How Do You Increase Your Drive to Match Your Partner?

Let me start off with saying that it is completely normal for partners to not desire sex as much, or as little, as each other. One of the most common concerns that my fellow sex coaches and I encounter with our clients is mismatched desire. It’d make my job so much easier if there were some pill you can take, a trick you can learn, or some ancient secret magic you can unlock. However, like so many things in life, there is no quick fix.

Before we dive in completely, I’d like to clarify some language. I purposely use the word desire rather than drive or libido to support a shift in how we talk about sex. Using the word drive implies that we all have a biological need for sex that lives inside us. It implies that sex is something we can’t survive without, like food or water. But we won’t die without sex. Otherwise, the world would be without a great many people that have either chosen, or prefer, celibacy. Desire is wanting to want sex, which more closely matches what is happening in the brain and body when it comes to wanting sex.

Speaking of the brain, let me tell you about its two main functions when it comes to sex. The first function is what leads to arousal, that wanting to want sex, or your desire. It takes notice of all the things that get your sexy juices going and makes you want to want sex, full speed ahead. The other function does the opposite, it turns off the arousal and comes up with all kinds of reasons you should not want to want sex, halting any desire you felt. This is called the dual control model. In her book, Come as You Are, Emily Nagoski compares these functions the gas pedal and the brake. So, if you want to want sex, you need to figure out how to turn on the ons and turn off the offs. Or, in other words, press the gas and lay off the brake.

The other part of this process is understanding spontaneous and responsive desire, something else Emily Nagoski goes into detail about in her book. Unfortunately, we have been led to believe that we all have this little magic thing inside us, the sex drive, that make us want sex whenever the opportunity presents itself. And when we don’t? Sorry, your ‘sex drive’ is malfunctioning, kaput, you are broken.

But that isn’t how it works at all. You are not broken. You just need to better understand where you are on the desire spectrum, spontaneous or responsive. Spontaneous desire is when a person needs very little stimulus to want to want sex. It takes just a hint of something sexual, and they are ready to go, like right now. On the other end of the spectrum, responsive desire is when a person needs more explicit stimulation to become aroused. Think of it like waiting for a pot of water to start boiling, the conditions must be just right to get it going. For example, they may need things like a sensual massage, lit candles, cuddling, sexual touch, and so on, before they even begin to get aroused. The thing is, most of us experience both, but at different times in our lives.

Let’s say your partner is in the mood, they are throwing out all the right signals. In the past, this may have been all you needed, and you were already headed to the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes behind you. But today you’ve had a massively long, chaotic, busy day. There are still dirty dishes in the sink, your back hurts, and your day tomorrow is going to be equally as long. All these things are shouting, ‘Heck no!’ to all those signals. They put the big kibosh on all things sexy and you find yourself rolling over and ignoring your partner. The offs are offing hard and the ons have left the building completely.

So, how do you get the ons to turn on, and tell the offs they can eff right off? Communication. Planning. Context. Before you write me off as being the most boring sex coach ever, I promise, these things are sexy, so hear me out. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and thought “If they would just improve the quality of service, this place would be a whole lot busier?” Sex is kinda the same. When the quality improves, so does the quantity. And the only way to improve the quality is to communicate about it. If you aren’t having the kind of sex you want to be having, it’s darn near impossible to want more of it. It’s completely normal to not desire something you don’t like. It also doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with either of you. It just means that you need to talk about it.

It’s completely normal to not desire something you don’t like. It also doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with either of you. It just means that you need to talk about it.

Communicating about sex with a partner can feel pretty daunting and scary, but it’s not impossible. Having a conversation about wanting to have the conversation is a good place to start. Establish with your partner that the conversation will be respectful, free from judgement, open, free from blame, and fun. Then, set aside some time and have the conversation. Communicating with your partner about what you desire during sex leads to more connection, which leads to a desire to be closer, which leads to sex, which leads to more connection. You get the point.

Spontaneous sex is fun, but not always feasible. Between shuttling kids around, work schedules, socializing, maintaining your space, and all the other adulting you do, sex often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. It is important to make sex a priority and get it on the schedule. Pencil it in right there after dinner and a movie on Friday night. I know what you might be thinking, but it’s still not boring, I promise. Scheduling sex means you have something to look forward to. It gives you time to flirt, to exchange sexy notes, to tease each other, to think about it. You are getting that pan of water nice and hot! All the while, building up that desire and setting those on switches on and turning the offs off. But remember, it’s a good idea to keep the pressure off. You can always reschedule if things don’t go quite to plan. There is power in the pivot!

The other great thing about scheduling sex is that you can schedule it for a time when exhaustion makes you go to sleep as soon as you hit the sheets. Trust me, I’ve been there more times than I can count. Sex feels like a fantastic idea midafternoon and I can’t wait until after the kids go to bed. But 10:00pm rolls around and all those sexy juices dry right up. Shoot for a morning romp or, if you have kids and have the availability, send them away for an afternoon of fun. As the years go by, life changes in so many ways. You can’t expect your sex life to stay the same when everything else is different. So, snag that calendar and get it scheduled.

Context is all the things that are going on externally and internally that impact whether you want sex. Remember those dirty dishes and sore back? They can very easily be the things that put those brakes on. When those dishes have been sitting there since yesterday because your partner was supposed to take care of them and didn’t? Do I sense a little resentment bubbling there? Not good context to make you want to hop into bed with them. Especially since you have to angry wash all the dishes yourself now. (Or maybe that’s me)

Part of creating sexy context loops back to communication. Previously it was a conversation about what you desire during sex. Now the conversation is about what support you need outside the bedroom to help you get in the mood when you are in the bedroom. I can’t say exactly what this conversation might look like for you, everyone has a different context. What do I suggest is taking a minute to jot down the things that make you hit the gas pedal, and what makes you hit the brakes. This offers a great starting point to express your feelings about what you need support with to help turn your red light into a green one.

I want to note here, as with conversations about sex, this conversation can also be tricky, depending on your personal situation. If conversations like these feel like too much or lead to bigger concerns, it may be time to consider some form of counseling or therapy. Sometimes concerns like this within a partnership run much deeper and benefit from having someone present that can help guide the discussion.

Mismatched desire between partners is completely normal. You may not ever be entirely on the same page, but there are definitely things you can do to help bring you closer together. I have offered an overview of some steps you can take to close that gap, but you may need more support. Which is why I’m here. As a sex coach I can support you in your journey to better understand yourself and your desire spectrum. Together we will work toward helping you identify what might be holding you back from your desire to want to want sex more. If this is you, submit your inquiry form today. Peace, love, and pleasure!

Carli Guzowski is a Certified Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health, and Wellness Educator, and Pleasure/Kink Activist. She is owner of Unwinding Pleasure, where her main mission is to spread messages of peace, love, pleasure, and acceptance for all. She supports her clients in recognizing the role pleasure plays in leading a more fulfilling, empowered, healthy, and joyful life. She offers Sex/Intimacy Coaching, and Sexual Health/Wellness Education and Workshops. In her free time, Carli enjoys gardening, fast cars, adventures with her family, and sparkly boots.