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The chasm beneath the sheets: mismatched libidos and what to do about it

By Rosalind Scutt
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Mismatched libidos and what to do about it
Mismatched libidos and what to do about it
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Remember the days when you both wore cologne and sexy underwear and the slightest touch of your partner's hand would send you into fits of rapture? In those days you probably had more than two sexual positions and you shivered every time you took a whiff of your partner's skin. If things are different now, there's a reason why — and some possible ways to counter it, writes Rosalind Scutt.

Anyone who's ever had a medium- to long-term relationship might know what it's like to go from hot, burning passion to slow, tepid love. Many evolutionary biologists will tell you that a woman's libido for her partner is likely to decrease even in the early years. In fact, it is a natural development for woman's libido to nose dive as soon as a strong 'pair bond' has been established.

By comparison, research shows that a man's libido will usually remain unchanged.

This behaviour fits the evolutionary theory that different genders have different reasons for wanting to make out; women do it to secure a relationship while men do it for procreation.

And while that may be a perfectly accurate explanation of sexual motivation at a primal level (often a subconscious level) the rest of us are left to worry about mismatched libidos and their impact on our relationships long term.

If this sounds familiar —the good news is you're not alone.

"If you're bored in the bedroom I assume your relationship as a whole has become comfortable and safe, perhaps even a little boring," says professional "love coach" Carolin Dahlman.

"This happens all the time, usually after the initial spark is gone and you're left to focus on work, kids and hobbies".

"I believe foreplay in your everyday life is key. If you are like siblings during the day, how can you suddenly be man and woman in the bedroom? Start seeing your partner as a man, touching him randomly and move your body in a sexy way while doing the most mundane things," says Dahlman.

Australia's original sex therapist Bettina Arndt holds a similar position (ahem). In her international best-seller, The Sex Diaries, Arndt had 98 couples keep separate diaries. The results showed a pattern of mismatched libidos between men and woman.

"Women lie in bed worrying the hand will come creeping over. Men spend their lives grovelling for sexual favours. The gap between them in bed becomes a chasm," says Arndt's website.

And it's a frightening rift. If left untended, the abyss can become so deep and wide as to cause extreme and often irreversible frustration and disappointment — it can even lead to loathing and divorce.

Many psychologists maintain that successful relationships rely on a degree of sexual intimacy — even if it has to be negotiated. Arndt agrees and has been saying for decades (often controversially) that women need to administer sex to their partners on a regular basis to keep their relationships happy.

''We all live busy, stressful lives which particularly for women, means sex drops off the to-do list. But many men really struggle without that physical connection. They don't want to live with their sisters. They so desperately want their wives to want them."

Is there a solution?

Kind of. Both Arndt and Dahlman suggest women take greater responsibility for their situations. "The secret is in your head. You have to want it and you have to work on wanting it. Don't expect your partner to press your buttons. Take responsibility for your own needs and sexuality. Don't just wait for passion to happen, you have more power than you can imagine," said Dahlman.

Arndt is more succinct: "Just do it," she said.

Bettina Arndt's latest book What Men Want is out now.

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