Q&A: Negotiating Differing Drives

One of our readers wrote in requesting that we consider the following for an article:

“Success stories for negotiating with each other about sex so that any disparities between HD and somewhat lower desire can be successfully smoothed over.”

For clarity, first of all, I want to clarify that the lower drive spouse in this article pertains to a husband or wife who simply has a lower drive than their spouse, not one who is a refuser/controller. They are two very different things and for the purpose of this thread we are only dealing with high drive/low drive couples who are committed to passion, but trying to work out frequency. Please read our article on Living With a Refuser if you need information about that.

I have found in my reading that for as many couples who share a similar drive there are just as many who need to approach their sex life with a greater need to compromise on frequency. It is ideal in this situation that both the husband and wife have an attitude of generosity and consideration.

A husband or wife with a higher drive than their spouse will need to learn through conversation and observation what they need to do in order to speak love to their spouse. They need to be sure that they are clear on what their wife or husband’s love language is so that they can do their part to keep their “love tank” full. In short, it is likely that a husband or wife will respond to sexual initiation when you have already communicated that you love them throughout the day.

In addition to this, it is important to mutually commit to being intentional in initiating and responding. The low drive spouse needs to make an effort to “think sex” throughout the day and commit themselves to making an effort to get sex going every now and then, especially if the high drive spouse is feeling frustrated at being the one who does most of the initiating. The high drive spouse needs to remember that it is OK for their spouse to be wired differently and to allow them to have freedom in that, but it is not a license for them to be apathetic about their sex life.

A lot of couples with differing drives have found great success with varying degrees of a schedule. Some couples will schedule specific days that they will plan to have sex for certain and then other days when it is optional. Other couples prefer a schedule that is more relaxed and they agree that they will have sex any two weeknights, plus once on the weekend, for example. The greatest complaint with this is that “there is no spontaneity.” I think that is an unfair judgment towards this approach. I mean, certainly if it doesn’t work for you that’s fine, but I can tell you for certain that knowing ahead of time that you will have sex on a specific night can be very exciting as you anticipate the day coming. I am specifically thinking about how nice it is to anticipate an night away and plan a steamy encounter while you are away. The same can be said for anticipating sex on a certain night. It doesn’t need to be boring. Plan for it to be exciting if a schedule will allow you to compromise on frequency in a way that satisfies both of you.

For the spouse that has a physical need for more release after a compromise has been met, the couple might consider incorporating masturbation for the high drive spouse. As long as it doesn’t replace intimacy with ones spouse or used while lusting, this is a viable option for many people.

If anyone else has ideas on how couples with differing drives have found compromise, feel free to share them below.

19 Comments

  1. After having 2 kids in 2 years and all the hormone issues that go along with that, I was definitely the low drive spouse. Although I still enjoyed sex, I required quite a bit more “warming up” than before kids and rarely initiated sex. (I almost never turned my husband down, though.)

    About a year or so ago my hormones started to return to normal and I realized that my husband was frustrated that I was rarely the one to initiate. At that point, I did exactly what you are suggesting to the low drive spouse. I started to spend quite a bit of time on The Marriage Bed webpage and boards to get my mind going that direction. I also started thinking about my husband that way more frequently and determined to initiate more often.

    I also read that most men have an average 72 hour cycle in which they physically need sexual release. At that point I decided that I would make it my goal to initiate at the 72 hour mark if he had not. I wanted to make sure my husband was fulfilled in this area and began to really pray that the Lord would help me to bless my husband in this way.

    As I continued to do those things, God really changed me. My drive went from low to high. Now I am the high drive spouse! The roles have practically reversed for us and my husband is still in the process of figuring out what to do with me. Sometimes he just shakes his head at me (with a huge grin on his face, of course).

  2. Hubbie here: I think words are very revealing and can really help us get a clearer understanding (yes, I tend to be over-precise, and it probably drives Queen nuts.)

    Cinnamon Sticks uses the word compromise, and it caused me to think of the word “collaborate”, with particular reference to the “Getting To Yes” book on negotiating and its focus in interest versus position (no, not that kind of position!)

    I may say that I want sex 4 times a week (my position), and Queen may say 2 times a week (her position). Or vice versa – who says what doesn’t matter. If we hold rock-solid to our positions, we will either never have sex, or one will “win” and one will “lose”, or we both will “give up” something. This is typically called a “compromise”.

    (Now Cinnamon, I am not saying this is what you meant. I am just reacting to the word.)

    The idea here is to look behind the position to the interest – what am I really interested in? If I can understand what I really want (my interest) and communicate that to Queen, and if she can do the same with her interests, and communicate them to me, then we have a chance to work on the real stuff and collaborate.

    Collaborate means that we would work together by figuring out what’s going on inside our hearts and heads (introspection), and then clearly communicating it to each other. Once we do this, we can try to creatively meet each others needs in a way that doesn’t seem like either of us is “giving up” anything. In fact, we may feel like we both won.

    If I say 4 times because I need to know that she really desires me, and she says 2 times because she’s wicked tired, we may be able to find a way for her to communicate the real desire I need, and a way for me to help her get the rest she needs. It takes creative work and communication, but it may be that if I help her get the rest she needs, she will be able to communicate desire to me in a way that I understand.

    If I do the laundry and fold the socks, she may be rested enough to knock my socks off. Yes, I am always thinking about socks. Seriously, both interests get realized.

    This may sound simplistic, but I have seen it work in other than this kind of situation, and I think I need to try this with Queen.

    (Sweetie, let’s talk interests!)

    Just an idea for consideration.

  3. I have a higher drive than my husband does. I get worried that I want it more than he does and that he obliges because guys are supposed to want sex all the time. I am having a hard time of getting him to open up too. I want to make sure that I am not forcing too much or expecting too much. Any ideas? He works and gets stressed out easy and I definitely do not want sex to be a stressor for him.

  4. This is a common problem when the woman has the higher drive because the stereotype is so strong of men being the ones who are so sexual. And it’s interesting that for some men and women, sex is a stress reducer and then know it. For others, sex is a stress reducer, but when they are stressed their drive goes down.
    I wonder how he would respond to the sex survey we have on the CN blog.

    I love your username, btw. 😀

  5. Maybe this is the wrong place to post this – does anyone else struggle with just plain not being in the mood? This seems to happen fairly regularly for me – I want to desire to make love, but I don’t. I come on here to try to spark my interest, pay special attention to what I wear so that I will “feel” sexy, and put forth the effort, to no avail!

    It generally lasts 7-10 days and I now think it may be related to my cycle, but I haven’t really tracked it before. I am not on hormonal birth control or any other medications (other than vitamins.) DH is always patient, and I try not to neglect him even if we don’t have intercourse – as you ladies point out, there are other ways to accomodate differing drives.

    I am just so frustrated with this situation. The rest of the time, we have nearly matching drives and this honestly makes me feel guilty for not being interested. It also makes DH feel guilty because he feels like he is using me for his own gain. I have explained that I do it out of love and that I enjoy it.

    Mackeytr – thanks for those guidelines about 72 hours. Even if that is not accurate, it gives me a good timeline to aim for when I am feeling like this. DH would never press, so that 72 hrs gives me a goal.

  6. To me it makes sense that your drive goes up and down because that is how I am too. 😀
    I definitely notice that my drive is connected to my cycle, but even though there are times that my drive is lower than my husbands, there are other times that his drive is lower. For us it has been quite a dance. It sure is nice when we hit a high note at the same time though. 8)

  7. I am glad that I found this line of discussion. I am a wife who didn’t understand why my husband needed frequent sex until many years into our marriage. God woke us both up and showed me my husband’s physical needs and showed him my needs for non-sexual intimacy. Our marriage is so much stronger now.

    We have one lingering issue though, and I would love your advice. My husband desires sex every night. I want to meet his needs. We have three children though and an active life, and maybe once or twice a month, we have nights in which sex is very inconvenient (like when we hosted our young daughter’s slumber party or when one of us is sick). My husband is not willing or able to roll with it and enjoy our time together the next day.

    How can I encourage my husband to wait until the next day and savor the anticipation? Or am I wrong? I am trying to be open to the best solution for our marriage.

  8. I think there are a lot of interesting points here. I like the comment by Hubbie of queenandhubbie – compromise is a bad term here. Clearly husbands are most often the higher drive spouse, so there is more of a need there. One of the larger points of this site is that sex is VERY important to husbands – it is when they feel closest to their wives. It is physical, emotional, and spiritual for men. Where this is going is that this is one of the most important needs of husbands, so it is very difficult to “compromise” away a physical, emotional, and spiritual need. Just as it would be wrong for a husband to negotiate down a need that is that deeply important to his wife that he struggles to fulfill, the same is true for wives towards their husbands. This has a dangerous tendency to move all things to a negotiation – and that will guarantee that someone will feel unfulfilled. Sacrificial love is our example and God will bless that for sure!

    If you have been able to give to your husband and meet his needs and your husband has been meeting your needs, he should be able to handle the occasional interruption. Life gets in the way through no fault of anyone sometimes! You sound like you truly desire to meet his needs.

    If he knows for sure that you are always striving to meet his needs in a genuine way – not just by having sex with him but by initiating as well – then he should be confident in the fact that the occasional interruption will happen and doesn’t mean anything.

  9. am glad to know that I am not alone in this. My husband is 11 years older then I am, and I joke that I have a teenage boy sex drive. It can be really frustrating. I guess my question is how do we get our husbands on board, or entice them to be more active participants? How do we them to join in our enlightenment?

  10. We have had lots of conversations through the years. I have found that when we have sex more to his preferred schedule (less often than I would prefer), he is hungrier for sex, and much more excited about the process–so it is more fun for both of us. It has taken us quite some time to reach a happy medium. It was not just one conversation. Lots of them–lots of prayer, too. And my letting go of my own expectations. We are both giving to each other in love, at the point we have reached.

    I guess what I am saying is that this has to be about more than “how can I manipulate him into sex more often”.

  11. Thanks Tiger Girl. Its just really nice to know I am not alone in this. I have been praying about this for some time, and when I found your website it was like a breath of fresh air. I do understand that I may not be able to get my hubby on to my level needs, but is asking for more then ever two / three weeks isn’t asking too much? I have tried alot of things, but also with this sparce schedual the thing I look forward do doesn’t last more then maybe 2 min. Any idea’s would be a great help.

  12. LIstening Star–

    Every two to three weeks IS a long time. I know. :-[ Recently I came up with an illustration to explain how I feel when our times together are too few, and too fast:

    Compare yourself to a wind-up kitchen timer. Say you can handle going two weeks between sexual encounters, assuming certain conditions are met:lots of affectionate touch, lots of communication throughout the week, plenty of kissing, and when you do have a sexual encounter, it is full-blown–neither of you is totally exhausted, you are not being distracted by kids, or trying to fit the time into the half-time of a football game, and the sex itself is incredible–slowly intensifying foreplay, lots of breast play, full body rub for both of you, and at least 15 minutes of PIV intercourse, with possible multiple O’s for you, and stimulation up to and through female ejaculation for you, if you are feeling the desire/urge, and apres-sex, some loving talk for another half hour before you fall asleep spooning. [I know you are thinking, “Yeah, right–like that ever happens.”]

    So, suppose you had a sexual encounter like that. You could tell yourself the next two weeks that you really enjoyed yourself, and him, and felt very cherished. Your “timer” was set to 2 weeks.

    But, if it was rushy, or he fell asleep really fast, or did not even really satisfy you–just got you to the point where you were beginning to be warmed up, and then he EJACULATED. Well, Your dial got re-set to the “one minute mark” meaning, you really should have sex again later that day. Or the next morning, or the very soonest time possible, even if it is two nights away. And hopefully, you can talk about it ahead of time, and make sure that he realizes that when this happens, you have not really been satisfied, and the well has just been primed. And hopefully, your communication will improve to the point that he chooses to initiate sex with you again very soon. Because if he doesn’t he is letting the timer ding, and the cookies in the oven will get over-brown. And dry out. And maybe even burn. [By that, I mean that you are being left open to the temptation to be resentful, to compare your situation with that of others, to be bitter at him, short with him and anyone else in your path, etc… Obviously, you will have to choose how you respond to temptation.]

    A quickie in the shower may reset you to needing sex in three days. A “half-time performance” on Monday may reset you till the weekend, when you can take more time, etc…

    Sometimes you can spend all of your time “turning yourself off” when you don’t expect sex, and it tends to take too long to get ready for sex. I know that that happens to me sometimes. I can take an extra long time to orgasm, if I am afraid that my husband is reaching me for “duty sex” cause I need it, and I figure he would rather just fall asleep.

    Sometimes in helping treat premature ejaculation, the suggestion is given that a guy should masturbate earlier in the day (shower, etc…) so he is ready for his wife later. That kind of info., to a sex-starved spouse, could be really annoying. My suggestion would be to spend some time the night before (or morning before) we planned to spend more time together, just having a quickie, or doing the hot-dog and buns. If I am not going to get TONS of sex, I want to get what might be available to me.

    I know this post is getting way too long, but back to the timer illustation: if your husband can understand that the timer only gets turned back to 60 minutes properly for you when you have major full-blown sex, but that you are fine with the quicker kind, as often as he knows that you need it to happen more often, it may help.

    It will also help him to have a more enjoyable orgasm if he is able to be sexually excited for a good 20 minutes before ejaculation.

    Sex has to be about each other. I am sure that you know that, and deep down, he knows that. I pray that you will be able to communicate it with him lovingly.

  13. Thanks Tiger Girl, I like the timer thinking, its something I can explain easily to my DH.

    Last night when my DH wasn’t in the mood (again) I took the time, like some of the other posts suggested. I did all the work, truely expecting nothing in return. Full body massage, all the pre stuff, then did all the work during. It was almost 40 mins, which is pretty much a new record. Then I took some advice from “the marriage bed” site about finishing your needs yourself, which at first was a little odd for us, but then turned into a very fullfilling event for both of us.

    Like the timer, mine has been reset at least for a while, no because he took the time, but because I did.

    Thanks Tiger Girl, thats all the other girls for posting too, its funny because just being able to talk about this stuff has made it so much easier to work through.

  14. tiger girl, thanks for your analogy, it helps me to see me even more clearly, and perhaps I can explain it to my man a little more clearly.

    Lately it’s been hard, he’s been busy and i’m ‘touched out’ sometimes b/c of the baby and therefore warm up more slowly, and so we ML less often – but my drive is still high, higher than his – it just takes a little while to get me ready. Which is a bit confusing 🙂

    But the problem is when we go more than a couple days, dh ejaculates soooo quickly while I warm up even more slowly b/c I have been repressing my desires, thinking that they won’t be fulfilled again. I used to ‘think sex’ throughout the day and that helped, but now I don’t so much b/c it just makes it that much harder when he’s too busy…

    I’ve started not hardly wanting to have sex at all b/c it’s kinda depressing 😦 and I am not used to feeling this way. And b/c we ML less often, and I *need* release, i get kinda stressed even while we’re having sex, which is bad! We have some great times, it’s just been harder lately….
    Gosh, it’s just good to spill this out somewhere.
    But anyways, I think I’m due for a good long talk with my man sometime soon and maybe this kitchen timer analogy will help.
    i just… I know how important communication is, but for some reason I am having some trouble actually opening up dialogue on this. I don’t really want to admit that I’m not really satisfied with our sex life, not in so many words. … help? prayers?

  15. my doctor has put me on 2 anti anxiety meds and these are affecting my ability to orgasm ,no matter how much time my dh tries to help and be patient ,it just doesnt happen.any ideas?we go for another appt in a few weeks but ive even tried not taking these during the day only at nite and that doesnt help.its very frustrating.im thinking of stopping them totally.help

  16. Hi Hisgirl,
    I can totally relate. I had two little angels within 18 months, if I wasn’t with a baby I was prego. It was so hard. I can also relate to the DH issue.

    With the baby stuff, it takes time. My sex drive was crazy high (way higher then normal) the whole time but then as soon as my DH touched me it was just, yuck. My DH actually came up with this, try something new. Blind fold really worked well for me, and he did different things, scratching, full body massage, even using heated massage oil. Something that is different from your babys touch.

    As for the DH, to be honest I am still working on that, but I have found that lube works really well, the warming stuff, its different enough that it slows them down a bit. I will do pre-ML stuff with my hands first to de-sensitise the area. Ultimately the biggest thing is the more you have sex the longer they can go. Which is a catch 22 I know.

    Like you said its time to have a conversation, it might not be the easiest, mine was ok, but I was very nervious as we never talked about it before. Pray about it, and now you have girls to talk to who know what your going through, which has helped me so much.

  17. Lisa–

    Idk what all is going on in your life right now (nor do I need too). But–I would like to encourage you to step back from your situation a little, and consider why you are on the meds in the first place.

    I am not saying: “Read your Bible and pray every day, and everything will be OK.” Nothing in a fallen world is that simple. Are there relationships in your life that need reconciliation? Are you in a difficult life/family/job/church/financial situation? How is your relationship with the Lord?

    I realize that anti-anxiety meds can be given for physical side effects, such as to treat an over-active bladder, but, if you are treating your anxiety, without dealing with the problem that causes your anxiety, and learning to throw your anxieties on the Lord, your meds will be like giving aspirin to a patient, instead of giving him the root canal he really needs.

    I love the book When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Resources for Changing Lives) by Edward Welch.

    Again–I am not sure what you are dealing with, but I would suggest you take a close look at your situation, perhaps with a NANC certified Biblical counselor. And I would also be sure to work with your doctor if you are playing with dosages, or taking the meds on a slightly erratic schedule, etc…

  18. Lisa-
    My Hubby has a serious mental disorder that for over5 years had him on various anti-anxiety pills- and I can feel your pain! He had trouble being interested in sex at all, and for a guy, that kind of undermines the whole thing. (It was a very rough couple of years.) He worked with his doctors to get off those eventually, and what a difference!
    He still requires other meds, but we found that the anti-anxieties could all be replaced by natural supplements that have no side effects. If you are really needing something to help, you should look into B vitamins first of all, but other things that can be very helpful for both brain function and mood are Omegas, DHEA, Co Q-10, and even Amino Acid supplements (The complete kind, not the body-builder kind). All of these are completely harmless for anyone to take according to the bottle recommendations, so I say they’re worth a shot! You can find out lots on-line, or there may be a naturopath or even a Chiropractor in your area who can help you find out what is right for you.
    With any anti-anxietiey types of meds, it is very important not to stop them suddenly, as all kinds of Really Bad Things can happen. So by all means, talk to your doctor and see if you can find a healthier way to get healthy!
    Good luck!

  19. Also along the lines of B vitamins, they have really helped my mood in general. I’ve struggled with some depression and anxiety and B12 is the one that really makes a difference. But keep in mind that your body cannot absorb it properly if you swallow it. (your stomach acids ruin it immediately) So B12, if you are taking it in tablet form, is best absorbed if you let it dissolve under your toungue. (many of them are made for this and tase like a sugar pill. )
    Lisa, you will be in my prayers.


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