They're feeling amorous. But after a day of work, chauffeuring the kids, cooking, and doing the laundry, you are way too tired to even think about sex. Four days later, you are rested and in the mood; but they're so stressed about the plummeting stock market, they just want to grab a beer and go to sleep.
You used to be so sexually compatible. Is the honeymoon really, finally, over?
Relax. Relationship experts say your problem is just a simple case of "desire discrepancy." It's common - but if ignored, it can wreak havoc on your love life.
"Desire discrepancy," says psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD, "is probably the most frequent complaint that you hear and it goes both ways. Saltz is an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine in New York City and the author of several books including a new one on women and sexuality. "More often, the man wants more sex than the woman. But sometimes, it's the other way around, and women may feel embarrassed about it."
Los Angeles based sex therapist Ava Cadell, PhD, EdD, agrees. "Mismatched sex drive is the number one problem that I see couples for," says Cadell, the author of a number of books including 12 Steps to Everlasting Love.
The good news: There is something you can do! Indeed, you and your partner can take steps to re-sync your sex drives, restore sexual compatibility, and rev up your libido. With a few steps, you can get your relationship back to where it used to be.
And doing so can be as easy as 1 (analyze), 2 (compromise), and 3 (energize)!
Step 1: Analyze your love life
The first step to restoring sexual compatibility is to figure out what's going on -- or not going on -- in the bedroom and why.
Experts recommend delving into your love life to see if there is a reason one of you doesn't feel like making love. "Is it hormonal? Is it stress?" asks Cadell. "Is it because you are really angry with your partner and don't want to make love?" Resentment, she says, is the number one reason that sex drives in relationships get off kilter. But in the long run, you are much better off telling your partner why you are angry rather than putting him off in the bedroom. "Communication," Cadell says, "is the key."
But resentment is not the only reason that your sex life may be taking a dive, says Saltz. If you used to really enjoy making love but now it's the last thing on your mind, you need to rule out medications and/or medical conditions that could be causing the change. See your doctor, Saltz recommends, for an exam and any tests she thinks necessary to make sure all systems are go. If it turns out there is a problem, then getting treatment can easily put the sizzle back in your love life.
Step 2: Compromise for sexual compatibility
The next step is to recognize that sometimes partners have to meet each other halfway -- even in the bedroom.
"You have to acknowledge there is a sexual compatibility issue in your relationship and one or both of you may have to compromise," Saltz says.
But that should not require either partner to be demanding, says Cadell. And neither partner should feel the other is being "greedy."
Even if you are not in the mood, give it a whirl, says Saltz. "Usually after you get started, you can become aroused." Compromise is not difficult, she says, if each partner is willing to do a little more to please the other.
"I think it's the one with the lesser interest in sex who has the responsibility to satisfy the one with the greater interest," says Pepper Schwartz, PhD. Schwartz is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is also the author of several books including Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years.
Step 3: Energize your love life
For many couples, the final step in synchronizing sexual compatibility is to go back to the way things were when you were newly in love. One great way to do that, say experts, is to "date your mate," putting aside a special time of the week -- or month -- when sex becomes your top priority. You might even take turns initiating or deciding what to do; that way if they want a bubble bath and massage while they want rough and tumble sex, both get their needs met.
And, experts say, don't be shy about telling your partner other ways they can turn you on if, for some reason, intercourse is not an option. "Asking your partner to pleasure you as a replacement for intercourse is OK from time to time," says Saltz.
Moreover, experts say that "shaking things up a bit" -- making love in unusual places or at different times of day -- can also help energize your love life. "Changing it up by doing it someplace new makes it more exciting and stirs sex drive in the partner whose libido may be lacking," Saltz says. This is a win-win, she says. "For the person who wants more sex, doing something new is exciting and satiating."
Schwartz agrees: "Sometimes couples with desire discrepancy just need more excitement."