Differing libidos: How to manage them in a healthy way.

There is not a couple alive who has not had even the occasional difference in what they would like and expect in their sex life.

Many couples find their way through these differences as they are not too great, but occasionally a couple will find that their libidos are so different, that they need extra assistance in how to accept each other and in knowing how to get the best out of their sex life.

Sandra Pertot, Australia’s foremost Psychologist and Sex Therapist has outlined 10 different Libido types, which are very helpful in understanding where each other of you is coming from, and what might be your expectations.

Pertot’s 10 Libido Types:

1.      The Sensual Libido Type

This type of lover values emotional connection above sexual performance.

Sex is an important part of a relationship, but it is more important for them to know that their partner is happy to be physically intimate with them as an expression of their love and commitment to each other than what is actually done during sex.

2.      The Erotic Libido Type

This type believes sex should be intense, varied and passionate, at least some of the time.

Mild Erotic lovers can cope with periods of “vanilla” sex, provided there are regular opportunities for adventurous and sizzling sex, while strong Erotic lovers believe that intense erotic sex is the cornerstone of a good relationship and they will get little pleasure out of low-key sex.

3.      The Dependent Libido Type

These types need sex to cope with life on at least a daily basis.

Typically the Dependent lover has used masturbation in the teenage years to cope with bad feelings such as stress, boredom, or anxiety. As an adult, the Dependent lover may not recognise this and interpret the partner’s unwillingness to go along with sex whenever he/she needs it as lack of love and caring

4.      The Reactive Libido Type

This type of love gets most satisfaction from pleasing their partner during sex.

There are two sub-types here: The first subtype has low sexual needs but gains genuine pleasure from keeping their partner happy; or, secondly they need to see their partner aroused in order to become aroused him/herself.    making love on the beach

5.      The Entitled Libido Type

This type assumes that it is their right to get what they want in their sexual relationship.

Some Entitled lovers are influenced by the idealisation of sex in our society and believe that everyone is having hot, daily sex so they are entitled to it as well. Others don’t think much about sex other than to expect that they have what they want when they want it.

Disinterested, Stressed or Detached lovers may also feel entitled to have the sexual relationship conform to their wishes.

6.      The Addictive Libido Type

This type of lover finds it difficult to resist the lure of sex outside their long-term, supposedly monogamous relationship.

The essential characteristic is that the behaviour has control over them rather than vice versa; some feel distressed by their actions while others feel that what they are secretly doing is acceptable.

7.      The Stressed Libido Type

This type of person feels under pressure to perform and constantly worry that they are sexually inadequate in some way.

The Stressed lover increasingly avoids sex for fear of failure, even though he/she may still feel sexual desire, which some find easier to satisfy with masturbation.

8.      The Disinterested Libido Type

This type may be lifelong or acquired. Typically the Disinterested lover says “I wouldn’t care if I never had sex again.”

This type may develop from a Stressed Libido type.

Sometimes this is associated with little or no pleasure if they do have sex, but for others, they can become aroused and enjoy sex once they get into it.

9.      The Detached Libido Type

sex therapy for sensual touch

This type usually feels desire but is too preoccupied with other life issues to seek partnered sex, and may masturbate regularly.

There are usually no performance problems.

The Detached lover’s withdrawal from partnered sex may be the result of a sense of overwhelming stress from financial or work pressure although the relationship is good, or it may reflect unresolved issues in the couple’s relationship.

10.   The Compulsive Libido Type

This type has one main sexual object or ritual that triggers sexual arousal.

In its mild form, this lover may co-exist with a partnered sexual relationship where the object or ritual is not required; in its stronger form, the Compulsive lover can only be aroused using the sexual object or ritual.

Some compulsions involve another person(s), some exclude a partner.

libido types

How we create sexual problems. The Cycle of Sexual Misunderstanding

The most common cause of distress in a sexual relationship arises because many people are not prepared for the extent of differences in sexual wants and needs that may occur between partners.

In the initial stages of a relationship, the heady feelings of initial infatuation often mask any differences, and one or both may believe that love will conquer all.

The set of expectations an individual brings to a relationship is often quite complex and detailed and problems begin when the two sets of expectations differ in significant ways.

In addition to this, problems escalate when judgements are made.

Initiation of Sex

relationship counselling for communication

The way in which sex is initiated can determine how often sex happens and whether it is enjoyable for one or both partners.

A common conflict is about the failure of one partner to initiate sex at all.

On other occasions, persisting with an irritating form of initiation can lead to avoidance by the partner.

Your Reaction

The manner in which each partner reacts to their partner’s sexual desires and preferences is a major factor in how the relationship proceeds.

When a partner is always compliant, this can indicate that he/she cannot recognise his/her own sexual needs.

Negative reactions such as withdrawing, sulking, being critical, hostile, angry or abusive often become toxic over time. Even subtle reactions such as a sigh can be seen as rejecting or critical.

Your Communication

The damage of differing libidos is often not so much caused by what is actually happening, but how each interprets the other’s (or their own) behaviour.

For example:

  • You don’t really love me. (Do I love him/her?)
  • You’re an inadequate lover. (Am I inadequate?)
  • You must be having sex with someone else.
  • You are being selfish.
  • You have a problem that has nothing to do with me.


Frustration about the inability to get their point of view heard, or their needs addressed, can result in one or both partners taking a more extreme position.

This is often based on the “ask for more so that you might compromise and get what you really want”.

Feeling Isolated

narcissism problems marriage counsellingAs each partner takes a more extreme position, and they become more emotionally distant, they can lose sight of what might be right between them.

Eventually the focus on what is wrong leads to isolation in the relationship.

How to better manage your different Libidos

Most importantly, the aim is for a hassle-free “good enough” sex.

Sit together and identify what each of your Libido types are.

Then ask each other the questions:

What do you want your partner to most understand about how you are feeling, your point of view?

What first steps could your partner take that would let you know he/she understands your point of view and is interested in meeting your needs?

Now that you have each heard what the other would like, is that something you can do in the next few weeks?

What would help you make this change?

If you would like further help in assisting you manage your differing libidos, please give us a ring. We have 63 Relationship Psychologists and Sex Therapists in Sydney and around Australia ready to help.

To Check which of our Psychologists are closest to you, please use our Find our Psychologist Search box on the right hand side of the page.

You can also contact us on 1300830552 for more details and assistance.

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