Sex

Here's What To Do If Your Partner Doesn't Want Sex Anymore

According to the sexperts.

Updated: 
Originally Published: 

It's no secret that after the honeymoon phase of a relationship slows down, the sex also slows down. What’s less expected is for the sex to stop entirely. When that happens, it can be really confusing or scary because you may not know why your partner seems uninterested in sex, or worse, what it means for the future of the relationship. Is it a temporary blip? Or is this the new sexual status quo? If you're wondering what to do when your partner doesn’t want to be intimate anymore, you're not alone. This is a tough one, so to acquire some much-needed insight on what to do in this situation, I reached out to the experts.

First thing's first: Is a lack of sex in a relationship normal? According to Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast, there is no need to immediately panic. "Levels of sexual desire fluctuate over the course of a lifetime and ebbs and flows are perfectly normal,” she tells Elite Daily. “A decline in desire is not necessarily an indication of a problem and there is no ideal baseline for levels of desire." Rather than framing it in your mind as, “My boyfriend doesn’t seem interested in me sexually anymore,” try to be open-minded and curious about the root cause.

So if it's not always a lack of desire, what is the issue? According to clinical psychologist Dr. Carly Marie Manly, the answer is complicated. "A partner may stop wanting to have sex for a variety of reasons," she tells Elite Daily. "Sometimes it’s one key issue at work, whereas in other situations a combination of factors contribute to the lack of interest in having sex. Some of the most common underlying issues include work stress, life stressors, physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, emotional exhaustion, physical health issues, unresolved relationship concerns, and emotional or physical infidelity," she concludes. So yeah, complicated.

While Dr. O'Reilly and Dr. Manly say the cause of a partner's lack of sex drive can vary, they both agree that there are some ways to deal with the situation to resolve (or at least understand) it better. Communication is key — once you’re on the same page about your different sexual needs, you can better understand how to make each other happy. So, if your partner has stopped wanting to have sex, here's what the experts say to do about it.

Talk To Your Partner About Your Different Sex Drives

milorad kravic/E+/Getty Images

One of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship is communication, especially when the topic may be awkward. This is why both the experts agree the first step in dealing with this scenario is to discuss what is going on with your partner. The best thing to do when your partner doesn’t want to be intimate is to ask them about it, point blank. You may find that your perception of the situation is extremely different than theirs.

It’s all about the approach, says Dr. O’Reilly. “Do not hurl accusations or make demands. You are not a victim, but you have a right to talk about how you feel. Talk about why you believe you’ve stopped having sex and how you feel about it.” she says. “Be mindful of the fact that neither one of you is right or wrong. Neither one of you is broken. You can be healthy and want sex every day and you can be healthy and never want it. Rather than looking to place blame, look for solutions.”

To improve your chance of having this kind of productive conversation, Dr. Manly says it's essential to get into the right headspace prior to the discussion. “Strive to take a step back from the situation with an objective attitude,” advises Dr. Manly. “Given that a lack of sexual intimacy can trigger uncomfortable feelings such as rejection and sadness, it’s important to pause to reflect on the situation as a whole. Although it can be difficult to be objective when emotions are involved, it is helpful to assess the situation with as much detachment as you can muster,” she says.

Make Lifestyle Changes To Improve Your Sex Life

Once you’ve talked to your partner about how you're feeling, you should have a clearer idea of what exactly is going on. You’ll be better equipped to know what to do when your husband doesn’t want you sexually anymore — or when your partner is just going through a lot and not as sexually interested as they once were. (Remember, this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.)

The next step (if it's a situational issue, say the experts) is to start making changes to address the issues that may be affecting your partner’s libido. “For example, if work stress is keeping your partner’s brain at work even during evening hours, partners can create stress-reduction strategies that will help leave work outside the door. This might include turning off cell phones, creating uninterrupted couple time at night, and going to bed earlier to allow for improved emotional and physical intimacy,” says Dr. Manly.

The key, Dr. O'Reilly says, is to have patience and don’t expect these issues to resolve instantly. Remember that it’s natural for someone’s sex drive to ebb and flow. “You’ll need to work together to address these issues and make specific changes without the expectation of sex as a ‘reward,’ she says. “Resentment builds over time and accordingly, can take time to overcome.”

Consult A Sex Therapist

RichLegg/E+/Getty Images

Unfortunately, not all issues can be resolved with a conversation and a few lifestyle changes. There may be deeper issues at hand, so the experts say your best bet is to enlist the help of a professional, like a licensed sex therapist or counselor who specializes in relationship difficulties. “These can be challenging conversations, so you may want to seek the support of a therapist or counselor to guide you through these discussions,” suggests Dr. O’Reilly.

This guidance can come in a handful of different forms, says Dr. Manly. “Partners can find additional support by engaging in couples' therapy, sex therapy, or individual therapy," she suggests. But the most important thing, she adds, is that you be open to whatever your partner has to say during this process. Try not to put them on the defensive or make them feel bad. “Listen carefully when your partner expresses an opinion about the situation,” Dr. Manly says. “Strive to listen with compassion, and avoid jumping in with judgments or opinions. After your partner speaks, repeat what your partner said to ensure you understand fully.”

And If Your Partner Still Doesn’t Want Sex...

While these tactics can be really helpful in addressing sexual issues in the relationship, they might not always work. After all, every couple is different. In that case it's up to you to decide how to move forward. For some people, that may mean leaving the relationship because they are not fulfilled. Mismatched sex drives are a completely valid reason for a relationship to have to end. If physical intimacy is extremely important to you, you shouldn’t feel guilty for knowing this relationship isn’t the right fit. Just don’t shame or blame your partner. Remember, their sex drive isn’t better or worse than yours — it’s just different.

But O’Reilly says that the relationship doesn’t automatically have to be over. “Even if you’re not having sex, schedule time for other types of affection and connection. Sexless need not mean loveless, so look for other ways to connect physically, intimately and emotionally so that you have a foundation for sexual connection.” The key here is to keep the lines of communication open, and to do what feels right for the both of you.

Experts:

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast

Dr. Carly Marie Manly, clinical psychologist