Low sex drive is only a problem if someone is unhappy about it, and that's usually the other partner in a relationship. "When you get two people with low libidos, they just go to sleep at night. That's not an issue," says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine and the editor in chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "Libido is really only associated with distress when there's a disparity with the partner."
If the unevenness of your desires has become a problem in your relationship, here are a few ways to approach it.
1. Talk to each other
Sometimes the problem is clear and just needs discussing, says Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York City–based psychologist who's on the board of directors of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. An example of this, she says, would be "the woman gets off on oral sex and the man doesn't like to do it. Not being able to talk about sex is like not being able to discuss what you're having for dinner. And just like any other aspect of a relationship, that's a potential deal-breaker. If there's a sexual problem, you have to deal with it."
If you're the one who wants more sex, don't blame your partner or apply pressure tactics, advises Davidson: "That only pushes the other person away." If your partner is stressed about life outside your relationship, a first step might be to look for ways to lighten his or her load, so sex can become recreation, not another chore. (Check out our list of tips for more about what you can do on your own to address sex drive problems in your relationship.)
2. The partner with a low libido should get a medical checkup
Low sex drive, especially in conjunction with erectile dysfunction (ED), could indicate a serious health problem such as heart disease or diabetes.
3. See a therapist
Even if there is a medical issue afoot, disparate sex drives can create an emotional problem in a relationship. That's why many sexual health doctors take a "bio-psycho-social" approach, says Michael Krychman, MD, executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, Calif. They either make some psychological assessments themselves or work hand-in-hand with certified sex therapists.
If you're the partner who wants more sex and you choose couples therapy or sex therapy, don't make it about your partner, says Davidsonmake it about the relationship: "[As in] 'we seem to have different needs sexually, and we'd both like to find ways to bridge the gap.'"
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