High drive, low drive: a harmful dichotomy
For years, I’ve heard people talk about high drive and low drive with regards to a couple’s sex life. I’ve never been happy with those terms. To start with, the terms are completely arbitrary – is the person who wants sex three times a week the high or low drive person in the marriage? It depends on whether their partner wants sex once a week or once a day. Another problem with the terms is they focus on physical sex drive, what is known as libido. However, libido is only one of a number of things that can move a person to want and enjoy sex. Making sexual desire only about the physical drive skews the issue in a way that hurts a couple’s sex life.
Let me offer some different ways of looking at this issue. I will pose these as if the man is the individual with the “higher drive” because my audience here is primarily male. That said, I do know a growing number of wives are struggling with wanting more sex than their husband seems interested in having.
- I’m ready for sex almost any time, while she needs time to get her mind into sex.
- I need sex to always include orgasm, she does not.
- A significant part of my desire for sex is physical, while her desire is more emotional (or mental, or relational).
- I can hit the bed running; she needs at least ______ minutes of foreplay.
- I get aroused because I feel desire; she feels desire after I get her aroused. (This is actually the case for most women, and understanding this can completely change your sex life.)
- I want sex more often, but she is willing to accommodate me if I don’t expect her to be as into as I am every time. (I’ve heard this from a number of women – they feel he will only take 100% – so their choices are all or nothing. If she’s not feeling all, then it’s nothing, no matter how close to all she may be.)
- A lack of sex makes me feel unloved; a lack of love makes her feel unsexual.
How we frame things is important, and changing how you frame something can shrink problems. Among other things, it helps to see “this versus that” rather than “good versus bad” or “right versus wrong”. Maybe the only change you need it to accept the differences? Alternatively, maybe accepting those differences will allow you to find solutions not available before. While it is linguistically accurate to say, every marriage has a high and a low drive spouse, it is a counter-productive way to think.