Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar: You’re exhausted from a long day, and your partner wants to have sex.
You feel more turned on about the idea of tuning out in front of the new episode of Portlandia than about getting naked and doing the whole acrobatic routine, as pleasant as that routine may be.
But if you say no—what message does that send to your partner? Will he or she take it as rejection? Will your entire relationship crumble as a result? Not immediately, of course, but if you get into the habit of actually stating what you need, will your partner eventually find out you’re a demanding, horrible person?
Well, you get the idea.
Why do we fear rejecting others?
To put it simply, we fear rejecting because we fear rejection. We know how rejection feels to us, so we are loath to reject someone else—especially if that someone is our beloved.
Often in a committed relationship, we feel the obligation to offer our partner sex whenever he or she asks for it. After all, sex whenever we want it is one of the major benefits of being in a committed relationship, right? The truth is that while the availability of sex all the time may sound amazing and healthy, it’s nowhere near as healthy—or as sexy—as maintaining your sense of self in the relationship.
Ask anyone in touch with his or her sexuality: As delicious as the lure of sex is, it is much more attractive to be around someone who is self-possessed. We’re turned on by partners who are at the top of their game (or at least trying to be the best person they can be). Part of that is being able to express our needs and desires (or lack thereof). Readily accessible sex is certainly a perk to a relationship, but over the long haul, nearly every lover agrees that she wants the best man, not a yes man.
How to say no.
How you verbalize your needs will be determined in large part by the relational dynamic you and your partner have created. You know how sensitive he is. You know how to speak to her without setting off emotional triggers. When you say no to sex, do it with respect for both of you in mind.
It may sound something like this: I love that you’re so turned on. That makes me feel good. I have to say I’m not up for it at the moment—or I don’t feel like I can be fully present with you sexually right now. See how these statements honor both you and your partner’s needs and desires? You may wish to offer your participation while your partner masturbates. Perhaps even offer to stimulate him or her yourself. Which leads to another avenue to take…
Turning “no” into “go.”
Sometimes the most magical things happen when we step outside ourselves and what we perceive we want at any given moment. How many times have you dreaded going somewhere only to find that once you got there it was actually quite pleasant? That can happen with sexual intimacy as well.
If we return to the opening scenario, let’s imagine that the partner who doesn’t want sex decides to make an internal compromise: Let’s watch Portlandia…and then we’ll see.
In a truly reciprocal relationship, we have the ability to question even our own desires and allow ourselves to stretch out and bask in the warmth of the trust in our partner. So what would happen if we decided to have sex anyway and surrendered to its healing power? Maybe we can help that surrender along by throwing out the expectations of how sex will go. Maybe there will be no acrobatics. Maybe we throw out the pressure to climax. Then what? We may find that sex, then, becomes a comforting act of silent communication between you and your beloved.
Regardless of your choice, what matters most of all is to keep congruent communication flowing. What you think and feel internally, you feel comfortable to express externally.
Over time, choosing to please our partners over ourselves only builds resentment—and that resentment will need to be released eventually. (Spoiler alert: It’s rarely through a calm and loving conversation.) Being able to state your needs is not only essential to your well-being, but it’s of benefit to the relationship itself, and it’s pretty darned sexy to boot.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina