It’s not pleasant, but it’s a reality that many relationships face, even when those relationships are kinky. It’s not the preference of one activity over another, but the desire for any activity at all; it’s the age old question: are you up for it? and the difference between your response and your partner’s.

Having a substantially different level of interest in sex can be a strain for even the most vanilla partnership, but when aspects of kink are introduced (no matter what those aspects are), the strain can be compounded. This is especially true when partners allow themselves to feel guilty for the difference, or have a hard time recognizing and articulating the challenges resulting from the difference. What’s important to understand here is that, regardless of whether you run hotter or colder than your partner, the challenge you face is not one that you face alone. By virtue of being in a relationship, you share the burden of the struggle, and with the right attitude and awareness, you can at least attempt to accommodate each other.

The most important thing you need to understand is that the strain you feel is not one-sided. The pressure to be compatible in all aspects of your relationship—including the bedroom—is one that is acutely felt, regardless of whether you’re up for sex multiple times a day, a few times a week, or only once in a blue moon. The difference is the type of pressure that you feel.

My Dom and I have very different sex-drives. By this, I mean that we are on opposite sides of the spectrum. It doesn’t take a lot to pique my interest in sex. A casual command or a “good girl” on her part is about all I need to shift gears and to start thinking about ways that I can turn the present situation into one where we end up in bed. On the other hand, my Dom classed herself as asexual before we were together. I think I can count the amount of times that she’s purposefully initiated a scene or sex, and the number is far fewer than the times I’ve asked, or waited for her to come home at the top of the stairs dressed in Ann Summers’ finest and a pair of good heels. And don’t be fooled: although dressing up is as good an enticement as any, it’s not a guarantee that something will follow. For many, this can be absolutely detrimental, for my Dom and me—the Queens of Over-Communication—it meant we had a lot of serious discussions.

I’ve divided this article into three sections. The first two are written with the intent of explaining the challenges faced by partners with high sex drives and partners with low sex drives, respectively. The intent is to help the complementary party understand the mindset of his/her partner. You can read both, of course, but try to focus on the section which highlights the opposite mindset to your own. In other words: if you have a high sex drive, focus on the low sex drive section, and vice versa. The third section is a small list of ideas that you can tailor to fit your relationship if having different sex drives is something you’re struggling with in your relationship.

As the partner with the higher sex drive…

I spend a lot of time trying to gauge my Dom’s mood, her energy, her level of involvement in her current task; I ask myself when the last time we played was, how involved the scene was, how long it lasted, checking things off in my head, making sure that my interest isn’t a whim. Do I want sex enough to ask for it? Will I need to ask, or will a hint do? What are the odds, at this point in time, of me being told no, that she’s not in the mood, or please, do you mind if we don’t? Sometimes, I hold off. Now’s not the time. I’m not that antsy. Because it takes so little to interest me, I find myself re-categorizing a lot of simple actions. Kisses and casual gestures of affection are not usually invitations for more in our relationship, and it’s considerably unlikely that I can entice my Dom into something more involved unless that was already her intent.

Being told no is never pleasant, but having an invested partner is more important to me than going through the motions, so I don’t begrudge it; often times, however, being told no can make me feel like I’ve been pushy. On the other hand, there are times when I’ve managed to get what I was after, and I’ve felt badly. Have I inconvenienced her? Did I push too hard? Did she actually enjoy the scene as much as I did, or did she participate out of a sense of obligation? No matter how unfounded the concerns, these are the worries that I have, and I rely entirely on my partner’s honest communication to soothe them when they arise.

You’d be surprised how often I say thank you. Not as sub to her Dom, but as someone in a committed relationship with someone else. Thank you for putting up with me; thank you for spending the time with me; thank you for loving me even though I just interrupted everything you were doing by climbing onto your lap and demanding attention. I mean it every time—couldn’t imagine not saying it, because this is as new for her as it is for me, and it’s a different challenge.

As the partner with the lower sex drive…

My Dom often worries about me. She doesn’t worry as much as she used to, but the multitude of conversations that we’ve had on the topic of our compatibility has given me a pretty firm understanding of how much she’s worried about me in the years we’ve been together. Unlike my worries, which revolve around whether or not I’ve pushed her too much, hers center around whether she has or can meet my needs. She worries about what will happen if she can’t. Will I stop investing myself in the relationship? Will I stop loving her? Will I want to go to someone else who can meet my needs? Would she be able to handle that if I ever ask?

The number of times I have promised to be honest with her and to tell her if I’m unhappy or struggling in the confines of our relationship is one that I’ve lost track of. We’ve had conversations—entire conversations—centered around the possibility that she can’t keep up with me. We’ve discussed alternative arrangements, repeatedly, extensively. It took about four years of practice and theory, I think, to convince her that we were okay, that we could work around the differences. She still worries, though, and I think she feels guilty when she tells me no, not today, do you mind if we don’t? Sometimes she feels less guilty than others. She thanks me for understanding about as often as I thank her.

Reaching common ground

Ultimately, I think adding kink into our relationship has helped give both of us outlets for maintaining and meeting each other’s expectations and needs. A lot of what we have come up with to form our common ground isn’t entirely out of the way for a D/s relationship; it’s important to remember, though, that these are our methods to reaching our common ground, which will be entirely different from what you might need between you and your partner. Feel free to take them and use them as starting points, but don’t be surprised if you need to incorporate a lot of trial and error, or commit to a few long conversations before that common ground begins to appear.

  • Voyeurism. A bit of a classic, to be sure, and simple enough to be tailored to a number of interests and fantasies. Although it’s not always as satisfying as your partner being physically with you, it can be enticing to perform; likewise, it takes some of the pressure of immediate involvement off of the less active partner, who can enjoy the aesthetics of the display rather than being preoccupied and trying to actively participate.
  • Reserving your big guns. Fun as it is to dress up, doing it all the time would lose its affect. Make sure that if you have a nearly fool-proof way to wow your partner that you don’t abuse it through over-use, otherwise it will stop yielding the results you want.
  • Toys with remotes. This is a new discovery for us. It’s a good compromise between voyeurism and active participation. A good toy will be expensive, but it’s well worth the investment.
  • Honest communication. Explain yourself to your partner. Subtle hints can be easily misinterpreted. As awkward as it might feel to say, an honest, “I’m a bit desperate” or, “I really can’t right now,” will be less frustrating than your hints being ignored. Try to gain an understanding of each other’s limits.

Being partners with someone who has a very different sex drive is by no means an easy challenge to overcome. For a lot of people, incompatibility in the bedroom can spell out the end of a relationship, but it doesn’t have to. Do you have any experience with this type of challenge? What other ways can you think of to discover common ground? Post a reply with your thoughts.

Until next time, Kallista