6 Reasons Your Partner May Seem Less Interested in Having Sex
And how to talk about it.
It’s easy to assume your relationship is on the rocks if your partner isn’t interested in fooling around — but that’s not always the case. Anyone can experience a drop in desire, and the reasons often have little to do with their sexual attraction towards you, says Sonya Barnett, a Toronto-based sexual health educator.
Here are some possible reasons why your partner isn’t interested in sex.
Work, family issues and financial troubles can all cause stress. The pandemic has also heightened emotions for many. When we’re overwhelmed, cortisol — the main stress hormone — can affect our libido. This is true for all genders, but in men, chronic stress can affect testosterone production and cause erectile dysfunction.
“It’s really difficult to take the time to worry about our own sexuality when we’re worrying about other things,” Barnett says.
(Related: 5 Factors Linked to Successful Relationships, According to Science)
Mental health issues
Like stress, underlying mental health issues like anxiety and depression can affect sex drive. A marker of clinical depression is a loss of interest or pleasure in doing things you once enjoyed — sex included. Antidepressants can also lower libido, and make it harder to become aroused and achieve orgasm.
Anxiety affects the body and mind in many ways. When someone is dealing with an anxiety disorder, they may be unable to get in the mood or experience performance anxiety. Anxious thoughts take us out of the present moment and cause our bodies to physically tense up, which can prevent us from relaxing and enjoying sex.
(Related: These are 13 sex problems to take seriously.)
Stage of your relationship
Relationships go through phases. Often earlier on in a romantic partnership, physical intimacy is new and exciting. But it’s normal for that passion to ebb and flow years throughout the years, Barnett says. If one partner is struggling with stress, their interest in sex may dwindle. If kids enter the picture and you’re exhausted from caring for a newborn, you need for emotional support may trump the desire for sex.
“We’re always told that if you’re not having sex, your relationship is on the outs,” Barnett explains. “That’s not really true. Sex is one aspect of a relationship, and sometimes relationships don’t need that. If we have companionship that may be good enough.”
If a new person you’re dating turns down an invitation to “come upstairs,” the relationship could be moving too quickly for them. Slow things down. This could be a sign that they want to get to know you better before getting physical.
Being too tired for sex is often not an excuse; exhaustion really can put a damper on libido. Lifestyle factors like work, family and stress all affect energy levels. If a partner turns down sex after a long day, try not to take it personally.
“It could be they are too tired… especially if you have younger kids,” Barnett says. “Sometimes you just don’t have the emotional headspace to be dealing with somebody else at the end of your day.”
(Related: Why Orgasms Might Be Hard to Come By These Days)
Lower sex drive
Not everyone has a high sex drive, and it’s perfectly okay to not crave physical intimacy as much as another person does. There is a societal expectation that people — especially men — should always be interested in sex, otherwise something is “wrong” with them, Barnett says. This is untrue, and can make people feel badly when their sex drive does not match another person’s.
People’s sex drives also change with age. Perimenopause, the years-long transition into menopause causes estrogen levels to drop, which can make someone less interested in sex. Testosterone levels also begin to decrease in men as they get older, also decreasing libido.
“At some point, you may be wanting sex less than your partner or more than your partner,” Barnett says. “That’s a natural ebb and flow.”
Communication is important
The key to dealing with differing or changing sex drives within a relationship is communication. Barnett says people need to be open with their partner (or partners) about their feelings and needs. A couples’ therapist can help facilitate these conversations, she says, and teach effective communication tools.
“That communication needs to be put out,” Barnett says. “Communication like, ‘Yes, my day has been incredibly stressful and no, it is not about you.’ It can be difficult for people to have that conversation when it comes to sex.”