While no-one should have sex when they really don’t want to, some of the excuses we drag out to explain why it isn’t on the agenda can sound a little, well, flimsy.
So, which of the most common excuses are legitimate and which are thinly- disguised avoidance tactics?
Even more importantly, how do you get past those sexual sticking points and get things moving again?
Here’s some practical advice on the five most common.
If your sex life has taken a downward turn, Tracey Cox says you should ask yourself if the excuses you’re making not to get intimate are legitimate, or whether they’re an avoidance tactic (stock image)
THE EXCUSES WE GIVE TO GET OUT OF SEX
I’m too busy
Seventy-five per cent of couples say lack of time is the biggest frustration in their sex life. But a survey in January this year found that, on average, Brits spend 28 hours of every week glued to a screen watching telly or streaming services. Add the two hours most of us spend daily on social media and you’ll see why this excuse tends to fall into my ‘cop out’ pile.
Tracey Cox said that some of the excuses that couples give for not having sex – such as lack of time – are easily debunked
We do lead busy lives and if you’ve got three kids under three and are working, I totally accept that sex should take a back seat for a while. But for most people, finding ten or twenty minutes once or twice a week isn’t that much of a big ask.
There IS time for sex because sex doesn’t need to last a long time. I’ve had great success getting couples to commit to one or two five-minute sex sessions a week.
Bite-size sex sessions – that may or may not include intercourse (one of you gives the other oral sex, for instance) – work well if your schedules really are that busy.
It’s not how long you have sex for that keeps you connected, it’s how often you’re doing sensual and sexual things.
I’m too tired
Again, if you’re working like a mad thing and juggling so many responsibilities you haven’t even got time to go to the loo, this might well be a time in your life when sex gets put on the backburner.
If you have valid reasons why there really isn’t any energy left for sex, talk to your partner and explain the situation. So long as they realise it’s temporary and not gone forever, most partners are more understanding than you think.
But if you’re saying no to sex because you’re tired but managing to find the energy to go out partying with your mates or play tennis three times a week, you’re using it as an avoidance tactic and need to pinpoint why.
Are you feigning tiredness because you and your partner have seriously mismatched libidos? If so, agree on a compromise of how often (and for how long) you have sex per month.
If it’s your partner who is using this as an excuse, ask them what you can do to remove some of the pressure by taking on some of their chores. Encourage them to adopt some daily destress tactics. Many a ‘no’ has turned into ‘maybe’ after a long, hot bath at the end of the day.
I’ve got a headache/feel sick
No-one feels like sex if they genuinely feel ill or have the mother of all headaches. But if your partner is trotting out the old, ‘I’ve got a headache’ every time you suggest sex, for weeks on end, it’s time for an honest chat about how sexually satisfied they are.
Say, ‘I know you’ve had a few headaches recently, which has stopped you wanting sex, but I want to make sure the sex we are having is good for you. Can we have a chat about what we could do to make it even better?’.
It’s also worth asking questions about your relationship. Is this a sex problem or a relationship problem? Are they avoiding sex or avoiding getting close to you because you aren’t getting on so well right now?
I feel fat
Nearly all of us have put on some lockdown pounds and it’s totally understandable that getting naked is hardly going to be your favourite thing to do, if you don’t feel great about your body.
Worrying that our bodies aren’t sexy or desirable does terrible, terrible things to your sex life. It stops you feeling like sex. It can make you turn down sex, even when you do feel like it, because you’re too embarrassed or ashamed to expose a body that isn’t ‘up to standard’. It stops you enjoying sex because you’re too busy ‘spectatoring’ – hovering above yourself, trying to guess what your partner is seeing and thinking about cellulite or a wobbly tummy. This, naturally, can lead to problems having orgasms.
The best way to boost a bad body image isn’t to go on a diet or exercise like a demon (though feel free to do both if your weight poses a health risk). There are way more effective (and fun) ways to boost your sexual self esteem.
Have more sex is one of them. Having sex improves body image because your subconscious steps in and does the work for you. It bypasses those critical inner voices and says, ‘Hey! If this person wants to have sex with you on a regular basis, you can’t be that unattractive!’
The second thing to do is to improve your sex skills.
People who know they are great in bed are rarely body consciousness while they’re having sex – even if they are outside of the bedroom.
What to do if only one of you wants to change things up
Some people can’t really understand what all the fuss is about and are totally happy with so-so sex. If both of you are truly content to stay on ‘repeat’, not wanting to change isn’t a problem and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to.
If only one of you feels this way, however, it can be a problem because mismatched sexual expectation and/or fulfilment can leave you open to an affair.
Reassure your partner: Encourage them to be more explorative by loading on reassurance about how you feel about them. Suggest you just add one or two new things to your usual repertoire: baby steps make them feel less overwhelmed.
Try doing the opposite to what you always do. If you always have sex in the bedroom, move into the lounge. If you’re always naked, keep some clothes on.
Also look at the proportion of time you spend on what in your sex sessions and mix that up as well.
If you don’t feel desirable, do some homework and research how to give great oral sex and/or how to give a killer hand-job. (There are loads of how-to guides on traceycox.com)
Humans are creatures of habit and like doing the same things in order. It’s a rare person who takes different routes to walk to the shops or to work. We’re the same in the bedroom: most couples do the same old stuff, every single time.
Knowing what’s coming next with sex works for some people but for the majority it doesn’t. It’s hard enough only being allowed to make love to the same person, but to do the same thing over and over is sexual suicide!
Why don’t we mix things up? Well, because we’re lazy and because it worked in the beginning – they liked it, you liked it.
Trying new things is scary. What if we try it and they don’t like it? What will we look like in that new position? Will we look silly/fat/desperate?
If frequency isn’t your problem but novelty is, here’s how to talk around a reluctant partner or give yourself courage to step out of your comfort zone.
THE EXCUSES WE GIVE TO AVOID TRYING NEW THINGS IN BED
I’m worried we’ll be interrupted by the kids
A valid concern but there are ways around the child problem. Wait until the lockdown lifts then hire a babysitter when you fancy trying something special and make friends with other parents so you can take in turns looking after the kids.
In the meantime, sneak in quick sex sessions when they’re parked in front of the telly, put a lock on your bedroom door and turn music on beside your bed to drown out the moans.
This is what stops most people trying new things in bed and in life: we worry we’ll look stupid, get it ‘wrong’ or muck things up.
If you’re not a person who’s comfortable in the spotlight, stripping for your partner isn’t ever going to feel comfortable.
But if you start with something you find the least scary, you’ll usually find you work up to doing others as you build confidence.
If you’re not naturally exhibitionistic, there may be things you’ll never enjoy. In those cases, let your partner take the dominant or starring role.
Health and ageing
I appreciate that health problems and ageing may influence the new things you choose to try – that a-little-too-challenging intercourse position that’s impossible with a dodgy back, for instance. But disregarding new things just because you think that’s for ‘young’ people is self-defeating and silly.
Adventurous sex isn’t reserved for the young, you can have it at any age!
Age is an attitude not a number. Encourage your partner to seize the day in life and this should instil confidence to take it through to the bedroom. Even small changes – trying a new restaurant – reminds our brain of how energising new stimuli is.
Tracey’s answers three sex questions a week on her new podcast Mom’s Don’t Have Time to Have Sex. Available wherever you listen to your podcasts.