What to do if your partner keeps turning down sex
Ah, the curse of mismatched sex drives. It can be brutal.
You may love your partner with all your heart, but if they don’t want to have sex as frequently as you do, the relationship can die a slow death.
You feel irritated, neglected, and rejected. It’s hard not to take someone you love saying ‘no sex, please’ to heart.
On the flip side, it’s tough for the person who wants sex less frequently.
Sex can start to feel like a chore you’re being nagged into, that you put up with rather than enjoy.
That’s not a positive situation for either party.
It’s vital to reach a place where everyone’s satisfied and able to say ‘not right now’ without worrying they’re tearing their partner’s heart in two.
But how do you reach that place? What can you do if your partner keeps turning down sex? First off, don’t make a spreadsheet, as one Reddit Hall of Famer did.
Or if you do, never show it to your partner. No one likes to feel like their behaviour is being watched and tracked like a science experiment.
Instead, do this… Have the conversation Yes, we know, it feels deeply awkward to ask someone why they don’t seem keen on sex.
But having an honest conversation about the issue is the only way you can work towards solving it.
There are some rules to follow when it comes to the conversation.
First off, don’t do it immediately after you’ve tried and been turned down for sex.
That’s when emotions will be running high, and perhaps the reason they don’t want to have sex in that moment (they’re tired, they feel sick) will also make them reluctant to have a chat.
Make sure you’re not accusatory or aggressive. The goal with this conversation is not to make your partner feel bad for not having sex, but to find out why they haven’t been keen recently.
Remember: Consent is not a given in a relationship, and your partner is completely entitled to say ‘no’ to sex.
‘There are tons of reasons that someone might not be as interested in sex as another person, and quite often, it’s nothing to do with the person that they are having sex with,’ Sammi Cole, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘External stress, medication, loss of confidence, changes in routine, health issues, past trauma, and age are just some of the factors that can affect our sex drives, so before you rush to, “they clearly don’t want me any more”, take the time to talk things through in a calm and non-accusatory way.
‘Make sure that neither of you have to rush off anywhere, and that you’re not likely to be interrupted.
‘Start off with something positive, such as telling them how much you enjoy being intimate with them, that you’d love to do it more often if they’re open to it, and try to focus on offering solutions rather than laying blame on either of you.
“Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind?” is much more open-ended and friendly than, “You always turn me down, what’s wrong with me?”.
Make sure that your partner feels able to share their reasons without any judgement or having to worry that you’ll be offended.
The reasons might be more complex than you’re imagining, and may not have an easy fix – anxiety related to sex and past trauma might require therapeutic work – or they might feel like a criticism on your sexual skills.
Remain calm and chat through things neutrally to check in with how your partner is feeling and why they might not be up for having sex.
Change up the way you’re initiating If you find yourself getting turned down every time you try to initiate sex, it might be time to change your technique.
This will depend on the reasons your partner has given for not being keen (which you’ll have found out in the conversation you just had, if you followed the tip above), but it’s also about adapting to what works for your partner.
If your partner is too tired for sex, try swapping to a different time rather than just before bed.
If they tap your hand away because you go straight to one area of their body, try starting off with kisses on the neck or a different move you know they like.
Let them initiate When you’re the one with a lower sex drive, each initiating move from your partner can feel like a pester.
Which doesn’t feel great for anyone. You might find that giving your partner the space to initiate when they’re keen will actually increase the amount of sex you have.
Of course, it’s worth having a chat to let your other half know that this is the plan, so they don’t think you’ve just given up trying.
Give them the confidence to initiate, encourage them to make a move when they’re in the mood, and then give them the time and space to do that.
Relieve the pressure When you keep turning down sex and you can see your partner’s getting frustrated, sex starts to feel like something you have to do rather than want to do.
And that pressure can completely sap any sex drive. Or the stress of knowing you aren’t satisfying your partner can make you feel rubbish.
Or there’s so much pressure to perform that you feel like the sex has to be absolutely mindblowing. Take down the pressure and relax, both of you.
Try not to set any rigid rules about how often you ‘should’ be having sex, and try not to react with anger or disappointment when your partner isn’t interested.
It’s vital that the person you’re with feels comfortable saying ‘no’.
Understand that turning down sex doesn’t mean they don’t love you There are all kinds of reasons that someone might not be up for sex as often as you’d like.
Hopefully the conversation you’ve had will enlighten what those reasons may be, but it’s still tricky not to take it personally when the person you love isn’t up for sex every night.
Remind yourself that sex is not the same as love, and that there are other ways your partner can show they care. If you’re feeling rejected, bring that up, but think about other ways you can express your love as a couple other than sex.
Add some fun back in All the above makes sex feel a bit serious, which doesn’t make a sesh feel like a particularly exciting prospect.
Shake things up to make sex appealing and free of any of the heavy emotional stuff.
That might mean making the setting special with candles and fancy bedding, or introducing a sex toy, or agreeing to try out a new position.
Julia Margo, the co-founder of Hot Octopuss, tells us: ‘Introducing sex toys can help, particularly for women who take longer to feel aroused.
Couples’ toys such as PULSE DUO can help to stimulate both partners during foreplay.
‘Or for intercourse, the ATOM is a powerful cock ring with a vibrating area that provides additional stimulation for women.
For men struggling with erectile problems or performance anxiety, cock rings can also help produce and maintain a stronger erection.
And remember, if the sex is glorious, your partner will want more. Listen to what they want, make them feel good, and enjoy more sex as a result.
Consider scheduling We know, we know, it doesn’t sound like the most thrilling thing, but there’s nothing wrong with scheduling sex.
If time constraints, tiredness, or other situational stuff are the reasons your sex life has taken a dip, clearing a dedicated timeslot for sex can be a huge help.
We’ve written previously about the benefits and pitfalls of scheduling sex for the weekend, and it won’t work for everybody.
It’s important to allow for spontaneity. But it can be beneficial to agree that every Sunday morning (or whatever time works for you) you’ll have sex, to meet what you’ve determined is an acceptable baseline and avoid the sting of disappointment.
Scheduling can be sexy, too. Something as simple as asking your partner whether they’d be up for having sex this evening, rather than waiting to initiate once you’re home, can help build up anticipation as well as making sure they won’t do a workout, drink booze, or do anything else that might put them off.
Give them confidence Often low sex drive will be down to a lack of confidence or low self-esteem. Maybe your partner doesn’t feel attractive, and thoughts about their appearance are putting a stop to any sexual desire.
Making your partner feel beautiful, desirable, and confident is key. ‘Make sure, too, that when you do have sex, you’re being complimentary and supportive, and paying attention to what they want and enjoy,’ says Sammi.
‘Positive sexual experiences are much more likely to lead to increased sexual desire than bad ones.’