I’m not talking here about persistent unwanted advances at a party or bar, in those cases you may well need to be less than polite. I’m talking about how you say no to your partner’s sexual invitation.
With so many couples I work with, often one has been the ‘initiator’ and they can find it hard when they get rejected a lot. Often to the point of giving up initiating altogether. It can feel really rejecting when your partner says no a lot.
Now I want to stress that of course you have the right to say ‘no’. No-one should ever do anything sexually that they don’t want to do. What I’m focussing on here is how you say ‘no’.
For a start, think of the offer as a positive thing. Your partner finds you desirable and wants to share a pleasurable connecting experience with you. This is a good thing (just ask all the people who I work with whose partners don’t find them desirable, that’s really horrible).
So just as if your partner was offering you a slice of cake, or suggesting a date at the movies, take it as a positive offer. And just as if you didn’t feel like a slice of cake or going to the movies, you would say: “Thank-you, that’s a lovely offer, but that’s not what I’m in the mood for right now.” That way you’re letting your partner know that it’s not them that you don’t like, which is what feels rejecting, you’re letting them know that you don’t feel like that activity. Of course, your partner might feel disappointed, but that’s very different to feeling rejected.
I also suggest you follow up your ‘no’ with an authentic ‘yes’. What do you feel like?
- It might be no to sex but yes to a conversation and then spooning together as you fall asleep.
- It might be no to bedroom activity but yes to a bath on your own (and then the potential for bedroom activity).
- It might be no to sex tonight, but yes to creating the time and space on the weekend.
- And it might even be no to sex altogether because it’s not working well, so let’s go and see a sex therapist to sort us out!
So, when you receive a suggestion or request from your partner, and your first response is a ‘no’, that’s ok. Say ‘no’ politely. Then check in with what you do want. Share that with your partner and you may well find that you can create something together that is connecting, intimate and pleasurable, whether it involves your genitals or not.