Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

What happens when one partner has a higher libido than the other?

One of the most common causes of relationship issues is something called Desire Discrepancy. This is when one partner in a relationship has a higher libido than the other partner.

More often than not, it is the man who pursues the woman – complaining that he ‘never gets any’.

Differences in levels of sexual desire is often has nothing to do with sex. For men, becoming aroused is relatively easy. For a woman, there are several things which have to be in line before she can really enjoy the experience. Sex is related to how she’s feeling physically, spiritually, emotionally and in the relationship.

I have seen great success in treating desire discrepancy in couples. There are many ways of bringing a more equal level of desire into a relationship if both partners are willing to work on the issue.

One of the goals of therapy is breaking the ‘pursuer-distancer cycle’.

The pursuer-distancer cycle

In couples that are experiencing desire discrepancy, the partner with a higher libido is often seen as the pursuer in the relationship. They pursue their partner relentlessly, taking every opportunity available to try and initiate sex.

The partner with the lower libido becomes the distancer. They try to avoid sexual, emotional and physical contact with the pursuer at all costs. They feel that any display of affection or emotion will lead to the other person trying to initiate sex.

This becomes a vicious cycle, and causes serious problems within a relationship. The pursuer feels rejected, bitter, disappointed and their self-esteem is eroded. While the distancer feels guilty, confused, frustrated and harassed.

When HE has a low libido

Lately I have seen an increase in the number of men reporting low libido and most of these men are also experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, diabetes and high blood pressure.

In our society, we have been taught that ‘men are always ready for sex’ and ‘women generally have lower libidos than men’.

However, in around 15% of couples, the man has a lower libido than his partner. When this happens, women take it personally. They feel desperate, unsexy, unloved and unwanted, or they suspect an affair. This can be soul destroying for most women, and I have seen how it can affect relationships.

Increase in reports of erectile dysfunction

Lately I have seen an increase in the number of men reporting low libido and most of these men are also experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, diabetes and high blood pressure.

A large number of my patients are under a lot of pressure to perform at work during these tough economic times. Stress depletes testosterone levels in men which leads to a lack of desire and tiredness.

ED is one of the most common sexual difficulties that men face (it’s not just something that ‘older’ men experience). I’ve seen patients in their late 20’s struggling with low libido and ED. It is often an issue that is easily resolved through counselling, particularly when the cause is stress. I teach my patients better coping skills, and help them to develop a healthy lifestyle and outlook on their own sexual health.

Communication is key

Open communication in a relationship is extremely important especially when one partner is experiencing low libido.

I often find that men withdraw physically and emotionally when there is a failure in the bedroom. Because men are “fix it” people they experience this failure as very traumatic, making them feel less of a man, which is obviously not true.

I encourage all couples that are struggling in this area to seek help to rebuild the intimacy between them.

Factors that could affect your libido:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Medication
  • Lifestyle
  • Aging
  • Relationship Blues
  • Body Image
  • Depression
  • New Baby
  • Drugs / Alcohol