High drive, low drive, and perception trumping reality

November 17, 2012

in Better Sex in 2012, Seeing Clearly, Series, Sexuality

In the last two weeks, I have been involved in and read a number of discussions which throw around the terms “high drive” and “low drive”. In several of those discussions, I have expressed my frustration over the terms.

High road and low road @ Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

I think the terms imply abnormality. She called him high drive to excuse not giving him all he wants.1 He calls her low drive to justify demanding rather than asking. Many men start emails to me by calling themselves “high drive” which I find sad and wrong. I know many men masturbate because they think their drive is high and it is not reasonable to expect their wife to take care of all of it; in our survey on masturbation 46% of men said they masturbate because “My drive is higher and I don’t want to bother her.” Just to show how weird it gets, I might get an email from a fellow who says he is high drive, wanting sex twice a week, followed by an email from a “high drive” woman complaining her husband will not have sex more than twice a week.

Some use the terms higher and lower drive spouse, which is at least accurate, but I still think it fails to deal with the perception and reality issue we really need to addressed: how much sex is right? Is someone’s drive “too high” or “too low”? Should we, as some have suggested, talk about healthy and unhealthy drive rather than high and low?

As much as I would like to give the answer for the rest of eternity on this, I have not been granted that right. However, I do have some thoughts I think are relative.

  • A growing body of well-done research says sex is good for us.2 Good for us includes a longer and healthier life, and many of the benefits seem to be “dose related” meaning more sex results in more benefits.3 From a health standpoint it would be wise to “prescribe” sex at least every other day for all couples.
  • A number of studies have found that all other things being the same, the more sex couples have, the less they fight and the less likely they are to divorce.4
  • More sex has been found to result in being happier.5
  • God told us not to say no.6

This means frequent sex is good for our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our marriages – in addition to making us right with God. Based on that, if someone does not want sex, or only wants it infrequently, I think something is wrong. There are a good many things that could be wrong, and in some cases much of what is wrong is the fault of the “high drive spouse”, but something is wrong. Given this, the whole “high drive” thing looks to me like an attempt to change reality by painting over it with a skewed perception.

I suggest we 1) stop talking about individuals and talk instead about couples, and 2) discuss what a healthy sex life looks like, and 3) tell those who do not have a healthy sex life they need help.

If you have been called high drive, or thought you might be high drive, I suggest you rethink. Unless you know you would be dissatisfied with sex six times a week, I do not think your drive is abnormal. How you express your desire, or what you want may be an issue, but it is not an issue of drive strength. Among other things, I suggest you need to see your drive as being covered by 1 Cor 7, meaning your spouse, not you, should be meeting your need.

If you have been called low drive, or thought you might be low drive, I suggest you ask yourself if you are opposed to more sex, or just don’t feel much of a “drive”. A growing body of research indicates most women (and some men), do not feel much of a drive, but are still open to and able to enjoy far more sex than they would choose based on their own drive.7 It’s like never feeling hungry, but still being able to eat and enjoy a meal. Never feeling hungry does not mean you have no need for food, and not feeling a sex drive does not mean you have no need for sex. I would also gently suggest your “higher drive” spouse probably has a valid need, and =as the only person who is supposed to have sex with them, you should find a way to meet that need.


1 I do know the wife is the one who wants more sex in 20% of so of marriages – swap pronouns as needed for your reality.
2 The often-missed caveat is monogamous heterosexual contact is better than other options, but since we are talking about marriage here, we can assume those for this discussion.
3 A couple of links touching on this – Orgasms, Health and Longevity: Does Sex Promote Health? and Sex does the body good 
Sex – important to husbands and wives
Would more sex make you happier? Studies say yes and Sex – important to husbands and wives
1 Cor 7 – Sexual Responsibility
Sexual desire in women – spontaneous or triggered? 

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Hi Paul I would like to quickly highlight your comment re 1 Cor 7. Very good point, but one small problem.. How do I make my wife understand this??!!! It's not possible!! She's not open to discussion, change, correction or anything. I can simply pray the Spirit influences her. Or can you suggest anything? K

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

Interesting comments on how frequency affects drive. We've heard many women say more sex results in a higher drive, but not all women react this way. For both men and women who are not getting what they want it is very difficult to guess what you would need. Additionally, intercourse is generally more satisfying than anything else (see The best sex act? http://bit.ly/n4NQsd) so going from masturbation to intercourse some find they need less to feel satisfied.


For *me*, having more sex has increased my sex drive. While we were going through a period of having sex once a week or less, I really could have cared less. Of course, there were things going on outside the bedroom that were causing strain, but once I committed to initiating sex with my husband every 2-3 days, we have both fallen in sync with our drives. I think part of it is that having more frequent sex has made the sexual encounters better for both of us. he isn't as quick to climax, and thus I am much more responsive sexually. It's like frequent sex keeps things in good working order, and then I *know* that it's going to be a fun party so I don't hesitate to RSVP :-) I share that just to say, if you feel like you are the lower drive spouse, try upping your participation... you might be surprised at how much more you find yourself wanting to make love.

Julie Sibert
Julie Sibert

Great post, as usual! Thanks Paul. Really love how you dig into issues that are incredibly relevant in this discussion about sexual intimacy in marriage.


I thought I was the higher drive spouse until my hubby started making sure I O'd more often. He had stopped giving me O's for years and I was STARVING, so my drive was through the roof! Once he started giving me O's and the MB was more mutual, my drive calmed down and fell more in sync with his.


P.S. I asked what a healthy minimum might be, but I suppose in keeping with my blood pressure idea it might also be a good question to ask what is a healthy maximum? Twice a day, everyday? I really do think blood pressure is the best analogy I can come up with because I can remember being pregnant and getting my blood pressure checked and the doctor would say, "It's a little high but we will just keep an eye on it, there is no need to be concerned at this point." So it was still "normal", just high normal. And I know a woman whose blood pressure always reads low. Always. But not low enough to be concerning, just lower than the usual. But still "normal". Okay. I have repeated myself enough, I just wanted to make sure I was making sense here. Plus I tend to be a wordy writer - ha!


Good morning Paul, I have been mulling over this post this morning and I thought I would post a few thoughts & maybe get your response. I think we, in essense, are in total agreement. I think using "high" and "low" drive as an excuse for unkindness towards our spouse is wrong. However, I don't think I am ready to abandon the words just yet, although I am totally open to new ones! Here are my reasons why I think these words might be important: 1. I don't think that we should abandon them just because they might be misunderstood. The Biblical ideas of submission and authority are wrought with misunderstanding and confusion, but they are important and we still use them. We just teach about them. 2. The term "high" and "low" are relative terms. They only mean something when they are describing a comparision. High in relation to what? Low in relation to what? I know that I have read often on sex and marriage blogs that the average sexual encounters a couple has in a week is 2-3. So, without even meaning to, some might see this as "sea level", if you will, of sexual desire. If you desire sex more than that, you might be considered "high". If you desire is less, you might be considered "low". I think, however, that the best place for these terms to relate are (as you said) within a couple. Whoever desires more sex is the high drive, whoever desires less sex is the low drive. 3. Lastly, I think that the reson I think these words are important is because they give us a language to communicate. First within our own marriages, but also within a community. I am (as far as I know) the only Christian "high-drive" wife who is currently blogging. I have been overwhelmed at the women who have connected with me saying "thank you" for trying to speak where a voice is not often heard. They feel alone, strange, unfeminine. I pray that I am blogging from a place of truth, hope and life - with Christ at the center. But I am blogging as a woman who wants sex more than her husband does. So, if nothing else, these terms are helping to connect me to women who can relate and find community. I am not "married" to these terms, by any means. But I do think it's important to have a way to express them. I am not a fan of "healthy" and "unhealthy" unless the "unhealthy" spouse is literally refusing or withholding sex from their partner. I guess to me a high and low drive can both be "healthy", they just might be on different sides of the S curve, if you will. I actually blogged about this a little yesterday. http://spiceandlove.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/mismatched/ Wow. I just wrote a really long response! I would love to hear your thoughts - I am open to being wrong and I want to learn & grow in my own journey. Thanks for opening up about this important topic.

Love Letters
Love Letters

Dude. Stop. We're the men. We get it. I showed this to my wife and she said "his wife never says that." If the two of you are going to blog together and actually have results for couples that read you both, you're both going to need to stay on message.

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