What if My Partner Wants More Sex than Me?
There’s a very common cycle that develops when there are differing levels of desire for sex in a relationship, and many painful ways the cycle plays out.
It’s called The Pursuer/Avoider cycle.
Do any of these this sound familiar?
- Doing everything right simply with the hope of getting a ‘yes’ to sex.
- Feeling your partner cringe instead of respond to your advances.
- Giving your lover a massage with the hope of stimulating a sexual response.
- Saying “yes” to sex in the hope of receiving some intimacy.
- Continuing to have sex even though it hurts to see your partner is uninterested.
- Withholding emotional intimacy as payback for a lack of sex.
- Fearfully suggesting sex, then slinking into a corner to lick your wounds of rejection.
- Feeling somehow invalidated to your core.
- After being rejected too many times, giving up mentioning sex at all.
- Feeling like your partner selfishly wants to use you for their needs.
- Avoiding offering affection in case it’s mistaken as a sexual advance.
- Going to bed early before your partner arrives home or staying up later than them.
- Finding important work that you suddenly have to finish if your partner wants sex.
- Keeping extra busy with your kids in the hopes of avoiding being asked.
- Offering ‘sympathy’ sex to temporarily relieve the tension between you.
- Finding yourself starting an argument before bed to reduce the chances of intimacy.
- Feeling unseen and unlovable.
- Finding that you want sex less and less.
If this is you, you’re not alone. These and many similar scenarios are being acted out in homes across the world.
Relationships are energy cycles, and wherever there’s an action, there will be a corresponding reaction. It’s common for partners to have differing sexual needs (or at least appear to on the surface). How these needs are negotiated is one of the key markers for relationship success.
For the Pursuer
The cycle begins when the partner with the higher level of sexual desire finds their sexual needs unmet, so they start pursuing the less interested partner. The more the pursuer chases, the more the other partner starts to avoid them, becoming more and more emotionally and sexually unavailable.
This results in the pursuer becoming more needy, unhappy and focussed on getting what they want. They manipulate every situation into a potential ploy for sex, and act out their anger and frustration in covert ways that make to them unattractive their partner.
So however much sex they get, it’s never enough. This frustration makes them grumpy, irritable, emotionally closed and critical of their avoidant partner, whom they make wrong for not wanting sex. Being repeatedly rejected sexually by the person who’s supposed to love and desire them results in a lowered sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
For the Avoider
The avoidant partner will either do anything to avoid having sex, or finds that saying ‘no’ to sex makes them feel guilty. They circumvent their need to reject sex by avoiding any type of physical touch or affection, often keeping themselves too busy to be approached, commonly focussing on the either children or work as a distraction.
This creates physical distance between themselves and their more highly sexed partner. They also make the other person wrong for their desires, shaming them as being too sexual. They see the pursuer as focussed only on sex, and find it easy to blame them for the lack of intimacy that they may long for deep down, but avoid in case it leads to potential sex. Or they try to create it separate from sex.
When the repercussions for avoiding sex get too high, they offer palliative sex to soothe their partner’s pain and get them off their back – but they offer it with resentment and a lack of joy.
If you see this dynamic is happening in your relationship, try these suggestions:
- Agree to communicate about your situation, whilst acknowledging the challenge and vulnerability in doing so. For this cycle to end, BOTH of you need to drop the victim stance and be willing to change. Remember that the goal here isn’t to get more/less sex but to get onto the same team.
- Each person needs to STOP making both the other and themselves wrong for wanting or not wanting sex. This allows you each to listen non-judgementally to how it is for the other one and develop some compassion. Remember that you’re both looking for the same thing: to love and feel loved in return.
- Know that you’re NOT responsible for each other’s desires. You’re only responsible for finding a workable solution.
- Recognise that this is a behaviour cycle. And it’s one that’s likely to make any underlying mismatch in desire more pronounced than it actually is.
- Recognize that an extreme desire for sex or to avoid it likely comes from disconnection with your selves. Using your ABC practice to get back into connection with your selves is your most important port of call in this situation.
- Acknowledge that sex is an important human desire. Realise that it’s a unique part of an intimate relationship, a potential source of connection, pleasure and contentment, and a special activity you share with no one else that has many health benefits.
- Give up palliative sex. It’s soul-destroying for both of you over time.
- Understand that you’re not entitled to sex in your relationship. And, in the same way, you’re not entitled to intimacy when and how you want it either. In the West particularly, we can take our entitlement for granted. Sex and intimacy both come from a place of mutual understanding, connection and desire that you’re each responsible for, rather than being about entitlement and obligation.
- Mark on a mutual calendar when sex happens. This will help you both to be clear on what you’re dealing with.
- It’s OK for anyone to say NO to sex without having to feel guilty. What’s NOT reasonable is to do so repeatedly without discussion or consideration of the other person, given that you both entered the relationship with sex being an accepted part of it.
- We find honest, vulnerable communication helps enormously here. As does approaching sex from the many understandings and practices in this book helping people to get into both their bodies and their hearts. For when this happens desire is a natural outcome and lovemaking becomes incredibly satisfying so frequency is less important.
As the Pursuer, you can:
- Validate your desire for sex as a beautiful and loving part of yourself, and not as something dirty or selfish. Be real about sharing with your partner how much not having sex hurts. The more you get real, the more your partner can hear you and be motivated to do something about it.
- Don’t get sucked in by sympathy sex and let it placate you for a while. It isn’t addressing the issue, and it lets your partner think they’re fixing the problem when they aren’t.
- Recognise that your high drive for sex may come from not being fully satisfied by the sex you’re having. Seek greater connection with yourself, rather than just seeking it through your partner. Learn self-pleasuring techniques that circulate your sexual energy and deepen your connection to yourself, rather than building up frustration that seeks release in masturbation. This will make getting a ‘no’ slightly less painful. Reducing your frustration, neediness and manipulations to create sex will paradoxically make you more attractive.
- Be clear and upfront when you do ask for sex. Make the asking about YOU wanting to share something rather than them needing to give it to you. Hard as it may be, let go of any attachment to getting you want, as this gets rid of any unconscious manipulation. This creates space for your partner to potentially feel their own desire and move towards you.
- Rebuild a safe physical intimacy between you. Offer unconditional nurturing touch outside of sex, such as a slow hug or foot massage. Also try sensual touch, such as brushing your fingers across your partner’s shoulders or resting your hand on their waist for a moment. However, if no change occurs over time, give yourself permission to drop it.
- Assess the kind of sex you’re offering. If you’re only focussed on performance and a release of tension with limited connection and pleasure for your partner, you can hardly expect them to keep coming back for it, or you. Are you willing to explore heart-connected, intimate, nurturing yet potent lovemaking? This is not about having to be the world’s greatest lover – it’s just about approaching sex from a bigger perspective and being open to learning. This is what seeking a more Tantric approach to sex can offer you. Graeme and I find that couples make the biggest shift in their libido discrepancies here.
- Look for the simple solutions too. Could you benefit from getting fitter, helping around the house, having fresh breath and generally making more of an effort to be attractive if you haven’t been?
- Make a genuine effort to compliment your partner about things that are unrelated to sex. However, also compliment them when they show any sex-positive behaviours, especially if they lack sexual confidence.
- Drop any behaviours that are a covert manipulation to get sex. Your partner can feel this, and it only pushes them further away.
- If you do get rejected, don’t just sit on the couch and suffer. Move through the feeling with your ABC, then get up and do something good for yourself.
- Ask your partner about having sex with a definite timeline, eg. in a couple of hours or the next night, rather than wanting it immediately. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them get into the space for lovemaking. This can allow them to feel less pressured.
- Ask yourself whether your need is actually for intimacy. If so, can you create this another way? Try a hug, sharing an embodied conversation, a drink or movie together, or lying together just holding each other.
- As painful as it may sound, consider taking a break from sex. Being denied sex immediately makes you want it more than you otherwise might. Focus your energy away from your partner into something else like getting fit, a new hobby, or time out to just chill. This nurtures you and can give your partner a chance to miss and desire you again.
- If you’re looking for a more direct approach, find a good sexual counsellor. They can help you to discover what might be going on beneath the surface of your relationship.
- Be prepared to ask some hard questions here. You have every right to understand what’s happening for your partner, and not being willing to at least talk about the situation is not OK. Try a Speaking The Unspoken If you get a complete and permanent no-go zone here, ask yourself what other options you have to deal with your situation, rather than shutting down.
If you’re the Avoider, you can:
- Acknowledge that underneath your partner’s desire for sex IS a desire to connect with you in a place of love and pleasure. It’s not about wanting to ‘take’ anything from you.
- Be real about not wanting sex. Don’t just make excuses, as this blurs the picture.
- Make an effort to re-establish emotional closeness if this has deteriorated. Spend time with your partner sharing mutual interests, even if it’s just a cup of coffee – but remember this is not a replacement for sex.
- Explore whether your lack of desire for sex is truly a lack of desire. It might just be slow arousal, where it just takes you longer to get into sex. Explore taking your time and using a variety of approaches to see if this makes a difference to your overall desire.
- Look at ways that sex might be of value to you. It could be a way of nurturing and connecting with yourself, rather than something you have to ‘give’, which could help you to develop a pro-sex attitude.
- See what might be limiting your desire that you can change. Is your lack of desire due to something about your partner that they may be willing to change? Is there something in you that you could address in you, eg. your stress and energy levels, protection around your heart, or feelings of inadequacy or resentment? All of these will impact your libido.
- Take a look back through the chapters on sex (Chapters 7 and this current one). Especially check through Identifying Your Unique Blocks to Pleasure.
- As you learn to rediscover this part of you, be willing to negotiate levels of sexual participation. For example, you could be with your partner whilst they self-pleasure, or being willing to go into sex without needing the desire to be there upfront, as often desire for sex can come after arousal. This is NOT about forcing yourself to have sex you don’t want, but instead creating an openness to the possibilities within it.
- Meet your partner in the emotional vulnerability of connecting sex to the heart, rediscovering making love, rather than just having sex. The more you show up, the more they will be invited to and vice versa. Start with talking about it.
- If none of these things are possible, least negotiate a way for the Pursuer to get their needs met outside the relationship without shame or judgement. Being denied sex (especially without really knowing why) is a very lonely and painful place to be that can damage their self-worth, and at the very least leave them irritable and dead inside.
If you have difficulties in exploring this territory, you’re not alone. Looking at the ideas above is a great start. The many understandings and practices in this book will also help to bring your sexual desires into greater balance.
Graeme and I have seen many high-desire partner find that their sexual desire changes from quantity to quality, and low-desire partners find their fires kindled in ways they might never have imagined. They may even on occasion find themselves in the high-desire position! Getting onto the same team here will support you in finding a way out of the maze and into a new place of self awareness, understanding, pleasure and connection.
If you have difficulties in exploring the above territory, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid – or ashamed – to seek outside professional help to guide and support you in f and into a new place of self-awareness, loving understanding, connection and pleasure.
For assistance email here or call 1800 TANTRA