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Mis-Matched Libidos: Can Mixed Marriages Ever Work?

If your partner doesn’t like sex nearly as often as you do — or if they like sex a lot more often than you do — what can you do about it?

And when pondering this question, would your first and only answer be, “Break up”?

Dan_savage There’s this thing that happens to me freakishly often. I write a piece inspired by a Dan Savage “Savage Love” sex advice column. I spend a little time surfing around, looking at other stuff he’s been writing. And I find something that makes the top of my head come off in rage. Or at least, in profound irritation. I like the guy’s thinking most of the time… but when he gets it wrong, he gets it really, really wrong.

In this particular instance of wrongness, Savage was writing about a pattern he sees a lot in his letters: the problem of couples with mis-matched libidos. In many couples, one partner is more interested in sex than the other, and likes to have sex more often. A whole lot more often, in many cases. It’s a very common problem in relationships, and sex educators/ couples’ counselors/ sex advice columnists encounter it again and again and again. (And no — it isn’t always the man in opposite-sex couples who wants sex more. Very often, it’s not.)

Savage’s advice? To all these people?

Give up. It’s never going to work. He’s just not that into you. Or she. Save yourself a lot of misery in the years down the road… and just call it quits now.

A piece of advice that left my jaw hanging open in shock.

Really, Dan?

That’s your first and only answer?


I mean, just off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen options that couples with mis-matched libidos might want to try. Without even thinking about it all that hard. Before we go advising couples around the world to call it quits, why don’t we take a look at some of these options? (And if you can think of ones I don’t mention here, btw, please speak up in the comments. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of ideas — just a handful of the more obvious ones.)


Thus begins my latest piece for the Blowfish Blog, Mis-Matched Libidos: Can Mixed Marriages Ever Work? To find out what specific options I think couples with mis-matched libidos might want to try — and to gape in astonishment with me at Dan Savage’s “one size fits all” answer to these questions — read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to the Blowfish Blog — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!


  1. cathy says

    Kind of surprised that masturbating more wasn’t on the list, it’s how I handle sexual satisfaction when I don’t have a partner, after all. Would I prefer a partner with an equally high sex drive who would like sex everyday, but I could live with once a week if I still could get my own rocks off the other six days.

  2. says

    Good comments (here and at Blowfish). I suppose Dan’s suggestion is a valid one for a couple which does not already have too much invested in their relationship — in that if there really is a huge disparity in their libidos, and not just due to temporary circumstances, it will probably continue to be an issue in spite of whatever steps they may take, and possibly undermine both partners’ chances for happiness.
    But as is often the case, this situation develops over time in an established relationship, and there is a great deal about the non-sexual part of the relationship that one would not wish to throw away.

  3. vel says

    Savage seems to be more than a bit of a uninformed twit. What of couples, one of which is on meds for bipolar which are notorious for depressing one’s libido? Shall I run away from my husband? Sorry, no. A relationship isn’t just sex.

  4. Erin says

    Wow, that was some really dumb advice. I’m not the person in the relationship who wants more sex, but that doesn’t mean he should just leave me. For one, he just masturbates more. Secondly, we have an open relationship. As long as one uses protection to the max with trust worthy people, it is fine by me. (We both donate blood, and we don’t want to jeopardize our contributions) Thirdly, a relationship isn’t just about sex, especially if we’ve been together for many years. Lastly, I know he won’t leave me for another person and I won’t do the same to him. We’ve yet to have any problems with mismatched libidos…

  5. says

    I’ve gotta say you called this one right, Greta. That’s astonishingly bad advice, bordering on the irresponsible. (He does expect some people take his advice, I assume.)
    My wife and I are mismatched by a big margin, but it’s not a huge deal. I make up the difference with my right hand (ok, full disclosure: not just the right). That’s what sensible people *do*.
    As vel points out, relationships are about a lot more than just sex. It’s pretty shallow to tell someone their relationship is doomed to fail just because there’s a disparity in their sex drives.

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