This is a short video answering the question: “Do you have any tips for ways to turn someone down for sex even when it’s your significant other without hurting their feelings, coming off as rude, selfish, or inconsiderate?”


  • What has been helpful to you when declining sex with a partner?

  • How have you responded when a partner said they weren't in the mood for sex?

  • What conversations do you and your partner have about managing emotions and feelings of rejection when this happens?

  • Do you and your partner talk about other ways to connect and spend time with one another when sex is not an option?

Here are a few posts to check out:

See the transcript below:

​00:04 - Hello, and welcome back to another Q&A. My name is Rafaella, my pronouns are she y ella. And we’re going to jump right on into this month’s question. It is, “Do you have any tips for ways to turn someone down for sex even when it’s your significant other without hurting their feelings, coming off as rude, selfish, or inconsiderate?”

00:27 - So one, I just really want to acknowledge how common this experience is. I think when we watch TV and movies and things like that, we have this idea that two people, you know, they’re always in sync when it comes to sex. They both want it at the same time, there’s this really intense chemistry, they know exactly what the other person wants, and everything just goes off without a hitch. 

00:47 - And, so just to validate that it is absolutely normal that two people are not going to want to have sex at the same time. And that is something that we talk about in our relationships so that we can have a better understanding about one another's desires and needs, our turn offs, our turn ons. That we can begin to not try to initiate in times when we think our partner may not be in the mood. Versus when a partner may be willing to consider it and we can do things to try to get there together. Versus times when we know that it’s a green light. Right?

01:28 - So another thing to just normalize is that there are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to have sex. It could be because, you know, you just had a tough day and you’re feeling exhausted. Or you have so many other things on your mind and you know that you aren’t just in the best place. Maybe it is the type of sex that you’re having that doesn’t feel that exciting and so you’re not really in the mood. So that’s something else that you can have conversations about with your partner or partners.

01:55 - But, the question was about the tips and so here are a few ideas.

02:00 - So the first thing that I think is really important is just to acknowledge that our partner or partners are trying to connect with us or that they’re trying to initiate. So even when, if I’m talking to my partner and the whole time they’re on their phone, they’re not acknowledging that I’m talking to them, I’m going to feel frustrated, I’m going to feel annoyed, I may even feel really embarrassed.

02:28 - We have to do the same thing when our partner is trying to connect with us. I’m going to say regardless of what the thing is but specifically, since we’re talking about sex, if they are trying to initiate sex.

02:39 - So we know that putting ourselves out there regarding that can feel really vulnerable already. And we’re not sure what our partner is going to say. And, maybe it’s been a long time and we’re just trying to connect in that way. So, how can you say, “I see you”, right? I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see you, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t hear you or notice what you’re trying to do. And just say something simple like, “I really appreciate you asking but,” whatever, I’m not in the mood, I’m feeling really stressed or frustrated. You can say, “It really makes me feel good that you’re wanting to have sex right now but,” “insert” whatever the case is.

03:24 - So not letting our partner feel like they are not seen, so acknowledge them when they’re trying to connect with you. Also, being mindful of the way that you say things. Not intentionally trying to embarrass them or make them feel bad or mock them. Because maybe you’re like “Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that you would ask me or try to have sex with me right now”, “I have throw up on my shirt from feeding the baby” or “I just had this day, I just told you about how how stressed I was today and you’re going to ask me this when you know I just want to relax?”

04:01 - So kind of be mindful of the way that you are acknowledging your partner and that it’s not embarrassing or humiliating or anything like that. 

04:11 - Since we’re acknowledging that our partner is trying to connect with us, even though we may not be in the mood for sex, we can think about what we may be into in the moment. So you can say, “I’m really flattered and really appreciate you asking me, but you know what I’d really like right now?” And then you can insert the thing. It could be cuddling, it could be going out and spending time together, it could just be talking about each other’s day. It could be eye gazing. It could be massage. It could be so many different things.

04:42 - But just thinking about what is an opportunity that we have right now to still connect with one another, even though it’s not going to be in a sexual context. 

04:55 - And this also lets your partner know that you’re still prioritizing the relationship. That you’re not rejecting them, you’re just turning down one way of connection and then we are going to be creative and problem solving, or just coming up with something else that we want to do. 

05:11 - Additionally, earlier when I was like, sometimes people don’t want to have sex because it’s just now the type of sex that they want to have. We can find ourselves kind of going through this routine with how we initiate and what we do. And sometimes, we’re turning that idea down but we’re not really saying it. So you can also think about, “Actually, maybe I do want to have sex but let’s do something different this time. Let’s mix it up, switch it up, and incorporate some other things that we don’t typically do or maybe we’ve never done and we can have a conversation about that.” 

05:42 - So think about what are your needs? What else would you like to do, in terms of connection or if you have realized, “Maybe I just didn’t want to have a certain type of sex or the same routine way of having sex. I want to do something else, and I just haven’t been able to speak up about it?”

05:46 - The next thing that you can do is you can provide more clarity about why you’re saying no. So, to be clear, no is no and you never really have to explain why that is. But there are certain situations where it may be beneficial to the relationship to talk about no. One, because if your partner missed out on some clues about how you’re feeling or what you’re going through, then we can potentially avoid them asking during certain situations if they know, “Oh, I’m saying no because I just got in from work and I’m feeling really stressed and I need to decompress alone.” Then I know that if I ask the first hour that you’re home, then you’re probably going to say no, so let me not do that. 

06:30 - Additionally, if there is something that I can change or about the environment, then that can be helpful just for the partner to know about why you may be saying no. So giving a specific reason helps everyone as we start to create more understanding about our needs, our desires, our preferences and just continuing the conversation. Right?

06:55 - So this next one, I want to just say, I’m going to throw this out here. Think about what’s coming up for you. But, I want you to consider, if you want to consider the possibility of having sex. So sometimes, we know in that very moment, I don’t want to. Again, with the same example of, “I just got home from work, I’m feeling stressed, I need time for myself”. Is it a possibility for you that after you decompress and you have time for yourself that you may want to connect with your partner in a sexually intimate way? So you can have that reflection for yourself and say, “You know maybe, not right now, but give me an hour to decompress and engage in some me time, and then let’s revisit this.”

07:43 - So the key is just asking yourself those questions of, “What am I feeling open to right now? Do I feel like I want to be in the mood to connect sexually and getting turned on?” So taking the time to distance yourself from the ask, to actually reflect on what’s coming up for you, what you want, what you need, and expressing that with your partner is really helpful. Because oftentimes, we do experience a sense of pressure. So they just asked this, they tried to initiate right now, so I need to give them the answer right now, and the answer is no. 

08:18 - Or, I’m usually saying yes because I feel bad and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. But create a culture  in your relationship where there is not a lot of sense of urgency or pressure so that way I can really take the time for myself to think and process, determine what it is that I need, and then make a request of my partner. 

08:39 - And the last thing I want to hit on today, is understanding that we do experience desire, arousal differently and at different times. So at the beginning I said that it’s very rare that two people are always going to be synched up when it comes to their desire to have sex. So being able to have a conversation with our partners about, “Hey I’m realizing that a lot of times when you initiate, I’m just not in the mood, I’m usually telling you now. Can we talk about that?” And vice versa, “I notice when I ask you, you’re usually saying no, so can we talk about what you’re experiencing, what’s going on?” 

09:17 - Hopefully with some of the other tips that I gave about acknowledging your partner, being respectful about it, thinking about something else that you want to do, communicating your no and why, that can help add some perspective, but maybe there’s some other things going on in the relationship or individually that is decreasing your willingness or desire to have sex or say yes to say. 

09:43 - So I hope that was helpful and I look forward to getting any comments and feedback that you may have about my suggestions. If you have any of your own that feel really good that you’d like to share please don’t hesitate and I will be sure to include it in a post or somewhere else where I’m having this conversation. 

10:01 - Take care and see you next month. Bye.