Imagine. You’re lying in bed. Your partner rolls over, looks at you and says, “so, do you want to fool around?” “No,” you reply, as you roll away and close your eyes to go to sleep. No big deal, right? Wrong. Over time, continual rejection leads to less initiation. When I ask couples why they stopped having sex, one of the consistent answers is, “I just figure they would say no, so why bother?”
Almost every couple struggles with desire discrepancy at one time or another. *Desire discrepancy is where partners have different levels of sexual interest. I often have couples come in to see me to “fix” the partner who wants less sex. It is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with someone for wanting less sex. I work with couples to figure out ways to meet in the middle, find a good compromise so both are mutually satisfied. The most important way to help find a mutually satisfying sexual relationship is through healthy communication. One of the ways to improve sexual communication is realizing that when our partner rejects sex they are rejecting the activity, not rejecting their partner.
We are tired, overworked, over-stressed and sometimes not in the mood for anything except sleep and isolation. I get it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Everyone has every right to say “no” to sex. Paying close attention to how we decline is the important part. If you were saying no to playing tennis there wouldn’t be any hurt feelings. But sex is the most vulnerable activity in which we participate. Being intentional about how we turn down the invitation is extremely important. The wording, the tone and the nonverbal communication is all vital to maintain a healthy, positive bond. If sex isn’t available to you be sure that you connect with your partner in some other way. Put the phone down, hold hands, have a five-minute, uninterrupted conversation. This way you are still engaging in an activity together. No one is left feeling alone, with hurt feelings.
In a healthy relationship, you will experience both sides of this situation- feeling rejected and being the one turning down the sex. This is normal and actually a really good thing. Since we experience both sides, we have the capacity for deeper empathy. Put yourself in your partners shoes and try to feel and understand where they are coming from. Remember how you felt when you were tired and not in the mood for sex? It was nothing personal, just not the activity that you want to engage in, right? Maybe offer your S.O. a massage or quiet time. And remember how you felt when your partner turned down your initiation for sex? It would feel good to get a hug, a kiss and a meaningful, compassionate “I am not available for sex right now”, instead of an annoyed “no!”. Take your time and help your partner still feel connected to you.
Empathy and communication can go a long way when it comes to improving your intimate relationship. Because of the vulnerable nature of sex, we tend to lean towards defensiveness and spite. Unfortunately, this leads to a negative spiral towards resentfulness and sexlessness. Working with your partner to stay open, honest and respectful of one another’s wants and desires.