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Q & A: How can I politely turn my partner down for sex?

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

I’d like to start by saying that you do not own anyone an explanation when declining sex, or anything else for that matter! Still, especially in a long-term relationship, you may wonder how can you say no without making your partner feel bad about being rejected. Here are a few things you can try: 1. Know thyself

Are there specific times you’re just not up for it? For example, if you know that if you eat pizza you won’t want to have sex, it may be good you and your partner to know. Knowing what is likely to hit your brakes and/or your gas pedal, and sharing it with your partner(s), can go a long way! 2. Be honest Be honest with yourself and your partner. If there’s a bigger issue, don’t keep coming with a long list of excuses to decline. Is it just not wanting sex at the moment, or is there another issue with the sexual or relational dynamics? Some examples are: an issue with how your partner initiates sex, not enjoying sex, having unpleasant pain during sex, or non-sexual issues that impact how you feel about it, etcetera). 3. Offer alternative ways to connect People engage in sexual activities for all sorts of reasons. At times, it may be just to “scratch an itch”, while at others is to connect with a partner, to regulate (like being sad and wanting to feel happier)… You could offer an alternative way to connect. Here are some examples: cuddling, watching a movie, taking a shower together, assist in different ways (breath in their ear or use ‘sexy talk’ as they pleasure themselves or just give them privacy to do it and get back together when done)… Bonus: The smell of good food... I like to use the metaphor of not being hungry but smelling good food and going like "Oh yeah, I would go for that.". Many of us have had this idea of waiting until we feel desire to then engage in sexual activities. There might be times when sex has not crossed your mind at all, but being touched in a certain way or place, being spoken or invited to certain things, or just getting going and see where it goes might spark the desire. You could have an 'enthusiastic maybe' mindset. Nonetheless, consent means you're able to say no without fearing the consequences and at any time. (Please note that when I’m saying “sex” here, I refer to it as any activities those involved might consider sexual.) I'm a Clinical Sexologist at Cypress Wellness Center and work with individuals and couples who are working through their relationship, communication, sexuality, and emotional regulation. You can look at my biography here and click "Schedule Now" at the top of this page to request an appointment.

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