What to Do When Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Be Intimate (18 Things + Examples)

When the sparks of intimacy fade between you and your partner, it can feel like navigating a maze with no exit. But don’t lose hope!

Together, let’s understand the root causes and discover ways to reignite the connection.

What is Intimacy?

At the heart of our most treasured relationships lies intimacy. But what exactly is it?

  • Emotional Intimacy: Imagine sitting with a close friend, pouring out your heart, sharing dreams that light up your eyes, or opening up about vulnerabilities that usually stay locked away. That’s emotional intimacy — a connection beyond words, where two souls feel seen and understood.
  • Physical Intimacy: Remember those warm hugs, gentle caresses, or passionate moments? That’s physical intimacy. It’s not just about the heat of the moment but the affectionate touches that make us feel loved and valued.

Why is Intimacy Crucial in a Relationship?

Intimacy isn’t just a sweet bonus in a relationship; it’s the glue.

  • Creating a shared bond: Intimacy helps create a bond that’s uniquely yours. It’s the secret language you and your partner speak, the shared memories, and the mutual understanding that sets your relationship apart.
  • Enhancing communication and understanding: Through intimacy, walls come down. We listen more, understand deeper, and talk heart-to-heart. It’s the bridge that enhances our communication and understanding.

Possible Reasons for a Lack of Intimacy

So, you’ve noticed a decline in intimacy, but why? Let’s dive into some of the most common causes:

  1. Medical Issues: It’s no secret that our bodies change. Be it hormonal shifts, medications we’re on, or enduring illnesses – sometimes our physical health impacts our intimate life.
  2. Psychological Issues: Just as our bodies can pose hurdles, our minds can too. Depression, anxiety, or shadows from past traumas can influence our willingness or desire for intimacy.
  3. Relationship Issues: Trust is delicate. Issues from the past, be it infidelity or ongoing conflicts, can create barriers. Resolving these can sometimes feel like steering through stormy seas, but it’s essential for intimacy to flourish.
  4. Life Stresses: Life isn’t always a smooth ride. We’ve all been there – swamped at work, wrestling with financial pressures, or juggling the demands of raising kids. Life, with its endless stresses, can sidetrack intimacy.
  5. Personal Beliefs: We’re all products of our upbringing and beliefs. Sometimes, cultural or religious views shape our perception of intimacy, making it challenging to embrace or express.
  6. Changing Dynamics: We evolve, and so do our relationships. Sometimes a shift in how we see ourselves or alterations in the relationship dynamic can play a role in diminishing intimacy.

With these insights, you’re better equipped to address and navigate the complex terrain of intimacy. Remember, every relationship has its seasons, but with understanding and effort, spring can always return.

18 Things to Do When Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Be Intimate

1. Understand and Respect Boundaries

Boundaries are personal lines that define what we’re comfortable with. Recognizing and respecting your partner’s boundaries in all areas, especially in intimacy, is pivotal.

Here’s why boundaries are essential:

  • They protect emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
  • They foster trust between partners.
  • They allow for personal growth and self-understanding.

When boundaries are overlooked or dismissed, it can lead to feelings of violation and distrust. Every individual’s boundaries are unique and may evolve over time. It’s a continuous journey of understanding.

Example: Imagine a partner who had a traumatic experience in the past. Certain acts or words might trigger them. Understanding this and adapting behavior can make a world of difference.

Tip: If your partner expresses a boundary, ask for clarity. For example, if they say they don't want to be touched a certain way, find out what they are comfortable with. Mutual understanding is key.

2. Create Open Dialogue About Desires and Fears

The heart of intimacy is understanding. Often, when a partner doesn’t want to be intimate, it’s not about a lack of attraction or love. It’s more deeply rooted in desires, fears, past experiences, or other personal factors. Communication, therefore, becomes the bridge to understanding.

Being vulnerable can be daunting. That is why it’s essential to approach the conversation with an open heart, patience, and a genuine desire to understand. Avoid laying blame or being defensive.

Remember, this dialogue is a two-way street. Both partners need to express and listen.

Tip: Start the conversation in a neutral setting, away from the bedroom, perhaps during a calm afternoon walk or over a coffee date. It sets the stage for a less pressured dialogue.

Did you know? According to Dr. John Gottman’s research, couples who communicate effectively are more likely to stay together (Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). When you talk, be genuine. Share your feelings without casting blame or making accusations.

3. Practice Active Listening

Active listening isn’t just about hearing words. It’s about truly understanding the emotions, intentions, and nuances behind those words. At the core of intimacy lies a deep emotional connection, and active listening can bridge the gap when that connection feels distant.

When you actively listen, you’re sending a clear message: “I value what you’re saying, and I’m here for you.”

This fosters trust, understanding, and a deeper bond. It’s not just about waiting for your turn to speak. It’s about diving deep into your partner’s world and seeing things from their perspective.

Example: If your partner talks about a challenging day at work, rather than jumping in with solutions or your experiences, first validate their feelings. Say, “That sounds really tough. Tell me more about it.”

Tip: Put away distractions. When your partner speaks, maintain eye contact and nod occasionally to show you're engaged. This simple gesture makes a significant difference.

4. Educate Yourselves on Emotional Triggers

Triggers are emotional reactions to past traumatic events. When a person is triggered, they might experience feelings of panic, fear, or unease. This can naturally interfere with intimacy.

Understanding what triggers your partner and why is crucial. It’s also vital for both partners to understand their triggers. This mutual knowledge can help prevent unintentional pain or discomfort.

Awareness of these triggers can help in navigating the path of intimacy with more care and consideration. Sometimes, merely knowing what might trigger a response can lead to a more compassionate approach.

Example: A certain scent or phrase might remind your partner of a past event. By avoiding this trigger, the path to closeness becomes smoother.

Tip: Create a safe word or gesture. This can be used during intimate moments if someone feels triggered. It signals the need to stop and provide comfort.

5. Engage in Non-Sexual Intimacy

Intimacy isn’t only about the physical connection. Non-sexual intimacy, like holding hands, hugging, or cuddling, can also be profoundly connecting. Such gestures can provide comfort, reassurance, and a sense of closeness without any added pressures.

Benefits of non-sexual intimacy:

  • Deepens emotional bond.
  • Provides comfort and security.
  • Strengthens trust and understanding.

Engaging in these intimate gestures can reignite the spark and remind you both of the deep bonds you share beyond the sexual realm. It’s about feeling close, cared for, and cherished.

Tip: Start small. If you're watching TV together, reach out and hold your partner's hand or put an arm around them. These tiny actions can have a profound impact.

6. Reconnect Emotionally

Emotional connection is the foundation of any intimate relationship. Over time, this connection might wane due to various factors. Making an effort to reconnect emotionally can reignite the flames of intimacy.

Tip: Share memories. Recalling the moments that brought you closer in the past can be a powerful tool. This can be as simple as looking through old photos or recounting shared experiences.

By delving into shared memories, you’re reigniting the emotions associated with those moments, reminding each other of the love and bond you share.

7. Check External Stressors

External factors like work pressures, financial stress, or health concerns can take a toll on intimacy. Recognizing and addressing these stressors can make a significant difference in your relationship.

Steps to address external stressors:

  • Identify the root causes.
  • Communicate openly about them.
  • Develop coping strategies together.

Example: If a financial strain is causing tension, consider setting up a budget or seeking financial advice. Tackling these issues as a team can not only alleviate the stress but also strengthen your bond.

Tip: Have a stress-debrief session once a week. Share what stressed you and discuss how you both can support each other.

8. Learn About Love Languages

We all have our unique way of expressing and receiving love. Dr. Gary Chapman coined the term “Love Languages” to describe these methods. Understanding your partner’s love language can transform the way you relate to each other.

The five love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

It would be a great idea to take the Love Languages quiz together. It can be a fun way to discover how each of you gives and receives love. Once you know your partner’s love language, make an effort to “speak” it regularly.

Tip: Once you discover your partner's love language, make a conscious effort to express love in that manner at least once a day.

9. Plan Regular Date Nights Away from Routine

Routine can be a relationship’s worst enemy. Over time, the mundane tasks of daily life can overshadow the romantic spark. To rekindle intimacy, breaking away from the routine and spending quality time together is essential.

Planning regular date nights allows couples to:

  • Rediscover each other.
  • Foster deeper emotional connection.
  • Build anticipation and excitement.
Tip: Keep the date nights diverse. It could be anything from a quiet evening at home watching a movie, a night out dancing, or even a weekend getaway. The idea is to have fun and reconnect.

Remember, it’s not about extravagant plans or expensive gifts. It’s about quality time, shared moments, and making memories.

10. Create a Romantic Atmosphere

Setting the mood isn’t just about candles and roses – it’s about creating an environment that invites connection, relaxation, and intimacy. A romantic atmosphere can help both partners let go of daily stressors and focus on each other.

Use dim lighting, soft music, and perhaps even scented candles to evoke a sense of romance. Ensure the space is clutter-free, as a tidy environment can also contribute to a serene mood.

The act of creating this atmosphere is a gesture in itself, showcasing effort and desire to connect. It’s about reminding each other of the early days when everything was new, exciting, and every date felt special.

Tip: Once a month, turn your living room into a date spot – use fairy lights, soft music, and prepare a special meal.

11. Schedule Intimacy

While spontaneity is beautiful, life’s hustle and bustle can sometimes leave little room for it. Setting aside specific times for intimacy, whether it’s emotional or physical, ensures that both partners prioritize their connection amidst busy schedules.

It’s a great idea to designate an evening or a few hours during the weekend as us time.” This doesn’t always mean sex. It could be time spent talking, cuddling, or engaging in an activity you both love.

Scheduling intimacy might sound unromantic to some, but in reality, it’s a commitment. It’s a mutual understanding that despite the demands of life, your relationship deserves undivided attention.

Tip: Pick a day of the week as your 'No Technology Evening.' Spend it talking, cuddling, or just being in each other's presence.

12. Stay Educated on Relationship Skills

The world of relationships is vast and ever-evolving, and there’s always something new to learn. Staying updated with the latest insights, research, and skills can be beneficial in navigating challenges and enhancing intimacy.

Consider reading books on relationships, attending workshops, or even taking online courses together. These activities not only provide valuable insights but also create shared experiences that can deepen your bond.

Tip: Attend workshops or online webinars about relationships. They provide actionable insights that you can incorporate into your relationship.

13. Self-Reflection

Understanding oneself is the cornerstone of understanding one’s partner. Regular self-reflection can offer clarity on personal desires, fears, and barriers that might be affecting intimacy.

Dedicate a few minutes each day or perhaps a specific time each week for self-reflection. Jot down your feelings, concerns, and thoughts in a journal.

Example: If you consistently find yourself feeling irritable or distant, reflecting can help identify triggers or underlying issues. Once recognized, these can be discussed and addressed with your partner, paving the way for a deeper connection.

Tip: Maintain a journal. It's a great way to track thoughts, feelings, and growth over time.

14. Prioritize Self-Care

Taking care of oneself isn’t just beneficial for individual well-being; it’s crucial for the health of the relationship. When you feel good about yourself, you’re more open, confident, and receptive to intimacy.

Benefits of self-care:

  • Improved mental well-being.
  • Enhanced self-esteem.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety.
Tip: Identify activities that make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. This could be reading, meditating, exercising, or even indulging in a hobby. Regularly engage in these activities to recharge.

15. Focus on Personal Growth

Personal growth isn’t just about advancing in your career or acquiring new skills. It’s also about emotional and mental development, understanding oneself, and evolving as an individual.

By focusing on personal growth, you can enhance your ability to connect deeply with your partner.

When you grow as an individual, you bring a richer, more developed self into the relationship. This could be in the form of improved communication, understanding, patience, or even the ability to love more deeply.

Example: As you embark on personal growth, you might discover latent fears or barriers that hinder intimacy. Recognizing and addressing these can be transformative for your relationship.

Tip: Set aside time for introspection. Consider keeping a journal to jot down personal insights, feelings, and aspirations.

16. Encourage Individual Therapy

Sometimes, the resistance to intimacy can be due to deeper personal issues that one may not even be consciously aware of. In such cases, individual therapy can be a helpful tool.

Therapy provides a safe space for one to explore their feelings, memories, and fears. It aids in identifying and working through underlying issues that might be affecting intimacy. Moreover, it can offer coping strategies and tools to enhance relationships.

Encouraging therapy isn’t about saying there’s something “wrong” with your partner. It’s about supporting their journey to self-awareness and healing.

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.”

— Robert Holden

17. Seek Professional Counseling

Sometimes, the challenges faced in a relationship or the barriers to intimacy are intricate and deeply rooted. In such instances, professional counseling can offer the guidance and tools needed to navigate these challenges.

Counseling offers a safe space for both partners to express their feelings, fears, and desires. With the aid of a trained professional, couples can gain insights into patterns that might be hampering intimacy and learn strategies to strengthen their bond.

Tip: If you're apprehensive about counseling, start with just one session. Sometimes, taking the first step can demystify the process and open avenues for healing and connection.

Did you know? Couples who undergo counseling have a much higher satisfaction rate in their relationships compared to those who don’t. (Doss, B. D., Simpson, L. E., & Christensen, A. (2004).

18. Educate Yourself on Health Issues

Both physical and mental health play pivotal roles in intimacy. Conditions ranging from hormonal imbalances to depression can influence one’s desire and capacity for connection. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of these health aspects can foster empathy and support within the relationship.

If you or your partner are facing any medical or mental health challenges, make it a point to research and learn about them.

Physical health issues like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have been linked to decreased libido and sexual dysfunction (Shabsigh et al., 2008). Similarly, hormonal imbalances, like those seen in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can impact a woman’s sexual health (Janssen et al., 2008).

On the mental health front, conditions like anxiety and depression can have significant implications for intimacy. (Basson, R., & Gilks, T. (2018)

Keep in mind: Depression is not just about feeling down. It can also lead to a decreased desire for intimacy or difficulty connecting emotionally. Recognizing this and approaching the situation with knowledge and compassion can prevent misunderstandings. 

(Reference: Can Depression Affect Your Sex Life?)

Prioritizing education on both physical and mental health ensures that the relationship isn’t caught off guard by health-related challenges. Instead, it equips both partners to face these challenges together, preserving and even deepening their emotional bond.

Tip: Initiate regular health check-ups for both of you. It fosters care and understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I initiate a conversation with my partner about our lack of intimacy?

Approaching this sensitive topic requires empathy and understanding. Here’s a suggested method:

Choose the right time: Ensure you both aren’t stressed or distracted.
Be open and honest: Start with “I feel…” rather than “You always…” to avoid sounding accusatory.
Ask open-ended questions: This encourages them to share their feelings without feeling cornered.
Listen actively: Ensure you understand their perspective fully before responding.

How long should I wait before seeking external help or considering bigger changes?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Consider these points:

Communication: If multiple attempts to discuss the issue haven’t yielded results, it might be time for intervention.
The severity of the issue: If the lack of intimacy is severely impacting your emotional well-being, seeking help sooner is advisable.
Willingness to work together: If both partners are committed, it might be worth trying various solutions before seeking external aid.

Remember, every relationship is unique. It’s important to do what’s best for both partners.

How can we maintain intimacy if we’re in a long-distance relationship or physically separated for long periods?

When physical closeness isn’t possible, you can still maintain intimacy through the following:

Virtual dates: Set aside time for video calls where you both can chat, watch movies together online, or even cook meals simultaneously.
Write letters: The act of writing and receiving a tangible piece of affection can be deeply intimate.
Plan visits when possible: Having a date in mind to look forward to can keep the spark alive.

Remember, emotional connection is a big part of intimacy, and there are always ways to nurture it, even from a distance.


Facing intimacy hurdles can be challenging, but remember, every relationship has its ups and downs. With understanding, patience, and a sprinkle of effort, you and your partner can find your way back to each other.

After all, love’s journey is about growing together, even through tough times.

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Leah Bayubay

Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.