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Sex

How Some Couples Kill Sexual Desire

Keeping sex alive is simple, but not easy.

Key points

  • Over time, some people lose interest in a partner, or in sex, or both. Often, those individuals start to feel worse, not better, after sex.
  • When one partner has less interest in sex than the other, the more interested partner may feel resentful or scramble for solutions.
  • Partners in long-term relationships should be open and respectful in conversations about sex, especially if one has felt pressured by the other.
Rawpixelcom/Shutterstock
Source: Rawpixelcom/Shutterstock

Sex is supposed to be fun, something that you enjoy doing. Better yet, sex should be something that you’re burning for. And yet, there are plenty of folks out there who just don’t want it. Or more precisely, they don’t want it with their partner, under the current circumstances.

For some people, it’s mostly a lack of interest (“meh, I could take it or leave it”), but for others, there’s an active dislike for sex with their partner. These are the folks who feel worse, not better, after sex—about themselves, their partner, the relationship, maybe sex in general.

How does something that could be so great become something that can be so terrible in so many ways?

Sex in Relationships

Sexual desire is influenced by many things, so there are no simple solutions or easy tricks to firing things up in the bedroom, although there are definitely some general principles that are probably a good place to start (I’ve discussed a bunch of them in various posts). It’s also really common for couples to struggle with desire differences, where one partner wants sex notably more often than the other.

The best way, though, to kill whatever sexual desire someone might have is to make them feel like they have to have sex when they don’t want to. People who feel like they can’t say no will have a harder time enthusiastically saying yes. They may grudgingly say yes or at least not say no, but that isn’t the same thing as an enthusiastic yes.

Sometimes that pressure to have sex will come from their partner. This could be obvious, like when someone presses their partner to have sex, even after their partner has said (or otherwise indicated) that they aren’t interested. They may get demanding and angry or they may get whiny and sad. Either way, it pushes the partner into sex in general or some specific kind of sex. This may win the battle, but it will definitely lose the war since the partner will likely be even less interested in fooling around next time.

Sometimes the pressure to have sex will come from the person themselves. For example, they may not feel like they can say no because that wouldn’t be fair to their partner who wants sex. Or maybe they worry about what will happen if they do say no. They may have a really hard time tolerating their partner’s disappointment or anger and feel like they have to fix those difficult emotions for them. Or maybe they worry that their partner will seek sexual gratification elsewhere if they don’t get it at home. Regardless of whether these fears come from the other partner or just from the uninterested person’s insecurities, they will kill their desire for sex. They may still comply physically, but they won’t be interested emotionally.

Do You Want What You’re Getting?

In these situations where someone is having sex that they aren’t really that interested in, it’s obvious that the uninterested person isn’t going to enjoy it as much as they could. They may still have an orgasm, but that doesn’t mean that they are fully on board with what is happening or that their grudging yes was transformed into an enthusiastic yes. They may just be going through the motions and trying to get through an undesirable situation as quickly as possible. Needless to say, this isn’t going to make them excited for the next encounter—or even the 5, 10, or 20 after that.

The other side of that coin is the person they’re having sex with probably notices the lack of enthusiasm. Maybe their partner isn’t a cold fish, but they’re not bringing their A-game. Physically, everything works out (probably), but emotionally it feels disconnected.

Initially, the person on the receiving end of that lukewarm interest may push for more sex or better sex. Or they may pull out a few new tricks, like buying some new toys or lingerie or suggesting some fancy new positions. In general, it can be a good thing to continue to invest in your sex life and try some new things, but in this case, the problem isn’t boredom with the status quo, so some exciting novelty isn’t the solution. Instead, it is just going to feel like more pressure or more things to say no to. Over time, the more interested partner is probably also going to become less interested, since it doesn’t feel good to be rejected. This can be a dark place for couples to get to.

Generosity, Freely Given

So, how do we keep sexual desire alive?

It all comes down to creating a situation where both people want to be there. This might mean changing something about what happens during sex, like more foreplay or some different kinds of touch. Or perhaps it involves changing something about the lead-up to sex. Or maybe it means addressing some other relationship or life issues that are spilling into the bedroom.

It’s easy to say that couples should talk about sex. What’s much harder is to make those conversations respectful and productive. Unfortunately, when it comes to sex in long-term relationships, there are no shortcuts because it’s hard to fake interest if you don’t really want to be there. If someone is feeling pressured to have sex that they don’t want to have, then it’s time for some serious conversations. And probably some serious listening.

Generosity is an important part of relationships in general and sex in particular, but it only counts as generosity if it is freely given. Meaning, the person has a real option to choose to not give it. It can take more work by both partners to earn and feel real sexual generosity, but it is well worth it when you get there.

Facebook image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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