A new client came in the other day and mentioned they had opposite drives of their partner. They continued to say that they were falling into the pattern of having shame and guilt for wanting to have sex with their partner. If you are someone whose sexual desire needs no boosting, but your partner is not, that doesn’t mean that you sit back and wait for him or her to change—you are equally responsible for changing how you handle this issue.
This weekend I would like to offer a sexperiment to bring awareness to what I call the “Libido Conflict”. This is when one partner is desiring, craving and wanting sex and the other is not only not wanting it but potentially giving signs of no empathy and shame around the desire to have sex. Both sides of the story can bring up ideas of resentment, guilt and shame. The “Libido Conflict” sexperiment is a way to understand were your partner is coming from; and then tries to come to a mutual understanding regarding each others viewpoint. This weekend we are going to play with empathy. One day you will have sex and the other you will not. Simply put we are going to learn to understand the vantage point from your partner.
Step One: Communicate
Yes, I know… Therapy babble, learn what they want and tell them what you need from them. I want to take it one step further; I want to offer the idea of a funnel. When both parties share what they need it is important to be not only honest but also specific so funnel your general desire to have sex or not to have sex into a specific, observable behavior. For example, “I am really turned on in the morning and I want to have morning sex before anyone else in the house wakes up.” This lets your partner know when, where and how?
Step Two: Do something different
Without knowing you, I can say with some certainty that your “more of the same” behavior has been to pursue your spouse for sex. And since this has become a heated, ongoing issue, you’ve gotten into roles with each other. You pursue him or her for sex, and he or she declines. The more you push, the more your partner feels pressured or angry and pulls away. It’s time for you to try a new approach. First, back off for a while. This weekend I am suggesting a day of no sex and a day of sex. “Walking in the other persons shoes”. Empathy, no matter how attracted you might be to your spouse or how ready you might be to make love, for a certain period of time you should commit to not approaching him or her. Do not initiate sex for a while and see what happens. Don’t talk about this plan; just back off and wait. Sometimes the lower-sexed person simply needs more time to allow his or her batteries to recharge. When the tug of war has ended, he or she might feel more amorous. It’s worth a shot.
Step Three: Expect the unexpected
For a person that doesn’t instigate sex or want sex it can stem from a multitude of places, potential past trauma or rejection from a previous relationship that has been so engrained in them they find it easier not to have sex. Give the person with a lower libido or sex drive a chance to explore sex or even cuddling their way and don’t laugh or reject it. By offering up space and a long enough time period it just might make them more open to it.
Ultimately, the “Libido Conflict” can bring a serious discord in relationship above all else it is very important to find common ground and a deeper empathic view of your partners needs. Each partner in a relationship needs to take personal responsibility for making things better. When both of you make more of an effort to understand each other’s needs and feelings, you will undoubtedly feel closer and more connected emotionally and physically. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what healthy relationships are all about?
Ryan Westrum is a sex therapist for Healing Souls in Minneapolis Minnesota. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 952-261-5269.