Life

11 Subtle Signs Your Partner Isn’t Enjoying Sex, Even If They Don't Say It

BDG Media, Inc.
Updated: 

If you're in a long-term relationship, you might've noticed that your sex life waxes and wanes. You likely went through a honeymoon period, where it seemed like you were never not having sex, followed by a very common period where you were having less sex in your relationship — as well as periods of no sex at all. And that's all perfectly OK.

It is important, however, to be on the lookout for signs your partner isn't enjoying sex, especially if that's not typical for them. A lack of interest in sex can strike anyone at any time, and in many cases it's due to something completely unrelated to the relationship — like stress at work, or exhaustion. But since it can begin to have an impact on your connection, it's important to recognize these signals and talk to your partner to figure out a solution.

"The best way to improve your sex life is to have an open and honest conversation with your partner," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "You’ll need to resist the urge to get defensive or upset at the feedback. [...] View the conversation not as an attack, but a chance to better meet the needs of your partner — and have [them] better meet your needs."

Once you start the convo, you and your partner will be better able to get on the same page about your sex life, talk about how much sex you'd like to be having, and chat about any underlying issues that might be holding you back — all in the name of feeling close again. Here, a few signs experts say may point to your partner's lack of interest in sex, as well as what to do about it.

1
They Seem Checked Out During Sex
Ashley Batz/Bustle

"While some people are more active or passive during [sex], total passivity is a sign that the sex isn’t that enjoyable for your partner," Bennett says. "Good sex involves passion from both sides, which includes touching and active participation." And if your partner seems passive or "checked out" during sex, he says, then they're definitely not communicating what they want.

Their lack of response could be a sign they have something on their mind, or that they aren't feeling well, or that they aren't feeling that "spark." And the lack of communication can make it all worse.

But whatever the case may be, talking about sex with your partner will help you both get to the bottom of why they seem checked out, so you can work on improving the situation together.

2
They Often Go To Bed Before You

If it's typical for you and your partner to go to bed at different times, then this isn't something you should worry about. But if they're suddenly slinking off to bed without saying goodnight, something might be up. "Nighttime is often the prime time for sex," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "If your partner doesn't make an effort to get in bed with you, it could be a sign."

Of course, they have a right to go to bed if they're tired. But if it becomes a pattern, and if it seems like they're trying to avoid having sex, don't be afraid to ask them if anything's wrong. While it can be awkward, talking to your partner about sex is a great way to get them to open up and be honest about how they're feeling — especially since it's a topic that can so easily be avoided, or brushed under the rug.

From there, you might even try asking your partner if there's anything new or different they'd like to try in bed, which could be something new and exciting for the both of you. Sometimes it's just about opening that door, and making it OK to talk about.

3
They've Stopped Initiating Sex
Ashley Batz/Bustle

Take a second to think about the last time your partner initiated sex. Have you been the one putting in all the effort lately? If this seems unusual for your relationship, it might be a sign your sex drives aren't currently syncing up. Or, that your partner isn't enjoying sex.

"Most people have a way they initiate sex and it doesn't take long before you know how your partner initiates and vice versa," April Davis, a professional matchmaker and founder of LUMA - Luxury Matchmaking, tells Bustle. So you might notice that, instead of cuddling with you on the couch — which has always led to sex in the past — they seem to avoid contact.

This may just be a phase your partner is going through, and they may just need some space for a while until they feel better. But it could also be due to a loss of emotional or physical connection. Again, this is not your fault, but it's still something you can bring up and talk about, in an effort to reconnect.

4
They Only Want To Focus On You

While it's obviously nice to give each other undivided attention during sex, it may be a sign your partner isn't enjoying themselves if they don't want you to return the favor.

"They may say things like, 'I don't need to climax' or 'I'm not in the mood right now but I'll take care of you," Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, a licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. "You don't get a hard 'no' but sex is no longer something you both share, and this is often a strong indicator that your [partner] is not enjoying sex."

Of course, this can always be a sign they're dealing with problems outside of the relationship, like stress at work, and aren't in the mood as a result. But it's also a tiny red flag, and one that may prompt you to make a few changes, like talking about your concerns, or finding ways to have more fun together as a couple.

5
They Keep Changing The Subject
Shutterstock

Sex can be an important part of a relationship, and yet it can also be something that's so difficult to talk about. If your partner isn't enjoying sex right now, they might even be afraid to tell you that they aren't in the mood, or that they feel disconnected.

So pay attention to their desire to switch topics whenever sex comes up. "If you can read the signs, you can bring up the topic yourself or start finding ways to better meet your partner’s needs, without an awkward conversation," Bennett says.

While your partner should definitely work on feeling more comfortable opening up to you about these things, giving them an "in" like this is a great place to start.

6
They Have Closed-Off Body Language

Again, everyone has their own way of behaving during sex, so if your partner has never been one to make eye contact, a lack of eye contact shouldn't be cause for concern.

But other times, their body language can speak volumes. As clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle, you might notice that your partner has closed off or distant body language during sex — they might look away from you, not kiss you back, barely hug you, etc.

Klapow says you might also notice that your partner jumps up quickly after sex in order to leave the room, or to do another task. If that's out of the ordinary, take note. And from there, find a way to bridge any potential gaps.

As Davis says, "Sometimes when a partner isn't enjoying sex, it might not be the sex that is the issue but the relationship. Take time to cater to your relationship and look at areas that can be improved on." Bring back things you used to do, like going on fun dates or simply hanging out together, and see if that brings the spark back.

7
You Didn't Enjoy Yourself
Shutterstock

As mentioned above, for sex to be fun and fulfilling it really takes the effort of both partners. So if you leave the experience feeling less than fulfilled, Klapow says it could be due to your current lack of sexual chemistry.

If your partner isn't enjoying sex, they probably won't be as passionate, as caring, or as motivated during sex, and that can result in a lackluster evening. So pay attention to these feelings; if you didn't feel as great as you normally do, there may be a reason for that.

Sex has so many elements, including a connection between you and your partner. If they aren't enjoy sex, you'll notice that that closeness isn't there. While you'll never want to pressure your partner, or make them feel bad for being disinterested, you can always point out what you've been noticing.

8
They're Avoiding Your Usual Sex Triggers

What do you and your partner do before sex to show that you're interested? "Every couple has a 'dance' which occurs when a partner is initiating sex," licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Whether it’s a certain kind of kiss or a touch in a particular spot, you know when your partner is trying to initiate physical intimacy."

If your partner isn't enjoying sex right now, these signals may be nonexistent or they might even take your clues and hints as their cue to back away.

You might even notice that they sound different during sex. "We sometimes make sounds to please our partners and help them to reach orgasm," Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle, so pay attention to changes here, too.

"If this is the case, consider your own sex sounds first and try adjusting them to be more authentic," O'Reilly says. "Lead by example."

9
They Seem More Self-Conscious Than Usual
Shutterstock

Pretty much everyone on the planet has experienced that moment of vulnerability when getting undressed before sex. But when you're with a loving partner, it generally makes it easier.

So take note if your partner suddenly seems shy about sex. "If your partner becomes hesitant about you seeing them naked, it could be a sign they're uncomfortable," Hershenson says. And the same is true if they aren't letting themselves go during sex, or if they seem uncomfortable afterward.

Here's another moment where you might notice closed-off body language, so it'll be important to slow down, give each other space, and discuss this change when you're both feeling less nervous.

10
They Seem Less Emotionally Available

Any type of distancing maneuver should signal it's time to have the all-important couples chat — especially when your partner seems to be checking out emotionally.

"If you start opening up to your partner and they turn on the TV or leave, they could be putting distance between you," says Henry. "Pay attention to whether a third entity is being incorporated into your interactions as a means to divert the energy and/attention away from your vulnerable moment." It's likely a sign something's up, and your partner actually does need to chat.

11
They Seem To Be Checking Out Of Your Relationship
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Again, sexual problems can be due to a lack of connection, but they can also cause one, which is why you'll want to talk about it ASAP.

"A lack of interest in intimacy could look like your partner not doing their part to maintain the connection you two have," Henry says. "If they stop texting throughout the day, or if they forget dates you already had scheduled, or if they don’t show caring or affection, your partner could be communicating that they’re just not feeling [it]."

It's important to remember that sexual problems in a relationship are rarely any one person's fault. If it seems like your partner isn't enjoying sex, chances are they're dealing with something personal, and just need a little space right now. But you'll never know unless you ask. Keeping an open dialogue during these tough moments is the best way to be there for your partner, and to get your relationship back on track.

Experts:

Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert at Double Trust Dating

Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, therapist

April Davis, professional matchmaker and founder of LUMA - Luxury Matchmaking

Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, licensed professional counselor

Dr. Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist

Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist