The concept of mismatched libido isn’t new, nor is it uncommon.
But what happens when it’s not just your libido that’s out of sync with your partner, but your propensity to touch, also?
For one Reddit user, helpmethrowaway146, she’s been with her husband for more than 10 years. Only now, she says, does she feel like their ways of showing affection differ significantly.
“When we started dating, I was very upfront about my libido. I didn’t want to pressure him, and told him flat out that he should reject sex if he wasn’t up for it at any time; no hurt feelings on my part. He jokingly laughed and said he could meet my libido, but after a couple of months & the honeymoon phase was over, he admitted that he couldn’t. We’ve since started this little check-in; it’s not on the dot once a month, but every couple of weeks we just check in to see where we’re at with everything,” she wrote on the platform.
“I’m very frisky lately. I’m so in love with my husband, I’m just ready to go whenever. When I wake up next to him, I’m ready. When he comes to bed and his showering wakes me, I’m ready. Through-out the day I see him, and I’m ready. I know he doesn’t want me instigating sex that often, but he never had a problem with me being touchy-feely.”
However, he recently sat her down. She was touching him too often.
“I was always touching him and always frisky and he was a little angry about it, even.
“But he got a little angrier and said it wasn’t about pressuring him, I made him feel objectified. Like all I wanted was his body.
“I want to do something. Take extra steps besides just stopping to make him feel better. I want to sit down again and talk, but for the first time since I’ve met him I’m not sure how to start, or what to say.”
So, what do you do in this scenario?
According to Sydney sex therapist and relationship coach Jacqueline Hellyer, the couple in question are, first and foremost, on the right track.
“You have to talk about it, for a start, so you understand why it’s important for each person. Everyone has a different love language, and you can interpret them in different ways. For example, if one person’s love language is touch, and the other’s is action, then that person should think about how they would do touch. In short, interpreting their partner through their own experience.”
Hellyer says in that conversation, it’s important one half – in this case, the wife – explains exactly what she “gets” from touch.
Listen: What your changing libido means. (Post continues after audio…)
“You don’t just talk about what it is, because then it comes across as more of a rule. Instead talk about the meaning of it. Instead of telling them, ‘I want you to hug me more’, you have to say, ‘when you hug me I feel secure and connected’.”
Hellyer tells Mamamia if the conversation is approached in that way, your partner is more likely to respond positively.
“They are much more likely to do it, they want you to feel like that. They want to be thinking, ‘Oh my god, I have that impact on you’.
“In saying that, the other person needs to understand maybe it doesn’t come naturally, you might need to encourage it and reinforce it. Saying to them, ‘Thank you for realising this is what I need.’ It’s the only way the brain can be re-wired.”
Hellyer adds the best thing a couple can do for their sanity and longevity is to do what the couple in question are doing, putting aside regular spaces in their lives to “sit and talk about anything”.
“If you know, you do have those scared spaces, in the moment, if you do have something that comes up, you can put your frustration to one side, and tell yourself you’ll bring it up when you do eventually sit down to talk about anything.”
Interestingly, Hellyer says almost “100 per cent” of couples at some point will have to nagivate different libidos. However, she argues there’s a simple way to navigate the gap, and it all comes down to perspective.
“We all have things that help and hinder. Think of desire as a game like snakes and ladders, you have to know what’s going to make it drop, and what’s going to make it climb. The other really, really important thing, is to not confuse arousal and desire. They are not the same thing at all, particularly not when you’re with someone for a long time. Desire can come well before arousal.”
Hellyer says it’s really crucial to be self-aware. If you know falling into bed exhausted at 11.30pm every night doesn’t help your desire, plan your night in advance to make sure you’re not doing that. Know what gets you in the mood, she says, and know what mindset you need to be in.
That way, the differences in libido are far less stark.