How to turn down sex without hurting your partner’s feelings

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Sexual rejection can be a difficult pill to swallow, but being the person who is rejecting sex doesn’t feel that great, either.

Maybe you are annoyed that our partner initiated sex and clearly couldn’t read our mood or the situation, and so, you roll your eyes, criticize your partner’s timing and initiation strategy, or even push them away entirely. Or you might feel bad because you hate saying no and disappointing your partner, so you agree to have sex to make them happy.

Turning down sex doesn’t necessarily hurt relationship satisfaction, as long as we do it in positive ways. Here are three approaches to keep in mind.

  • Clearly explain why you’re saying no.

If you’re not in the mood for sex when you’re partner initiates it, one of the best things you can do is explain to them why you’re not in the mood.

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That’s because many people naturally take sexual rejection personally. They can drive themselves into a tizzy trying to come up with a reason why they are being turned down, often landing on it having something to do with them, so, it’s important to tell your partner why you can’t have sex at that moment.

  • Suggest another time

When it comes to sex, a flat out “no” can feel pretty harsh.

Sexual rejection usually feels a lot more manageable when we’re given a safety net. Something like: “I’m not feeling it right now, but maybe we could try on the weekend, once my work deadline has passed” is at least better.

  • Find another way to connect.
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Just because you’re not in the mood for sex doesn’t necessarily mean you have to turn down other bids for connection and closeness.

Perhaps sexual activity is off the table, but a nice cuddle, hand holding, a meaningful conversation, or even a game or activity you both enjoy might feel pretty good.

It might not be sex, but if your partner is reaching out as a way of feeling close, there are several different ways that this can be accomplished, even when sex doesn’t feel like an option.

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