Tracey Cox reveals how to balance mismatched libidos

In an ideal world, all high sex drive people would go out with high sex drive people and all low desire people would do likewise.

Our sex lives would be a lot simpler if we did – and so would our relationships.

Studies suggest one in three marriages in Britain and the US struggle with problems associated with mismatched desire – I’d put that figure a lot higher.

I mean, it’s bound to cause problems if you put someone who’d happily trade their life savings for one, gobsmackingly great sex session, with someone who’d find it hard to feign enthusiasm if Jon Hamm or Emily Ratajkowski (or your idea of heaven) knocked on the front door, naked, and fell immediately to their knees.

Why then, do we insist on matching up with people who don’t feel about sex the same way we do?

One reason is relationships and love aren’t based entirely on sex. We fall in love and decide to settle down for lots of reasons, not just sexual compatibility.

The other reason is it’s really hard to tell in the beginning what sort of sex drive your partner has.

Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox reveals how to navigate your relationship when you have mismatched libidos 

Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox reveals how to navigate your relationship when you have mismatched libidos 

Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox reveals how to navigate your relationship when you have mismatched libidos 

We all have high sex drives at the start

Our libido is strongly influenced by hormones and other substances which tend to go bonkers during that heady, hedonistic beginning bit.

During infatuation, the body releases high levels of PEA (phenylethylamine) and dopamine and even people who usually couldn’t care less, experience a sensational surge in desire.

This means someone with quite a low sex drive, acts and feels like a person with a high libido (How wonderful! I’m different with this person!).

The high sex drive person – who tends to register a consistently high level of testosterone (the primary sex hormone regulating desire in both men and women) is thrilled (‘Brilliant! Here’s someone who adores sex as much as I do!’)

Sadly, both have been misled by nature. The hormone boosts don’t last and (usually within a few months or at best 18 months), return to their true levels.

It’s then abundantly clear if you are at opposite extremes.

Mr or Ms Always-ready-willing-and-able can feel like they’ve been duped (Were they pretending to be interested to get me to fall for them?); Mr or Ms Give-me-netflix-any-day begins to wonder if they’ve made the right choice (Who is this sex pest, constantly pawing at me?)

Happily, there’s lots that can to done to redress the balance and keep both of you sexually and emotionally satisfied.

But there’s one crucial piece of advice which makes all the difference here: you must stop blaming each other.

Don’t play the blame game

It’s not the low sex drive person’s fault they’re not foaming at the mouth at the sight of a breast or flexed bicep and it’s not your fault if you are.

Tracey says that your sex drive is always higher at the start of a relationship so it can be hard to tell how well matched you are

Tracey says that your sex drive is always higher at the start of a relationship so it can be hard to tell how well matched you are

Tracey says that your sex drive is always higher at the start of a relationship so it can be hard to tell how well matched you are

Our natural testosterone level (high = high desire, low = low desire) is beyond our control, there’s evidence our ‘resting’ libido level is genetic and there are loads of other reasons which also affect our libido.

So, before we go any further, make a pact.

Say it out loud to yourself in front of the mirror: I will not blame my partner or punish them for who they are. Then say it directly to them, ‘I won’t blame or punish you for who you are’.

If you can do this – and keep reminding yourselves of it – the rest is easy.

The way you treat each other out of bed, strongly impacts on how you’ll be treated in it. Each pulling back the covers with a vicious tug – the result of a day spent brewing resentfully over the problem – isn’t getting either of you anywhere.

It’s also useful to know that despite what society would have us believe, sex drives aren’t dictated by gender: not all women have low libidos, not all men have high libidos.

It’s a mix of both.

I’d strongly recommend you read this article together before you try the action plans and approach it as a team effort but they’re just as useful if you want to try them alone.


Accept responsibility

‘I don’t mind that he has a low sex drive,’ said one high-sex drive woman I counselled for a TV show. ‘But I do mind that he refuses to do anything about it, other than expect me to put up with it’.

While it’s true the person with the low libido is often seen as the ‘cause’ of the problem, it’s also true they tend to set the pace for the amount of sex in the relationship.

It’s hard even for the highly sexed to keep their libido high over a long period.

Don’t just expect desire to tap you on the shoulder, be proactive! Take responsibility for creating desire by figuring out what triggers it for you.

Think of your sex life as a bank account

You need to make regular deposits to keep the balance healthy.

If you’ve just come back from a holiday when you had lots of sex, the balance is nicely topped up. Saying ‘No’ the night you get back isn’t going to cause problems.

But if you haven’t made a deposit for six weeks or more, that balance is getting dangerously low.

Get a good night’s sleep.

She recommends imagining your sex life as a bank account, making regular deposits in order to keep the balance healthy

She recommends imagining your sex life as a bank account, making regular deposits in order to keep the balance healthy

She recommends imagining your sex life as a bank account, making regular deposits in order to keep the balance healthy

Recent research showed a good night’s sleep was a huge libido booster for women.

Impaired sleep leads to a reduction in the male hormone testosterone, which boosts both your libidos.

Meet halfway.

If you don’t want intercourse, what about oral sex? If you don’t want oral sex or any sex yourself, do you mind pleasuring them? At the very least, you can and should be able to offer the physical intimacy of a cuddle.

Know what you want and need to be satisfied.

And I’m talking both in, and out of, bed. If you need to relax first, don’t be scared to ask for a massage. Or for them to do the dishes while you take a bath or shower.

Give sex a high priority in your life.

If you’re avoiding it or not interested, chances are it’s the last thing you do, last thing at night.

Well – Gosh! – funnily enough, even high sex drive people sometimes wonder if it’s worth the effort when they’re exhausted after a long day at work.

Get into a routine where you and your partner have chat-time then sex before you start dinner and switch the TV on. Or if you really are too stressed during the week, have breakfast in bed on the weekends and make that sex time.

If you initiate, make sure it’s obvious

Especially if your partner isn’t used to you initiating, what can seem abundantly clear to you, may be misinterpreted by them – which is disastrous.

You’re left feeling confused (They’re always hassling me, how come they don’t want it now?) and confidence plummets (I feel silly suggesting it anyway so I won’t do it again).

All well and good to toss a sultry look as you head to bed but initiating a long, sexy kiss is going to get you further.

If you’re both shy or the sex situation is so tense, everything is likely to be misread negatively, have an agreed private code that asks ‘Sex tonight?’.

Get your body clocks in sync.

Is it really a case of mismatched libidos or a morning person matched with a night time one? If it is, take turns on the time of day you make love. On the weekend, try sex mid-morning, midday and mid-afternoon, not just morning or night

Don’t make sex revolve around intercourse

Try giving each other oral sex orgasms, or hand stimulation – make sure each sex session doesn’t always end with intercourse.

Most women (70 to 80 per cent) don’t orgasm through intercourse alone, so tend to find penetrative sex quite boring. If sex is boring, it’s no wonder you’re not desperate to dive into bed!

Generally, the easier it is for you to orgasm, the higher your sex drive. And vice versa. Experiment with oral and manual techniques until you’ve explored all orgasm opportunities.

DON’T relax during sex

Instead, focus on the erotic sensations you’re feeling. Tighten the muscles of your thighs, bottom, lower tummy and pelvic floor muscles to help trigger an orgasmic reflex. Work hard to stay in the here and now.

Try to tune out work worries, kids, bills, bad bosses. A stressed person is not a sexy person and everyday life is not erotic.

Set up a craving cycle.

Without wanting to point out the obvious, orgasms feel good. If something feels good, our body – quite logically – says ‘more please’ and sulks if we don’t obey by developing either psychological or physical cravings when denied its high.

Non-sexual contact is also important, so make time to hug and kiss in a romantic sense 

Non-sexual contact is also important, so make time to hug and kiss in a romantic sense 

Non-sexual contact is also important, so make time to hug and kiss in a romantic sense 

The more sex you have, the more you want. Another reason why doing it regularly keeps libidos high? We quickly forget how great sex can be. Have good sex often and you’re constantly reminded of all the physical and emotional pluses.

Make a list of your current sex favourites.

Position, toy, lubricant, fantasies – write them all down somewhere private. Update constantly. This keeps you focused on sex and more inclined to come up with new things to add to the list, keeping your commitment to passion higher.

Visit your doctor to check your general health and review any medications which could be affecting your desire level.

Keep a sex diary. Write down any erotic thoughts and what triggers them. Keep track of how you’re going with any of the techniques suggested here. The more you know about your responses, the better able you are to manipulate them.

Make sure your orgasm trigger is partner friendly. If you can only orgasm by lying face-down on a bed, with your hand trapped into position beneath you (yes, it happens), you’re making it rather difficult for your partner to replicate.

Have more solo sex sessions. The more often your body has an orgasm, the more it wants one. The more you masturbate, the higher your sex drive.

Make time for solving the problem. Set aside time for trying things which could work (taking a bath, watching erotica). If you’ve got kids, don’t use them as an excuse. I know it’s hard but try not to resign as wife and become Mum only.

Don’t say no, say when. If you refuse sex, give some idea of when it’s next on the agenda. There’s a huge difference between ‘No’ and ‘I don’t feel like it now but I know I will tomorrow morning’.

Reject sex, not the person. Say ‘I don’t feel like sex, but I do feel like cuddling you because I love you so much’. It’s infinitely preferable than pushing the person away and rolling over.

You sort of wouldn’t mind if you had sex?

Don’t just ponder the thought, pounce on it – and do it as soon as you can!

Studies show the more time that passes between having an idea and following up on it, the more likely you are to lose motivation. Don’t let things like doing the dishes or I’ll just answer that email first’ get in the way.


Don’t take rejection personally

Because sex to high desire people is an extraordinary experience, they don’t quite believe anyone wouldn’t want to do it.

Not able to understand the reason why sex wouldn’t be top of your partner’s Thing I’d Most Like to Do Today (Now/This Second), you secretly believe low desire people do want sex – just not with you.

Which makes you feel unattractive, undesirable and not wanted when your partner says no.

If your partner’s libido is naturally low, it doesn’t mean they don’t find you attractive, just that they don’t find sex that attractive.

Masturbate more

This appears on both high and low libido lists for a reason: masturbating helps to increase desire but also takes the edge off if you’re about to climb the walls.

See it from their side

Try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t enjoy being touched, masturbating or having sex with your partner.

Desire is an effortless, magical thing to the highly sexed. Low desire people really have to work at it.

Up the amount of non-sexual contact

Kiss, hug and touch your partner as much as possible but first agree on a signal which clearly says ‘This gesture is romantic, not sexual’. It might be you agree to certain ‘sex-free’ days or periods of the day.

One of the main problems of mismatched libidos is affection misinterpretation. You’re too scared to touch them because when you do you’re accused of harassing, they’re too scared to touch you in case you take it as an invitation for sex.

The result – no touching – drives you even further apart.

Make sure your technique is as good as it can be

Ineffective sexual technique – particularly for women – is one big reason why they aren’t interested in sex with their partner.

If you never have an orgasm, why would you want to have sex regularly?

Become their idea of a great lover, not yours

Even if your technique is expert, it’s not going to matter if you’re trying to turn the sex session into your idea of great sex rather than theirs.

Your sexual nirvana may be their idea of hell.

The more they enjoy sex with you, the more they’ll want to do it. It’s in your interest to appeal to their way of thinking, not yours

Don’t be a sex pest.

The best option of all, while you’re trying out all these options, is to avoid initiating sex at all. Leave your partner to explore their various options, minus any pressure to perform, and let reverse psychology do its stuff.

If it’s up to them to initiate, suddenly they’re in the power position.

Don’t sulk when they refuse sex.

If you initiate and it’s obvious they’re not interested in following through, be gracious about it. Don’t get all huffy, give them the silent treatment or a hard time.

Just because you feel like sex at that moment, doesn’t mean they have to. You’re not interlinked computer systems, you’re human beings!

It’s perfectly acceptable to want to masturbate if you’re aroused and your partner isn’t interested in stimulating you.

You could do it in front of them – they might be happy to indulge you in non-participatory sex (you masturbate while they watch) – but some find it just increases the guilt.

Talk it through with your partner. Where can you go to pleasure yourself without upsetting them?

When they do agree to sex, pay attention.

What time of day is it? What had they been doing before? Who/how was it suggested? Are you doing anything differently? Try to pinpoint reasons why it’s working that time but not others. You can then time your advances for when they’re most likely to be welcomed.

Make sure it’s sex you’re hungry for. Don’t use sex as a replacement for intimacy, affection, sleep or as a stress reduction device.

Agree to let your partner take the exit route.

If your partner agrees to give it a try to see if they can become aroused, let them exit if they want to. If they know they can stop at any stage, they’ll be more likely to give it a go. If they do stop before you’re ready, take matters into your own hands and have an orgasm solo.

Don’t take more than you need

Don’t demand a smorgasbord of sexual delights when a snack would take away the hunger pains.

Don’t confuse being loved, with being lusted after.

Just because their tongue’s not hanging out just by looking at you, doesn’t mean they love or fancy you less than you do them. Your sexual response system works quicker, that’s all.

Learn to love quickies.

All sex sessions don’t have to be marathons. Use loads of personal lubricant and make the most of whatever time you do have.

Visit for more advice on sex and relationships and to find Tracey’s product range. 


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