How To Talk About Sex Without Losing It When You And Your Partner Have Mismatched Libidos

Leigh Norén, MSc
5 min readJan 7, 2020

Mismatched libidos is a common phenomenon in relationships. Despite this, we’re usually at a loss when it comes to talking about it.

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

When you and your partner have mismatched libidos it’s important to find ways of talking about your sex life — so that the desire discrepancy doesn’t take a toll on your relationship.

When one of us wants sex and the other doesn’t, we tend to fall into a trap of blaming the other person.

Perhaps we get angry and lash out, telling them that it’s abnormal to not want to have sex or to want to have sex.

Or we feel intense anxiety because we believe their disinterest in sex means they’re not in love with us anymore.

Feeling angry or sad about the situation isn’t uncommon or wrong. It doesn’t, however, mean that all your thoughts and feelings should be communicated to your partner, as is.

It’s perfectly okay to feel and think whatever you’re feeling and thinking, but letting your partner know about all of it might not lead to a better sex life or less of a desire discrepancy.

In fact, by not filtering what you communicate or adapting your communication style, you’re more likely to upset your partner. In turn, they might try and hurt you back.

When you and your partner have mismatched libidos it can lead to a vicious cycle where you attack one another and act defensive. When you do this, you remove yourselves from finding actual solutions to the problem.

And the more anger and frustration you reveal to your partner — the less likely they’ll want to engage in sex with you, or see your side of things.

If you’d like your partner’s libido to increase, or the pressure you feel to have sex, decrease, it’s important to think about how and when you communicate about your mismatched libidos.

How To Deal With The Difficult Emotions

When frustration or sadness arises about the situation, it’s important to notice what you’re feeling and let it sit with you for a bit.

When you know what you’re feeling and why, ask yourself if acting upon your feelings will benefit you and your relationship. Try and think both about this from two perspectives — both the short term and the long term. More about dealing with emotions can be found here.

It might not always seem like it, but there are definitely ways of communicating what needs to be said and letting your partner know about your needs, in a more constructive manner. To do this, simply follow the four communication principles outlined below.

Four Communication Principles

When you and your partner have mismatched libidos and communicating about it is difficult, you’ll want to think about the four principles: when, how, what and perspective.

1. Pick A Time

There’s seldom a perfect time for broaching the subject of desire discrepancy. But there are ways of creating better circumstances for the conversation.

Try and avoid talking about it when you’re overwhelmed with emotion. If you’re sad or angry, feel claustrophobic or rejected, you’re more likely to blame your partner. This, in turn, will likely lead to an argument as opposed to a constructive conversation that solves things.

If you can — try and pick a time when you’ve been allowed the opportunity to process your feelings and deal with them. It’s also a good idea to try and avoid bringing the subject up right after sex or when you’ve just been turned down.

It might feel more natural to bring it up in conjunction with sex, but by doing this you run the risk of hurting your partner more. If possible, it’s also a good idea to pick a time when you’re both relatively relaxed as opposed to feeling stressed out.

When you feel like you’ve found a good time to bring up the subject of your differing desires for sex, let your partner know you want to talk about something that’s important to you, or that there’s something you’d like to get your partner’s take on.

2. Think About What You Want To Say

When you and your partner have mismatched libidos and it’s a source of contention within your relationship, it’s a good idea to prepare what you want to say in advance.

How would you like to express yourself?

For example:

“Sometimes I worry that you’ll leave me if I don’t want to have sex more often.”


“I’d like to talk about what we can do when our libidos are mismatched.”


“I feel sad about us not having had sex in a while, because it makes me feel like we’ve grown apart.”


“I’d love for us to talk about how we can be physically intimate with each other in a way that feels good for us both. It doesn’t have to include sex.”

3. Think About What You’d Like Your Sex Life To Look Like

  • Would you like to have sex several times per week/per month/per year?
  • Would you like your partner to be more physically affectionate with you?
  • Would you like it if your partner showed you more appreciation and confirmation in other ways, besides sexually?

Sometimes, feeling more appreciation and confirmation on a daily basis from our partner, can remove the need to get this from sex alone. There’s nothing wrong with seeking confirmation through sexual activity, but in a situation where you and your partner can’t agree on the amount of sex in your relationship, it might be a good idea to seek validation from the daily interactions with your partner instead.

At least for now.

4. Use The “I” Perspective — Not The “You” Perspective.

When you and your partner have mismatched libidos it’s not uncommon for you to focus on what the other person is doing wrong or what you feel should change.

For example — perhaps you feel your partner needs to stop initiating sex, or that they need to initiate sex in a different way for you to get in the mood. If you express this as something they’re doing wrong, it tends to make them defensive, leading you both down a path of argumentation instead of a friendly conversation.

An example of how to shift from “you” to “I”:

“You never want to have sex anymore”

Instead, say:

“I feel a little sad that we haven’t had sex in a while. Would it be alright to talk about it?”


“All you want is sex!”

Instead, say:

“Sometimes I feel a little pressured to have sex when you initiate. Is this something we could talk about?”

Now that you know about the four communication principles you’re in a better position to have a talk about the desire discrepancy in your relationship. Good luck!

Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer. Her writing on low libido, communication and intimacy has been featured in YourTango, Babe, The Tab, Glamour, and more. Learn more about Leigh on her website.

First published on my Swedish website Published in English at on January 7, 2020.



Leigh Norén, MSc

Sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. Offers free online resources and sex coaching.