TOPIC

12 signs your partner doesn’t want sex – and what to do about it

by Lucy Rowett · Aug 2, 2022

Reviewed Icon

Reviewed by Dr Becky Mawson on Aug 2, 2022

Signs your boyfriend doesn't want you sexually | The Lowdown
There could be a number of reasons your boyfriend isn’t up for sex. Our clinical sexologist shares the most common reasons - and how you can both overcome it.

What’s the lowdown?

  • Men losing their libido and having a decreased interest in sex is very normal, despite the standard cultural message that tells us that men are horny all the time
  • Your partner losing his libido may have nothing to do with you and doesn’t necessarily mean he is cheating on you! There are many factors that could be impacting it
  • There are lots of things you can do to help remediate it and there are many ways to stay intimate without having sex

Have things felt a bit “off” in the bedroom recently? Maybe sex has dwindled because he’s stopped initiating and now you’re worried why your boyfriend, husband, or partner doesn’t want sex with you anymore. It can really hurt and you may feel confused because one of the main cultural messages we receive about sex is, “men want sex all the time”. So why doesn’t your boyfriend want to have sex with you? Is it your fault? Does he not find you attractive anymore? Is he cheating on you?! You may be seriously worried about your relationship right now, but all is not lost, there are many different reasons for him losing his sex drive and often they have nothing to do with you or your relationship.

Let’s explore the most common reasons why they may not want to have sex right now and what you can do about it.

Signs your boyfriend doesn’t want you sexually

  1. He stops initiating sex and/or any kind of physical intimacy with you, like kissing, touching, or hugging
  2. When you try initiate sex or start touching him, he turns away, takes your hand off, or otherwise deflects your advances
  3. He stops making eye contact with you or his body language is generally closed off, especially if you bring up the topic of intimacy or try to touch him
  4. If you bring up the topic of sex, he changes the subject or deflects it. He is not open to talking about it or broaching the topic
  5. He avoids spending time with you, for example, by overworking, spending more time online, going out with his mates, or “phubbing” you— i.e. ignoring you by going on his phone when you’re together
  6. He’s partying harder and drinking more heavily
  7. He seems checked out and less emotionally available. During sex he seems “not there”, almost like he’s on autopilot, and when you’re together he seems more closed off
  8. He goes to bed before you, or a long time after you’ve gone to bed, so that one of you is asleep or distracted, taking sex off the menu
  9. The sex you’re having has changed in a way that feels strange to you. When you do have sex, he’s trying to get it finished as soon as possible, he no longer gives you oral sex or spends time on foreplay, or he doesn’t make the same sounds or moves as usual
  10. Something just doesn’t feel right to you when you’re having sex or when you’re physically intimate with each other. You can’t put your finger on it, but something feels different and your instincts are firing off that something feels wrong
  11. He won’t let you see him naked or seems very self-conscious.. He closes the door when he’s changing, he wears a t-shirt during sex, or he doesn’t want you to take his clothes off
  12. There are other issues in your relationship. You’re arguing more, or you’re talking a lot less, he’s getting wound up over little things that didn’t bother him before, he’s not being physically affectionate anymore or doing the little considerate things he used to, like texting throughout the day

Possible reasons why your partner doesn’t want sex

Stress

Losing his libido could be a sign that he has too much on his plate. Whether it’s his job, family stress, the ongoing stress of a global pandemic, the cost of living, childcare, a bereavement, caring for a relative, financial stress, or numerous other life stressors. Stress is one of the biggest factors in causing decreased libido and desire for sex for people of all genders. 

Body image

Men are also exposed to impossible beauty standards from the media and diet culture, and they can develop body image issues and anxiety around how they look too. Especially if he has recently gained or lost weight, had surgery, had an injury, or something else that has caused his physical appearance to change. Body image and weight have been shown to be linked to low self esteem and sexual confidence.

Mental health

Losing his sex drive could be an early sign of depression, anxiety, a relapse, or that his mental health is generally not in a good place at the moment. 

Medication

Certain forms of medication have consistently been shown to negatively affect libido, such as many forms of antidepressants such as SSRIs, anti-histamines.and certain heart medications like beta blockers and medication for blood pressure. This may be unwelcome news if his mental health has also been a cause for his loss of sex drive, but there is a lot you can do about it, so your sex life is not lost!

Health issues

Whether it’s a chronic condition, a health scare, a recent diagnosis that has required hospitalisation and/or endless testing and trips to see different doctors, physical illness is incredibly stressful and depleting that could be impacting his desire for sex. Recently, a few studies have shown a link between having had Covid-19 and erectile dysfunction (ED) — whereby men who have had Covid-19 are 20% more likely to have ED — along with the ongoing stress of the pandemic which has also had an impact on erections and libido. It could also be a signal of his overall health or an early warning of something that is wrong. It could also be simple as low testosterone, so get his testosterone levels checked to see if that is an issue.

Contraception – yep, really!

Even though you are the one using contraception and dealing with any unpleasant side-effects, your boyfriend could also be affected. If you are having symptoms from the form of hormonal contraception you are taking— like severe mood swings, depression, weight gain, fluid retention, acne, vaginal dryness, or a loss of sex drive yourself — your boyfriend may also be struggling. If he deeply cares about you, it will be very difficult for him to see you suffering, along with the stress it is putting on your relationship. It could also potentially be that he can feel the strings of your IUD or IUS during sex, which could be uncomfortable or even off putting for him.

Need help? Talk to our doctors about your contraception | The Lowdown

He’s sexually bored

Maybe the sex and intimacy you are having isn’t satisfying him anymore? Yes, it happens to men too! It is completely normal that your sexual desire for each other will taper off when you’re in a long term relationship or marriage. This is partly down to the change in brain chemicals as you come off the rush of dopamine and oxytocin which can be called, “The honeymoon period”, and settle into familiarity. It can also be getting stuck in a sexual routine, the stresses that come with living together and/or raising children, or simply that he has different erotic needs that are not being fulfilled. Or if he is somebody who previously has gotten bored in relationships and struggled to stay in a committed relationship, it could be down to his attachment style. 

He is on the asexuality spectrum

Asexuals and Demisexuals experience desire differently, and for many, the idea of penetrative sex is not appealing at all. Asexuality is a sexual orientation and is not something to try and “fix” or “heal”.

Unrealistic expectations from watching porn

Porn usage is a controversial topic, and you may have strong feelings about it yourself, especially if you’re worrying that your boyfriend is preferring to watch porn and masturbate rather than have sex with you. This is tricky territory, as porn is not inherently bad, and it can be used as a tool for self-exploration and healing shame. Your partner masturbating is no reflection on how he feels about you, and this recent study has demonstrated that those who watch adult movies tend to be more desiring of their partners than those who don’t.  However, we can all agree that porn is not a substitute for sex education. If primary experiences of sex and sexual expression are through watching porn, it can cause real problems in the bedroom when you are with a real life partner.

Issues in your relationship

If you are having ongoing issues in your relationship, like arguing more, trust issues, you can’t agree on some really fundamental issues, there is interference from people outside your relationship, you have completely different communication styles or preferences, this could be affecting your boyfriend’s desire for sex. Obviously, if you are having sexual problems, that will also create relationship problems! 

What to do if your partner has no desire for intimacy

  • Communication is key, but it’s best to do this in a more neutral setting like in the kitchen, over dinner, or on a walk, rather than in the bedroom. A simple tool to help make it less threatening is to talk without looking straight at him and making eye contact, so you could talk while walking side by side or sitting on the sofa
  • Use “I” statements. Tell your boyfriend how this is making you feel and the impact it’s having on your relationship. Ask him what he wants and what kind of intimacy he would like to be having with you
  • Keep your tone and your energy empathetic, open, and non-judgmental when broaching the topic
  • Start flirting with each other again. Pay him compliments, let him know how sexy you still find him, and the other ways you value him
  • Engage in more non-sexual touch, like cuddling, holding hands, or offering a massage, with no expectation for it to go any further
  • Explore your own sexuality for yourself. Masturbation and self-pleasuring, exploring sensual dancing, and going to workshops. Now is the time to reclaim your sexuality for yourself, not just something you do with your boyfriend
  • Explore what his unique contexts for sex are, his erotic blueprint, and what he needs to feel his most turned on
  • If you feel his physical or mental health is an issue, then encourage him to see a doctor for a checkup, or to change his medication
  • If you feel your contraception is an issue, then you can book a consultation with one of the doctors at The Lowdown to discuss a method that may suit you better

If you need more specialist advice to help you navigate this difficult situation, then booking a session with The Lowdown’s resident sex coach (me!) could help. I offer a non-judgmental, affirming, and empowering space to explore some practical tools to help.

Tags
  1. NHS, Low sex drive (loss of libido)
  2. Bodenmann G, Ledermann T, Blattner D, Galluzzo C. Associations among everyday stress, critical life events, and sexual problems. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2006 Jul;194(7):494-501. doi: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000228504.15569.b6. PMID: 16840845.
  3. NHS, Symptoms – Clinical depression
  4. Higgins A, Nash M, Lynch AM. Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug Healthc Patient Saf. 2010;2:141-50. doi: 10.2147/DHPS.S7634. Epub 2010 Sep 9. PMID: 21701626; PMCID: PMC3108697.
  5. Conaglen HM, Conaglen JV. Drug-induced sexual dysfunction in men and women. Aust Prescr 2013;36:42-5.
  6. Vanessa Pesce, Stuart N. Seidman & Steven P. Roose (2002) Depression, antidepressants and sexual functioning in men, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17:3, 281-287, DOI: 10.1080/14681990220149086
  7. Chu KY, Nackeeran S, Horodyski L, Masterson TA, Ramasamy R. COVID-19 Infection Is Associated With New Onset Erectile Dysfunction: Insights From a National Registry. Sex Med. 2022 Feb;10(1):100478. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2021.100478. Epub 2021 Dec 15. PMID: 34931145; PMCID: PMC8673874.
  8. Rajfer J. Relationship between testosterone and erectile dysfunction. Rev Urol. 2000 Spring;2(2):122-8. PMID: 16985751; PMCID: PMC1476110.
  9. Brassard A, Péloquin K, Dupuy E, Wright J, Shaver PR. Romantic attachment insecurity predicts sexual dissatisfaction in couples seeking marital therapy. J Sex Marital Ther. 2012;38(3):245-62. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.606881. PMID: 22533869.
  10. Prause N, Siegle G. Sex film viewing, but not hypersexual concerns, are associated with more sexual arousal in anticipation of an intimate partner experience. Sex Health. 2022 Apr 26. doi: 10.1071/SH21219. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35469589.
  11. Montgomery Sklar E. Body Image, Weight, and Self-Concept in Men. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2015 Jul 10;11(3):252-258. doi: 10.1177/1559827615594351. PMID: 30202340; PMCID: PMC6125080.

Lucy is a certified sexologist and sex coach who is passionate about helping women and people with vulvas let go of sexual shame and hangups. She uses a combination of mind-body tools with evidence-based sexuality education. Her speciality is working with people who come from faith backgrounds who are struggling to let go of sexual shame and enjoy pleasurable relationships again.