Relationship Wisdom – High Desire Versus Low Desire Partner

In any relationship you will sooner or later come across differences, which ultimately challenge you and the harmony of the relationship. One very common difference is the difference in sexual desire. This article will help you understand this topic better and answer some of your questions.

High or Low Sexual Desire?

High desire and low desire partner

I recently came across a book by Dr. David Schnarch, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist who is an expert on marriage and sexuality. In his book ‘Intimacy & Desire’ he introduces the pattern of high desire and low desire partner. This does not only apply to sexuality – it actually describes any kind of difference. Schnarch says: ‘The low desire partner and the high desire partner are positions in relationship on virtually any issue and decision in your relationship.’ There is always one partner who wants to do something and the other who doesn’t, or wants to do it less. So actually, to be correct, the two positions mean that there is one who has a higher desire and one who has the lower desire. It is all a question of comparison.

Part of personality or situational?

These two positions shift on different issues so they are situational. You might be the high desire partner for sex, but our partner might be the high desire partner for intimacy or connection. It is also possible that the partner that started out as being the high desire sex partner in the beginning of the relationship, ends up being the low desire partner later. It is important to accept that neither position are character nor personality traits, which will help you become less defensive or feel less inadequate or defective.

So where is the problem?

There isn’t any – the only problem really is how you as an individual and as a couple deal with the facts. Neither of the positions has a problem as such, if there isn’t an addiction or something else driving the position. The person with the lower desire is only in this position due to the other partner having a higher desire. In another relationship these positions might be reversed.

Sexual desire problems are part of any healthy sexual relationship!


Schnarch makes it clear that it is a fact that the partner with the lower desire controls the situation. Again, this does not only apply to sex. Often couples start blaming each other for their positions, thinking that they have taken them to either ‘get back’ at the other or ‘punish’ the partner. Remember that the partner with the lower desire has not chosen this position and also not the control that inevitably comes with it.

The same applies, for example, for household task. The person with the least desire for household chores controls when, how, and if theirs get done. If you are in the position of higher desire in regards to household chores the only way is to wait for your partner to take responsibility and obviously by bringing the topic to conversation but it doesn’t change the fact of the control.

Masters of relationships realize and accept that 69% of their issues are perpetual problems (according to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman). This means that they are unsolvable. The way to deal with them is to keep communicating about them within the relationship.

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