How do I say no if I don’t want a physical relationship?

Some background, some drama

There is nothing wrong with saying no to a physical relationship. Whether you are asexual, want to stay abstinent until marriage or for other reasons or are simply not in the mood, you should feel comfortable communicating this with a partner. It’s important to communicate your desires in order to smoothly say no to a physical relationship.

Do’s and Don’ts

In a healthy relationship, both partners are able to express their feelings and respect each other’s boundaries about sex. You shouldn’t have to have sex to keep your partner. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you and help you communicate if you do not want to be physical in a relationship.

Do’s

  • Many people feel nervous or awkward telling someone they're not ready for sex or don't want to have sex at a certain moment. It might be helpful to practice saying "No" in front of a mirror or alone in your room. Try to sound confident in your decision.
  • Communicate your reasons with your partner. You don't owe someone an explanation for not wanting to have sex. However, if you're in a relationship with someone it can be healthy to explain to them why you're not in the mood. This can help your partner better understand you and your sexual desires.
  • Occasionally, people dislike engaging in sex because it does not feel good for them. If you're inexperienced, you may simply not know what does and does not work for you. Exploring your own sexuality can help.
  • If sex is not as enjoyable for you as you want, try experimenting with your partner.
  • Check your medication. If you find yourself frequently not in the mood, many medications can affect the sex drive. If low sex drive is a side effect, talk to your doctor about finding an alternative medication or lowering the dosage.
  • Talk with your partner about safe sex practices, like getting tested for STIs and considering birth control options.

Dont’s

  • Do not feel obligated to have sex. Sometimes people feel obligated to have sex, especially if they've already been engaging in activities that would typically lead to sex. Understand no one is entitled to your body and that making out or otherwise fooling around doesn't mean you owe someone sex. Do not listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
  • Don’t hesitate to communicate. Communication is paramount in relationships.
  • Don’t give in to abuse. If someone won’t take no for an answer and repeatedly pressures you verbally, emotionally or physically it can be a sign of abuse.
  • Don’t give in to pressure tactics. If your partner tries to threaten or pressure you into having sex, it can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. You deserve better.
  • Don’t be dishonest. Be honest with yourself and your partner. If you are not ready, your partner should respect it.
  • Don’t cower in. You have the right to talk openly and honestly about your fears, worries and feelings.

Last words

Deciding whether you want to have sex or when you should is a decision you should make when it feels right for you. In a healthy relationship, your partner respects your decisions, even when they don’t like them. A relationship will be stronger and more real when both people can truly be themselves both inside and outside of the bedroom.

Sources and citations