FIRE AND ICE: What To Do When You Have Mismatched Sex Drives


My husband and I are on two different planets when it comes to sex. I’m fine with it a few times a year but he would probably enjoy sex every day if I allowed it and he is starting to complain. It’s not that I don’t love him and don’t enjoy being close, but sex is not something I need and I’m too exhausted at the end of a long day to even consider it.  I don’t want him to have an affair, but I think he should understand where I’m coming from and not insist on having his way.


Because the issue of mismatched sex drives is an issue for so many of the couples we work with, I’m VERY glad you asked this question.  The answer requires much more time and space than this blog post allows, but I’m happy to provide some thoughts.

First, you must realize that your mate probably feels just as strongly as you do about the frequency of your lovemaking.  If you would allow me to re-phrase your last sentence in HIS words, it looks like this:


“I don’t want to have an affair, but I think she should understand
where I’m coming from and not insist on having her way.”


This should not only be a wake-up call, but a call to work with your husband (and not against him) to arrive at a compromise.  This agreement should be something you can not only live with, but which settles the issue and doesn’t permit your lopsided libidos to poison your relationship.

And, let’s face it.  It’s not sex, or lack thereof, that creates this poison in your marriage.  Isolation, fear, resentment, and distance can build over time and lead to much more serious consequences, including divorce.


Most of these negative feelings are experienced by the person with the higher sex drive in the marriage because the one who has the lower drive is typically okay as long as they’re not feeling pressured to give more than they’re willing to.

Usually, this person—the one with the lowest drive—acts as the gate-keeper for sex and the amount of physical intimacy in the marriage occurs when they finally “give in” to their mate, who has been eagerly awaiting a green light.

The result of this pattern is that—whether intentional or not—this can cause an imbalance of power in your relationship where your husband feels as if he doesn’t have a vote in your marriage because you hold all the keys to the kingdom.  So please don’t view sex or the infrequency of sex as the primary problem.  It goes to the heart of your relationship and includes all aspects of your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

You are also cheating yourself of the wonderful benefits that sex brings to these facets of your life!  Sexual activity and orgasm have been proven to:

  • Lower blood pressure and reduce stress;
  • Increase intimacy and decrease the likelihood of divorce;
  • Aid with sleep; and
  • Release endorphins (natural pain-killers) such as oxytocin and prolactin,
    which create feelings of calmness and contentedness.


While exploration of each one of these factors goes well beyond this article, I’d like to recommend the following 10 steps:

1.  Be willing to address this sexual mismatch head-on.  It will likely be a relief to your husband for you to simply acknowledge that his needs are different than yours but just as valid.

2.  Explain that your lack of desire is not indicative of your feelings for him as a person, a man, or a husband. Express your love verbally (or in other ways you know he enjoys).

3.  See his desire for you as a GOOD thing. Consider how you would feel if he was never interested in you sexually and what that might indicate.

4.  Recognize that his needs are not limited to physical desires. Making love is often keenly tied to identity, comfort, and relational attachment – – all vital to a successful marriage.

5.  Express your willingness to work in partnership with your husband to arrive at a solution. Share how you feel about sex and what you believe would make things better/easier for you.

6.  Don’t shoot for the moon: agree on a series of small, incremental steps you’ll BOTH take to make things better. For example, you mentioned that you’re too tired at the end of the day to consider sex.  Perhaps there’s something he could do to help with this, and thus increase the chance that you’ll feel more like getting romantic when the lights go down.

7.  Be willing to experiment; not just sexually, but with the conditions and sexual schedule you’ve normalized and made a part of the sexual dance in your marriage. Change things up and be willing to ask for what you need to feel sexy – and sexual.  I have a friend whose arrangement with her husband is that he gives her a long massage before they make love.  They both get what they want, and benefit from staying close.

8.  Regularly revisit how things are going and make course corrections as needed.

9.  Focus on the wonderful, life-giving aspects of your relationship and make sure you’re staying connected in other ways.

10.  Do some work on yourself, particularly around any negative thoughts or feelings you have about sex. See your doctor if you suspect your hormones or other physical factors are at fault.  Proactively address any obstacles you know are standing in your way of having a healthy sexual relationship with your husband!


Lastly, understand that most people expect to FEEL like having sex before they ACT on those feelings.  The reality is that many people – perhaps you included – first need to ACT (read: become aroused) to FEEL like having sex!  This isn’t just my theory: this has been proven by various studies on sexual behavior.

So don’t expect yourself to feel like having sex before acting! Your husband would likely love for you to initiate lovemaking, and that is great – – because it gives you the opportunity to become aroused, and thus, be a full and active participant in whatever comes next.  Simply getting back in the habit of being intimate may increase your desire.

In closing, it’s obvious that you love and want to please your husband or you wouldn’t have reached out, and that’s very admirable!  You are already on the right track to solving this problem because you WANT to.  The very best marriages are those made of two people who understand the need to sacrifice to meet the needs of their spouse.

Which leads us back to a word that may have never won a popularity contest but is a crucial skill to practice in marriage: compromise.  It’s time to go to the negotiation table.  Remember that you both feel strongly about what you want, so respect one another.  Do this for your husband, but not ONLY for him, but for you and the kind of marriage you really want: one that meets both of your needs.

Just remember that the “right” answer is the one that works for both of you.  Sex is a legitimate need and one that has direct bearing on your happiness.  It’s well worth your while to find a solution you both love.

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