Intimacy, Desire and Compromise: How to Bridge the Sexual Desire Gap in Your Relationship

Anne Alloway

Posted on October 15 2023

Two arms extend across a divide of concrete pillars in an attempt to reach each other. Two fingers from each hand barely touch.
Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Long-term romantic relationships are some of the most complicated relationships we encounter in our adult lives. Whether married to our partner or not, the stresses of modern life coupled with the pressures of raising a family and running a household can lead to a misalignment of sexual desires. So what do we do when one member of the partnership is always raring to go and the other is, well, not? Let's explore the common challenges faced by couples in this situation and some practical strategies for rekindling intimacy and bringing desires back into harmony

"What seems to be so puzzling is that the very ingredients that nurture love—mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other—are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire."

Esther Perel

What's Squashing Your Partner's Desire for Sex?

A caucasian woman is photographed from above while laying in bed. She is curled up on her side with her arms covering her face.
Yuris Alhumaydy /Unsplash

If you've been in a committed relationship for a while, and maybe even added a couple of high-pressure jobs and a few kids, it's no wonder you're noticing a disconnect in the bedroom. Aside from the obvious hormonal differences between males and females, what is it that leads to a disconnect between partners' desire to be intimate? There are a variety of factors to consider and if desire is going to be resurrected in your relationship, it's crucial for partners to understand and address these issues before they spiral out of control. 

Tips for Him--

So what's a guy to do when his previously randy partner loses her sizzle? Here are a few suggestions for bridging the gap and re-establishing your mutual desire for sex and intimate connection: 

  1. Hear Her Out: In the stressful hustle of modern life, the juggling act many women experience between work and/or family responsibilities can become overwhelming. Many women feel that their partners dismiss their complaints as nagging or whining. It's critical that the male in the relationship makes a concerted effort to really listen to his partner's pain points and demonstrate understanding and care for her plight. Sometimes a genuine hug and an “I appreciate you” on Monday can lead her to want to thank you for your compassion in the bedroom on Date Night Friday. By genuinely listening to her when she's expressing fatigue, you show your partner that her feelings and experiences matter to you. This acknowledgement of her challenges presents an important opportunity for you to share the emotional and mental load she carries each day, opening up additional mental band-with for her to re-connect with her own personal desires.  
  2. Rethink Foreplay:  As sex therapist Esther Perel so eloquently explains, "Foreplay is not something you do five minutes before the real thing. Foreplay pretty much starts at the end of the previous orgasm.” Oftentimes male partners express frustration that their female counterparts aren't ready to go anytime, anywhere. The reason for this is because the modern female is generally spread so thin in all areas of her life that her sexual desire is compartmentalized--locked away until a time she can safely expend the energy on herself and her intimate partner. Figure out what turns your partner on now that you're a few years--or decades--into the relationship. Chances are, the things that get her thinking about sex now are quite different from days past, before she had kids and a home and a job to take care of. For example, when you were first dating she might have loved receiving expensive gifts as a token of your love and admiration. However, now that you are firmly settled in adulthood with all of its pressures and financial responsibilities, you spending money on a pricey gift might stress her out and thereby, shut her down in the intimacy department. Take notice of these changes and adjust your foreplay accordingly. 
  3. Don't Help: Many men proudly proclaim all the ways they help their partners around the house and with parenting. Without realizing it, framing the activities the males do around the home as “help” can shut down a woman's libido faster than a sudden downpour on a sunny beach day. This is especially true if the female works outside of the home with all of the extra pressures that come along with being a working mother. In reality, all couples are different, but generally speaking if both members of the couple work outside the home, then everything that goes on inside the home is the responsibility of both partners equally. We're a long way from the 1950's and gender roles have changed significantly since then. According to an article published by Gallup, “although women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they still fulfill a larger share of household responsibilities.” So how does this play out in a typical long term domestic partnership? Well, you can rest assured that no woman is turned on by balancing work and home life while her partner “helps” with the dishes. Less so when he audibly mentions that he helped with the dishes in search of a compliment and pat on the back for being such a hands-on spouse. No, no, that won't do. Shoulder the household responsibilities as if they're your job guys, then watch in amazement as your wife/partner unclenches and suddenly finds you irresistible.  

Tried a new approach and now she's ready for intimacy? Surprise her with her favorite chai--but with a fun twist! Intimate Earth's Sensual Vanilla Chai Aromatherapy Massage Oil will rev her up in all the right ways. Made with certified organic extracts to soothe her aching muscles and create a warm, spicy setting, this massage oil will ease her in to intimate time and show her that you care. 

A bottle of Bloom Intimate Massage Oil is pictured with purple peony flowers against a white backdrop.
Intimate Earth 

Tips for Her--

So your guy is withdrawn, over-stressed and less affectionate than he used to be? Not to worry! In these modern times, the political environment, economy and never-ending tirade of 24/7 news can be major libido killers. Try these strategies for re-connecting and showing him that your relationship is priority numero uno: 

  1. Discover His Love Language: In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman released a best-selling book called “The Five Love Languages”. In it, he outlines five primary love languages--words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch--as ways that individuals give and receive love. In order to re-connect with your man, take stock of what his primary love languages might be, then make a concerted effort to speak those languages. For example, if he's been stressed out by problems at work and you've noticed that he loves spending quality time with you, plan a date you think he'd enjoy. A great place to start is with the Heart + Honey Couple's Box. (Just saying!) Simply order a box and make note of your preferences at check out. Then wait patiently by the mailbox for your date night in a box to arrive. Surprise him with his favorite take-out for dinner and then spend the night in discovering the goodies inside your couple's box. Trust, he'll unwind faster than the hands of time when you use that new pricey face cream you ordered from Tik Tok. 
  2. Let Go of Perfection: Many women feel that they can't even think about sex until the laundry is all put away and the kids are snuggly in bed and the last work email has been sent and, and, and. The truth is, there will always be something else to do--our work in adulthood is truly never done. So how does this impact your love life? According to an article in Metro, “That’s not a positive situation for either party. It’s vital to reach a place where everyone’s satisfied and able to say ‘not right now’ without worrying they’re tearing their partner’s heart in two.” Instead of insisting on going to bed with no clothes in the hamper, use that time instead to initiate intimate time. Light some candles, take a bath and then surprise him by inviting him in to join you for a favorite cocktail or mocktail in bed. Making an effort to connect in the romance department can go a long way towards pulling him out of his stressed out pattern and re-focusing on your relationship, both in and out of the bedroom. 
  3. Eat Your Heart Out: Newsflash: Men are visual creatures. Whenever you're making an effort to re-connect and stoke desire in the romance department, the visual aesthetic cannot be overlooked. Perhaps you can surprise him by leaving the remote to your new Pleasure Panty in his work bag with a note about how much you're looking forward to your date night that night. Remember, the visual doesn't always have to be of you in your birthday suit (though that is always a sure thing, no doubt). So think outside of the, ahem, box, and find unique ways to tantalize him visually. You'll find that stoking his desire isn't quite as hard as you thought. 

Anticipation- The Act of Looking Forward to Something With Excitement or Eagerness

A hand is shown in silhouette outstretched on an airplane window.

The element of anticipation plays a pivotal role in stoking desire within a romantic relationship. It acts as a powerful catalyst, igniting the flames of passion and longing. However, as John Mellencamp so poignantly sang in his 1982 hit “Jack and Diane”, “life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone”.  Admittedly, creating an atmosphere of mystery and excitement can become more and more challenging as the years spent in a committed relationship start stacking up--however, it is not impossible. With a little effort, you'll find you can foster a sense of novelty, ensuring that your relationship remains fresh and exhilarating. 

Make it Simple: Life is crazy--between work and kids, it's no wonder so many couples feel like their sexual desire is squashed and intimate time leaves a lot to be desired. You need to automate your love life in order to keep it at the top of your ever-growing priority list. Enter the Heart + Honey Couple's Box. This unique product is expertly curated to bring love and connection right to your door in a pretty, yet nondescript package. Featuring high-end erotic toys for both members of the couple, plus boutique-style personal care items like lubes, massage oils, candles and erotic accessories, this subscription services puts your love life on auto-pilot. Plus, you'll build anticipation all month long as you await your Couple's Box delivery. 

Put Your Love Life on Auto-Pilot with a Heart + Honey Couple's Box Subscription

Finding a Compromise Between Love and Desire

A man and woman with their backs facing the camera stand in the kitchen and work together to cook something on the stove.
Soroush Karimi/Unsplash

The great divide between love and desire in your relationship is likely due to the fact that the things that cause us to love our partners stand in direct opposition to the things that make us desire them. When you consider the characteristics that lead to a loving partnership--predictability, familiarity, protection, responsibility to one another--you'll notice that they are quite literally the opposites of the things that lead to desire--novel experiences, unpredictability, danger, the forbidden. It's no wonder that long-term couples find themselves caught in the balance. Expecting loving behaviors, but also wanting to feel desire. It's a catch twenty-two. So what's a couple in despair to do with this cruel fact of nature? Consider the following: 

  1. Introduce the Element of Surprise: Always go to the same restaurant for date night? And always at around the same time? Change things up! Surprise your partner with a date seemingly out of left field. Book a sitter and plan a breakfast picnic at the local park. Bring along coffee from your favorite local coffee shop and pastries from that bakery you've been wanting to try. Or send the kids off to a trusted relative's house for the night and plan a romantic evening of cooking, Netflix and chilling at home. Sometimes getting out of the usual routine is all it takes to see your partner with new, amorous eyes. 
  2. Go Away: No, not as a couple (although that's never a bad idea when seeking reconnection). The next time you can sneak away by yourself whether it be for a girl's or guy's weekend or work conference, jump at the opportunity. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder for a reason. In fact, an article published by the National Communication Association reports that couples separated by distance say that it “helps them to appreciate their partner more and makes the relationship stronger.” So cast those excuses aside--however legitimate they may be--and get out of town! Your relationship will be all the better for it. 
  3. Spice It Up: Okay, hear us out--doing the same old same old routine in the ol' boudoir for years on end would cause any couple to lose interest after a while. When the going gets tough, the tough get spicy! Talk with your partner about your forbidden fantasies--whether it's role play, “back door” exploration or BDSM, find out where your partner stands and start exploring. We highly recommend Heart + Honey's Forbidden Box as an easy entry, no pun intended, into some of the more taboo sides of intimacy. Featuring NS Novelties Rear Assets Plug and Intimate Earth's Anal Relaxing Serum--amongst a plethora of other goodies--you'll be all set for a walk on the wild side. Plus, the Forbidden Box is currently on sale! 

Erotic toys are kind of our thing so we couldn't let an opportunity pass to share on of our favorite adult toys for adding a little excitement to your next rendevous. Meet the Date Night Kit from We-Vibe. This must have addition to your couple time brings powerful, blended orgasms for two with rabbit vibrator Nova 2.0 and vibrating c-ring Pivot, both in a beautiful green velvet color way. This exclusive gift set is for making the most of foreplay and drawing out pleasure all night long. The perfect pairing for exploring each others' needs and desires, spending much needed time together that sometimes gets lost between work, kids, chores, and whatever else going on besides getting it on. Plus, it's waterproof, travel-friendly, and app-controlled. Plan to take We-Vibe's Date Night kit anywhere in the world for an out-of-this-world time. 

When it comes to intimacy and desire in a long-standing relationship, it seems as though the keys are compromise and compassion. Serving as the building blocks for emotional connection and sustained romantic passion, partners who work together to keep each other's needs top of mind can navigate differences and find common ground, which will help ensure that both feel heard and valued. This process of give and take not only strengthens the partnership, but also creates a sense of mutual understanding, an essential component of desire. Learning how to mesh the love side of your relationship with the desire side is an ongoing process that takes dedicated effort and regular conversations, but with open lines of communication--and the help of a Heart + Honey Couple's Box subscription--you'll make it to the other side with desire to spare!  

The Partner Fun from Satisfyer lays on a grey surface next to magenta and green feathers.
Gwen Mamanoleas/Unsplash

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