They can turn you down and offer an alternative, such as cuddling, kissing, or reminding you how much they love you.
The study showed that people’s relationship and sexual satisfaction remained highest when their partner
- Had sex with them to give pleasure, or
- Turned them down by offering an alternative.
Their relationship and sexual satisfaction were the lowest when their partner turned them down by criticizing them.
Shocking, I know.
This isn't the first study to show that sexual rejection affects the health of your relationship.
A study in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology showed that men often perceive their wives’ time with male friends as sexual rejection. They respond with anger and frustration. The more time their wife spent with male friends, the more frustrated they became.
A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that women take sexual rejection a little harder than men. Researchers think this is in part due to gender expectations. Men tend to be more open to casual sex, so rejection is a bigger deal. It may also be related to gender conformity. The more feminine a person's identity, the more offended they may be.
Building on established research, a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that people willing to have sex with their partner when they aren't in the mood have happier relationships and better sex lives. Partner-focused decision-making results in both people enjoying satisfaction over the long run.
What You Can Do
Disparate sex drives, be they variable or static, can happen for a variety of reasons. The first step is exploration. Why does one person want sex more often than the other? Is it biological? It’s possible one of you is facing side effects of a medication or has a medical issue. There could be a sexual dysfunction, fatigue, or hormonal imbalance. It may be more psychological. Things like stress, depression, trauma, or body image issues can crop up. Conflicts within the relationship can have long-lasting effects on intimacy. If possible, getting at the root of the problem is the best solution for long-term success.
Having an open conversation with your partner is a great place to start. Ask a lot of questions; probe deep to find out what the possible source may be. Make a list of potential causes. Physical, psychosomatic, psychological, social. Exhaust all your options - but do it together, otherwise your partner might see it as an affront.
If you can’t find the cause or don’t want to talk about it, compromise is an option. Science tells us there are ways to approach the issue that will more likely preserve your relationship - not to mention your partner's feelings.
If you’re undecided, put yourself in a “communal” frame of mind. Decide for the good of the relationship and go from there. Having sex to show your partner love, pleasure and solidarity is OK. However, giving in to appease them, manipulate them, or keep them around is not. They’ll usually be able to tell the difference. So keep that in mind when you make your decision.
If sex is off-the-table, be kind and loving with your rejection. You can offer kisses, cuddles, or more sex later. Just make sure they don’t feel criticized for asking.
Just Be Nice
Relationships are complicated. You probably weren't handed a guide on how to navigate the sexual conflicts in which you find yourself. Science tells us rejecting your partner likely can’t be avoided. And that's OK. After all, rejecting your partner in a kind, positive way may be better for your relationship than (grudgingly) giving in.