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 intercourse in your relationship — as well as periods of no sex at all. While many couples fall into a sex rut at one point or another, it’s a different issue entirely if your partner isn’t sexually attracted to you anymore.
To make the situation worse, it can be really tough to talk about. The reason? “Many people have sexual vulnerabilities and do not know how to express that sex is not enjoyable,” Dr. Lori Lawrenz, a clinical psychologist specializing in sexual health, tells Bustle. 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 the signs your partner isn’t enjoying sex as much as they used to in order to work out a solution. While it’ll be up to them to eventually explain why they don’t feel sexually satisfied, finding a way to broach the topic can be a big help.
“Communication is the key, but not while you are in the middle of [sex] or in bed,” Lawrenz says. “It is best to talk about sex when you are fully clothed and not in a sexual situation. Some call these ‘kitchen conversations’ as you are dressed, in the kitchen, eating food, and you can then discuss issues of sexual enjoyment.”
The neutral setting helps take the pressure off so you can chat without feeling too awkward. Use this time to talk about your connection, what your partner does or doesn’t like in bed, as well as whatever else is going on that may be affecting their mood — all in the name of feeling close again. “Asking with a nonjudgmental, empathic tone should facilitate better conversations,” Lawrenz says. Below are some signs that experts say may point to your partner’s lack of interest in sex, along with what to do about it.
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 change seems unusual for your relationship, it might be a sign your sex drives aren't 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," professional matchmaker April Davis tells Bustle. It’s why you might notice that, instead of cuddling with you on the couch — which has always led to sex in the past — they suddenly want to sit somewhere else.
They Only Focus On You In Bed
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."
They Keep Changing The Subject
Take note if your partner changes the topic whenever sex comes up, Bennett says. While they should definitely work on feeling more comfortable opening up to you about sex, it also won’t be a bad idea to point it out and let them know that sharing their feelings is A-OK.
They Have Closed-Off Body Language
Everyone’s different, so if your partner has never been one to make a ton of eye contact, a lack of eye contact shouldn't be cause for concern. But many times body language can speak volumes. As clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle, someone who isn’t enjoying sex will likely look away, not return a kiss, or not put their arms around you. It’s their way of participating without really participating.
You Aren’t Enjoying Yourself
Both partners need to fully participate in order for sex to be fun and fulfilling, which is why how you feel afterward can speak volumes. 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 don'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.
They’re Avoiding Your Usual 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," Dr. Racine Henry, Ph.D., 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, you might notice that they’ve stopped doing all the things they know you like pre-sex. They no longer play with your hair, or brush your leg, or kiss you before bed, all because they aren’t enjoying the act — and thus don’t want to head down that road.
They Sound Different During Sex
This one’s a bit unique, but you might even be able to tell that your partner sounds 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. Think moaning or screaming your name. A partner who isn’t into it won’t go that extra mile.
On the flip side, Laeta says your partner might moan and yell but they’ll be saying things like “hurry up” or “I want you to come.” It sounds sexy, but the reality is they’re encouraging you to finish because they aren’t having a good time.
They’re 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. While everyone gets shy or self-conscious at times, a partner who is no longer having a good time in bed may seem like they’re trying to hide or cover themselves up, Hershenson says. They might seem hesitant about you seeing them naked, they may not let themselves go during sex, and/or they may want to get up and get dressed immediately afterward. These are all red flags they’ve got something on their mind.
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.
You’ve Noticed Other Problems In The Relationship
If your partner isn’t enjoying sex it isn’t necessarily a reflection on you or the relationship. Physical and mental health concerns, as well as everyday life, can get in the way.
That said, “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,” Henry says.
This is an issue that requires a lot of deep discussions so you can both figure out if you’d like to stick together as a couple. But if you notice any of the other signs listed above, 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. Chances are you and your partner can work through it together and start enjoying sex again.
Dr. Lori Lawrenz, clinical psychologist specializing in sexual health
Anya Laeta, somatic sex and relationship coach
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor
Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, therapist
April Davis, professional matchmaker
Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, licensed professional counselor
Dr. Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist
Dr. Racine Henry, Ph.D., LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist
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