11 Subtle Signs Your Partner Isn’t Enjoying Sex, Even If They Aren’t Saying Anything
If you're in a long-term relationship, you might have 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 for perfectly explainable reasons — like stress, or exhaustion. But since it can be a sign that something may be up, 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," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett 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 someone's lack of interest in sex, as well as what to do about it.
1. They Seem Checked Out During Sex
"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," says Bennett. "Good sex involves passion from both sides, which includes touching and active participation. If your partner seems passive or 'checked out' during sex," they may not be 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." 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 a sign 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."
While they may be sick, or just not in the mood, if this happens frequently it could also be that they're not enjoying themselves sexually right now. "People give their time and energy to what they enjoy," says Bennett. And if your partner isn't bringing up sex anymore, Bennett says it could be a sign that there's something they're not saying.
When that's the case, it may be the perfect time to start spicing things up a bit in order to get yourselves out of a rut. You might, for example, try asking your partner if there's anything new or different they'd like to try in bed. And that could be something new and exciting for the both of you.
3. They've Stopped Initiating Sex
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 could be that your sex drive isn't currently syncing up with your partner's.
"Most people don't have a problem initiating activities they enjoy," author and licensed social worker T.L. Curtis tells Bustle. "Someone who doesn't want to have sex because they don't enjoy it is less likely to initiate sexual contact."
This may just be a phase your partner is going through, but it could also be due to a loss of emotional or physical connection. Again, this is not your fault, and talking about it is the best place to start.
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," relationship therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC 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." But this could also be an indicator that their lack of interest in sex may stem from something they're dealing with outside of the relationship.
5. They Keep Changing The Subject
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.
He says you might also notice that your partner jumps up quickly after sex in order to leave the room, or do another task. If that's out of the ordinary, it could be a sign they aren't enjoying sex right now. And if that's the case, do not blame yourself — find a way to approach the topic with your partner, and learn what's up.
7. You Didn't Enjoy Yourself
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, and putting in the same amount of effort you are, it may be time for a heart-to-heart.
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, 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, these signals may have the opposite effect. They might even take your clues and hints as their cue to back away.
9. They Seem More Self-Conscious Than Usual
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 seem shy about sex. "If your partner becomes hesitant about you seeing them naked, it could be a sign they're uncomfortable," Hershenson says. 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
Again, sexual problems can extend outside the bedroom, and affect other areas of your life together. "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 are rarely anyone's fault. If it seems like your partner isn't enjoying sex, it's likely 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 moments like these is the best way to be there for your partner, and to get your relationship back on track.