Even the most loving, stable relationships can struggle with the issue of sex and intimacy. It is completely normal and healthy to say no to sex when it is not what you want or need.
Consent means knowing what you do and don’t want, checking in with your partner and respecting their choice if they say no. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Know What You Want
Sexual rejection is a tricky pill for anyone to swallow. Especially when it comes from someone you care about. You can ease the tension by making sure that you both know what kind of intimacy you want to create in your relationship.
It’s also important to have a clear understanding of what sexual consent looks like. A flat out “NO” is fine, but you can also be more specific with your boundaries by having a mental tick list of what is and isn’t okay for you to do with each other. Having this pre-determined in your head will help you to access your “no” in hot situations and stop sex before it’s too late.
Some people go through their entire lives not wanting to have sex and this is perfectly fine. Sexuality is a very personal thing and many people feel differently about it than others. People can even be asexual and still experience romantic feelings.
If your partner knows that you don’t want sex, they can respect your decision and not push you to change your mind. However, if you keep it a secret from them, this can cause tension in the relationship over time. Irritation and bitterness will only build, and you might find yourself withholding things from them just to get back at them.
Listen to Your Body
It’s important to remember that your body is your friend and you should always listen to it, especially when it’s trying to tell you something. If you’re feeling overexcited or tense, or your gut instinct is telling you that it’s not the right time for sex, then pay attention to that. It could be a sign that you need to slow down and that you need to focus on other aspects of your relationship.
It can be difficult to say no in the heat of the moment, so it’s worth thinking about your boundaries ahead of time so that when a potentially sexy situation arises, you have a clear plan in mind. Having a tick-list of what you are and aren’t comfortable doing (overclothes touching = fine; underwear touch = no) can help.
It’s also a good idea to talk about how you both approach sex in the relationship so that you are on the same page about what kind of touch is okay. It’s not fair for you to have to put up with a partner who doesn’t respect your wishes.
Know Your Rights
Regardless of how you feel about having sex, there are times when it’s important to say no. You have the right to decide not to engage in sex and it’s important to respect your partner’s decision as well. This is not a time for power struggles, so try to communicate with love and compassion.
If they keep pushing, ask yourself what you really want. Perhaps you are too tired, have a medical condition that makes physical intimacy painful, or your life is just so busy that the idea of having sex just seems like too much work. It’s also important to remember that you can still have sexual pleasure in many ways other than intercourse, such as oral and hand sex.
When you are communicating your no, make sure to use your body language as well. According to Daring Greatly, up to 65% of our communication is nonverbal. Be confident in your no and stand up straight, look them in the eye, and speak with conviction. If you are nervous or unsure of yourself, practice saying no in front of friends or a trusted family member.
If they continue to push against your wishes, know that you have the right to report a sexual assault. If they ignore your request, that is also considered a form of sexual assault and it’s not your fault.
If your partner wants sex and you’re not in the mood, it is important to say no. However, be careful not to imply that you do not want to have sex with them anymore or that your feelings are wavering. That could be confusing for them and it may hurt their ego.
Women are especially known to take rejections about sex personally, so be gentle and kind in how you say no to them. You don’t want to send them into a tailspin of insecurity, so let them know that you’re just not feeling it in the moment.
You can also give them the option to postpone sex. This way, they won’t feel like you’re pulling away from them and it can help them stay grounded. They might even appreciate your honesty and be more open about how they feel about sex in the future.
Being honest about your feelings is key to a healthy relationship. It is not easy for your partner to understand why you’re saying no in the moment, especially if they’re imagining what might happen if they were to have sex with you. It’s best to communicate your thoughts early so that they have an opportunity to process them before it becomes too late and you’re in the midst of a heated argument.