Are you getting turned down in the bedroom? Don't worry, it's not about you. Here are six reasons your partner might be saying no to sex, and what you can do about them

By Jennifer Goldberg

6 reasons men say no to sex

Why does he turn down sex?

When it comes to sex, men are ready to go at any time, right? Well, not always, says 29-year-old P.J., an online producer from Toronto. “It’s rare that I don’t want to have sex, but the times I will say no are when I’m thinking about something intensely and I can’t pull myself out of it,” he explains.

Not even a surprise birthday visit from his girlfriend wearing lingerie could pique his interest one time when he was deep in thought. “I was feeling pensive and I didn’t want to be outside of myself. And with sex, you want to connect with somebody,” he says.

It may be difficult to imagine that a healthy heterosexual man would turn down a woman wearing a thong. However, P.J. is far from alone in this situation, says Vancouver-based sex therapist David McKenzie. “In the last two years, I’ve noticed more clients of mine than before are men lacking sexual desire and it’s the women who are initiating sex,” he says.

If your partner is turning down your advances there’s probably a good explanation for his lack of interest—and it likely has nothing to do with how he feels about you. Here are some common reasons why men say no, and what you can do to get him back to saying, “Yes!”

1. He’s suffering from depression

Clinical depression is one of the biggest killers of sex drive in men,” says McKenzie. Men of all ages, even teenagers, may experience much lower sex drive when they’re struggling with this mood disorder.

What you can do: “Remember that clinical depression is a physical illness and not a character weakness,” says McKenzie. There are plenty of online resources available to help you and your partner better understand depression and how it can affect your relationship. (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, for example, has some tips on how to cope.) The key here is patience, especially during treatment—while antidepressants are very effective in treating depression, they can also contribute to low sexual interest. Your partner may want to speak to a doctor, however, if he notices that treatment is severely interfering with his sex drive.

2. His testosterone levels are low

“When a man gets to be over 40, his testosterone levels begin to decrease,” says McKenzie. “If this happens mildly over time, then a man will gradually lose his sexual prowess. But sometimes males can lose testosterone very rapidly.” This condition is sometimes referred to as andropause and comes with symptoms that include loss of energy, depressive symptoms and low sex drive.

What you can do: Low testosterone is a physical condition that can be treated by a physician. If you suspect your partner is experiencing some of the symptoms associated with andropause, suggest he ask his doctor for a testosterone test to determine if low levels are to blame for his lack of desire.

3. He's got trouble with the plumbing

Though erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are common problems, says McKenzie, a man who experiences these difficulties may withdraw from his partner for fear that she’ll be disappointed or think that he’s less of a man.

“It’s hard on a man’s self esteem to not be able to perform in bed,” explains David, a 28-year-old musician from Toronto. “Growing up, guys always talk about being a player and being able to perform well sexually. It’s part of guy culture.”

What you can do: This can be a difficult subject to discuss with your partner, but don’t avoid the issue, says McKenzie. A problem left untreated could result in resentment between partners down the road. Approach the situation very delicately, David advises. “Start by saying, ‘You know I love you no matter what,’” he suggests. “Don’t make a big deal out of it or make him feel like it will affect your interest in him as a partner if he can’t make it happen.”

4. He’s stressed out about his career

Worrying about work can be a real mood killer for many men, especially if they tend to equate professional success with self-worth. “It’s the times when I feel like I’m going nowhere and accomplishing nothing in my career that I will spiral into a negative place and I would say no to sex,” David explains.

What you can do: Discuss the situation away from the bedroom. “Right before bed isn’t always the best time to engage in a deep conversation,” says David. Instead, mutually decide on a good time to chat about what’s going on in his life. Ask if there’s anything you can do to support him through a stressful time, but be clear that his demanding job is taking a toll on your relationship.

5. He’s exhausted

Chances are, if your partner says he’s too tired for some late-night nookie, he’s really exhausted. “If I’m a little tired, I’m usually up for it,” says David. “But there are times when I’m just so dead to the world I’m physically incapable [of having sex].”

What you can do: Don’t take it personally. According to McKenzie, about 98 percent of the men he counsels would say that their lack of sexual interest has nothing to do with how they feel about their partners. P.J. concurs. “It would be a turn-off if my partner were to make the issue about her, because then I would feel guilty on top of being exhausted,” he says. Rather than acting hurt or angry, set the stage for a conversation about what’s going on in his life to make him so tired. But if the problem persists for more than six weeks, it’s time to consider getting help from a therapist or physician.

6. You’re moving too fast

If a new man you’re dating turns down an invitation to “come upstairs for a nightcap,” he could be trying to tell you that he’s not ready to sleep with you yet. “There’s a lot of emotional involvement that comes with having sex with somebody,” says P.J. “How do you get skin to skin with someone you don’t know?”

What you can do: Slow down—this could be a sign that the guy wants to get to know you better before getting physical. Take the declined invitation in stride and remember that, despite what your father might have told you before the prom, guys do have more than one thing on their minds. “We’re emotional beings too, and we want more than just sex,” says P.J.

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