16 Excuses People Give for Not Wanting to Have Sex
Written by Terri O’Reilly
One of the most common issues people attend therapy for is one partner not wanting to have sex or not wanting it as much as the other. There are many reasons why our interest in sex wanes including:
- Relationship problems
- Poor body image
- Self-esteem and mood
- Menopause and health issues
- Depression, anxiety and medications
- Past trauma
- Cultural or family-of-origin ‘norms’
The desire to have sex is unique to the individual, his/her libido type, health, personality traits, past experiences and the way each person copes. From time to time, many people feel a need to avoid sex with their partner and give a variety of excuses in order to do so.
What study participants said
Participants from a recent UK study reported that fatigue and stress from work were high on the list of excuses they gave for putting intimacy with their partner down the list of life’s priorities. A total of 16 reasons were recorded:
- Being too tired
- Stressed from work
- Not feeling attractive and having low body confidence
- It was too hot or cold
- They wanted to read a book
- Too much on my mind
- A headache, neck or back pain
- It’s too ‘the same’ every time (boring)
- I don’t really enjoy it anymore
- Being too full after a meal
- Not having enough time
- Watching sport or other TV programs
- Household duties to do
- Not being attracted to a partner
- Not thinking a partner deserves it
It would appear from the reasons given that for many, sex factors well down the list of desirable activities. Research does evidence that certain factors are significantly correlated to reducing an individual’s interest in sex.
Relationship dissatisfaction, marital conflict and extramarital affairs, poor communication and lack of emotional closeness are all known contributors to reduced sexual desire. In particular, a woman’s anger towards her partner and a woman’s irritability were strong predictors of both lack of sexual desire and reduced subjective sexual satisfaction.
Women in poor relationships are likely to avoid situations that could lead to sex. They are likely to avoid their partner’s sexual advances, for fear of leading their partner on – which is ultimately seen as an action that shields the partner from sexual rejection and disappointment. It is clear that some research participants felt pressured into engaging in sexual intimacy even when they had no desire to do so, but felt they could not avoid it any longer, and had sex to simply please their partners.
Whilst negative feelings about one’s partner appears to result in lower sexual interest, positive feelings for the partner and positive expectations for the relationship were both linked to increased sexual functioning.
Finally, the length of time the couple has been involved in the relationship also appears to influence sexual interest. Repeated findings demonstrate an increase in sexual desire with the introduction of a new partner, and a decrease in desire relating to the longevity of the relationship.
Poor body image
Body satisfaction has been linked to many positive psychological outcomes, including relationship satisfaction and healthier sexual functioning. Evidence suggests that a woman who reports higher levels of attractiveness, also reports higher levels of sexual involvement.
Society places such importance on physical attractiveness, and pressures women to remain thin and this impacts significantly on the development of female attitudes toward sexuality. The average woman does not match the image of women displayed in fashion magazines, social media and movies. These images may lead to women having negative perceptions of their own sexual attractiveness, and reduce her desire to want to be touched by her partner.
Although a woman’s own body image is likely to impact on her level of sexual satisfaction, research has indicated that her partner’s attractiveness may be more important. A study involving 1,598 daily sex reports completed by 144 couples, indicated that a woman’s satisfaction with her own body image was less important, than what she thought of her partner’s body.
Self-esteem and mood
Women with high self-esteem appear to be more confident that they will be able to retain their partner. They feel their partner is more accepting of their behaviour, so they are more likely to take emotional risks. A woman that is more confident in her relationship is more likely to be able to communicate intimately, and therefore is more likely to be happier in the relationship.On the other hand, women with low self-esteem are likely to question their partner’s commitment. They will be less likely to intimately self-disclose and will have less satisfaction with the relationship.Research indicates that mood state has a considerable influence on sexual desire. Women are less likely to have increased sexual desire when anxious, stressed, sad or depressed and more likely to have an increase, when in a positive mood.
Neurological disease, or diseases that impact on nervous system functioning and pelvic floor injury or surgery are all likely to reduce sensitivity to the genital region and reduce sexual interest. Chronic debilitating illness, renal failure, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy, diabetes, hyperprolactinemia, hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, loss of androgen activity, premature ovarian failure, adrenal disease and blood pressure problems, may all negatively influence sexual functioning. Unfortunately, if dysfunction is caused from hormonal lack, this is considered permanent, as currently there is insufficient long-term data, on administering testosterone and oestrogen replacements.
There is still ongoing debate over, whether or not menopause causes sexual desire problems. According to many researchers, most women traverse menopause without significant incidence, however there are subgroups of women who are more likely to become symptomatic during this phase. It was found that menopause may not impact on sexual interest, but it is the presence of other related factors that may cause concern. These include depression and anxiety, which may be secondary menopausal symptoms, and are linked to decreases in sexual interest. Without the presence of these sub-symptoms, menopause does not appear to be a significant contributing factor for reduced sexual functioning for many.
Depression, anxiety and medications
Both depression and anti-depressants are known to have significant negative impact on a woman’s sexual desire. Research findings report that out of 79 women with depression, 50% reported decreased sexual desire and approximately 96% of women taking antidepressants report at least one sexual negative side effect.
A large-scale, community, epidemiological study indicated that women with moderate to high scores in anxiety were at higher risk of developing female sexual problems, and in particular, issues with insufficient lubrication which is likely to reduce an interest in sex. Anti-anxiety medications are also known to contribute to sexual dysfunction in some individuals. Researchers, Montgomery, Baldwin & Riley report that 60 % of individual’s using these medications will experience a lack of sexual desire or other sexual dysfunction.
Early childhood trauma, in many instances, impacts significantly on the adult life of the individual, especially within the realms of sexual functioning. The US National Health and Social Life Survey of 1749 women, evidenced that early traumatic sexual experiences predicted later negative attitudes to sexual experiences, and that some of these women were twice as likely to develop issues with sexual functioning. Along with a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse was also found to correlate with female sexual dysfunction. These traumatic events have long-lasting effects and may last decades beyond the original experience. Likewise, the Boston Area Community Health Survey of 3205 women reported that, among women in relationships, a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse approximately doubled the chances of developing a female sexual dysfunction.
Less traumatic, negative sexual experiences may also have long-lasting effects on developing and maintaining sexual desire. Many people may learn early, that a sexual experience can have negative outcomes and this is likely to develop into a core belief that remains with the person. Research indicates that women tend to relate past negative sexual events to personal incompetence. If these negative events are repeated women tend to form negative beliefs about sex, which is more likely to create sexual dissatisfaction or dysfunction. Conversely a history of past rewarding experiences is considered to correlate with the development of positive sexual beliefs and healthy sexual functioning.
Cultural or family-of-origin ‘norms’
In Western society intercourse is placed in a particularly privileged position and taken for granted as a ‘normal’ and this sets the foundation of how women make sense of sex within our culture. A potential difficulty arises when women find themselves in a position where they may need to challenge their culturally held beliefs and this is likely to be difficult for women from particular cultures.
Likewise, our family-of-origin beliefs about sex significantly impact our adult views and desire to engage in sex. When individuals are raised in homes where sex is considered shameful, these attitudes are difficult to challenge in adulthood and may have lasting influence on the way we view sexual interaction.