Dear Em & Lo,
I’ve been with my girlfriend for 3 years now and we love each other very much, but she is way more into sex than I am. I try to match her libido but she is still too much for me. She also likes to use sex just to pleasure herself or relieve stress, but she’s been getting too restless as the years go by.
I use sex to have fun with her and amplify my love for her but I just can’t keep up and now sex feels like work instead of fun. All I can do is tell her to calm down but I know something else needs to be done. I’m actually getting worried that we may break up because of our differences. I don’t know what to do — can you please help?
— Be Careful What You Wish For
First of all, we should admit straight out that we don’t have an easy answer for you — in fact, the main reason we chose to answer your letter is because we felt like it would help so many people to read it. Wildly different libidos is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in a relationship (well, that and the whole porn issue), but too many people assume that libido problems are all about men wanting sex more than women. In fact, we receive just as many — if not more — letters about the opposite problem, i.e. yours — women wanting sex more than men.
In part this is simply a factor of the way male and female orgasms work: Most men can climax at the brush of an elbow, so sex is pretty awesome for them from day one of a relationship — and, in fact, because they know they can climax at the brush of an elbow, the desire to experience an orgasm with someone else can be particularly strong. Many women, on the other hand, don’t climax with a partner until they are deep into a relationship — when they are completely comfortable with the person, when their partner has learned their body inside and out, and whey they have figured out together what makes her tick. Which means that for many women, sex keeps getting better as a relationship progresses — which might make her want more of it as time goes on.
Which is not to say that sex can’t improve for a guy, too, as a relationship progresses. For one thing, the more comfortable you are with each other, the more you might be willing to experiment more (and if that’s you, then you should definitely check out our book 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink!). Also, we like to think that guys enjoy sex more when their partner is clearly enjoying herself more.
Anyway, back to your situation. First of all, it’s not clear from your letter whether or not your girlfriend masturbates. Does she? If not, she needs to! Masturbation is an awesome way to relieve stress and pleasure yourself — especially when your partner isn’t in the mood. Perhaps you could treat your girlfriend to a new toy for her alone time to let her know that you fully support her in her self-love habit! Toys made by LELO like the Smart Wand or the Nea Vibrator are gorgeously packaged (i.e. perfect for gifting!) and are designed to appeal on an aesthetic and a sensual level — and they’re hardly phallic, either, so you won’t feel left out! (Though if you do, the Nea happens to work perfectly between two bodies during intercourse, FYI.)
Outside of masturbation, it’s all a matter of compromise. Face it — most couples don’t have exactly matching libidos. That’s just not possible — especially considering the way everyone’s libidos wax and wane over time. So this means that sometimes one person will end up having sex when they’re not exactly in the mood, and sometimes the other person will have to sneak off for some self-love time or just take a cold shower. As long as there’s a bit of both in the equation, and as long as you’re both comfortable with her self-love time, you should be able to find some common ground.
And if you can’t? Well, that’s something only the two of you can decide on together. You should definitely talk to her about your concerns now, and let her know that you want to make this work. Figure it out together. Try all of the above, and if, after all that, you’re still not happy, it might be time to set each other free.
The truth hurts (but divorce hurts more),
Em & Lo