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Healing Souls (Non) Sexperiment: Learning How To Say No To Sex Without rejection.

Recently a man asked me a question, "How do I ask for sex without sounding desperate?" The same day, I had a women ask me, "I don't want to reject my partner, I'm just not in the mood."

I work with a vast array of people asking how to request sex and at the same time how to turn their partner down for sex. Yes, complicated! Not because they don’t want to have sex or need it all the time, they just don’t want to be vulnerable to the conversation regarding when, where and everything else sex brings up in people. So it ends up that one side never asks and the other side doesn’t care.

There are also plenty of perfectly normal reasons for not wanting to have sex when your partner initiates: you’re exhausted, you’re distracted, your kids are on the couch next to you, there are other desires, the approach from your partner is too obvious, there is no intimacy. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t very skillful at turning our partners down.

Even in the best of circumstances, getting turned down for sex can be painful. In a long-term relationship, getting turned down repeatedly can eventually lead to resentment. In some relationships, the resentment can grow to the point where it starts to destroy the relationship and lead to infidelity, or porn addiction. The turn to a digital relationship can be looming.

The stakes are extreme, so it’s imperative for us to get it right.

Today I’m sharing tips for turning your partner down for sex in a way that will essentially bring you closer together, not separate you.

Recognize their instigation. Being interested says something.

Look at it two ways, asking for what you want is what you deserve and not getting what you want can lead to a feeling of rejection. Asking for sex always makes you feel vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there and asking for what you want. You’re also putting yourself in the position of being turned down.

When your partner initiates, take a moment to acknowledge the invitation. The initiation may feel bothersome to you in that moment if you’re not in the mood, but it’s important to appreciate their vulnerability. Don’t ignore their invitation or pretend you didn’t hear them.

Don’t Shutdown their desire / Actually consider their invitation.

Your partner is occasionally going to initiate sex at times when you can’t possibly imagine anyone being interested in sex.

Maybe you just put the baby to bed and you have vomit in your hair and poo on your hands. Or maybe you just got back from yoga class and are feeling pretty gross.

Turn the desire to a consideration. Take control of how you might want to have sex. Approach your partner with understanding and compassion.

You both like sex, doesn’t mean you like the same sex. What is sexual compatibility?

There are so many variables when it comes to the desire to have sex. It is imperative to engage in a slow request to have time for sex and intimacy. Don’t get me wrong there are always quickies, spontaneous sex and the likes of crazy passion taking you both over. Here I am talking about understanding your partner’s patterns, just because you’re both sexual driven, you might be a morning sex person and you find your partner loves night sex. Talk, talk and explore!

Is there something else to do? There is always an alternative.

It's not all about the act of sex. There is always an alternative. When your partner initiates, it’s an opportunity to see if you’re interested in something different than your fallback routine. Let’s say you and your partner typically default to intercourse. In that particular moment, maybe you don’t want to have intercourse, but you wouldn’t mind talking dirty while your partner masturbates. Suggest that instead! Even if you don’t want to do anything sexual, you can still spend some quality time being intimate together.

Tell them what your thinking, the crystal ball only goes so far.

Hearing a specific reason why you’re not up for it in that moment can soften the blow for your partner. If they understand that you’re stressed out about your upcoming presentation, worried about your body image, or maybe sick of the same way they ask, they’ll be more understanding and less likely to get their feelings hurt. Giving a specific reason also helps you start to develop a better understanding of when you are and aren’t open to sex.

Share with them what you do love about them.

Giving a reason also helps your partner recognize that you’re turning down sex, in that particular moment, for that particular reason. Not them. This is a great chance to see if you really are sexual turned on by your partner. It might open up a conversation to share your concerns and your hopes for a healthier sexual relationship.

So you’re saying I have a chance.

Just like Jim Carey in the movie Dumb and Dumber, " So your saying I have a chance!", they are not closing the door. If you can get into the habit of giving specific reasons why you’re not interested in sex, you may start to notice patterns. Give your partner some feed back. Constructive real talk is helpful. Just remember you will need to understand you'll get some feedback too.

I am encouraged to share that with a transparent, courageous conversation that is delivered with compassion you will not be rejecting. The idea of sex in and of itself is a vulnerable experience, especially if you are rebuilding trust and learning to live with an addiction. Even without any issues, asking for sex in any situation can be hard; although, if you have the faith in your partner, they will both accept your answer and love you more.

Dr, Ryan Westrum, is a sex therapist that specializes in helping couples build, solidify and learn about healthy sexual relationships. Please contact him at or 952-261.5269.

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