When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex

18 Sep

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...It seems the topic of sex – and mismatched libidos – is swirling around in the blogosphere today.  I feel that I have something unique to add to the discussion (or really not so unique, if you keep reading).  I have touched on the topic of sex more than a few times here since it has been an issue in our relationship and our recovery.  Even if you aren’t married to a sex addict, though, sex is a topic that you should be talking about.

I won’t waste too much time on the great importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about that. I will, however, point out that sex and intimacy create a bond, a connection, between two people that can make them feel closer and carry them through difficult situations.  Intimacy and sex are incredibly important to a marriage.  It’s one of the aspects of a relationship that takes it to the next level – to the realm of romantic love versus platonic friend or family love.

So how is it that around 20%* of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage?”  What is a “sexless marriage,” you may ask…  It is a marriage where sexual intercourse occurs 10 times or less each year.   In marriages where sex has dried up to that extent it’s a vicious cycle, and often no one can remember what exactly came first: “lack of sexual desire, lack of trust, anxiety, financial issues, misunderstandings, pressure from children,” or a myriad of other factors.**

Even when things haven’t gotten that bad, couples can find themselves frustrated or feeling rejected from their partner when there is a difference in how much sex each person thinks is “normal.”  In the first 6 months of a sexual relationship both parties are tearing each other’s clothes off with the same intense passion and vigor. Once things settle into a comfortable place and those “lusty” brain chemicals die down, our natural preferences will start to emerge.  It’s actually common for spouses to have different amounts of sexual desire.  Sexuality is a complicated, delicate thing.  Each of us have our own ideas of how much is “enough,” and those ideas do not always mesh.  However, not addressing those differences or talking about sex with your partner can be devastating to your relationship.

Now that the groundwork is laid (haha), I’m going to jump right into the heart of my topic.  Whenever a marriage is struggling with sexual intimacy the finger is automatically pointed at the wife.  If the sex isn’t frequent enough or someone is sexually dissatisfied, it must be HER fault!  Society in general loves to joke about how once a woman gets married she stops wanting sex.  Women are overly sexualized in magazines, movies, posters, entertainment, etc., yet conversely we are told that we really aren’t very sexual beings.  When a woman is open about her sexuality, she is treated like a freak or a whore.   If you want sex more than your male partner, there must be something wrong with you.  Make up your minds people!

Women do love sex.  And sometimes we want it more than the man in our life.  In fact, as one article put it, “It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common” for a woman to want sex more than her partner.  That’s right, folks!  In many, many cases the wife is the sexually dissatisfied one in the relationship.

Our culture doesn’t want to talk about it and certainly doesn’t want to accept it, but there are a lot of us out here.  In fact, that very same article says that in about 1/3 of the cases where a couple sees a sex therapist it is the woman who wants sex more frequently.  In those cases, fighting against cultural stereotypes in addition to an imbalance in sex drives is incredibly difficult.  Here’s an excerpt that I just have to share:

“Any chronic desire difference can drive people crazy. But in our culture, when the woman wants sex more, the couple descends into a special circle of hell, the place reserved for those caught in culturally unexpected circumstances. It’s bad enough to have a chronic desire difference, but when the situation contradicts the highly prevalent assumption that women—all women!—are erotically coy, while men—all men!—are insatiable horn dogs who can never get enough, desire differences feel even more distressing.”***

The stereotypes and public perception that men should or do want sex more than their female counterpart make it more difficult for women like me to find an outlet to talk about this type of thing.  I have connected with more women than you could imagine who also have higher sex drives than their husbands.  It is very isolating because you think there must be something wrong with you…  Men are SUPPOSED to want sex more.

It’s just not true, though.  Think about it.  If the woman in 1/3 of couples wants sex more than her spouse, then the number of women like me who are left disappointed and sexually frustrated when our husbands are “too tired” at night has to be in the millions.  There are millions of us!!!  Are we still in the minority?  Maybe.  But if this wasn’t such a taboo issue, maybe more and more of us would speak up and that 1/3 number would inch up closer to 50%.  I have no empirical proof of that, but the logical, reasonable side of me is screaming that if sex and sexuality is so varied then why couldn’t that be true?

Just check out this message board on Women’s Health with 38 pages of responses to one woman who was concerned that her sex drive was too high.  Or read this response from an advice columnist to a woman whose high sex drive was causing friction in her marriage.  In the beginning of her answer she says, “You are far from being the only woman who finds that her partner’s sex-drive is way lower than her own.  I get more questions from women on this subject than from men.”  Maybe that’s because we are the ones who write to advice columnists.  Maybe it’s because we are seeking to find out whether society is right and there is something wrong with us.  Or maybe it’s because there are a lot of us out here.

I don’t deny that there are a lot of studies that point to the fact that men think about sex more than women.  That’s probably true.  I’m not sure how much any male thinks about sex because I am certainly not in their brain.  I am also not some sex-crazed woman who is lost in sexual fantasy all day.  I just love sex, and I want it frequently.  I don’t stop and think about it obsessively – I just make a move on my husband, send him a flirty text, go in for a long kiss with a little tongue, or any number of other actions.  I’m a woman of action, though.

So what about the evolutionary theory?  Men are programmed to spread their seed and all that, right?  Well, there might be more to it than just that.  In Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha talk extensively about early human sexuality.  I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if I would agree with every single conclusion they draw, but I have read several articles that touch on their findings.  Surprisingly (to some), the psychological and anthropological evidence they gathered shows that without the constraints of society women were just as sexual as men (or more so).

So what changed?  In an interview with Dr Snyder’s PsychologyToday’s blog “SexualityToday,” lead author Christopher Ryan said, “Even as we speak, clitorectomies are taking place in North Africa, women in Iran are being stoned to death, and American girls are committing suicide because their classmates call them ‘sluts’ online.  The world is hardly a safe place for women to express sexual curiosity, and hasn’t been for a very long time.”  So very true.  I really think a lot of this boils down to our society.

Today I was referred to this article about how men and women’s sex drives differ.  They conclude that “men score higher in libido, while women’s sex drive is more ‘fluid.'”  I found it very, very educational and interesting.  There were a lot of valid points made, some of which I have addressed above and some of which I am not going into.  One thing in the article really jumped out at me, though.  The #4 difference between men and women’s sex drive is that “Women’s sex drives are more influenced by social and cultural factors.”  All of the bullet points under there were spot-on, and I would highly recommend that you take a look.

This is my interpretation.  Women’s sexuality is more influenced by their peers, church, education, age, and other outside influences.  If you create a role for women like, “The wife never wants to have sex as much as the husband,” some women will go ahead and fill that role.  They will suppress their sexuality and let their husband take the driver’s seat because that’s how things are supposed to be.  If, by chance, they step out of line, another woman is more than happy to call them a “whore” to put them back in their place.  Men and women alike are there joking and whispering in their ear that men are more sexual, and they just need to accept that fact.

That bullet point also explains a bit why I might be more open sexually than a lot of people – male or female.  I am well-educated, not religious, and don’t care what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks is “normal.”  That makes me able to fulfill my entire sexual potential (or at least a lot of it).

When it all boils down to it, I think the baseline sex drive for men and women is more equal than people think. While men may think about sex more often and may be more direct or less complicated sexually, I think both genders equally want sex.  We both crave good sex in it’s fantastic, intimate form.  It may be a higher priority for some men than for women, especially when children enter the picture.  Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that, either.  In a vacuum, though, I think men and women’s sex drives would be very, very close (and pretty darn high).  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum.  We live here, in this society, and every single one of us has a completely different sexual experience and background.

Today I just wanted to be a voice for women like me.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are not alone.  Remember, men peak sexually at around the age of 17 while women peak in their late thirties.  It just is what it is.

As for what to do about it?  My answer, no matter which way the imbalance of sex drives goes, is to open up about sex with your partner.  We both need to be communicating about sex.  We both need to be initiating.  We both need to be finding ways to connect sexually.  We both need to realize how important it is.  We both need to make time and make sex a priority.  So go home, give your man or woman a deep, romantic, passionate kiss, and get busy!  Talking that is…  If that leads to more, then more power to you!

Footnotes:

* According to the National Health and Social Life Survey and Newsweek magazine
** From MSNBC.com, “The Big No: The truth about sexless marriage” (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32735936/ns/today-relationships)
***When She Wants Sex More than He Does: It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common. Published on December 4, 2011 by Michael Castleman, M.A. in All About Sex

20 Responses to “When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex”

  1. DeityNyota November 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    I’m finding that the older I become the more sexually ‘inclined’ I’ve become. And for a second I was upset with myself, assuming that I’m some how a lustful sinner, because I would catch myself fantasizing about making love to a particular someone.

    But I think that as women, once our minds mature, and we become more accepting of our bodies, we become more in tune with our sexuality. We learn that its less about just ‘getting some’ or ‘giving some’; and more about being sexually satisfied (or satisfying) the one we’re with.

    And I think the stigma towards female sexually becomes less relevant the older you become. You learn that all that mess people talked about being chastened until marriage, placing the soul responsibility of purity prior to marriage upon the woman’s v-jay jay is a waste of time. I love the post though 😉

  2. pickingalover November 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on Women in Contemporary Relationships.

  3. Teatart September 21, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Thank you Beautifulmess7 for yet another AWESOME blog post! Its nice to know I’m not alone. I alluded to the mismatch of sex drives in my very first blog post – now you’ve inspired me (yet again) to do a follow-up 😀

  4. emotionaltornado September 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    I also have a high sex drive. I had never told my husband no when it came to sex. He obviously knew when I felt too rotten from a cold or something. I was always willing and did my best to enjoy and make sure he enjoyed the experience. Even in the couple years before back surgery, I never said no, even though the pain was intense the next day. It was about a week out of surgery when I was figuring out how to make it work with my limitations. I didn’t say no during pregnancy, those hormones just made the drive higher. I can’t say my drive is higher than his. His is high also. All that sex with me and another woman on the side.

    Now for the present. We are separated due to work. I see him once every 2 months or so. At my peak (I’ve been told) I have been forced to be celibate. It is not my choice, but I have to say that before the 2nd dday, I was very aware of living without sex. Since the 2nd dday, I have to day I want hugs and to be held, but no overwhelming desire. Funny how infidelity ruins sex drive. I know it doesn’t get better while separated. I need to feel valued and loved to feel desire again. That just doesn’t work too well over a cell phone and when you are dealing with levels of shock, PTSD and depression.

    I keep hoping for the better day. I’m hanging on for something better.
    I think most of us on here are doing just that.

    • beautifulmess7 September 19, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      I think that better day will come, one way or another, for all of us. We are in different places and different parts of the journey, but one thing about life is that it never stays stagnant. We are always moving forward, and sooner or later that forward progress will take us somewhere better.

      I am constatnly amazed by your ability to handle everything on your own like you are. The separation has to be so terribly difficult. Living without sex is hard enough, but living without that touch and comfort of another person seems almost cruel. The shock, PTSD and depression are very complicated things to deal with over a phone. I hope that soon you can see a counselor of some sort, or someone who can really help you through those things.

      As far as having a high sex drive, it is very common for women. When you pair that with the fact that your (and my) husband STILL cheated on us, it can be incredibly baffling. Of course, cheating isn’t all about sex – although funnily enough it almost always includes it. The distance between you two while he has been working out of state no doubt compounded things and made the affair more likely to occur. Still, not everyone working away from their spouse cheats. He will have to figure out his own “why.” For now, I am very proud of you for sticking in there and putting forth the effort to try and repair your marriage.

  5. rgonaut September 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    an excellent post! My marriage degenerated to the near the so called sexless case. (Much better now since I’m paying attention again). I think a lot to do with it was simply that I had to go to bed early to get up early, and my wife didn’t want to…we didn’t overlap much. How do you initiate sex if you’re asleep? It was always up to me to do it. It was like running shifts….and she never initiated sex so it was all up to me. I think psychologically for me that’s still an issue in my marriage, why is it up to me? It should be equal. I’ve asker her about that because it is significant negative for me. Its not about her not wanting to have sex, its just not her style she says. So I think its a cultural thing for her, good girls don’t admit to wanting to have sex. Not to say we didn’t enjoy sex, it just slowly went to the bottom of the priorities after, work, sleep, kids, dinner, sheer exhaustion, and there were so few times when we were both ready and had some privacy, as the kids got older and stayed up later…and we didn’t talk about it.

    • beautifulmess7 September 19, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      It is sad that sex can become the bottom priority on our list of “things to do” even though it is so vital to the health of a marriage. It can be hard sometimes to make the time, schedule a “sex appointment” with your spouse, or add spice and anticipation when there are so many things going on – especially a big difference in schedules.

      My husband has to get up very early, too, so he goes to bed relatively “early” according to most people. I make an effort to always go to bed at the same time as him. I like the closeness and connection it brings heading to bed together, getting snuggled up, chatting for a bit, and either having a little fun or just drifting off to sleep together. I’m not a huge morning person, but sometimes I even get up with him for a few minutes, too.

      I think it can be a hard thing for some women to get past the idea that they own their sex life, too. If you want sex with your man, let him know. It doesn’t always have to be overt, either. I’m sure that a long kiss and a well-place brush of the hand would be all the signal you need to know that she wants you. That really isn’t too far off from the “good girl” image that she should feel dirty. I hope that you guys can be a little more open about sex and spend a little time talking about it when there is no pressure for either of you.

      • rgonaut September 19, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

        The affair made her realize (and me realize) that we needed to work on things. We now make an effort to go to bed at the same time. Not to ignore each other. To talk about sex, to have sex. Lots of touching, hugs etc. All round much much better no longer dead at all. Still she just can’t initiate sex…I can live with that, but wouldn’t be my first choice. Something for everyone to watch out for, if you are not going to bed at the same time as your spouse most of the time you its a recipe for problems. Some people don’t even have a choice if they work shifts. We had a choice even in the years leading up to the affair, but what spouse wants to get up at 5AM and go to bed at 10PM to coincide with someone’s workday schedule? Its easy not to.

    • aloneagain3 May 21, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

      I want sex more than my husband, I always have. I rarely initiated sex because I feared rejecion. and now that he has had (still having to some degree) an affair (our diferences made his affair even worse to take) I fear it even more. but I do try to initate more. Right after our initial D-day, the one where I believed the lie that it was all emotional, we had a lot of sex. He was only home on the weekends and we had sex three or four times every weekend. it was awsome sex. When he lost his job about two months later and was home with me, the sex lessened. and now that he is working away again and is almost never home. I haven’t seen him for six weeks. well you can’t have sex if you aren’t together and he won’t do skype sex or phone sex.. ( I hope he isn’t doing it with her, it really isn’t his style, but who the hell knows)
      I last time I went to see him for three days we had what felt like “obligation” sex to me. He was satisfied I guess. I wasn’t. but again I didn’t ask for more.
      We are to go away next week from thursday to sunday. My plan is to have a lot of sex. I am going to push for it. and if he is resistant then I plan on telling him I am going to look for someone who will love me both sexually and emotionally the way I need to be loved. OK so I probably won’t tell him that. but I should.

      • rgonaut May 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

        Fearing rejection is not a good reason. If you fear rejection, thats an indication of a real problem. What if fears the same thing? And he might since from his point of view you do not appear interested, so he may not want to seem pushy.
        It sounds however, like your marriage, is on thin ice anyway, what with him away so much and mulitple DDays. Sometimes sex could seem like obligation when time together is limited, but think of the reverse which happens when time is limited: sex is highly valued and not obligatory at all. If it feels like obligation, you guys are not on the same page at all, I would feel.

        • beautifulmess7 May 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

          I will have to disagree with you a little bit here. When you get rejected over and over and over again it is hard not to get discouraged from initiating sex. She is sexual, she tries, she puts it out there, and he rejects her. That is the sense that I got from her post. She also said that she has always been more sexual than him, so it seems highly unlikely he would think she isn’t interested unless he’s a complete moron. You can only go through asking for sex and not getting it so many times before you just have to put it out there – love me the way I deserve or it’s over.

          • rgonaut May 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

            I don’t see or I missed the part where she says she was ever actually rejected. Just a fear of it and of course other problems. I completely agree that each time you experience rejection makes it more difficult to ask or initiate in the future.

            • beautifulmess7 May 24, 2013 at 10:19 am #

              I guess I just read into her comment from following her blog and being in a similar situation.

              • rgonaut May 24, 2013 at 11:37 am #

                Hmmm you may very well be right with your intuition.

      • beautifulmess7 May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

        It is very tough psychologically to deal with being a woman whose husband rejects you sexually. It is even worse when he seeks it from other places. I am concerned for you when you say that he is “still having to some degree” an affair on you. You can’t have a satisfying, close relationship of any kind while he is still involved with someone else.

        I know that you say you won’t tell him that, but I think you definitely should. You DO deserve someone who will give you what you need and deserve, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. If he can’t then you will never be fulfilled in your marriage.

  6. Recovering Wayward September 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    You certainly did your research. I didn’t have time to click on all the links (I’m at work!! And even though I’m “the boss”, I have things to do!).

    I don’t think my blog ever said that women were at more fault. Or that wanting more sex is almost always the man. Among the men I know, it seems to be a common theme, but I realize that there is much frustration on the female side of the equation. And certainly pre-affair in my marriage, I certainly always felt like the more sexual person. I was wanting more and of higher quality than she apparently did. Her approach was to be semi-disinterested in all of it. And I’m not a slob, I assure. I’m slim, fit and told I’m handsome, so that couldn’t have been the problem. I just know that her interest in sex dwindled noticeably after the first year or two marriage. And I just sort of accepted my fate and did what I needed to do to get by.

    My blog was more about the frustrated male perspective and inspired directly by another female blogger who openly admitted that she was purposely avoiding sex with her husband, was a workaholic, and yet was shocked SHOCKED that he had an “affair” (an emotional, electronic one only, but a betrayal nevertheless). Simply couldn’t understand why he might want to get his emotional needs met elsewhere. For some reason, she couldn’t draw the correlation between marital neglect and marital betrayal. And she is usually a pretty thoughtful person. I was stunned by her reaction. So I withdrew from her blog and instead, wrote about the topic more generally. I felt it was needed.

    So that aside, I think you bring up great points, although I definitely don’t see a decline in my libido from 17. I’m every bit as “randy” as I ever was, and now I know more about what I’m doing. I enjoy sex now more than I did when I was 25 or 30. I wish I knew then what I know now.

    I think the root to a lot of problems in marriage IS the mismatched libido. As I said in my blog, if your sex drives are really mismatched, DO NOT get married!! It won’t help.

    but I think what I was speaking to was not the consistently mismatched libido, but the libido of the spouse that was once high that conspiculously drops without warning. And what that means to the other spouse, especially a man. And the cases where sex is used as punishment, reward, and control, and how that harms a marriage. From the male perspective.

    You’ve presented a nice job of a female look at the issue. I commend you for it. Fortunately, it’s not the issue in my house. Although I think, curiously, now she would do it every night if I agreed (I don’t). Whereas 2 years ago, I got “compliance” but rarely did I feel “desired”. Everything did a 180 in our recovery in terms of sex. It’s all connected. The emotions. All the loving interactions. The sex. It’s one circular pattern.

    • beautifulmess7 September 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      My post wasn’t so much a reply to you as a reply to our culture in general. As your post was about the frustrated male perspective, mine is about the doubly frustrating female perspective – where not only are we feeling rejected sexually at home but also by society in general because of our “abnormally high” sex drive (I say that last part with sarcasm in my voice).

      I do agree that a mismatch in libidos can be a very difficult thing to overcome. I, too, have been in the puzzling spot of having my partner’s sex drive drop dramatically. I attribute some of it to the end of the lusty high of the first few months, or even years, of a new relationship. I contribute some of it to his sex addiction and compulsive masturbation. I contribute some of it to our different “norms” as far as frequency is concerned. Hell, some of it could be contributed to a drop in testosterone, but he hasn’t been checked yet.

      And it is all connected. Emotions, interactions, intimacy on all levels, love, communication and sex are inseparably intertwined. Add in family of origin issues, societal pressures, illness, and all of the other crap and you’re head could be positively spinning! That’s why being open with each other is so important.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Her Sexuality: His Sexuality « Women in Contemporary Relationships - October 21, 2012

    […] When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com) […]

  2. So how do I talk to him about this? « If Happy Ever After Did Exist… - October 10, 2012

    […] When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com) […]

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