Oh the dreaded phrase, “Honey, I’m just not in the mood.” You don’t necessarily want to say it, and he definitely doesn’t want to hear it. And yet, there are just times when either due to a stressful day/week, the kids won’t quit fighting, or various health conditions, that you’re simply not in a place where having sex is going to work. However, this kind of situation often escalates to a fight, with you feeling defensive and him feeling rejected. Sometimes you wonder if you should’ve just gone ahead and had “duty” sex. But that doesn’t really make things better either. So, what do you do?
In my book, Real Intimacy, a couples’ guide to genuine, healthy sexuality, there is an analogy I like presenting to couples to help navigate these sometimes treacherous waters. It replaces sex and intimacy with “food” and “dining” and it goes something like this:
Comparing Food to Sex and How it can Help You
Think about the last time you went out to dinner. Sometime during the day you may have discussed what kind of restaurant you wanted to go to, how hungry you were or weren’t and maybe whose turn it was to pick this time. Now, most couples can have this type of conversation without getting into an argument because we are able to communicate clearly and find some sort of compromise. For example, last week my husband asked me out to dinner. I knew it had been a long week for him and that he probably wanted to go to his favorite steak restaurant. I, on the other hand, just wanted a good salad and really didn’t want a heavy meal. I thought about what kind of place might have offerings for us both and threw out a suggestion. He readily agreed and we were off. No fight, no feelings of rejection, and I still didn’t have to eat a steak, but he was also satisfied.
Let’s move that into the realm of intimacy and sex. Your husband approaches you and makes his move letting you know he’s interested. Using the food analogy, let’s say he just “asked you out to dinner” (remember, this is an analogy for sex). The first thing you would want to know is, how “hungry” is he? Does he have a certain “restaurant” in mind, or could you go “someplace else?” If you respond to his “invitation” with appreciation, and then let him know how tired you are and that you would be willing to “have a snack” with him now, but would be happy to “meet him at his favorite restaurant” tomorrow night, after having a chance to rest, he doesn’t have to feel rejected, and you don’t have to feel resentful. The key is then to do your part and follow up on that offering of actually “going to the restaurant” with him when you said you would. This increases feelings of trust and openness for both of you.
Both of You can use The Analogy to Increase Communication
You can take this analogy just about anywhere, and encourage him to use it as well. For example, sometimes you only have time for “fast food” while other times you may want a lengthy seven-course meal. Would you always want fast food? Probably not. Neither would you always want a lengthy, drawn-out meal either. They key is to communicate about your needs and his needs in a safe and somewhat playful way to reach a compromise that works for both of you.
A few words of caution, however. If you find yourself chronically “not hungry” you may want to seek out additional help to reclaim your appetite/desire. Also, learning to explore more than just one “restaurant” or “menu option” can lead to more satisfying experiences. Including foreplay, massage, and genuinely passionate kissing at other times can help increase your “appetite” and may help you discover you were “hungrier” than you thought. Bon appetit!
Alisha Worthington is a co-author of the book Real Intimacy, a couples’ guide to healthy, genuine sexuality and is often heard on radio and podcasts talking about sex and intimacy. She is also a Sex and Intimacy Coach at The Healing Group in Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves being married to a manly-man and is the mother of seven spirited children.