How to tell your partner you need a break from sex
A great sex life can be the sign of a great relationship — with a big emphasis on “can”. Because, if you’re a normally sexual person, then you’ve probably always had a pretty strong sex life and felt that your relationship benefited from it. That’s totally normal – and really good, for your health and for your partner's. But it’s also totally normal to sometimes not feel so sexual. Though it can be a scary feeling, especially if you’re used to craving sex regularly, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you want to take a step back for a while.
So many things can lead you to want to take a break from sex — it may be that you are stressed at work, that you go on different medication, or you’re just in a different headspace for a minute. That’s totally natural — and not a reflection on you, your partner, or your relationship.
But as much as you may know that, in theory, it can a lot more difficult to put it into practice. Telling your partner that you need a break from sex can feel shitty — because you don’t want to hurt their feelings and, the truth is, their knee-jerk reaction will probably be just that. So it’s important that you explain what’s going on with compassion and reassurance. Here’s what you need to know.
Give them a “why”
When you’re talking about the need to take a break from sex, they’re going to want to know why — and you should try to give them an answer to that question. And if you don’t know why you need a break, that’s OK — but tell them that. You don't want to just shut down or back away and let them fill in the blanks. Saying, “I don’t know, but my best guess is X” or “I’m not sure, but I’ve been thinking Y” is totally acceptable.
If you do know that it’s to do with stress or medication or just feeling down, let them know that. It will help make it more tangible, rather than just feeling like it's something wrong lingering between you two.
Consider larger relationship issues
Sometimes, needing a break from sex has nothing to do with your relationship — but sometimes it’s a manifestation of emotional issues. If something is off in your relationship, take this opportunity to address it. It may be a more difficult conversation but, if that’s what’s really going on, it’s an important one to have.
Pick your timing
If you can, don’t tell them when they’re trying to initiate sex or when they’ve covered the bedroom in candles and rose petals — that's just going to put them in a vulnerable position where they’re more likely to feel hurt. Instead, try to bring it up in a totally non-sexual moment, when you’re having dinner at home or just chilling out on the couch. Saying, “Look, I want to talk about this but I don’t know how to bring it up — ” and just go from there. Rip off the band-aid and then the rest will follow.
Of course, if they are initiating sex and you just don’t want to have it, it’s good to tell them that — just be aware that you might need to be even more gentle about it. Let them down easy, then try to have a larger conversation.
Answer their questions
Your partner might have a lot of questions about what’s going on — they might keep asking if it’s to do with them or if something’s wrong in the relationship. Try to accept that their confusion is normal and do your best to field the questions. You shouldn’t make up answers that you simply don’t have, but give them a little wiggle room to process.
Hold your ground
Even though you should accept that they might be upset or confused, you absolutely should not put up with anyone being an assh*le about it. If they try to minimize your feelings, make you feel guilty, or argue with you about it, then that’s simply not acceptable. Though sex can absolutely be an important part of your relationship, there should be more to your partnership than that. If a break from sex for a while makes them totally spin out, you may have bigger relationship problems you need to address.
Taking a break from sex is totally OK — and there is a multitude of reasons that might happen. You don’t need to feel guilty or that it’s not “normal,” because sex drives ebb and flow all of the time. Be gentle with your partner, but also don’t put up with any BS. They should respect your needs enough to know that it’s hard for you, too. They should help you and want to work through it — and a good partner won’t have any problem with doing that.