Ask A Sex Therapist: My partner doesn’t want to have sex with me anymore. What do I do?


Feeling sexually frustrated? FJ’s very own sex columnist is here to help.

Laura Miano is a sex and relationship writer and sex therapist in training based in Melbourne. Her mission is to help those with sexual concerns as well as support individuals who might like to enhance their sex lives beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

“My partner doesn’t seem to want to have sex with me anymore. What do I do?” – Girlfriend Seeking Sex

Hey Girlfriend Seeking Sex,

Thanks for reaching out! Your issue is not an uncommon one. In fact, I had someone reach out recently about a sexless relationship but they were on the other side of the issue – they didn’t want to have sex. Sex in relationships might come easy to some, but generally when you pass the limerence period (what you might call ‘the honeymoon period’) things shift and sex takes a different form.

When this shift happens, there is a lot more emphasis on emotional intimacy within the relationship as well as general lifestyle factors that are conducive to a healthy sex life. Remember, sex is variable, so it’s never going to be the same all of the time. You might go through periods when you can barely keep your hands off each other and periods when watching Netflix and getting your beauty sleep are the only activities taking place in your bedroom. If you think the sexlessness in your relationship is more than a little slump and an indication of a bigger problem, let’s chat strategies!

Firstly, I want you to think about this issue as a couple’s issue – not a problem on your partner’s behalf. Yes, you might be the one who still wants to have sex, but I want you to think broader than that. What has changed in your relationship? How have you changed? How has your partner changed? Are you doing things differently to before?  When you understand this issue as something that you and your partner both need to tackle together, you become a team. Once you establish this, I want you to open up to your partner and have an honest discussion about what’s going on.

We’ve all heard it, but communication really is key! Give them an opportunity to explain why they’ve developed a disinterest in sex – are they overworked? Stressed? Feeling distant or disconnected in the relationship? Really listen to what they have to say, even repeat it back to them. Ask them what you can do to help. Explain how you’re feeling and how the lack of sex has impacted you. Tell them you’d like to work on rebuilding your sex life. Having an honest, sensitive and frank conversation will help you to lay everything on the table and give you a better understanding of what you’re working with.

I also want you to reflect on what it is you really want to change in your relationship. Oftentimes partners with different levels of desire become stuck on the frequency of sex they are having. Instead of prioritising affection, intimacy, closeness, and trust, the amount of times they have sex becomes the barometer of a good relationship. I’m sure after simply reading this you can understand why this is totally flawed.

Instead of fixating on how often you’re having sex, think about the last time you and your partner told each other what you love most about each other or had a heart-to-heart about your deepest and most secret fears. I want you to work on achieving deep intimacy with them before expecting sex to enter the picture. This is what I’m talking about when I say a reduction in sex is a couple’s problems – think about how you and your partner have neglected your emotional intimacy lately.

I also want you to broaden your understanding of sexual intimacy. Again, the frequency of sex becomes confused with a good sex life. But remember, the act of sex is only one way to exchange sexual intimacy. Showering together, dancing in the kitchen, and giving and receiving massages are all great ways of being sexually intimate that don’t involve sex. The more sexually intimate your relationship becomes, the more likelihood there is of sex entering the picture.

In different-desire relationships, we often see a pursuer-distancer pattern appear. In your case, you are the pursuer and the more you pursue, the more your partner says no and distances themselves. The aim is to find a way of being intimate that doesn’t bring this kind of pattern out and then gradually work your way up to more and more intimacy from there. We know that when people achieve something once, they feel confident about achieving it again. So, aim for small wins in intimacy and build upon it slowly.

I also want to highlight that solving desire issues in relationships can take a lot of work, so I don’t want you to neglect your sexuality throughout this process. Understandably, you might be feeling a little sexually frustrated. Instead of ridding yourself of any sexual stimulation and pleasure, I want you to use this time to grow your sexual relationship with yourself. There’s so much you can do to keep things interesting on a solo level. Explore different ways of pleasuring yourself, try erotic dancing, master the skill of edging or work on your deep breathing skills to maximise your orgasms. There’s a whole world of solo sex for you to discover while you and your partner are busy working on your relationship.

Desire issues are one of the trickiest to work with in sex therapy, so if you’ve tried the above and haven’t seen results then I’d recommend booking in with a sex therapist. This will give you and your partner an opportunity to work alongside a professional and have them tease out exactly what’s going on. Remember, relationships take work and they’re always going to present challenges. The good news is, when couples overcome challenges it brings them closer, so before you throw in the towel, give it a red-hot crack. You could come out happier than ever on the other side.

See the other instalments in our Ask A Sex Therapist series here.

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