3 Ways to Deal With Differences in Desire

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Kate and Jim are settling onto the couch, finally able to relax after a long day. “Hey,” Jim grins. “Wanna have sex?” Kate looks at him with exasperation. She loves her husband, but she just sat down and, unfortunately, nothing about her is pulsating with desire. “Not really,” she answers truthfully, and Jim, crushed, drops the subject.

Kate feels bad. She wishes she felt like having sex more, but she just doesn’t. Now she feels guilty, he’s resentful, and their nice, cozy evening is ruined. Again.

This is a very common situation for couples, says sex therapist Emily Harrell of the Center for Mindful Living in Chicago and Schaumburg, and it’s no one’s fault. The cause is the biological differences between male and female desire. Unlike testosterone infused men, who can access their desire quickly, estrogen-driven women need some sort of stimuli before they can get turned on, Harrell says. It might take watching something sexy, getting in a romantic mood or foreplay. But, “not until that begins, does a woman want sex, “ Harrell says.

When men and women understand how differently they become aroused, they can make changes to accommodate each other so they both enjoy sex more. Here are some empowering strategies to negotiate the differences in desire in your relationship.

1. Make Room for Maybe

Harrell advises couples not to consider having sex as a yes/no proposition. “It should be an agreement that you’re open to the possibility of sex, without being so goal oriented,” she says. A woman who doesn’t feel like intercourse might welcome a massage or a bubble bath or a make-out session. “Women say no before giving themselves a chance,” Harrell says. If Jim had asked Kate if she wanted a foot rub, she would have happily plopped her feet in his lap. And that might have been all the stimuli she needed.

2. Prepare for Pleasure 

Women are less in touch with what makes them feel good than men are. According to Evelyn Resh, author of the book “Women, Sex, Power & Pleasure,” “Women have needed to work diligently to reassure themselves that pleasure—especially sexual pleasure—is essentially safe, worthwhile and good for them.” Women, not knowing what they want or or how to ask for it, can begin to avoid sex or just go through the motions to satisfy their husbands.

Women deserve to enjoy sex every bit as much as men, but they have to take responsibility to learn what pleases them and pass on the info to their mate.

“A lot of women feel anger and resentment toward their partner. They blame him for being a sucky lover, when so much of it is them,” Harrell says. She recommends couples expand their repertoire and experiment with new techniques, positions and scenarios to see what appeals, especially to the woman. If putting all this focus on feminine pleasure feels selfish, it isn’t. A woman who is sexually satisfied is going to be a lot more interested in making love to her man.

3. Get Strategic 

It’s not romantic, but the truth is, intimacy doesn’t happen by accident. Harrell says successful couples talk about what they want, learn from each other, and create a plan for how they’ll work through their differences. Before haphazardly hitting the bedroom, it’s worth a strategy session. Set priorities, identify opportunity areas, agree to common goals and assign resources and time. It may seem calculated and businesslike, but if the payoff is a more satisfying love life, isn’t the investment worth it?