What to do if your partner doesn’t want to have sex
Communicating with your partner is the best way to resolve issues around sex
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
For many people, sex is an important part of intimacy in a relationship. However, not everyone feels the same way about sex. Some people think it’s very important in a relationship, but it is possible to be intimate with someone without having sex.
It can be difficult when two people in a relationship have different sexual needs, but this is also quite common. You are not alone in facing this issue with your partner.
Sex also means different things to different people. What one couple considers sex is different to how another couple might feel, and some may choose not to have sex at all. Everyone is different, and you just need to find a way to make it work for both of you.
Does everyone want to have sex?
Not everyone is interested in having sex or being intimate, and if someone decides that they don’t want to have sex, that’s okay. Everyone is different and there’s nothing wrong with that. In a relationship, it’s important to discuss your sexual needs with your partner so that you understand each other’s boundaries and what you’re comfortable with.
If your partner doesn’t want to have sex or be sexually intimate, or if they have lost interest in sex or sexual intimacy, it does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with the relationship or with you or your partner.
What if we used to have sex, but now we don’t?
In the first few months of a relationship, things can feel especially new and exciting. Many couples find that after these first number of months they are having sex or being intimate less often. This is common for any relationship and is not necessarily something to be worried about.
There are a number of reasons why someone may not want to have sex or has lost interest in sex, including:
- A low sex drive
- Sexual trauma in their past
- Experiencing stress in other areas of their life
- Mental health difficulties
- Physical health issues
- Energy levels
- Vaginismus (a condition that causes the muscles around the vagina to tighten when penetration is attempted) or other conditions
- Erectile dysfunction or other conditions
- Certain medications
- Busy schedules
- Fear or embarrassment
What’s going on in other areas of our lives can affect our sexual and romantic lives and can cause strain in our relationships in a number of ways. Talk to your partner about what’s going on, and think about any outside factors that could be impacting on how they’re feeling.
What to do if your partner doesn’t want to have sex
If your partner doesn’t seem interested in having sex, the best thing you can do is talk about it. It may seem difficult or even embarrassing to have this conversation, but talking it out is the only way to find a way forward.
Talk to them
Try to pick a time when both of you are less likely to be busy or distracted. Pick somewhere that is likely to have no interruptions – some people like to have tough conversations by going for a walk somewhere quiet. It’s best not to have this conversation in bed, in the bedroom, or immediately before or after sex.
Discuss what’s going on in their life
If your partner is experiencing a lot of stress or anxiety, or if they are having issues in other areas of their life, talk to them about this. If there is something going on, support them as they try to deal with it, or help them to find the support they need.
Keep the conversation about sex open during this time, but bear in mind that they may have a lot going on, and try to be as supportive and understanding as you can and not push them.
Respect their boundaries
You must respect their boundaries and their comfort levels when it comes to sex. Remember that everyone is different, and what you want is not necessarily what they want.
Talk to them about what they are comfortable with and what their boundaries are. You can share the same information with them so that you both understand what you like and what you don’t like
Above all else, make sure you have their consent for whatever you do, and ask that they make sure they have yours.
Try to come up with some alternatives
‘Sex’ does not mean the same thing to everyone, and each individual or couple can have their own ideas around what sex is. If your partner is uncomfortable with one idea of sex, then maybe there are some other things you can try. Talk about different things you might like to try, but make sure you have their consent.
If you think you just need to mix things up and try something new to bring sexual energy back into the relationship, be open to that conversation, but make sure everyone is comfortable with what you decide to do.
There are ways of being intimate with a partner that do not involve sexual actions, and these avenues could also be worth exploring and can be as fulfilling to a relationship as sexual intimacy.
Make time to be intimate in other ways
Being close to your partner doesn’t have to mean having sex. Make time to be close to one another. Finding different and exciting ways to be intimate helps to build connections to each other. It could be as simple as cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, or spending some time together away from phones and other screens.
Let them know you’re there for them
If this is something you’ve noticed, it’s likely that they have noticed it too. They may also be worried about their own low sex drive and wondering what’s going on. You partner won’t necessarily have all of the answers, and it could take time to figure it all out, so make sure they know that you’re there for them and that you’ll work it out together.
Speak to a professional
If you feel you need extra help or support, consider going for counselling. A relationships counsellor or a sex therapist will be able to work through these issues with both of you so that you can come to a solution together and find something that works for both of you.
Many counselling organisations will have a relationship counsellor or a sex therapist, and you can also search for a counsellor on the IACP website. Some counselling organisations and individual counsellors offer a ‘sliding scale’ fee for those who might have a low income, which means they can offer you a session at a reduced price. Talk to them about your options.
If the issue is a medical one, such as vaginismus, erectile dysfunction, low energy levels, or side effects of medication, ask your partner if they would like to consider speaking to a GP or medical professional, and offer to support them in this should they wish to do so.
You may be finding this situation difficult, but having an open and honest conversation with your partner is the best way to find a way to make this work for both of you. Above all, remember to never push someone to do something that they are not comfortable with, regardless of their connection to you or what you may have done together in the past. It is never ok to push someone to have sex with you, even a partner.
Illustrations by Marina Marinina.
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