Is His Low Sex Drive A Dealbreaker?

Is His Low Sex Drive A Dealbreaker?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 years now. He is sweet, patient, loving, and all the things you can ask for in a BF/Husband. One issue is that my sex drive is higher than his. I’d say I’m at an 8-9 and he would be at a 4. On an average, we probably have sex 5-9 times a month. We’ve fought about it plenty of times starting during our first year together. At this point, I never ask for it or try to start it because I know it may not go anywhere and I don’t want to argue or be reminded of how sexually neglected I feel. It’s THAT BAD. Now I feel that we have just become best friends who live together and once in awhile sleep together. When we do have sex, sometimes I feel my mind thinking elsewhere. I believe I have programmed my brain to not want to have sex just so that I don’t feel lonely and rejected when he says he’s not in the mood. I think I lost that spark and special connection with my boyfriend who I love VERY, VERY much. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m happy almost every day because of it. What do I do? Is sex something worth breaking up over??? —Sexually Deprived Female

While I’ve tackled another version of this question before, I think it’s a subject worth revisiting since there are three times more people reading this blog now than a few years ago…

And although I’ll weigh in with my normal blend of facts, reason and personal anecdotes, I’d really like to hear from you in the comments below.

Is sex something worth breaking up over?

You’re not wrong or shallow to ask the question. After all, if you’re only going to have sex with one person for the rest of your life, you’d better be content.

Which is why I would never advocate that anyone marry a man where there’s ZERO attraction “just because he’s nice”. A guy’s gotta be able to turn you on and be a good, game and giving lover — otherwise, you will be perpetually dissatisfied.

The question YOU’RE posing, SDF, is a slight twist on that.

It’s a lot easier to find a guy with a high libido than it is to find a guy who is marriage material.

See, you have the perfect boyfriend. He’s sweet, patient, loving and he’s continually demonstrated his worth over the course of three years.

His only flaw is that he’s got an average sex drive while you have a high sex drive.

It seems to me that the only person who can really answer the question as to whether you should break up with this man is YOU.

People impose arbitrary dealbreakers all the time. We can quibble about which ones are reasonable and which ones aren’t, but ultimately, it’s subjective. And my subjective judgment probably doesn’t mean all that much to you if you feel sexually deprived if you’re not having sex 5 times a week.

Listen, you’re not alone. In the past month, I’ve had two clients tell me, point-blank, that nightly sex was important to them and has been a dealbreaker for them before. That’s their right. It’s also my right to point out that it’s a lot easier to find a guy with a high libido than it is to find a guy who is marriage material. If you have to choose one to marry, I’d choose the guy who is marriage material. But that’s just me.

Alas, the invariable blowback from the gallery is “Why should I have to choose? Why can’t I get BOTH? Why do I have to compromise on something so important to me?”

And that’s where sex is really no different than any other dealbreaker: height, weight, age, education, income, sense of humor, geography, kids, blahblahbah. People who are looking to get married must realize that you don’t get EVERY SINGLE quality you’re looking for in a partner, but if you get most of them, you’re a very lucky person. My wife and I have similar libidos — closer to your boyfriend, for what it’s worth — so this is one thing that we didn’t have to compromise on. But we did compromise on religion, politics, geography, education, and a host of other things. This is what adults do — assess realistic expectations and either adjust or stay true to your list of demands.

This is what adults do — assess realistic expectations and either adjust or stay true to your list of demands.

If you are insistent upon your partner having any quality that may be somewhat extreme — a man with a PhD (3%), a man who is a millionaire (4%), a man who runs marathons (.1%), etc — you are CHOOSING to limit your dating pool. There’s no judgment on you; but it will, by definition, take you a lot longer to find love.

One final point that you seem to have missed is this: you feeling lonely and rejected when he doesn’t want to have sex is YOUR decision. He’s still your boyfriend. He’s still attracted to you. He still sleeps with you. He just has a different biological makeup. It’s like being a chef who gets angry that his patrons don’t want to eat at 1pm after he just fed them a big lunch at 12pm. You can’t take this personally.

So once that’s off your head — and you stop judging him and judging yourself because you’re different, ask yourself: can I find happiness with this man or is sex important enough that I will continue searching for the man who a) can give it to me every night and b) also has all of the wonderful qualities of your current boyfriend.

You’re not wrong whichever way you choose, but it’s clear that the path of accepting your normal boyfriend is a surer route to a healthy relationship than blowing things up for a random guy with an equally high sex drive and keeping your fingers crossed that you’ll also love him VERY, VERY much.

Unless YOU don’t think so, in which case, I wish you the best of luck.

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  1. 41
    Katarina Phang

    Remember, you have about 12 hrs waking hours to dwell on and resent the fact that you’re feeling neglected and rejected.   Imagine doing this for the rest of your life.   Any wonder why most high-libido spouses can’t put up with this anymore or how sour their relationships become after a period of time?

  2. 42
    Saint Stephen

    Sex do not sustain a relationship- character does. Too much good sex would easily make for a toxic relationship, but not a healthy one.
    Even couples who enter marriage being sexually compatible still fall incompatible along the line.
    I know a married couple with incompatible sex drive, but in this case it happens to be the man with the higher sex drive. While sex meant so much to the guy, he didn’t break up with her b/c he knew he had found a “rare gem.” He resorted to masturbation.
    The LW could dump him and look for someone with a high libido. But what happens if she suddenly gets a condition that hinders her from having sex? Would she want her high libido partner to simply rely on the strength of her character and continue loving her? or should he look for someone else who now seems to match his sexual appetite? The answer she would pick is the action i recommend for her.

  3. 43

    Katarina, I would never want to be in a relationship with someone like you.   All you ever think about is what the other person can do for you, what you can take.   Sex is important but its not everything.   What if your spouse gets into an accident or has a medical condition that forever alters their sex life?   Would you leave them? That sounds selfish.   Anyways peoples sex drives change over time as they age.   So even if you think that you’re sexually compatible in the beginning things can change over time and with age.

  4. 44

    @ nicole#33 & les#34

    Agree with you ladies wholeheartedly. Appreciate your thoughts.

    @ gem#35

    “If sex drives or styles are mismatched to the point where someone is unhappy in the relationship, then yes”

    I’m not disagreeing, but you now realize that you are advocating for many thousands of marriages to end because the guy isn’t getting the amount of sex or gratification as he likes from his wife/sig.other. Do realize that women with high sex drives like hers are more rare than guys with low libido’s.. so if your tune is that if it’s really crappy that she’s only getting it almost twice a week so she should leave (i hear tons of married men crying at that statement).. then apply it equally eh’

    @ K.phang#40

    See above comment to #35

    @ ann#36, 37

    A non aroused woman can still perform the act, it happens all the time. Oh and ps-i learned everything about pleasing a woman by watching porn. It just so happened that i watch euro erotica, and lesbian flix, not the crap produced by north american companies. my former wife told me after our first couple of nights together that all men should watch the kind of porn i did because it obviously taught me what to look for in a woman’s body language during lovemaking.

    And i guess it goes a really long way in helping if the guy actually cares about you vs. wanting to just pump and dump you.

    At the end of the day, if the guy is really not willing to do anything about it then yes, i’d say drop him. But if he really is dead tired from working hard to try and provide for them, still managing to do it 2x a week, is a great, sweet, considerate man, and is good in bed, and this still isn’t good enough for you? i say cut him loose and roll the bones, but better to cut it with him now so he can find someone who appreciates what he can offer instead of trying to have him satiate the insatiable.

  5. 45

    I have been following this thread, but holding back on commenting until now because I don’t think this is a clear cut issue.
    Having been with a partner who rarely was into sex, I feel some sympathy for the OP. It can lead to frustration and self-doubt for even the most healthy and confident person. It seems to me that at this point, she has adapted to her situation in a way that simply increases her pain and suffering, something I remember doing in my own relationship.
    On the other hand, like a few other commenters, 5-9 times a month doesn’t sound like a “low sex drive” at all. For most of the 3 years of the relationship I spoke of above, I was lucky if we had sex a few times a month. And then, it often felt like she wasn’t into it much, or was somehow conflicted. Now, it’s important to note that there were many other issues between her and I that led to the end of the relationship, and frankly I wonder if there are other issues the OP isn’t telling us about.
    While Katarina focuses on sexual incompatibility here, I’m not convinced it’s simply that. It’s really easy to fixate on a lack of sex, or good sex, when the whole house of cards is collapsing around you. I’ve been there. Many of you have probably been there. You love someone. You are attached to them. And have turned your back on issues that are scary or anger-provoking, but which need to be addressed. It’s rarely just about sex if you’ve been together for multiple years, but the quality of and quantity of sex can speak volumes about other problems.

  6. 46

    I said: “If sex drives or styles are mismatched to the point where someone is unhappy in the relationship, then yes”
    Mike #44 said:

    I’m not disagreeing, but you now realize that you are advocating for many thousands of marriages to end because the guy isn’t getting the amount of sex or gratification as he likes from his wife/sig.other. Do realize that women with high sex drives like hers are more rare than guys with low libido’s.. so if your tune is that if it’s really crappy that she’s only getting it almost twice a week so she should leave (i hear tons of married men crying at that statement).. then apply it equally eh’

    Although my statement was general, no, I’m not speaking across the board for every relationship including married people.

    I’m talking about THIS situation. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this guy. He’s been this way since they met! It’s who he is. They fought throughout their first year about it. Maybe she thought he’d change and stuck it out because of all his other great qualities but he didn’t change and 3 years later it’s the same. He doesn’t deserve to be made to feel like he’s lacking something. She stayed and wants him to change the way he is. That’s not fair.

    Look at the results:

    She doesn’t initiate sex because she fears rejection.

    She always feels neglected.

    Her mind drifts during sex.

    She’s programmed her brain not to want sex.

    She’s lost the spark for him.

    Doesn’t sound like a fun relationship now…..imagine if they married???

    Let me repeat! I don’t think there is anything wrong with this guy (maybe there is, IDK, but he’s not her project to fix and so far, he’s not copping to any problem anyway.

    So yeah, I do think this is good enough reason to leave. They are only 3 years in and have had this issue from the beginning. Should she TRY to be happy because his libido matches the average out there?

    My advice was to get real with herself and ask herself if she could make peace with his drive the way it is. If so, let it go and stop pouting, and stop making his lower drive evidence of something wrong with her.

    If she can’t do that, then, hell yes, consider leaving. Why stay and give herself and this guy grief for years to come. Find someone who is more compatible.

  7. 47

    Gem may be on to something. As is That East Asian Man #39. If they have spent three years trying to resolve a conflict about something that is supposed to be fun and mutually enjoyable, imagine what will happen if they disagree on how to spend money or raise their kids. Yes unfortunately it does sound like leaving may be an option.
    To the multiple commenters who brought up the old hypothetical, What if he gets into an accident and cannot have sex at all… you guys don’t understand the difference between having to take care of someone who is genuinely sick, or an accident victim, and having to accommodate a healthy man in his prime who just doesn’t feel like doing extra work (and I don’t just mean in bed — neither do I just mean this couple — I’m speaking in general). If a young, healthy person cannot lift a finger to meet their partner halfway, and cannot give a valid reason why, this is not going to be a good marriage — better cut the losses now before it’s too late.
    PS 9 times/month would be enough for me too, but I have a full-time job and kids. If I were in my 20s without children… those nine times better be pretty darn good!!
    PPS. Many years ago, I talked to a man online — older man in his 50s or 60s — who told us that his sex drive had hit rock bottom because of prescription meds. However, he added that, to keep his wife happy and satisfied, he was doing the best he could, in any way he could, even if and when he didn’t feel like it. Just sayin’. IMO this is what couples do for each other. I’ve done it too.

  8. 48
    Katarina Phang

    Greg, you don’t know me…so please reserve your judgment.   It’s uncalled for. I’m a very giving person (I supported my husband and gave and gave and gave in my marriage) and trying to make him happy was all I could think of.   And that’s why a lot of women become unhappy: because their men aren’t as giving as we are, but I digress.

    Sexual incompatibility is real, your ignorance is mind-boggling. And as Goldie said, medical conditions are one thing.   Having a healthy person as your partner who doesn’t bother to do the work to make you happy every now and then is another.    My case was the latter and I’m not going to get into that situation again.

  9. 49
    Hadley Paige

    When does the conversation start about what part of this   “boyfriend problem” that the OP has is a result of her failure to be attractive, stay attractive, create sexual excitement.
    Don’t know how hot she is; what her personality is like; or how randy she is in bed, but   regardless she’s got to own some of this problem.   An overweight, bitchy cow in a sweat suit ain’t that tantalizing after the novelty sex wears off.

  10. 50

    @ Gem #46

    “If she can’t do that, then, hell yes, consider leaving. Why stay and give herself and this guy grief for years to come. Find someone who is more compatible.”

    As i qualified my remarks earlier by starting with “I’m not disagreeing,..” what we’re all really admitting to here is:

    1. Evan’s comments are spot on. She need’s to choose to accept this or let the poor guy go now.
    2. That her decision may cost her a partner whom she will not find the same good qualities in with a higher libido. Is it possible? Sure, but it’s a roll of the dice at that point and she’ll need to live with this choice with no expectation of coming back to it if it backfires.
    3. That a person’s sexual drive and lack of available sex within a relationship to match that drive is grounds for breaking up what otherwise is a perfectly good relationship, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander, regardless of which sex is pulling the trigger.
    4. Acknowledging that there is a stereotype that if a man leaves his partner because she is not giving him enough sex (to match his drive) then hes a selfish prick that’s only looking out for his own needs and thinks his sig. other is just there to service him.

    I’m all for being straight up and honest at the start. In fact, my online profile specifically states that i enjoy a healthy sexual relationship and expect my partner to keep up. This is a deal breaker for me, and i won’t tolerate anyone who would use sex as a means of extortion or as a means to attain something. This is to weed them out early on. Because once you’re married, and your partner 180’s and closes up shop, what recourse do you have? Cheat? Divorce? Don’t get married?

    Ill go for option 3 thank you.

    1. 50.1
      Mrs Happy

      To Mike @ 50, point #4:
      statistics play a part. The most common reason a couple seeks relationship counselling is a mismatch in sex drives. In 10 of every 11 cases of heterosexual couples at counselling for this reason, the woman has a lower desire (with respect to the frequency of sex. She often wants better quality sex, not more frequent sex). In 1 out of every 11 cases presenting to counsellors, it’s the man with the lower frequency desire.
      Thus, many more men than women in long term relationships, want more frequent sex.
      If a man leaves his partner for another woman, statistics suggest the problem (him wanting more frequent sex than his next partner) is more likely to recur.
      It’s more likely that a woman who leaves, will find a new partner with a long term higher sex drive, than vice versa.

  11. 51

    @Hadley #49- given that the OP said they’ve been having this issue since the first year of  their relationship, and assuming that her boyfriend was pleased enough with her looks to get into a serious relationship  with her in the first place,  it’s probably not an issue of her letting herself go.

  12. 52

    Additionally, if this were a case of her failing to excite him, you’d think he’d bring that up in their numerous discusssions of the issues. But instead he just says he’s not in the mood. Apparently he is willing to live with the status quo and she is not; to me that’s evidence that he’s not particularly unhappy or displeased  with the way things are.

  13. 53
    Hadley Paige

    RE: Jennifer @ 52 “if this were a case of her failing to excite him, you’d think he’d bring that up in their numerous discussions of the issues”
    As a guy who has been in a few relationships, I can tell you that telling the absolute full undiluted truth all the time often gets you into very big arguments or results in significant negative behavior directed at you by your female partner. Guys often avoid conflict in a relationships by not addressing an issue. I can totally see a guy saying “I’m not in the mood” or “I have a low sex drive” than saying “you don’t excite me anymore”; or “you’re not as much sexual fun as when I first met you”; or “you have let yourself go & as a result I am not that attracted sexually to you anymore”
    For women to get what they want out of men they need to stay sexually attractive. For me, hearing a guy say “ I have low sex drive” I’m thinking he thinks she’s not that hot.   That’s probably in her power to change.   That’s what strippers do, namely temporarily raise a guy’s sex drive.

    1. 53.1

      I agree that both parties should take care of themselves not just women.   So if a mans gained 50 pounds it’s no different women like attractive men too.

      But your answer is not the norm from what I’m reading. Personally my fiancé’s drive tanked 6 months in. I had not gained weight I looked exactly the same.   It’s not always because the woman’s not attractive.

  14. 54

    I have to agree with Jennifer that if this has been a problem since their first year together, I fail to see how the theory that the OP is now an “overweight, bitchy cow in a sweat suit” could apply here. I don’t understand why the boyfriend having a much lower sex drive is so hard to believe.  

  15. 55

    Regardless as to the cause If he boyfriend is no longer attracted to her and it’s not the sweat suit that’s the problem, she should probably bail for someone that finds her attractive.  

  16. 56
    Hadley Paige

    RE: Ruby @ 54   “I fail to see how the theory that the OP is now an “overweight, bitchy cow in a sweat suit” could apply here “
    I didn’t say the OP is an overweight, bitchy cow in a sweatsuit. I use that as an extreme example of how the “problem” of her man’s low sexual drive is related to how attractive he finds the woman who wants to get laid.
    Just as married women who have affairs often get a bye because “my husband wasn’t meeting my emotional, sexual, spiritual… fill in the blank here needs”, (meaning that what is initially viewed as her failing is explained as something which is in fact not her failing but something she was driven to), so too this guy’s failing, namely low sex drive, is I suggest, a result of not finding his woman sexually attractive (for whatever reason).
    She needs to own some of this. She can do something about how he perceives her. She does not have to be the passive victim of this situation. She can take action to improve her game. Don’t think so? Take a look at the names of the articles on a Cosmo cover.
    I would love to see a post (just one little post is all I ask) here by a woman advocating that the OP take some personal responsibility for this situation.

  17. 57

    Oh,   the myth of “making yourself enticing” to revive your partner’s interest in sex… advocated in so many books and women’s magazines – apparently by people who have never encountered the problem! It makes me quite ill to think back to those times – the lingerie I bought, the sexy surprises I planned for him, the erotic texts I’d send – the candles, the massage books, the articles I read on how to please your man… and the systematic rejection and heartache that these efforts led to. With a lower libido man, any attempt to do these things is simply interpreted as PRESSURE. It doesn’t matter how you approach it, that is how it is perceived. And men HATE pressure from women in any area of life. The OP HAS tried to do her part to resolve the problem – she has stopped asking for or initiating sex. That is the only thing that may work with a man like this, and in her case, it hasn’t. I do think its time this issue was talked about more openly and they myth that sexy lingerie will solve the problem was once and for all debunked, so that women stop blaming themselves and dancing around the maypole doing the dance of the seven veils   while their partner stands in the middle of the circle doing absolutely nothing. As in any relationship problem, you can’t solve it by yourself, so to me the dealbreaker here is the fact that her partner will not even  participate in trying to make things better. Nothing she can do singlehandedly will bring about any change in this situation.

  18. 58
    Katarina Phang

    There are forums for sexless marriages and everyone in those boards will tell anyone who presumes that sexual incompatibility can be overcome by any of the “Cosmopolitan” advice such as Helene alluded above to just wake up and smell the coffee.   Some of these people have been married for decades and most of it in the state of sexlessness and they have seen and heard it ALL.


    The ignorants who have never been in this situation will continue judging and coming up with asinine advice.

    Sorry folks, human sexuality is mighty complex. If you’re not sure you can work it out in the long run (we can gauge that early in the relationship), don’t commit to anyone who doesn’t match you in bed PERIOD. It won’t get any better.  

    Sexual issues are very sensitive to men as well.   The more pressure and demand/gimmicks you apply on them the more they’ll see sex as a chore.   Sexually deprived women are actually far more common than prevalent wisdom (that men want sex all the time -which I think is the real myth).

  19. 59

    Hadley Paige #56

    I don’t think of Cosmo as a fount of relationship knowledge. I also disagree with you that married women who have affairs get a pass. Also, remember the old chestnut used by cheating married men, “My wife doesn’t understand me”?

    The OP has been trying to talk about this problem with her boyfriend for 3 years, so I hardly think that she is behaving like a passive victim. I don’t know what other kinds of strategies she has employed, but she seems pretty desperate to fix this problem. Yes, we haven’t heard the boyfriend’s side, but it doesn’t sound like he is doing anything other than saying he’s “not in the mood.”

  20. 60
    Saint Stephen

    I still don’t get this sexless marriage/relationship crap, coming into play here. The OP said they have sex 5 to 9 times a month which happens to be pretty normal for most relationships- especially couples with demanding jobs. Might also be less if children comes into the picture.
    I’d also ask about women who got married to Military men, Athletes, Business men? This are men whose career require them traveling all over the world. How do this women do it (and I’m not referring to those who cheat)? How do they keep the fire burning? Sometimes this women are lucky if they have sex in a span of three to six months. Do the relationships simply fizzle out just b/c their men aren’t around to service them at every given caprice? I’ll wager that such relationships succeeded b/c the women conditioned their mind to become happy with what they have.
    As an aside; I’ll challenge any experienced “know it all” woman on this board to tell if waiting to find a sexually compatible mate inhibits marriage/relationship from hitting the rocks.

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