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Spouse's Sexual Desire Should Align
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At the start of many romantic relationships, it's natural for couples to feel like they can't get enough of each other in bed. It's also natural that over time, this intense sexual desire starts to wane. And sometimes, a disparity in sexual desire develops between the two partners, which can cause tension and misunderstandings in the relationship.
As Isadora Alman, a San Francisco-based sex therapist and marriage and relationship counselor, says, "It's very rare that you find two people who want the same thing." That only becomes a problem when people are unwilling to compromise, she adds – which typically begins with poor communication. "Not speaking up is almost a guarantee that you won't get what you want," she says, adding, "If someone is watching porn instead of talking to their partner or cuddling, certainly that is going to be detrimental to their relationship."
Los Angeles-based psychologist and relationship expert Seth Meyers helps couples struggling with desire disparity define their own sexual number, or index of desire. "To figure out your number, start by thinking of the number of days per week, on average, you would like to engage in intimate activity," he says. "If it's just one or two days per week, that reflects an average desire, so your number would be somewhere in the average range on a 1-to-10 scale."
Meyers continues: "If a week came and went without that activity, you would be closer to a 4 if you didn't mind much and closer to a 6 if it would bother you. For those who don't need or want intimate activity every week, they would have numbers at the low end (1 to 3). For those who want that activity several days per week or more, they would be at the very high end (9 to 10)."
While most couples aren't a perfect match, "as long as the numbers are in a similar range, the couple can make it work well," he says. "If one person is very low and the other person is very high, the relationship will suffer with conflict and even infidelity. At the end of the day, people do what they need to do to get their needs met."
Couples love this exercise, he explains, because it reminds them that sex drive is a purely individual phenomenon, and that they shouldn't take the other person's number personally.
That can be especially important for the partner with the higher sex drive to understand, because there's a natural tendency for that person to feel rejected if his or her partner is much less interested in sex.
"The one with the higher sexual desire may feel really cheated, like 'I got married, and I'm not getting my needs met,'" Alman says. "The one with the lower sexual desire is going to feel really put upon. Unless they're just very loving and giving, it is always going to be a problem until it changes. If a couple is loving and giving, they can weather it."
Invariably, sexual desires are bound to fluctuate for both partners during a relationship, Alman adds. "There is almost always a tapering off after new relationship excitement. And then you have to sort of work on keeping things sexy."
A woman's sex drive may decline as she ages or when she has a child, since some of her own "touch needs" will then be met through the child. Other changes are subtler and more internal, so it's important for people to self-monitor, says Roselle Paulsen, director of programs at the Sexual Education Resource Center in Winnipeg, Canada. "It's an age-old opportunity to trust your gut," she says, if you're feeling uncomfortable with your own urges or your partner's or are unable to function in your daily life, since relationships tend to bleed into other parts of our lives.

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