Desire Discrepancy may or may not be a term that you’ve heard. This is where two different people want different amounts of sex. There’s a discrepancy between your desire and your partner’s. This is universal. It happens all the time, and it is a problem for a lot of people. In this episode, I’m going to talk about Desire Discrepancy, how it occurs naturally, issues that may crop up around it, and give you some strategies to effectively navigate this common challenge.
Desire Discrepancy Doesn’t Need to Be a Struggle
Most of the couples that I see in my practice are struggling with Desire Discrepancy, often in addition to some other issues and concerns. It can be a large part of where they’re struggling emotionally and relationally with each other.
And it doesn’t need to be a struggle. Actually, nothing is broken. It’s just that we tend to handle this poorly. We don’t understand that it’s normal, and we don’t understand how to approach our part of the dynamic to be constructive with our partners.
Having Desire Discrepancy is Natural
It probably makes sense to you, the idea that any two people don’t want the same amount of sex. This is a universal phenomenon in a relationship, at least over time. Why would any two people want exactly the same amount of sex early in your relationship? Maybe it felt like you did, maybe it was easy and you both couldn’t keep your hands off each other. But over time, discrepancy shows up, and for different reasons. This isn’t that somebody is lacking desire or that somebody’s broken. It’s natural for our desire to ebb and flow. It’s harder once we get older, it’s harder once we’ve been with the same person for a while, it’s harder when stresses show up in our lives and we get busy with careers or children or other kinds of things that go on for us.
While everybody experiences it, it’s not a problem by itself, but it can be experienced as a problem. And it’s often thought to be a problem for people that are struggling with sex in their relationship. During this episode, I talk to you a little bit about how this works and how you can approach it differently with your partners.
The Solution Involves Collaboration
So now that we understand it is not a problem, we also need to realize we are not going to get you where you both want the same amount of sex because that’s not the goal. What I want to do is help you get to a place where you’re collaborating in this phenomenon, where you’re working together as a team where it’s not polarizing you, where you don’t consider it in any real issue.
There still may be a little bit of negotiation, or maybe even frustration for either one of you around this, but it shouldn’t be divisive.
The Lower Desire Partner Has The Control
It’s important to understand that as desire discrepancy emerges over time or develops over time, you must realize that the person that wants less has all the control. Not because they want it, not because they enjoy having that kind of control or power, mostly they don’t. But anybody who wants something less kind of has their hand on the spigot, they’re the ones saying if, and when, and how. And this dynamic doesn’t just apply to sex, it applies to almost anything. In these situations, the person who wants something less or who isn’t valuing it as much, they have the control. It is built into the system, not because they are trying to be controlling or because they are enjoying having this control over you, it’s just fundamentally part of the system.
The System is Under Pressure
When somebody wants something more than somebody else, another thing that’s inherent in this situation is pressure. The person who wants something less typically feels a lot of pressure. They’re aware that their partner wants this thing and there’s a lot of pressure in the system. And it’s likely not because the person that wants more sex is trying to pressure you, there’s pressure in the system because you’re aware of that discrepancy.
Don’t Get Caught in These Traps
So those two things, control and pressure, are built in and for a lot of people that get stuck in this, they’re waiting for one or both of those things to go away before there’s forward movement. And that’s part of what gets them caught because those are not going to go away. We have to proceed despite those things.
During this episode, I go deep into the different traps both the lower desires partner and the higher desire partner can fall into, and how to avoid them. It’s ultimately understanding, recognizing, and communicating about these traps that will help keep you and your partner from getting stuck, building resentments, or pathologizing each other.
Remember, You’re Not Broken
Desire Discrepancy is a given, it’s going to happen, and knowing that it is a natural part of every relationship means that it is not a sign of a broken relationship. It’s not about one side or the other “fixing” their sex drive. Neither you nor your partner is the problem, and nobody is broken.
Below are links to some guides, one for those with increased desire, and one for those with decreased desire. And I’m going to follow up with another episode about an exercise you can use to totally transform this using these concepts.
But if you can start to wrap your mind around these different ways to think about this dynamic in a different way, you can interact in your role with each other. But even just the way you’re thinking about this inside your own mind can make a big, big difference. Desire Discrepancy does not need to be this huge divisive factor in your relationship.
Higher Desire Partner Guide: http://bettersexpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/HDP-Guide.pdf
Lower Desire Partner Guide: http://bettersexpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/LDP-Guide.pdf
If you’re enjoying the podcast and want to be a part of making sure it continues in the future, consider being a patron. With a small monthly pledge, you can support the costs of putting this show together. For as little as $2 per month, you can get advance access to each episode. For just a bit more, you will receive an advance copy of a chapter of my new book. And for $10 per month, you get all that plus an invitation to an online Q&A chat with me once a quarter. Learn more at https://www.patreon.com/bettersexpodcast
Better Sex with Jessa Zimmerman
Recent episodes from James Hamilton Healy (see all)
- 95. Bossy, Controlling, Overthinking… Oh My! – Healing the Hustle - June 23, 2022
- 94. Dating Myself: Healing the Hustle - June 13, 2022
- 93. Entrepreneurial Trauma Response: Healing the Hustle - June 6, 2022