Sex Therapists Get Real About How to Handle When One Partner Doesn't Want Sex

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A lot of partners are sexually out of sync, with one desiring more sex than the other, but not many people want to talk about such a sensitive topic. If left unaddressed, however, the discrepancy in desire can cause problems for the relationship that extend far beyond the bedroom walls. 

According to sex therapists, it is possible to address the problem head-on and get the relationship back on track as long as partners are willing to communicate and avoid blame. 

Speak honestly about your needs. 

We can't expect our partners to read our minds, so it is important to be honest about your needs. The first step to fixing the problem is to let your partner know you are craving more intimacy and sex. 

“See how your spouse responds,” Keeley Rankin told the Huffington Post. “Listen to what they say, feel and say they want. You never know, they may want more closeness as well.”

Discuss the potential causes that might be affecting your partner's sex drive.

If your partner has had a drop in libido, it is possible that it stems from external forces in their daily lives. Could they be too tired or stressed to be interested in sex at the end of the day? 

It is also possible that they are experiencing sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction or lack of vaginal lubrication. 

“You have to consider the life, emotional and physical barriers that can affect sex and shift libidos,” said Elizabeth McGrath, a sex therapist and educator. “If your spouse has been caring for others all day, for instance, they might not feel ready for sex until they’ve had a moment to themselves to feel nourished and decompress.”

If you can pinpoint the cause of their disinterest or hesitation it will provide some direction as to how to proceed. The solution may involve scheduling a doctor's appointment or helping ease your partner's stress by making sure they get some "me time." Getting away as a couple in a stress-free environment might also do the trick. 

Seduce instead of critiquing or pressuring. 

No one wants to be pushed or cajoled into sex and doing so can make a slight problem into a major wedge in the relationship. 

Find ways to initiate intimacy that don't involve badgering your spouse and making them feel bad about not wanting sex, Danielle Harel, a sex therapist and the co-author of Making Love Real: The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion suggests.

“See if you can find out what turns them on the most and try seduction,” Harel said. “Try saying (and really meaning), ‘It’s fine if we don’t have sex tonight but would you be willing to just open up to see if you start to get turned on?’”

It is important to make sure you share an agreement that both partner's boundaries will be respected. “Just because you start, doesn’t mean you have to go all the way. Make sure you have this agreement with your partner.”

Take turns initiating small moments of intimacy. 

Couples who find themselves stuck in the roles of one initiating and another rejecting can help ease this cycle by agreeing to share the burden of creating moments of intimacy. 

MORE: 11 Kinky Sex Acts to Spice Things up Without Weirding out Your Spouse  

“Take turns each day initiating some kind of touch, even if if the goal isn’t orgasm, but just non-goal oriented sexy time,” Moushumi Ghose, a sex therapist and author, said. “The next day, the other person initiates. This can help balance out the playing field.” 

Heat things up by slowing things down. 

Start building your sexual relationship back up from the ground floor with a sexy make-out session or by spending some time touching. Simple steps towards reconnection can lead to a renewed interest and enthusiasm for sex. 

“Oftentimes, when people are asking for sex, a lot of what they want is just enthusiastic, loving connection,” Celeste Hirschman said. “Just remember: You both have to be enthusiastic about it; it won’t be fulfilling if your partner just gives you sex without being present or enjoying the experience themselves.” 

Seek outside help. 

Like many relationship hurdles, problems in the bedroom can often be solved with the help of a therapist.

“Explore workshops, sex education resources and sex therapy that can expand your sexual horizons,” Mcgrath recommended. “Look at what is possible and continue to talk about what else you can do together as a team.” 

Don't let discouragement curb your own loving and passionate sexual energy. 

Reinvigorating your love life can take time and it is only natural to get frustrated. Ian Kerner, the author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman urges higher-desire partners to continue to working towards intimacy in a loving, calm way. 

“Higher-desire partners often get frustrated and feel rejected, creating a sexual disposition that is impatient and brittle and temperamental,” he cautioned. “This often worsens the dynamic around sex and sometimes the higher-desire partner may opt out altogether, which is equally bad.”

Kerner's recommendation? “Stay in it to win it. That means nurturing arousal through positive acts of intimacy.” 

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