New study explores how to navigate 'desire discrepancies' in long term relationships

With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.

sad couple lying in bed
NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock
  • A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
  • Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.


The loss of sexual desire is something that can impact anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, but for the sake of this particular study, researchers focused on the female libido.

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is defined as an absence of sexual fantasies and/or the lack of receptivity to sexual activity that (that causes personal distress or difficulties in her relationships). This is the most common form of female sexual dysfunction and it can impact women of all ages.

    The study

    sad woman sitting on the floor at the foot of a bed

    An estimated one in ten women experience female sexual dysfunction.

    Photo by fizkes on Shutterstock

    This 2020 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, led by Dr. Avigail Moor and her colleagues Yael Haimov and Shaked Shreiber, focused on 15 women between the ages of 25-59, all of whom were in committed, heterosexual, long-term relationships (with a median relationship length of 3.5 years) to better understand decreases in female sexual desire. Approximately half the women in this sample had children.

    During this study, the women were asked various questions about:

    1. The quality of their relationship
    2. How their relationship has been impacted by their decreased sexual desire
    3. What they believe could have caused a decrease in their sexual desire over the course of their relationship
    4. What impact they felt this had on themselves and their relationship
    5. How they dealt with the decreased sexual desire themselves
    6. How the couple dealt with and/or navigated the decrease in sexual desire together

    There are a number of reasons why women, in particular, could be going through a libido decline, including:


    • Job stress
    • Family stress
    • Self-confidence struggles
    • Declining hormones or hormone imbalances
    • Relationship issues
    • Health conditions

    Navigating low sexual desire and desire discrepancies in your relationship

    couple hugging in a bedroom

    Even if you are struggling with differing sexual desires in your relationship, there are still countless ways you can show affection to your partner.

    Photo by fizkes on Shutterstock

    Assistant professor at Harvard Medical School Jan Shifren, MD, explains in an interview: "One of the first things I do speaking to women who come in with sexual concerns is let them know that there is no normal frequency or set of behaviors and things change with times. If it's working for them and/or their partner, there is no problem."

    Shifren goes on to explain that when the decreases in sexual interest begin having a negative impact on her life and cause distress in the relationship, this is when it's considered a problem of low sexual desire.

    If it is believed to be a problem, there are a few things this study, in particular, has highlighted.

    Love doesn't equal desire, and a lack of desire doesn't equal disaster.

    Participants of this study explained that their sexual desire (or lack thereof) never made them doubt their relationship or the feelings they had for their partner. They saw the sexual desire and love for their partner as two very separate things.

    Over half the participants said they didn't believe their decreased sexual desire had a negative impact on their relationship, explaining that they have more intimate, deeper connections with their partner that went beyond sex. Many women who felt this way cited the fact that they were navigating life's ups and downs, things like parenthood and job stress, with their partner, which made them feel closer to their partners even if the sexual desire wasn't there.

    This is an extremely isolating problem even if it impacts the whole relationship.

    In order to make sense of the rapid changes in their desires or the complete lack of sexual drive, many women in the study claimed they looked inwards, often blaming themselves. Instead of thinking that this is a common thing many individuals (and many other women) struggle with, many of these participants felt guilty about their low libidos, thinking it must be their problem.

    Among these women, feelings of guilt and self-blame were frequent over the course of their interviews.

    Even in situations where there was very minimal negative impact on the relationship, desire discrepancies still caused some tension.

    While over half the women involved stated they did not feel desire discrepancies in their relationship negatively impacted their relationship, many women still did describe feeling some sort of "pressure" to have sex more often.

    Despite having relationships that were described as loving and healthy, some of the women in the study indicated that they have, in the past, still experienced conflict with their partner over how long it had been since they had sex. Some women also stated they were worried that their partner took their low libido personally.

    How can you navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships?

    This is one of the first studies to focus so specifically on female sexual dysfunction in long-term relationships, so there is still a lot of research to be done. What we have learned from this study, however, can help us better understand how to navigate these difficult challenges of intimate relationships.

    Strategies that can be used to address the problems in the relationship that are caused by having a low sex drive can be things like:

    • Creating an honest line of communication. Participating in conversations that allow each person to be open and honest about how they feel can promote intimacy and bonding as well as a deeper understanding of what the other person is going through.
    • Compromising. This doesn't mean simply having sex when you don't feel like it, but it can be other things that promote intimacy such as a date night or incorporating other forms of physical affection into your relationship.
    • Treating this like any other relationship problem. Relationships take work, and just as you navigate difficulties due to chores, finances, and responsibilities, you can navigate the struggles of low sexual desire by creating an environment of understanding and having a desire to make things work.


    This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

    A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

    Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
    Surprising Science
    • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
    • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
    • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

    First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

    Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

    All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

    BepiColombo

    Image source: European Space Agency

    The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

    Into and out of Earth's shadow

    In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

    The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

    In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

    When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

    Magentosphere melody

    The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

    BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

    MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

    Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

    Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

    Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

    Videos
    • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
    • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
    • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
    Keep reading Show less
    Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
    Culture & Religion
    She was walking down the forest path with a roll of white cloth in her hands. It was trailing behind her like a long veil.
    Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast