Is It Okay To Say No To Sex?


Is It Okay To Say No To Sex?
While the answer to the title question might seem simple, discover the subtleties within this idea.

Adele wrote in asking the following question:

"If I don't want sex with my partner, is that a form of control from me? Therefore, should I have sex even though it brings up painful feelings? Should I just feel the feelings? They only come up at that time."


In this situation, it is important to identify the difference in not wanting sex and having sex just to keep your partner happy. It doesn't sound like Adele is trying to control her partner by not having sex, but it does sound like she is trying to control her own feelings. If Adele's intent was to learn, she would be willing to allow the feelings to come up and then be willing to explore the feelings at the time. Since they only come up during sex, this might involve lack of communication with her partner, letting her partner know that she is having painful feelings and needs to stop and explore them.

If Adele has sex with her partner and just feels the painful feelings without learning, then she is giving herself up to her partner, which is a form of control. If she is too afraid of her partner's reaction that she does not stop to explore and learn from her painful feelings, then she is trying to control how her partner feels about her. This is controlling through compliance.

There is much for Adele to learn here. If the painful feelings are physical, then she needs to see a doctor and get checked out.

If the painful feelings are caused by vaginismus (a spasm of the vaginal muscles making penetration very painful or impossible) she may need therapeutic help. Perhaps there is sexual abuse in her background that she needs to heal. Perhaps there are current problems in the relationship that need attending to. If her partner is coming from neediness regarding sex, she might feel responsible for her partner and feel that she needs to give herself up to please her partner. If her partner is not empathetic toward her pain, then her partner likely has some narcissism and Adele needs to come to terms with this. Most important, she needs to move into compassion for her own painful feelings and learn from them. Avoiding them by not having sex or by giving herself up and having sex without dealing with the feelings is self-abandonment.

The very fact that Adele is asking this question indicates self-abandonment. If she wanted responsibility for her feelings, she would never have sex and endure the pain. Nor would she deprive herself and her partner of a loving sexual relationship by avoiding the problem. It sounds like she is judging herself for not wanting sex and for possibly trying to control, rather than opening to learning about the problem.

If it turns out that there are problems in the relationship that are leading to the painful feelings, then Adele would need to have the courage to address the problems with her partner. Her question indicates that she and her partner do not have an open arena in which to explore this issue, or any issue for that matter. If that is the case, this alone might be the problem. Adele likely needs to feel safe in the sexual situation, and a lack of an open arena in which to explore, learn and grow with each other creates an unsafe environment.

Obviously, the answer to the question is not an easy one. In order to move forward with this issue, Adele needs to consider learning from her feelings rather than continue avoiding them. It is likely her intent to avoid responsibility for her feelings that led to the question in the first place. Sometimes intent can be fairly subtle!

Is it okay to say no to sex? I don't look at it as okay or not okay. I look at it in terms of intent—either to avoid pain with some form of controlling, avoidant behavior, or to learn about what is loving to oneself and take loving action on one's own behalf.

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This article was originally published at Inner Bonding . Reprinted with permission.
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Dr. Margaret Paul


Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process - featured on Oprah, and recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. Are you are ready to heal your pain and discover your joy? Take our FREE Inner Bonding course, and click here for a FREE CD/DVD relationship offer. Visit our website at for more articles and help, as well as our Facebook Page. Phone and Skype sessions available. Join the thousands we have already helped and visit us now!

Location: Pacific Palisades, CA
Credentials: PhD
Specialties: Anxiety Issues, Couples/Marital Issues, Depression
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