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When Your Partner Isn’t Interested in Sex

My last post was about increasing intimacy through touch, and a number of people wrote in about their frustration and sadness over a partner who’s turned off to affection and sex. If you’re in this painful situation, please read on for some suggestions.

1) Be compassionate toward yourself.

You’re in a very difficult position. It’s hard to be rejected over and over again. Always being the pursuer in your relationship isn’t fun for anyone. And beating yourself up on top of it won’t help matters.

It’s common to feel shame, and to worry that something is wrong with you. Know that many other people are in your same position.

2) Be compassionate toward your partner.

He or she is undoubtedly hurting also. To have lost all sexual sense of yourself is painful, too. The reality is, neither of you has it easy right about now.

3) Be courageous.

It takes courage to address something like this with your partner. You’re afraid of being hurt further. But if you don’t address it, you’re likely to become increasingly frustrated and angry. It might come out in other ways in the relationship, which would degrade it further.

4) When you approach your partner, think of it as “our problem.”

It’s a dynamic issue. When one person turns off to another, it could be saying something about the relationship. And even if it’s just that the person’s desire for affection and sex have dwindled, that still has consequences for the relationship.

Think of this as something to be tackled together–as a situation that can bring you together. Treating one another with kindness and compassion around something difficult, facing it as one, can be the basis for bonding.

5) Recognize that progress may be slow.

If you’ve become disconnected from your partner, and you’re not used to physical affection anymore, it will seem uncomfortable to initiate that again. It might feel awkward and embarrassing. You might want to shy away.

Acknowledge that with your partner. This is a joint undertaking, after all, and expressing vulnerability is a way to reconnect in and of itself.

Come up with a plan together. It might involve just a long hug once a day, or holding hands while taking a walk. It might just be setting aside time and trying to create a sensual space. Never insist that sex happens. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, it’s about generating more intimacy and closeness, and allowing that to build within the relationship. Sex is a likely (though not assured) outcome.

Check in regularly about how the plan is going, and what needs to be tweaked. Again, teamwork is key. And if you need a skilled couples therapist to act as a coach, that’s a good avenue to pursue.

It’s scary to try to get close to others, to reveal ourselves in an intimate light, but when we do, and we’re accepted, there’s no greater feeling in the world. You deserve that.

Couple having problems in bed photo available from Shutterstock

When Your Partner Isn’t Interested in Sex

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2015). When Your Partner Isn’t Interested in Sex. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Jul 2015
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