My partner wants sex but I don’t!

This is a common situation in long-term relationships. Whichever side of the equation you are on, it can cause unhappiness - one partner feeling they are missing out, and the other feeling pressured. If this issue affects you and your partner, you may find discussing this article together may start a useful conversation. (If you need help taking these issues further, I’d recommend working with an experienced couple counsellor.)

Here are three talking points for you and your partner to mull over:

1) It is usually the case that sexual activity in a couple is in the control of the person who wants it least. So it may be worth considering that the partner who wants it less may simply want to be to be in control of sex. 

This might suggest a possible strategy for the partner who wants it more to say, ‘I would love to have sex with you whenever you want, but I am going to leave it in your control. So I won’t request it, complain about it or initiate it.’ Taking the pressure off can really help start a process of change. And how about trying MORE non-sexual physical affection for the time being? Holding hands, hugs and curling up together. Warm the context!

2) Sex in a long-term relationship often goes from being erotic and exciting to boring, predictable and therefore just another chore. And everyday family life is so full of chores that the prospect of having ‘tick-box’ sex (‘we haven’t done it for two months, we really SHOULD have sex’) can be really unappealing - ‘can’t we just go to sleep?’.

A discussion around what kind of sex would make it fun again, may not be easy - but in general, a couple will have sex if they are looking forward to it. If you are the partner who doesn’t want sex, perhaps ask ‘what really would be a turn-on for me? And if you are the partner who wants more, ask, ‘when did I last try and listen to what my partner wants, to shake it up a bit and break the routines?’

3) When you start seeing your long-term partner as your rock, your security and safety, your best-friend, co-parent, and business partner (owning property and running your lives) - it can be very difficult to see them at the same time as your red-hot lover. One partner may make this mental switch from the living room to the bedroom more easily than the other. In fact, this is more likely to explain apparent differences in sexual appetite than the old line that ‘I have a higher libido than my partner’.

How can I know you so well in everyday life, yet still have an erotic curiosity about you? There are no easy answers here, but you can see it is less an issue of sexual technique than the imagination. So re-establishing an erotic appreciation of each other - perhaps with a date night, or thinking how someone else might see your partner - may be very helpful. 

Paradoxically, while sex is an easy thing to do, it can become really difficult to negotiate in long-term relationships. One of the keys is to foster a playfulness between you, because while this does not guarantee sex, it is difficult to imagine sex without it. So one last thought: 

  • When did you last take a walk together? Play a board game? Have a pillow fight? Have a picnic on the floor? Blow bubbles from the window? Make each other laugh?

Don’t see the sex issue as a failure in the relationship - most couples have similar experiences. Seeking help from a couples counsellor, if you feel a bit stuck, is not about admitting defeat, its about getting what you want. But, in the meantime, talk!

Good luck!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Hampton, TW12
Written by James Earl, MSW (Sussex) PgDip (Relate) Prof CertT PST (Relate)
Hampton, TW12

I am a relationship counsellor & psychosexual therapist for couples & individuals. I specialise in improving communication, restoring intimacy & desire, recovery from affairs, and sexual problems. First sessions are free, so you can check you are comfortable working with me. I can usuall...

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