professional could be useful for identifying the underlying cause and a potential solution.
In contrast, if this is a problem that has always existed in your relationship, then a different approach might be in order. Some have found self-help strategies to be useful. For instance, in a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, women in long-term relationships were asked what strategy they adopted when their sexual desire was out of sync with their partner and how successful it was . The most common strategy reported was increased communication. Most of the women who attempted this said that it helped. One of the participants who found communication to be helpful stated the following:
“Separated our expectations of our sex life from our sex life itself, learned to appreciate what we have, and to respect our differences—and know that they aren’t judgments.”
Alternative strategies that at least some female participants reported as being helpful included scheduling sex, having date nights, and engaging in more cuddling.
That said, most of the women who attempted these self-help strategies said that they were only helpful to some degree or provided only temporary relief. Thus, if the self-help route doesn’t work, the best bet is probably to consult a sex therapist as a couple. A sex therapist will spend time gathering as much information as possible about you, your partner, and your relationship with the goal of pinpointing the source of the desire discrepancy. Then, based on your unique circumstances, your therapist will probably assign “homework” activities and intimacy-building exercises to help (e.g., sensate focus techniques).
A desire discrepancy does not necessarily mean the end of your relationship and there are definitely things that can be done to address this sexual problem. However, if you end up seeking sex therapy, it is usually best to do so together because both partners need to be involved and committed to seeing it through in order to obtain the best possible outcome.
For past Sex Question Friday posts, see here.
Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (facebook.com/psychologyofsex), Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit (reddit.com/r/psychologyofsex) to receive updates.
 Herbenick, D., Mullinax, M., & Mark, K. (2014). Sexual desire discrepancy as a feature, not a bug, of long-term relationships: Women’s self-reported strategies for modulating sexual desire. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11(9), 2196-206.
Image Source: 123RF/Andrey Guryanov
Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >