What To Do When You Want To Have Sex But Your S.O. Doesn't

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell.
It's Friday night and you've been thinking about sex all day. Instead of concentrating at work, you've imagined going home and pushing your S.O. up against the wall — maybe pulling them into the bedroom, clothes flying off on your way there. Or maybe you wouldn't even make it to the bedroom, and your clothes would come off while you're standing against the wall.
The only problem? It's clear when your partner gets home that they haven't been having the same fantasy. They're beat from a long, stressful week at work. And when you start to initiate the sex you've fantasized about they say, "Babe, I think you're so hot, but can we just watch a movie and cuddle tonight?"
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So, what now? You have a couple of options here, says Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist and director of Center for Love and Sex: You can either do some deep breathing and try to calm your arousal down or you can go into another room to masturbate.
Which option you choose depends on how openly you and your partner talk about masturbation (as well as how horny you really are). You obviously need to be respectful of your partner's feelings. So if telling them you're going to take care of yourself before the movie starts feels too pushy (or is too embarrassing to say aloud), then mindful breathing might be the best choice. Your arousal might seem insurmountable, but it is possible to work through it without an orgasm. "The idea of blue-balls is an old myth, so the horny partner can certainly calm their arousal down through any number of activities," Cooper says. Mostly, the "activities" that are going to help you work through arousal without masturbating are anything that distracts you from your sexual fantasy. You can do the breathing, which can help you focus on non-erogenous zones like your shoulders, lower back, or feet, Cooper says. Simply take a deep breath in, and think about any body part that doesn't feel sexy to you (because to some people, feet are very sexy).
Or, you can use a mindfulness technique that involves listening to the sounds around you, Cooper says. "Rather than distracting the mind, mindful practice is a checking into the body and breath," she says. Like focusing on non-sexual body parts, focusing on sounds can help you think about something other than sex. So listen closely to the cars driving past your window, or the whir of your washing machine. And if that doesn't work, there's always the age-old trick of distracting yourself by thinking of something decidedly un-sexy (remember that one devastating scene in Marley & Me?)
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Not into mindfulness? There's always option #2: Go masturbate in another room. Maybe that sounds like a weird thing to do, but if you and your S.O. talk openly about masturbation, then it's 100% fine to tell them that you're really horny so you're going to go into another room and rub one out while they pick a movie. Or, you know, something a little more gentle like, "Yes, let's do the movie. But I'm really turned on, so I'm going to go take care of that and I'll be back soon."
If your partner knows about your masturbation habits, then a comment like that shouldn't be too strange. And if they don't, then it's probably a good thing to talk about anyway, Cooper says, no matter how awkward it feels. "There are some partners who are surprised, angered, or hurt when they discover their partner is either masturbating at all or doing it more frequently than they had thought," she says. Talking about it upfront can avoid any hurt feelings, and also make it easier to deal with your horniness when your S.O. isn't in the mood.
Of course, telling your partner that you're going to go masturbate right now because you just can't keep it in your pants probably isn't the best way to start the masturbation conversation. So, if you really need an orgasm and feel too weird about telling your partner, then you don't have to say anything. "Simply say you aren’t ready to sleep [or, in this case, to watch the movie] go to another room, and give to yourself," Cooper says. But consider bringing masturbation up to your partner later, so you don't have to do it in secret next time. Couples rarely have sex drives that perfectly match up, so you likely will come across this situation again and again. And it's always best to talk about what's really going on, instead of trying to keep secrets. "We all have different needs at different times," Cooper says. "And it’s important that these are looked upon as natural differences without judgement or guilt."
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