Enter Fearless at 50 for a Shot at $50,000. Ends 2/29/2016. Official Rules

7 Steps to Resolve Sexual Desire Differences

What to do when your partner wants more or less sex?

At any age, new lovers can't keep their hands off each other. But the "hot and heavy" period ends after a year or so, and sexual frequency declines. If both libidos cool at the same rate, there's no problem. But one partner typically wants sex more often than the other, and that desire difference can endanger a long-term relationship:

"You're insatiable!"

"And you never want to!"

See also: Just how healthy is your marriage?

7 Steps to Resolve Sexual Desire Differences

Cuddle time may be just what your loved one desires. — Photo by Moodboard/Getty Images

Who wants sex more frequently? If you're thinking it's the man, you'd be right — most of the time: The man has higher libido in two-thirds of cases, according to sex therapists. When that happens it creates friction, but "everyone knows" that men are horny goats, so people accept this. It's "culturally normative," as the Ph.D.s say. But what about that other one-third of cases? When the woman wants sex more — well, that's culturally unexpected, which can increase stress on the couple and lead to name-calling:

"Nymphomaniac!"

One unfortunate side of such differences in levels of desire is that they tamp down nonsexual affection. Those with greater desire eagerly initiate hugging, cuddling and kissing — in part because it's emotionally nourishing, but also in hopes of getting lucky. Those with less interest retreat from such intimacies lest they be misinterpreted as a sexual green light.

Today, differences in desire are one of the main reasons couples consult sex therapists. A therapist will usually ask, "Who controls the sex in your relationship?" Each partner then points to the other — and both are astonished to find that the other party thinks they are in control when each of them feels powerless. The one with higher libido feels eviscerated by every cruel "no," while the one with lower libido feels emotionally battered from constantly fending off advances.

Save Money: Get AARP member discounts on travel, shopping and more

Fortunately, desire differences can be resolved. Here are seven steps that can make a difference, all recommended by sex therapists:

1) What do you really want? Is it sex? Or is it other needs: more fun together, nonsexual affection or proof of your partner's love? Despite desire differences, couples usually feel closer when they cuddle more, attend social events together and treat each other compassionately.

2) Negotiate a compromise frequency. If one partner wants sex twice a week while the other is content with once a month, their average would be four or five times a month. But averages don't matter. The challenge is to find a frequency you both can live with.

Note: Whereas couples over 50 have frequencies ranging from daily to never, surveys peg the most typical frequency for older lovers at two to three times a month.

3) Schedule sex dates. This is critical. Scheduled sex dates reassure the higher-desire partner that lovemaking will in fact take place; they reassure the lower-desire partner that it will occur only when scheduled. The moment a couple schedules sex dates, its relationship tensions subside.

4) "What if we have a date, and I'm not in the mood?" Lower-desire partners always ask this question, but the issue usually turns out to be less problematic than they fear. As scheduling reduces tension over sex, the relationship improves. This makes it more natural for the lower-desire partner to get psyched for sex.

No sex schedule can be carved in stone, of course. Try scheduling sex dates for six months or so, sex therapists advise. If that's not working, renegotiate.

5) Stick to your "encounter calendar" in good faith. Don't bicker about your compromise schedule. Higher-desire folks must not whine for more sex. Lower-desire partners must not cancel sex dates — or postpone them unreasonably.

6) Cuddle up. When couples adjust to scheduled trysts, nonsexual affection returns to the relationship. And with both parties aware of the calendar of upcoming events, either one can initiate hugging, kissing or cuddling without fear of misinterpretation. Couples who resolve their desire differences often marvel at how much they've missed nonsexual affection, even as they rediscover how crucial it is to the relationship — and to their own well-being.

7) Consider talking it out with a pro. If you need help negotiating a schedule, or if a chronic desire difference has undermined your relationship to the point where you can't discuss the issue, consult a sex therapist. To find one near you, visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists; the Society for Sex Therapy and Research; or the American Board of Sexology. Figure four to six months of weekly hour-long sessions.

A sex educator for 40 years, Michael Castleman, M.A., publishes GreatSexAfter40.com.

Also of Interest

See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

AARP Membership

Discounts & Benefits

    Next Article

    Read This