How to Deal with the Relationship Problem of Desire Differences

Karen Gless, Ph.D.

Do you and your partner have trouble agreeing on how often to have sex? This article will show you how to work out your sexual desire differences and discover sexual enhancement. Couples who come in for sex therapy and counseling often have a difference in their desire for sex. In counseling we call this problem desire discrepancy and it is surprisingly difficult for couples to discuss. One reason for this difficulty is the assumptions people make.

The one who wants more sex may leap to conclusions and say, “You don’t want me” or “You don’t love me.” The one who wants sex less frequently may say, “I hate the constant pressure” or even, “You don’t love me, you just use me for sex.” With statements like these, the discussion can be very painful.

Why the Difference?
Most couples experience some difference in how often each one wants sex. When the difference is large the cause is probably more than the usual variations in feeling that people have and it often sends couples in for counseling and sex therapy for sexual enhancement.

The underlying causes can be relationship problems, different expectations, physical problems and negative sexual experiences. Relationship difficulties such as fears of intimacy or unresolved arguments can lead partners to have different needs for sex. I often see couples for counseling and sex therapy who end up working on the underlying relationship problems.

People have very different expectations and assumptions about what constitutes normal frequency of sex. Sometimes people think they should be having sex more often than they really want to. Couples can get stuck in forcing themselves to have sex for sexual enhancement and working at it instead of enjoying it. The solution is to spend more time listening to each other’s feelings and less in doing what you think you should do.

Your Body and Your Emotions
I often have couples in counseling and sex therapy see a doctor to rule out physical problems such as thyroid disease or hormone imbalances that can lead to low desire. Painful intercourse often leads to a decrease in sex drive. Unfortunately some people find it so embarrassing to talk about sex that they will live with the pain instead of bringing it up and taking care of it. These problems may require medical attention and a sensitive physician can be a big help. In addition physicians often recommend relaxation techniques and ways to enhance a positive feeling and attitude towards sex.

Depression is a common cause of low desire. One symptom of depression is anhedonia which means “lacking interest in pleasure and sex.” In counseling I run into this problem about 20% of the time.

Poor physical condition due to smoking, lack of exercise and a high fat diet can cause a decrease in desire. Chronic disease and pain also can reduce desire for sex. It can also happen that the partner of someone with a disease like cancer may assume that you shouldn’t have sex with someone who is sick. However, this can leave the one who is sick feeling undesirable. Chemotherapy can make you so sick that you don’t want anything to do with sex. But at other times it can be a reaffirmation of life and your loving relationship. A frank and honest discussion can clear the air in a hurry and lead to sexual enhancement.

Past Bad Experiences
Many people have had negative experiences around sex. Sadly this creates negative sexual attitudes and discomfort with sex. Counseling and Sex therapy can help in such cases.

How to Discuss Frequency
So how do you discuss questions like sexual frequency? It should be a time when you are happy and feeling connected.  Also It is useful to bring up the topic at a time when you are not ready to have sex. I use the following quick questionnaire in counseling and sex therapy to get a good idea of each partner’s experience with and desire for sex.

Find a time when you are both comfortable to discuss how you both feel your love life is going for sexual enhancement, especially before a problem develops. Answering the questions at the end of this article and comparing the results can be a good start. As with all good communication avoid labeling, name calling, and especially in this case put judgements of good and bad aside. There is no right or wrong amount of sex to have. It is what works for the two of you as a couple.

Quick Questionnaire

How frequently do you want sex?
How frequently do you think your partner wants sex?
Do you often feel exhausted, sad or irritable?
Is intercourse painful for you or your partner?
Do you hold back from telling your partner how often you want sex?

For further help with getting to know your partner go Here

Hi, I am Dr. Karen Gless, PhD, MFT, RN, I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC21423), and a Registered Nurse. Since 1985 I have had a successful practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA.. My focus is on brief therapy whenever possible. The basic values I follow in my therapy are being: Warm, Caring, and Effective Specialities: Relationship counseling Sexual problems Effective communication for couples Intimacy issues Lack of Sexual Desire Orgasmic Difficulties Sex Addiction Incest/Abuse Survivors Impotence Premature Ejaculation Depression therapy Anxiety therapy Stress therapy Services: Couples Therapy Marital Therapy Individual Therapy EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Sex Therapy Hypnotherapy EFT As a marriage counselor in San Diego, I strive to help couples understand their relationship more deeply and fashion the tools they need to create healthy, happy, fulfilling relationships Happy couples feel fulfilled in their lives together. They say they experience intimacy, love and mutual sexual fulfillment and satisfaction. Because I see relationships as a natural crucible for growth, transformation and creativity, I have helped many couples understand their relationship in marriage counseling in new ways so that they can resolve their conflicts and grow together. If you are looking for a professional relationship therapist or sex therapist in San Diego, Ca., get in touch with me and I will be happy to help. History Established in 1985. Dr.Gless, Ph.D. has been in private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist since 1985. For marriage counseling she with her husband developed Couples Emotional Process Therapy (CEPT) a relationship counseling system that combines the best in scientific research with practical experience. In counseling couples and helping them explore the potential of their relationship, Dr. Gless has worked to gain insights and fashion tools to help couples create a healthy, happy, fulfilling relationship. She uses trance work as a special way of unlocking individual and shared creativity. She has written many articles on counseling relationships, appeared on TV shows, given TV, radio and internet interviews and has even been quoted in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

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2 comments on “How to Deal with the Relationship Problem of Desire Differences
  1. Li Lin L Li says:

    Is it possible to heal a broken trust in what was once a loving, caring, respectful and trustworthy relationship? I have been in a 10 year relationship with a man whom I thought was the one I was going to grow old with. I visioned it. So did he, so he says. Is it possible when he has cheated on me 3 times that we can find our way back to a loving, caring, respectful and trustworthy relationship when he has shattered my heart? We love each other, but I cannot bare the pain he has caused me/us.

    • I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. You are really asking 2 questions. Can you heal your broken heart and learn to trust again is one question and the other is can things go back to the way they were and have him not cheat again? The first one is easier to answer than the second one. Can you heal a broken heart and learn to trust again?
      Learning to trust again comes by first learning to take care of yourself. Women tend to care more for others than they do for themselves. You need to care for and trust yourself before you can trust another again.
      Beginning to trust starts with a daily practice of learning to relax and get in touch with your senses, your inner self and your body. Many people find meditation, self-hypnosis or prayer helpful with this. This will center you and when you are centered, you can begin to trust your own judgment.
      The second step is to agree to never lie to yourself, even little lies. As you care for and value yourself more, you will do better at assessing how much you should trust another person. Trust begins with self-care.
      The answer to what about him and the relationship is that I don’t know enough to tell you, except that you both should seek out a therapist in your area. There are too many reasons for these behaviors to cover in this blog.
      Dr. Karen Gless, Ph.D.

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