We seem sexually incompatible

by: Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC

Dear: Toni

Here’s a new one for you — my sex drive is much stronger than that of my husband, Joe, and it’s causing a problem in our new (almost one year) marriage.

From early on in our relationship, I was the one who intimated more and showed the greatest interest so I anticipated that this would be an ongoing issue for us. It’s just that it has gotten worse, and my attempts to improve our intimate connection have not worked very well.

Perhaps I should note that, overall, our relationship is good. We both have great careers, share many interests, have a number of close mutual friends in common and enjoy a nice lifestyle. We have some family of origin issues that we are working on together while also trying to establish our own new family rituals and traditions. In other words, we are adjusting to our new marriage and are not without our challenges. It feels like we are both making an effort to support one another, except in the area of our sexual incompatibility.

When I bring the issue up, which is happening more frequently, Joe dismisses it by cracking jokes. He will usually make some effort but only after I get things started. I have tried many different strategies to get his attention, turn him on and set a passionate tone, but the end result is usually a routine encounter once a week which is not enough for me. I am frustrated and sometimes I fear he is not as attracted to me as I am to him. I have even thought about other men, not because I want to be with anyone else, but because I need the intimacy and outlet that my husband does not seem interested in providing. Have you dealt with this issue before, and if so, do you have any suggestions as to how we could go about working on this together? I would also like to know if you think this could be a dealbreaker for us.

Dear: Frustrated Newlywed

You state clearly in your letter that this imbalance has been a part of your relationship from the beginning. Therefore, the classic refrain about how marriage can take the passion out of a relationship does not seem to apply here. You have always had a greater sexual need than your spouse, and it is becoming a larger issue as you near the end of your first year of marriage.

Your frequent failed attempts to gain Joe’s interest and participation seem to be making things worse. It’s almost as though you are setting yourself up for disappointment and/or rejection. Since they are not working, I recommend you put them on hold for now. It may be more productive for Joe to do some individual work on this issue, get a better handle on what his sexual needs and wants are, and identify any related issues he may or may not be fully aware of. These can include low sexual drive due to an underlying hormonal or other physical cause, to psychological blocks that can come from old issues or be related to your present communication and/or relationship dynamics.

It’s certainly possible that you have an unusually high sex drive and Joe has not experienced this before with other women and he is struggling with feelings of insecurity due to his inability to satisfy you.

This process is best guided by an experienced therapist who could meet for some individual sessions with Joe as well as with the two of you, as needed. Counseling could help him gain the necessary insight and offer both of you the optimal structure and support to find a comfortable middle ground on which to give and receive intimacy, or come to the conclusion that no such ground exists. Either way, you will have done everything possible to reach the right conclusion.

You and Joe are the only ones who can determine if this issue is a dealbreaker. What I can offer is an acknowledgement that all healthy relationships need a mixture of good chemistry which works like a glue, especially during the challenging times that are sure to come. From what you have shared, you have good compatibility in two areas: friendship and intellectual stimulation. The third and last piece is your physical connection, and while it’s an important one, only you two can decide if it’s too little or too much for the other to be happy with.


Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, is an internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of http://consum-mate.com. Her expertise is sought frequently by local and national publications, top-ranked dating and relationship websites. Toni has been a guest on a number of radio and TV programs. She is the featured relationship coach in The Business And Practice Of Coaching, (Norton, September 2005); and authored the forward of Winning Points With The Woman In Your Life, One Touchdown At A Time (Simon and Schuster, November 2005). Toni's popular relationship articles can be found in several magazines and a number of self-help, personal growth, and dating/relationship websites. From March until December 2005, she was a weekly contributing commentator (love and dating coach) on the KTRS Radio Morning Show, (St. Louis, MO). Toni holds a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work, is a licensed psychotherapist in the state of Virginia, and holds certification in life coaching. She is a member of The International Coach Federation and The National Association of Social Workers. Toni writes bi-weekly for HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Follow her on FB atwww.facebook.com/coachtoni.coleman and Twitter @CoachToni.


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