They want it, you don’t: an action plan for people with low or no desire for sex

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.

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.

We all have high sex drives at the start

Our libido is strongly influenced by hormones and other substances which tend to go nuts 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 (a 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.

Our natural testosterone level (generally meaning 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. Having said that, they are just as useful if you want to try them alone.

This blog is aimed at people with a low desire for sex. There’s another (next week) for people who can’t get enough of it.


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.

In long-term relationships, it’s hard to maintain a strong, high interest in sex over a long period – for highly motivated sexual people as well! No-one can expect desire to tap you on the shoulder after years with the same person, we all need to be proactive.

Take responsibility for creating desire by figuring out what triggers it for you.

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.

Make a list of your current sex favourites. Position, toy, lubricant, fantasies – both of you 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.

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. If you have young children and you’re struggling, tell your partner. Say, “Listen, I am so bloody exhausted, I can’t even think about having sex right now. So, you might have to look after yourself for a little while. It’s only temporary but I didn’t want you to think sex had disappeared forever.”

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.

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 – How about that! – 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. If your partner isn’t used to you initiating sex, 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 with a long, sexy kiss is going to get you further.

If you’re both shy or misread each other’s signals, have an agreed private code that asks ‘Fancy some?’.

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 – it’s ridiculously boring to finish all sex sessions 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. Explore all orgasm opportunities: fingers, tongues, sex toys as well as penises.

Be in the moment. 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 find a way to deal with the pressure of work worries, kids, bills, bad bosses: a stressed person is not a person who wants sex.

Set up a craving cycle. 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.

The more sex you have, the more you want. We quickly forget how great sex can be. Have good sex often and you’re constantly reminded of all the physical and emotional pluses.

For the same reason, it’s a very good idea to masturbate more. If you’re not having any solo sex sessions, start now.

Read or watch some erotica or porn and get into the habit of indulging on a regular basis.

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. 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.

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.