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Asking for a Friend is the Daily Emerald’s sex and relationship column. Em Chan answers anonymous questions about dating and beyond, anything from how to date during quarantine to how to heal a broken heart. To submit a question, fill out this form: https://forms.gle/7kKaLoiBbDd48bvu6 

"If you and your partner have varying sex drives, how do you compromise without feeling annoyed if and when you’re not in the mood?" 

— Not Smashin’

Dear Not Smashin’

Sex is a tricky thing, because everyone’s sex drive is different, despite what popular media depicts. You’re definitely not the first to have this issue with your partner, nor will you be the last. 

It sounds like you are the one with the lower sex drive. I’m glad you’ve said you’re annoyed instead of guilty, because the partner with the lower sex drive often expresses guilt, even though sex drive is not something one can (naturally) control. 

Like all relationship conflicts, this is a matter you’ll have to clearly communicate about with your partner. Be prepared for if they take this personally, because people commonly associate sex with desire as a whole. You may know the difference, but much of popular media associates deep love with lots and lots of sex. Your partner may be under this influence and view your not wanting sex as you not wanting them, so making that clear distinction is key.

You can mention that, in actuality, one in three women experience low sex drive, and men may have lower sex drives due to psychological factors or low testosterone. Having a satisfying sex life is not dependent on having a lot of sex or a high sex drive; it’s about having quality enjoyment with your partner. 

However, if your partner finds your sexual needs nonnegotiable, do be cognizant this could be the end of your relationship, especially if they feel entitled to sex because of their own desire. You deserve for your sex drive and consent to be respected.

If your partner understands that you have different sexual needs and is willing to compromise, some strategies you two can try include scheduling sex. Seriously — schedule your sex.  Richard J. Finch once said, “The anticipation of touch is one of the most potent sensations on earth,” and he was absolutely right. Building anticipation can make sex more meaningful and give the two of you something to be excited about. It sounds silly, but planning things like sex doesn’t mean it has to be mechanical or vanilla — you two should still do whatever you both enjoy. Planning it simply eliminates the issue of trying to compromise whenever you don’t feel like doing it. 

If you don't want to have as much penetrative sex as your partner, you can still get satisfaction from other forms of physical connection. Cuddling and spooning are good options, or perhaps when you say you’re “not in the mood” it just means not in the mood for penetrative sex, which is commonly thought of as the “only form” of sex. But there is so much more to sex than just penetration! You two can experiment with toys, foreplay, teasing and similar activities — penetrative sex is not the only way to find sexual pleasure. 

But back to the idea that perhaps you aren’t in the mood for any sort of sexual activity — maybe your low sex drive stems from lack of interest in your current sex life. If you two have been dating and sleeping with each other for a while, what you do in bed may have gotten stale for you. Think about how your sex has been for the duration of your relationship — have things changed? If some aspects have changed — for worse or for better — talk with your partner about what’s good or bad, trying new things and the boundaries around that exploration.

Or maybe low sex drive is something you’ve had in all your relationships, past and present. Look into your overall lifestyle to see if other factors may be affecting you, since the psyche is directly connected to your sex drive. If you’re on birth control, the additional hormones in your body may be affecting your sex drive. High levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue might also be lowering your sex drive.  

In the end, sex is all about mutual enjoyment. Sex is a lifelong activity, and if your partner isn’t able to compromise, you may want to consider if the sexual incompatibility is a dealbreaker for you. Compromise in any scenario is difficult, but know that you’re learning more about yourself and what you need in a relationship.