Odds are, you’ve been there. You’re in a relationship and the time comes where your partner tries to initiate sex and you’re just. not. feeling. it.
Let’s be clear, though — anyone has the right to say no to sex at any time in any situation. Sex is not an obligation, and it’s ok to say no.
But if you’re in a relationship, odds are that there are a lot more complexities involved here outside of just not being in the mood. It can be hard to be upfront and honest when it comes to this topic because feelings can be hurt and you may even feel a little embarrassed.
Maybe you’re not feeling sexy at the moment but you still want to connect with your partner. Maybe you’ve been saying no a lot and you want to find a way to still make sure your partner gets their pleasure even if it’s not through traditional intercourse. Maybe you do want to have sex but you just don’t want to have sex right now.
Any number of these scenarios can happen in a relationship, and we want you to keep in mind a few key dos and don’ts before you wave the white flag in defeat.
Do: Ask Yourself Why You’re Saying No
The first thing you can do is take a look at why you don’t want sex right now. Maybe you’re feeling out of sync with your partner because you two haven’t spent much time lately connecting on a non-sexual level. Maybe you just don’t have the energy. Maybe he wants to jump in bed, but you need more foreplay to turn you on. Maybe there’s something else keeping you from sex right now: you’re tired, you’re hungry, your back hurts, you need a few minutes to unwind.
If you can focus on the “why” and try to work on removing some of those barriers
Do: Explore Other Options Besides Traditional Intercourse
There’s more to sex than just, well, sex.
If the idea penetration isn’t doing it for you, the idea of oral sex might. Or consider the idea of mutual masturbation. Or even just plain old making out. There are a plethora of “tools” in your arsenal than just traditional intercourse. Consider talking openly with your partner about new ways to explore your bedroom behaviors.
Creating an environment where intimacy can expand beyond the norm where both you and your partner can achieve pleasure in a myriad of ways is ideal.
Don’t: Feel Bad for Simply Saying “No”
Sometimes the answer is just no. This can be truly hard to assert because, let’s face it, being turned down from your partner when you are in the mood to be turned on can feel very personal. Even if they are completely understanding and accepting of your right to say no – it can still hurt. It’s OK to feel this way. Do not beat yourself up for it.
Do: Be Honest About Your Feelings
If you can come with a way to communicate honestly about your feelings, you will likely feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.
First, share your “why” with your partner. Perhaps it’s because you need more than physical connection at the moment Communication is key in any relationship (about any issue) and sometimes explaining your why can not only reassure your partner, it can also help reassure you that you are not alone in this journey.
It’s also important to remind your partner that your lack of desire is not a reflection on them specifically. Make sure your partner knows that you are still attracted to them and love them. Your “no” is not a permanent one.
Finally, consider asking your partner to open up to you. Why are they trying to initiate sex right now? If it’s about intimacy and affection, then snuggling on the couch together to watch Netflix and making out might be a great option. If it’s about connection, then find something you can do together, like going for a walk or going out to dinner.
Don’t: Be Afraid That Your “No” Is Forever
If you fall into this category, you’re no doubt feeling completely crushed. However, the impulse you have to turn down sex doesn’t have to be a permanent one.
Do you feel like you and your partner just aren’t jiving lately? Sometimes connecting outside of the bedroom can help you reconnect in it. Spend time together in a situation not revolving around sexual intimacy in whatever way makes you feel like you are getting quality time with your partner.
Stress can also be stressful on your libido. If you’re feeling stressed make sure your partner knows what’s going on. Explain that feeling anxious is making you also feel unsexy. Once the stress subsides, your urge to turn down sex may, too.
Another thing to remember is that you don’t always have to wait for your partner to initiate sex. You can initiate, too! Even if your partner doesn’t feel like having sex when you’re initiating, it will still assure them that your desire for them hasn’t gone away.
The final thing to consider is that your distressing low sexual desire — or Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)— may have a medical implication behind it. Seek help from a healthcare professional in order to figure out a root cause and go over potential treatment options. You can learn more about HSDD here.