How to talk to your partner when sex stops

Sex stops in relationships for all sorts of reasons.

Sometimes, it’s a natural break and it resumes again. (You’ve just had a baby, been going through a particularly stressful period.) Other times, sex stops and stays stopped. You keep hoping something will happen – surely this weekend, surely tonight – but it never does.

If you haven’t had sex with your partner for the last year, there is no reason to explain it and you haven’t talked about it, you will never have sex again unless you have a conversation.

This isn’t my opinion, it’s fact.

Couples who have stopped having sex for a long period, don’t suddenly look at each other and exclaim, ‘My God! We’ve forgotten to have sex for the past three years! Let’s go and do it now!”.

There really isn’t another way to fix this other than to have that dreaded chat. Yes, you can do it. So read this, take a few deep breaths and get on with having a kind but honest conversation.

Here’s how to prepare.


Don’t feel guilty for wanting sex

If you’re in a monogamous relationship, there is an obligation on each of you to keep each other happy sexually. It’s part of the deal.

If sex is important to you, great! Don’t bury your own desire just because your partner has. It’s great to see your partner’s perspective but your needs are just as important.

Has your partner noticed how long it’s been?

If your partner genuinely is too busy or stressed to register that sex has gone AWOL, simply pointing out how long it’s been and how much you miss it may be all that’s required.

If sex has become awkward – which it quickly does when you don’t do it on a regular basis – neither of you are going to want to rush back for a repeat. If your partner’s not great at expressing their feelings, they might be desperate to resume having sex, just don’t know how to talk to you about it to clear the air. Once you start, the rest might be easy.

What type of sex do you want?

This seems like an odd question, but it isn’t.

Yes, I know you want to have sex again. But how often? What sort of sex? What do you miss the most? Is it the cuddles and pillow talk, the intimacy of lying there together naked? Or is it the orgasms? Maybe both. Do you want sex to include penetration (intercourse)? Or are you happy with foreplay? Do you want to try new things? Use sex toys?

Think about what your ideal sex session would involve. Do you want to talk first? Do something romantic like go out to dinner or have a bath together? How would sex start? How would it end?

Once you’ve come up with a detailed scenario, think about what your partner used to like. Try to include things you know did it for them in the past so its appealing to both of you. You don’t have to launch into this much detail during the initial talk, but if they ask questions, it’s good to have thought it through and it will be super helpful later.

Decide on a good time to talk

If they’ve been avoiding talking about sex, no time will be a good time. Their reaction to you finally daring to tackle the issue might well make them angry, storm out, pick a fight, cry or clam up and refuse to speak. Expect any or all of these reactions. Sometimes, the first talk doesn’t go so well but, often, they’ll go away and think through what you said and be ready to talk again in a day or so.

Even so, up the odds of it going well by choosing a time when you’re both relaxed and in a place you know your partner feels comfortable. Don’t do it in the bedroom. Definitely don’t do it when you’ve just initiated sex and been knocked back. You both need to be calm.


Flattery will get you everywhere

Pitch it so you’re saying how attractive you find them, how much you miss the great sex you used to have and you’ll get a much better reaction. Most of us are suckers for compliments: lay them on thick and your partner will be be far more open to listening to what else you have to say.

Start with something simple

Say, “Look, I wanted to talk to you about something. I love you and love our relationship and miss having sex. Have you noticed we’re not having it anymore? How do you feel about that?”.

Or, if things really aren’t good, “I’m worried about our relationship. I don’t feel like we’re as close. We don’t talk as much and we’re not having sex anymore. Can we have a chat about why?”.

Don’t panic if they get angry

Anger is just fear. They’re also embarrassed. The aim is to get them talking – and shouting is better than silence and defensiveness better than indifference.

Count to ten and try not to react if they say something like, ‘Well, if you didn’t spend so much, maybe I wouldn’t have to work so hard’. Or become really nasty and resort to personal insults like, “If you lost some weight, I might be interested’.

Talking about sex problems is one of most stressful conversations of all for most couples, particularly men. Your partner will be feeling under attack and the first instinct is to fight back. If they immediately apologise and look mortified for having been rude, forgive and move forward. But don’t let them blame it all on you. If they’re being inexcusably horrible, tell them you’ll talk to them later when they calm down.

Keep it simple

If your partner is mortified by the conversation and clearly struggling just to be in the room with you, it’s pointless trying to turn it into a long discussion. At least it’s out there and can no longer be ignored!

Give them an option. Say, “Are you happy to talk about it now? Or would you like to think about it and then we talk later?”.

Remember to listen

You’ve had time to prepare for this and have lots to say. But don’t be surprised if, once you’ve started talking, your partner does too.

Just because they haven’t brought it up themselves, doesn’t mean they haven’t been thinking about it as well.

Listen to what they have to say. Really listen. Repeat back to them what it is you’ve heard to make sure you’ve got it right.

Use ‘I’ not ‘you’

Say, “I think sex is important’, “I need sex to feel close to you’.

Don’t say, “You might be done with sex but I’m not, where does that leave me?”. It sounds accusatory and blaming.

Talk feelings first, then solutions

Don’t skip over the feelings to get to the fix it bit too quickly. This is an emotional moment. You’ll both be feeling vulnerable and it’s important you both feel heard.


Some partners are relieved and happy when they’re forced into discussing something they’ve been avoiding. The talk ends up going on for a long time, wine gets opened, you reminisce about the sex you used to have and come up with some great ideas of how to reintroduce it.

Other times, it clears the air but also becomes crystal clear that your partner has no interest at all in having sex again on a regular basis or at all. If that’s the case, you both need time to think about the next steps before talking through possible options.

If you decide you’re fine with that, make it clear you’re willing to skip sex but not affection and cuddles. They may be scared to touch you in case you’ll think they want more: tackle it now, so it doesn’t become an issue.

Some partners simply refuse to talk at all. They’ll walk out of the room whenever you bring it up and close down completely. Or the talk feels so hopeless or so one-sided in effort, it nails the coffin shut on what you now realise was an already dead relationship.

Therapy could be useful if this is what’s happened. If your partner won’t go with you, it’s still worth going yourself. Or it might be time to walk away.

Therapy is also useful, even if you’re both quite optimistic you can solve it together. It’s not easy resuming sex after a long time without it. If you do feel like you’re struggling, a few good sessions with a great sex therapist will be money well spent.