What To Do When You're In Love, But Your Libidos Just Don't Match

It happens to even the happiest of couples.

sex drive libidos in relationship Pixabay

"Not tonight, dear."

How many times have you said that to your partner — or has your partner said it to you?


It's hard when you're in a relationship where one of you wants sex but the other doesn't. The truth is, it's not as uncommon as you think.

The problem is what you should do about it.

You don't want to seem like a crazed sex monster and beg for sex, and you don't want them to do something they don't want, of course.

But on the other hand, does that mean you should go without sex?

In our latest Expert video, Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman asked a group of our relationship Experts how it's possible to have a loving relationship where one wants to have sex, and the other doesn't.

The responses from our team of Experts — Eli MayerIan KernerLewis Griggs, and Sue Butler  — offer fantastic advice about what you should do if you and your partner have mismatched libidos.


First, let's talk about WHY one partner wants sex when the other doesn't. 

The first thing you need to understand is that it has NOTHING to do with you.

Just because your partner doesn't want to have sex with you at this moment does not mean they don't love you, or that they're not attracted to you.

We all have what's called "dual control model", which basically means we have two sexual systems inside of us — the sexual excitation system and the sexual inhibition system.

Think of the sexual excitation system as the gas pedals of a car, while the other is like the brakes.

When you have a couple with mismatched libidos, it usually comes down to a case where one has their foot on the gas pedal while the other is on the brakes.


So what can we do about it? And, perhaps the more important question, should we do anything about it?

The first step is to look at what the inhibitors are.

Is it because one of you is tired? Is it stress? Anger? Past trauma?

Figure out why you or your partner doesn't want to have sex.

Like any other aspect of a relationship, sex is also about compromise. Sometimes, you might have to have what is called altruistic sex.

If your spouse really wanted to go out for dinner but you were tired and wanted to stay in, one of you would concede and say, "If doing that will make you happy, then let's do it."

Well, that rule applies to sex too. Sometimes, you just have to do it even if it isn't your first choice.


That's not to say you need to have sex every time your partner wants to have sex.

It's ok to say "not tonight" every once in a while.

But if it becomes a habit, it will only lead to resentment — and at that point, a sexless marriage won't be the only problem you have.

If your partner doesn't want to have sex, don't force them (obviously!) or make them feel guilty. That's manipulation.

Instead, take a minute and communicate.

Is it something you really need now or can you compromise and wait for a better time?

Or is there a real reason why you just can't tonight?

If you communicate what you're feeling and are willing to compromise, you'll reach a new level of intimacy which will only make the sex more sensual and, well, better.


Mismatched libidos are a serious challenge for many couples, so please know you're not alone. But you can rise to this challenge, and ultimately find ways to make sure you're both getting what you need.

If you need help coping with mismatched libidos, or any other relationship troubles, please visit the websites of our Experts and contact Eli, Sue, Ian, and Lewis directly. They’re here to help.