Desire Discrepancy: What is it?

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Yes, It’s a “thing” and it also has the potential to open up a whole new world of conversation, honesty and sexual exploration between you and your partner —if you’re curious and willing.

What is desire discrepancy?

Desire discrepancy is a misalignment of sexual preferences or mismatched libidos. It’s basically a situation where one partner desires sex more frequently than the other or desires a different kind or quality of sex. For example, you may be a morning person whereas your partner may prefer the evening. Your partner may prefer quickies, whereas you may prefer more foreplay and intimacy. You may desire sex once in a while your partner may want sex several times a week. Initially in the first phase when sexual chemistry is at a peak high, it isn’t much of an issue for most, but when relationships settle into more of an established routine, the discrepancy can lead to feelings of inadequacy, rejection, pressure, anxiety, and frustration.

Is it common?

Yes, it’s extremely common in long term monogamous relationships and especially in heterosexual couples. The way our modern lives are structured, it’s almost a given there will be disruptions and barriers to sustaining emotional and sexual intimacy.

Duty, responsibility, obligation, and care taking often trump the desire for sex and intimacy. From raising children to our addiction to our i-phones—there are many complex aspects of life that vie for our attention and end up taking priority over our sex lives.

We can falsely presume desire discrepancy is purely a function of benign neglect. But it can also stem from becoming bored and dissatisfied with the sex you’re having. Maybe you have fallen into a rut, doing the same thing over and over. Women actually tend to become bored with sex much sooner than their male counterparts, even though a waning libido isn’t a gender specific issue. And while drugs like Viagra can solve the problem of male erectile dysfunction, there isn’t an equivalent that deals with the more complex dynamic of female arousal.

Monogamy should be a living breathing agreement that takes change and development into consideration. However, if sexual fidelity is at the center of that agreement, than we have to treat desire discrepancy as an invitation to begin a sensitive and vulnerable conversation.

How much sex is normal?

While we’re all curious about how much sex other people are having, what’s normal isn’t so much a relevant question as much as what feels good for you and your partner. At the same time, we can’t help but compare ourselves and wonder if we’re anomalies in the event of a sexual recession. I’d venture to say that it’s normal to feel like you’re missing out because our society is so obsessed with sex —and we’re relentlessly saturated with media which can trigger feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. None of us are immune to those influences, unless you live off the grid. I think we need to calibrate our expectations during different stages of our relationship and family life.

Is it inevitable?

A temporary reprieve from sex due to life changes can become the new normal. One of the stubborn myths of romantic love is that the sexual connection and attraction are going to stay intact but over time—it starts to deteriorate unless you prioritize sex or revisit the subject periodically.

Our sexual lives and our sexual identities often diminish or go dormant altogether in long term relationships because the other roles we play in our life can tend to dominate. It doesn’t have to though. Unfortunately, many people resort to cheating to close the gap, instead of trying to work through what the next chapter of intimacy could look like. Monogamy should be a living breathing agreement that takes change and development into consideration. However, if sexual fidelity is at the center of that agreement, than we have to treat desire discrepancy as an invitation to begin a sensitive and vulnerable conversation. But if you’re curious and willing, it can open up a whole new world of honesty and sexual exploration.

Read Desire Discrepancy Part 2: Why is it so hard to talk about sex?