By Knude Society Team

Navigating mismatched libidos in a long-term relationship

Mismatched libidos — they want sex you don’t, then you want it and they’re not in the mood. It happens to us all — even in the strongest long-term relationship. In fact, in a recent study it showed that nearly three quarters of respondents reported that they had a mismatched libido with their partner.

However, the most important thing to do is don’t panic. It’s totally normal that this happens, and there are things you can do to help you and your partner navigate your way through what may be a temporary or longer-term mismatch.

Why do mismatched labidos happen?

There’s a whole myriad of reasons why it happens. Sometimes you can pinpoint exactly what’s causing your libido to plummet, sometimes it can be a variety of factors effecting you.

The contraceptive pill can have a big affect on your libido, as well as worries about your relationship, the relationship you have with your body. And subconscious fear or shame you may have around sex too.

But let’s face it — sometimes it’s just the every day grind that send our libido marching to the back of the line of things we prioritise. Working long hours, maintaining relationships, friendships, working out, stress of money — we could keep going on and on. The modern life takes its toll on all of us.

What can I do to help a mismatched libido?

1. Communication is essential:

This is non-negotiable, and you may have to have some uncomfortable conversations. Create a safe space where both of you can express your needs, desires, and concerns without judgment. Talk about your sexual expectations and desires and allow your partner to do the same. Validate how both of you feel — understanding and empathy can go a long way to overcoming differences.

And do this regularly. This has to be an on-going conversation between you both.

2. Date each other:

Libido is often influenced by emotional closeness and connection. Invest in dating one another again. Build your emotional intimacy outside of the bedroom — do activities together, spend quality time, and have open conversations about your lives, dreams, and aspirations. Sometimes we don’t realise how much we have drifted from sharing ourselves openly with our partners. Re-strengthening that connection can help bridge the gap between your mismatched libidos, bring you closer together too.

3. Explore other ways to be intimate physically

Sex ≠ intimacy. Sometimes taking sex off the table entirely and letting yourself be physically intimate with kissing, hugging, stroking, massaging can unlock different ways to reconnect. Without the expectation of sex as the result of these intimacies can help release tensions or worries. Plus they can also build desire and anticipation.

4. Seek professional help:

Sometimes this can feel like a scary step, but it can help to get an outside perspective if your differences in desire become a point of stress and contention. This is exactly what sex therapists or relationship counselors can help you address. They’re trained to provide guidance, facilitate constructive conversations, and offer effective strategies to address mismatched libidos. They can help you understand each other's needs, explore potential underlying causes, and work towards finding common ground.

5. Focus on quality, not quantity:

Remember that quality matters more than quantity. Intimacy (for most) isn't just about frequency but the depth of the emotional connection shared during intimate moments. Your partner and you being open and together in these moments. By prioritising meaningful and satisfying experiences for both you, the emphasis on frequency becomes less important.

6. Manage stress and prioritise self-care:

Stress, exhaustion, anxiety… It all has its impact on our libidos. Sometimes the first step to becoming more intimate with your partner is prioritising yourself. Make sure you both have this space to take care of yourself, it’ll help you both feel more energised and open to intimate.

7. Comparison is the thief of joy

And no relationship is the same. Don’t compare yourself to friends or other relationships you see — you never know what it’s like behind closed doors. Focus on your relationship.

8. No is a complete sentence

You’re always allowed to say no to sex and intimacy.

9. It takes on-going work

Bringing libidos in line with one another is not a one-time fix. It’s an ongoing working part of your relationship. Couples and relationships that enjoy regular and fulfilling sex don’t happen by accident. They happen by partners consistently communicating and showing up to do the work in their relationship.

That doesn’t mean it will always be hard work! But not every day will be a lust-filled crazy sex day either. What matters is that you commit to always improving.