Stop Sexually Frustrating Yourself...and Your Partner
Common ways people undermine their own sex life.
Posted Nov 01, 2019
Does it feel like your partner doesn’t care about sex anymore? Like they're not interested in you? Are you worried they've moved on? That they don't care about you anymore? Or find you attractive? The answer to this problem may surprise you. The problem may not lie with them, but with you. If you find yourself wishing your partner would initiate sex more, here’s why.
Partners hate being repeatedly rejected when they make a sexual advance. Please understand, it's unrealistic for a partner to expect every sexual advance will be positively received. But if you’re consistently shooting them down, that kills desire. Being rejected hurts. It’s awkward and kind of embarrassing. So, if you shoot your partner down consistently, expect them to initiate less and less. This idea has been supported by research psychologist and best-selling author John Gottman. His research shows that partners who reject bids for connection will going forward make less and less bids.
It can be difficult to manage two different libidos, so be mindful of your partner’s level of sexual interest and that it might be different than yours, and be flexible. Discuss with your partner when and where they like to have sex. And what gets them in the mood. Don't judge them for having a higher or lower libido than you. A surefire way to kill the mood is judgement.
Let’s say your partner tries initiating sex, but you’re not interested. You feel bad, so you promise to have sex later in the day or the next day or later in the week, but when it comes time to making good on your promise, you don’t deliver. This sucks for partners (no pun intended) and let me tell you why. If you promise to have sex with your partner, expect that they will be thinking and looking forward to the fruition of that promise. When you don’t deliver, you’ve just squashed hours or days of anticipation. It’s infuriating and shuts your partner down. Be honest with your partner upfront about not being interested in sex. It is better to be honest than to string them along.
Researchers have discovered that communication and sexual intimacy are chief predictors of relational satisfaction (Yoo et al., 2014). Research has also indicated that communication, sexual intimacy and relational satisfaction are deeply interrelated (Litzinger & Gordon, 2005) suggesting that all three ebb and flow together. So, in theory, communication in general should boost sexual intimacy. To go one step further, communication about sex should boost sexual intimacy. This is more than a personal theory since research has shown communication about sexual desires, interests, preferences and fantasies has also been shown to increase sexual satisfaction among couples (Montesi, Fauber, Gordon, & Heimberg, 2011). The point is, you and your partner need to talk. You need to talk in general and you need to talk about sex.
If the problems lies in their approach, ask them if they’d be willing to receive feedback, so they can be more successful with their approach in the future. If you aren’t interested because of stress, then that’s a cue to your partner to show you support. But these opportunities aren’t possible if you don’t share with them honestly why sex isn’t appealing to you in the moment. Without a stated reason, they could walk away feeling like the reason has to do with them and that you don’t desire them.
“Sex is about anticipation not culmination.” —Chloe Thurlow
Treating Sex like a Chore
I get it! You’ve had a long day and there's a lot on your mind. But please don’t treat sex like it’s another thing to check off your to-do list. Sex is fun, exciting, bonding, playful, and passionate. When you treat sex like a chore, your partner can tell. Your partner can sense when you are going through the motions and don’t really care. That hurts them. That kills the fun and passion. Be intentional. Be mindful about getting into a sexual mood and mindset, so you can be fully present for the sexual experience. Sex is not merely a physical act; it involves your mind and emotions.
Partners who are good friends feel comfortable with each other. Comfort is the opposite of feeling overly self-conscious, which will affect the sexual experience. Your partner can tell when you’re more worried about how you look than about connecting with them. Sex is not about performance. It’s about forgetting the worries of the day, connecting with each other, being passionate and enjoying physical and emotional intimacy. But when you make it about how you look or how you are performing, it diminishes the experience. Be friends by affirming the attractiveness of each other. Let them know you desire them and that you love them. The time you will spend together is special to you. Affirming each other before sex can increase the level of comfort and confidence.
Keeping Sex Tidy
Sex can be gross. It’s a very bodily, fleshy, earthy kind of activity. There are fluids, sweat, and noises. But what did you expect? You are using your body to connect with another human being. Embrace the messiness and physicality of sex. It doesn’t have to be perfect and tidy. Enjoy it for what it is. But if you want to manage sex and keep it tidy, expect your sex life to suffer.
"I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty." —George Burns
Consider Their Needs
Your partner likes making you feel good. In fact, they feel good when they can make you feel good. But if it’s always going one way, it can be unsatisfying. Friendship is about mutual satisfaction— it’s a two-way street. It is an act of giving and receiving. If all your partner does is give, over time they will come to resent you. Change it up sometimes. Ask your partner what they would like. Be sure to make your sexual relationship reciprocal.
“Sex is an emotion in motion.” —Mae West
If all you ever do is the same ol’ same ol’, then expect to get the same ol’ same ol’. Routine is the enemy of passion. It’s okay to be spontaneous on occasion. Surprise your partner with something new. Try to have sex a different time of day. Keep in mind, it’s not just about when you have sex, but how you have sex. Don’t become routine with positions or foreplay. Get a book, buy some new music, get a candle or read a blog and mix it up. It may be a hit or a miss, but it’s still fun to try new things and your effort demonstrates care. Friends give each other the freedom to try new things and take risks. Give each other that freedom.
Making It Conditional
Having sex should not be dependent on your partner fulfilling some kind of hidden agenda. If you have a disagreement and refuse sex because they don’t agree with you, that’s a bad precedent to set. The reason being, you are using sex as a bargaining chip. That’s not what sex is for. Sex is a privilege and needs to be shared between the two of you. It is not something for you to give and take away. It shouldn't be the means by which you exert control. You must consider the needs of the other. Just as you want a sense of shared control over your bank accounts, budget, bills, where you go on your vacation, whose family you spend time with over the holidays, you also want a shared sense of control over sex. If you are the only one holding the reins, your partner will resent that. No one likes feeling as if they have no control regarding something as important as sex! Get comfortable with sharing control. That means you’ll have to trust your partner and they’ll have to trust you.
If you expect your partner to always know when you are in the mood, without giving any signals, expect disappointment. Partners communicate with each other. They directly express what they need without holding a grudge or bearing resentment. You set yourself and your partner up for failure if you expect them to mind read. If you want to be sexual, then communicate your desire. Throughout your typical day, you’re juggling several different things: work, family, friends, social life, kids, paying bills, responding to emails and on and on and on. Help your partner out! Communicate that you want to be close to your partner, that you’d like them to massage your feet, give you a hug and make love to you. You’ve got a lot on your mind and so does your partner.
I’m sure there are more things I could add to the list, but hopefully this will stimulate your thinking. Don’t make the mistake of placing all the blame on your partner for the lull in your sex life. If they are not initiating, go deeper and ask why. Be prepared to take responsibility for your waning sex life. A good sex life takes two people.
Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert. Harmony; Revised Edition.
Yoo, H., Bartle-Haring, S., Day, R. D. & Gangamma, R. (2014). Couple communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40(4): 275-293.
Litzinger, S., & Gordon, K. C. (2005). Exploring relationships among communication, sexual satisfaction, and marital satisfaction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 31: 409-424.
Montesi, J. L., Fauber, R. L., Gordon, E. A., & Heimberg, R. G. (2011). The specific importance of communicating about sex to couples’ sexual and overall relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 28(5): 591 609.