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The Real Reasons Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

If your partner is rarely in the mood for sex, there might be something more going on than you'd expect. Here are some possible mood-killing culprits.

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Financial woes

Considering that money troubles are a top cause of a breakup, it’s not a surprise that financial issues can cause rifts in even the most harmonious couples. “The results of unaddressed financial stressors in a relationship can cause negative feelings towards your partner, fear and anxiety, broken trust, depression symptoms and a lack of sexual desire,” says Crystal Hollenbeck, EdD, licensed mental health counselor. “Combining finances, creating a budget, and agreeing as a couple on financial goals will increase the sense of closeness, trust, and security within the relationship.”

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Digital distractions

These days, it’s hard to sit on the couch and watch a TV show with your partner or go out to dinner at a nice restaurant without looking at your phone every five minutes. And this can seriously drive a wedge between couples romantically. “If your answer is your phone or tablet and not your partner, it’s time to make some changes,” says Celeste Holbrook, PhD, sexual health consultant. “Plug your phone in the kitchen and (gasp) get a regular alarm clock—even an extra 10 minutes connecting with your partner sans electronic devices can give you a great boost in your sex life and relationship.” 

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Weight change

A weight gain—or loss—can throw some partners off their game. The one who gains may feel self-conscious, explains Stephanie Buehler, MPW, PsyD, licensed psychologist and sex therapist at Hoag for Her Center for Wellness in Newport Beach and Irvine, California. Or a partner may feel the body change is a threat or unattractive. “Asking a partner to lose weight is like asking someone to quit smoking or drinking—it usually has no effect.” For this reason, she recommends learning to accept your partner’s weight by focusing on the physical and personality attributes you still find attractive. Once you do, you’ll quickly learn that it can also help you make sex great again.

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Never-ending to-do lists

Most of us have a lot going on at all times, but if your partner feels as though his or her to-do list is endless, he or she may pull away from sex. “If all your partner can think about is her boss who is driving her crazy, how much laundry needs to be done, how the kids need new school clothes, or how much the current administration has her scared for the future, it can be next to impossible for her to get her head in the game,” says Jenny Block, sex educator and author of O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm and The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex. “Letting her share her work concerns, knocking out the to-do list together, and giving her a safe space to vent can go a long way to help her get back in the grove.”

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Feeling disconnected

If you and your partner haven’t had time to reconnect in a while, you might be feeling a bit cut off from each other physically and emotionally. In these instances, Block recommends letting your partner know that you’re there for her and that you love her. “A gesture as simple as holding his hand or rubbing his shoulders or taking the time to really look into her eyes when you tell him you love her can go a long way to make him feel connected to you and thus more inclined to want to have sex with you,” adds Block. Simple but loving gestures are easy ways you can improve your sex life in just one day.

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Tension in the relationship

Wherever the conflict is coming from, be it him neglecting to pick up his socks off the floor or her forgetting to fish out her hair from the shower drain, if not properly addressed it can cause a rift between couples. “Any kind of tension that builds up and smolders is the death of sex,” says Claudia Six, PhD, sexologist and author of Erotic Integrity: How to Be True to Your Sexuality. “You have to address the resentments, resolve the conflicts, apologize sincerely and learn to communicate more effectively.” It’s having these difficult conversations, she adds, that have the most potential to fuel your sex life.

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Feeling unappreciated

If your partner feels as though you take her for granted, despite everything she does for you, she might not want to have sex with you, even if you had great sex in the past. What to do? Eyal Matsliah, sexual empowerment coach and author Orgasm Unleashed, recommends finding a quiet moment to sit with her and tell her how much you love and appreciate her. “Ask her how she’s been feeling, if there’s anything that she wants to share with you, what you can do for her, and how your relationship can feel even better for her,” he says. “Dedicate more quality time to her and your relationship by going on dates, reading relationship books, and spending more quality time together overall.” Once she hears how much you care, you should steal these 8 habits of couples with steamy sex lives, too.

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Lashing out

We all have rough days. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing details of a tough day with your significant other to garner support, Block warns against using hard words, being abrupt, or dismissive when you’re in a foul mood. “It’s tough to want to have sex with someone who’s being mean to you,” she says.

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Lack of exercise

When you get your heart rate up and start sweating mid-workout, your body is releasing what’s known as endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in your brain that put you in a better mood. This alone can make you more interested in hitting the sheets with your partner, coupled with an increase in body confidence thanks to your hard-earned workout. So what are you waiting for? Get moving! Even better, workout with your partner so you both enjoy the benefits.

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Buehler sees this a lot with couples, especially women. “It’s often the case that the woman is completely fatigued and the man is always ready,” she says. “Usually this means that the woman is working the ‘third shift’ and doing more than her share of housework.” Interestingly enough, research suggests that men who help out at home have more sex than men who don’t, which might be incentive to split housework more evenly!

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If one or both partners were unfaithful, recovering a sexual connection can be difficult. “Whether it is the man or the woman who was cheating, the trust, which is such an important part of the intimate connection, has been eroded,” explains Wendi L. Dumbroff, a licensed professional counselor. “This makes it difficult to fall back into each other’s arms.” She recommends couples therapy but explains that therapy alone is not always sufficient in helping couples to resume a sexual relationship. “Slowly reconnecting in ways that feel safe for the partner who was cheated on, along with the changed dynamic between the partners develop through the couples therapy can begin to heal and create intimacy between them once again,” she adds. If you fear your partner has been unfaithful, check for these subtle signs you’ve got a cheating spouse.

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Feeling unwanted

When your partner feels like he or she isn’t wanted or desired, it can be a turnoff in and of itself. Of course, in long-term relationships, it can be easy to get into a rut and forget to tell your significant other they are attractive and how much you desire him or her, but Block says that doing so is incredibly important. “Tell and show your partner how much your desire him or her—make them feel like you did when you first met,” she adds. Otherwise, you could end up experiencing these signs of a toxic relationship.

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Orgasmless sex

About 75 percent of women never reach orgasm during sex, according to a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies. While it might not happen every time, Block says that lack of orgasms during sex could be a deterrent for women. “If a woman feels like little more than a masturbation sleeve, it’s unlikely she’ll be interested in sex,” she says. “Sex is about mutual pleasure—if it isn’t doing it for both partners, it’s unlikely that the partner being left hanging will have any interest in getting down and dirty.”

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Lack of body confidence

No matter your age, pants size or weight, not feeling confident in your own skin and with the body that you will use to have sex is a major obstacle in the way to great sex, experts say. “Couples and sex therapy are useful to help partners communicate more freely around sexual issues, as well as helping to ensure that they can enjoy the sex that they do have,” says Dumbroff.  “Additionally, practicing mindfulness exercises and learning to be present in the moment is very important, not just around how people feel about their bodies, is key to really being able to fully engage in a positive sexual experience.” That’s just one of the things sex therapists wish you knew.

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Birth trauma

No woman who carried a baby for nine months and then went through childbirth wants to hear it: Men can experience post-traumatic stress-like symptoms after witnessing the birth of a child. This, Hollenbeck says, can leave a man unable to engage sexually with his partner. “He or she may not be able to look at the vulva (vaginal area) in the same way he did prior to seeing the birth process,” she explains. “For the woman, her vaginal area may have suffered damage, so she may be experiencing postpartum depression, be traumatized by the rigor of the birth experience, or be traumatized by complications related to the health of the baby.” PTSD can be treated effectively with therapy or medication.

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Religious or personal beliefs

Dumbroff explains that although someone may not be consciously aware of why they don’t want sex, they may carry learned messages from childhood that can penetrate deeply and show up in a lack of desire or even an aversion to sex. “Taking detailed sexual histories and learning about a person’s family of origin can help to unpack these beliefs and messages and bring them into the light,” she says. “A person may then be freer to explore their sexuality and can begin to create a new narrative around sex and what it means to be a sexual being.”

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Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is becoming increasingly common, affecting an estimated 52 percent of men, according to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. In fact, at age 40 approximately 40 percent of men are affected and those rates increase to nearly 70 percent in men aged 70 years. “Men would rather avoid a sexual encounter because of what they see as their ‘non-working penis,’ than be embarrassed with a woman—even a significant other,” Dumbroff explains. “It may just be performance anxiety because of the one time they were unable to get or to keep an erection.” For issues such as this, she recommends men first be checked by a doctor, especially if they’re suddenly unable to get an erection, as it may be the result of a genitourinary issue or a cardiovascular problem. Sex therapy can also help couples expand their definition of sex past the act of penetration, she adds. Trying one of these 31 natural libido booster to have great sex is worth a shot, too.

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The sex is not to their liking

“Sometimes people realize that they may not be turned on by ‘vanilla sex,’ but rather that they are in fact kinky in their sexual preferences,” explains Dumbroff. “It’s not that people who are into kink never have vanilla sex, but if it’s the only diet they’ve been fed, they may be bored and need to spice it up!” This, she explains, can present problems if their partner is not interested. “If the kinky person needs to have that in their life and cannot meet their needs with porn alone, a discussion about the possibility of finding it outside the primary relationship may be necessary,” she adds. No matter your sexual preference, everyone should know these common myths about sex after 50.

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Lack of self-care

“At the beginning of a relationship, it’s likely you took the time to be well-groomed and well-dressed,” says Block. “If you can’t be bothered to do that, why should your partner be bothered to have sex with you?”

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Depending on the illness and the physical and emotional impact, an individual might have trouble getting in the mood to be sexual, explains Rachel Needle, PhD, a psychologist and certified sex therapist in West Palm Beach, Florida and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. “Many illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, as well as conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, et cetera, can also lead to an individual not feeling good about their body, feeling disconnected from their body, or being preoccupied with changes going on in their body,” she adds.

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Anger or frustration

When your partner is upset with you, be it something you said or something you did, he or she might not be in the mood for sex. Instead of making your partner defensive, Buehler recommends gently asking if there is something they need to get off their chest. “Promise that you will really listen instead of reacting and that you will work on things together,” she says.

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Boredom with sex

If the sex has become boring or routine, your partner may no longer crave or desire it. While scheduling sex isn’t always a bad thing, making it a weekly Friday ritual, for example, takes the spontaneity out of it, according to Buehler. “It may be time to change it up and try something new, or go back to doing something you used to enjoy long ago,” she says. Luckily, we can help you learn how to overcome common sex obstacles.

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Lack of arousal

Women aren’t the only ones who experience a dip in sex drive with age. The sexual response cycle in men is also highly influenced by hormonal changes that come naturally with aging. “Starting in their early twenties, men producer less testosterone as they age, which can result in longer time required to achieve full erection, less intense orgasms, and longer time required to recharge after each sexual encounter,” explains Sandra LaMorgese PhD, relationship expert and author of 5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex and Happiness. “These changes can be frustrating and embarrassing to deal with, and often lead to a dramatic decrease in sexual engagement, however, the effects of decreasing testosterone don’t need to be a source of shame if your partner is getting older.” Instead, they can be an opportunity to relearn and rediscover new approaches to sexual pleasure, like these things you should know about sex in your 40s.

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Sexual addiction

If your partner is engaging in secret sexual behavior or has betrayed the relationship multiple times, Hollenbeck warns that this could be an indication of sex addiction, which is an intimacy disorder that must be treated by a certified sex addiction therapist. “The person struggling with sex addiction may be engaging in sex with other people, obsessed with pornography, masturbating too often, or avoiding sex with their partner due to shame and guilt related to the out of control sexual behaviors,” she says. “The partner of a sex addict is often traumatized by the discovery of their partner’s secret life and the broken trust and sexual betrayal can be the cause of their loss of desire for sex.” Successful treatment for both the addict and the partner is available, and the couple can have sobriety and a healthy sex life together through therapy—as well as these simple ways to improve your sex life.

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Sexual pain often prevents a spouse, especially a woman, from wanting to engage in sex, according to Dumbroff. There are several reasons why this very real pain strikes during intercourse, which is why she recommends both women and men to seek medical treatment if they’re experiencing discomfort. “Some are definitely physical in their origin—an example is postmenopausal women suffering from dryness or women who have undergone chemotherapy, which can also create dryness and changes in the vaginal mucosa,” she says. “Lubricants and certain medical treatments can help with dryness as well as pelvic floor exercises.”

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Past sexual abuse

People with histories of sexual abuse—men and women alike—may avoid sex, explains Dumbroff. “Many times individuals have never even connected their personal history of abuse with their issues around their desire for sex, but the impact can be very powerful,” she says. “This most definitely requires couple and sex therapy and the partner with the history of abuse needs to have control over the pace of what happens.” 

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A decline in etiquette

“Common complaints in this area are partners being ‘turned off’ by gas, burping, seeing their partner dress up for work, but not when they are spending time together, and the lack of bathroom privacy,” says Hollenbeck. “Practicing good dental and bodily hygiene and keeping your hair groomed (including the vaginal area, beards and mustaches, underarms and legs and giving attention to your hairstyle and maintenance) are areas couples must give attention to throughout the entire duration of the relationship and not only when you are dating or have special occasions to attend.” Communication is paramount when it comes to resolving these issues, as it’s impossible for your partner to know something is bothering you if you don’t tell him or her.

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The onset of menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, can cause dramatic sexual changes in women. “A woman’s ovaries no longer make estrogen, which leads to a decrease in vaginal elasticity, muscle tone, and lubrication,” explains Dr. LaMorgese. The result is a lack of libido. For these issues, strategies, like using high-quality lubricant and devoting plenty of time for foreplay (to ensure that she’s fully warmed up and ready for sex), can make sex much more pleasurable, she adds. For more relief, try these natural remedies for menopause symptoms.

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No reason at all

Sometimes people are not in the mood to be sexual—perhaps they are tired, stressed, dealing with family issues, or just not feeling it, explains Dr. Needle. When or if this is the case, she suggests the partner back off a little. “Let that be ok sometimes,” she adds. “If it becomes a consistent concern, address with sensitivity and ‘I’ statements, so as to not put your partner on the defensive.” Now that you have an idea why your partner may not want to get frisky, it’s natural to wonder about the things that happen to your body when you stop having sex.

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