Sexual Incompatibility: Keep Trying, or Break Up?

Sexual incompatibility is not strange among couples, especially those who have been together for a long time. At the start of a relationship, partners are usually in that “honeymoon phase,” but then come children, careers, finances, and other stressors. All of these tend to put the romantic relationship on the back burner. 

Incompatibility in the bedroom can result from everyday life stressors, physical or mental illness, and hormones. Individual partners could also grow to desire different things. Whatever the reason, how do you decide whether to work toward a solution or move on? 

How do you know if you are sexually incompatible?

Knowing whether there is a threat to your sexual compatibility can be hard to assess early in a relationship. Eventually, however, the following issues may crop up.

  • Not everyone is the same. What may seem like fantastic sex to one person may be dull to another. 
  • People have varying sex drives. In the beginning, we all want to cater to our significant other, and our hormones and emotions are at an all-time high for quite a while. But as reality sets in, differences in your sex drives may become more apparent and create tension.
  • The attraction could be lacking. Perhaps your partner doesn’t put as much effort into their health or appearance as they once did. As difficult as it is to identify, a partner could lose some of their attraction. They might not desire sexual encounters quite as often.

Dig deeper into your relationship as a whole. Are there underlying issues that are being masked by sexual incompatibility?

The case for staying together

Is the problem solvable?

Some experts question whether sexual incompatibility is a thing at all – especially if both parties are willing to put in the effort.

An argument exists that implying that people are “incompatible” is the same as saying that partners are incapable of existing together. This sheds negative light on the relationship as a whole. Thus, perhaps a better way to describe sexual issues within a relationship is to refer to them as differences. 

In relationships where both parties still care for each other and are willing to make adjustments, compromise, and seek outside help, the odds of them being able to stay together increase. For couples who want to salvage their relationship, support is available. In addition to individual counseling, there is also couples counseling and even sex therapy, where you may get some feedback and assistance.

For individuals or couples who may be too embarrassed to seek help or who just want to expand their knowledge, check out these online course options highlighted by Hello Divorce. 


Tips for dealing with mismatched libidos

Sex is an important aspect of a romantic relationship. How does it look when couples experience misaligned libidos or sex drives? One person may have a high sex drive, and the other could ultimately be the opposite (or may have no drive). This could lead to feelings of frustration (and even resentment) for both parties. 

The partner with little to no sex drive may feel they have to give their partner what they want to appease them. The partner with a higher sex drive may not feel completely satisfied. It is a source of tension, to say the least. So what can couples do? 

Here are some examples given by intimacy experts:

  1.  Communicate and create new boundaries and rules.
  2.  Aim not to make the partner with the lower sex drive feel pressured.
  3.  Allow yourselves to be flexible and seek compromises.
  4.  Determine if each person is willing to put in the extra effort.
  5.  Schedule sex. This takes away the guesswork.
  6.  Keep honest communication lines open.
  7.  Seek help.

The case for breaking up

Is the problem insurmountable?

Every so often, there may be circumstances in relationships that are determined to be “deal breakers.” Since sex and intimacy play such a significant role in relationships, there could be situations where the relationship is not salvageable. Some examples may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Lack of willingness to compromise: Compromise seems like an easy enough solution, but every person and situation is different. Perhaps there have been years of compromise that felt one-sided, and the desire to keep trying is gone.
  • Abuse or trauma: Unfortunately, abuse is a prevalent issue in many relationships. Abuse types vary and may be present in the current relationship or stem from past trauma. If a person’s past trauma impacts an existing relationship, seeking help from a licensed professional may be warranted. 
  • Too much heartache or resentment: After years of compromise or hurt, there may come a time when both parties decide to go their separate ways. Incompatibilities and other issues may have presented much earlier in a relationship. Both parties may have spent years adjusting, compromising, and putting in the hard work, and now, burnout has set in. 
  • Lifestyle differences: This may not be a common occurrence, but occasionally, one partner may desire to have an open relationship or become unfaithful. In these situations, relationships will most likely survive if both parties agree. If the other party is against these options, there will most likely be many issues within the relationship, and the relationship may not survive. 

Final thoughts

There are many reasons why sexual differences may be seen and felt in relationships. No two people or relationships are the same, so this is not a one-size-fits-all dilemma. Keeping honest communication lines open is a huge asset. It can help prevent or decrease the heartache felt among partners in relationships. 


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The Myth of "Sexual Incompatibility"
Sex after Divorce: Advice from a Certified Intimacy Educator and Coach
22 Experts Reveal: How to Deal with Sexual Incompatibility

About the author
Krystle Maynard is the creator of Innovative RN Solutions and has been a nurse for over a decade. She has specialized in medical-surgical and critical care nursing and has a long-standing history of being an adjunct faculty member for a college of nursing. Innovative RN Solutions focuses on healthcare content writing (such as blogs, E-books, emails, academic coursework, and educational content for healthcare personnel and patients). Krystle also offers tutoring and mentor services for undergraduate and graduate nurses. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and children. If you would like to connect, you can reach her on LinkedIn or visit her website at Innovative RN Solutions.