Strategies for Mitigating Sexual Desire Discrepancy in Relationships

Laura M. Vowels, Kristen P. Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Sexual desire discrepancy, when one member of a couple experiences more or less sexual desire relative to their partner, is among the main reasons for couples to seek therapy. A great deal of prior research has examined the complexity of sexual desire and the role of sexual desire discrepancy in long-term relationships, but little research has specifically examined strategies used to mitigate sexual desire discrepancy when it arises. Thus, the purpose of the present mixed methods study was to identify the strategies that individuals in long-term relationships use during times of desire discrepancy and to address whether the use of specific strategies influenced sexual and relationship satisfaction and sexual desire. We collected data from 229 participants and our thematic content analysis produced 17 strategies, divided into five main groups (disengagement, communication, engagement in activity alone, engagement in other activity with partner, and have sex anyway). Specific strategies were associated with sexual and relationship satisfaction but not with sexual desire. Specifically, partnered strategies were associated with higher levels of sexual and relationship satisfaction compared to individual strategies. Additionally, participants who reported that their strategies were very helpful had higher levels of sexual and relationship satisfaction compared to participants who found them somewhat helpful followed by not at all helpful. These results have implications for clinicians, educators, and researchers and highlight the importance of using effective strategies to deal with desire discrepancy and communicating about them in relationships. The use of effective strategies can have implications for overall couple well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1028
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Desire discrepancy
  • Mixed methods
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sexual satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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