Sexual withholding can have long-term effects on your mental health. Increasing communication and intimacy can help improve your sex life and relationship satisfaction.

Sex is an essential part of a marriage for many individuals. A healthy sex life involves open communication and feeling safe.

If you’re in a relationship where your partner uses sexual withholding, there are some coping methods you can use to increase intimacy and communication. Long-term, withholding sex from your partner can negatively impact your relationship.

People withhold sex when they’re married for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons people withhold sex are:

  • Lack of trust: Sometimes, there has been a betrayal, or communication has dwindled, leading to a lack of trust and safety in a relationship.
  • Medical reasons: One person may have a medical condition that makes having sex more challenging, one partner may be recovering from surgery, or there could be a hormonal imbalance that causes low libido. Some medications can also decrease sex drive.
  • Stress and exhaustion: If you’re feeling more fatigued or having a lot of external pressure, this may cause you to withhold sex from your partner for a while.
  • It becomes a routine: You’re bored by doing the same old thing in bed and aren’t openly communicating with your partner.

These are some common reasons one person may withhold sex from their partner; but there may be other reasons you don’t want to have sex. Those are perfectly OK; talking to your partner and improving trust, safety, and communication can help you work through it.

But sometimes one partner withholds sex as means to control or coerce someone because they didn’t get their way or want to get their way.

For example, if your partner is withholding sex because you did or didn’t do something, or because they don’t like something that you did, this is a form of manipulation.

If you’re in a relationship, you can decline or turn down sex at any time. Engaging in sexual activity requires consent whether you’re married or not.

Sex is vital to relationship satisfaction, and withholding sex can cause resentment, rejection, and a lack of connection. In some situations, people may withhold sex not as a means to control but due to external factors, such as medical issues or high-stress levels.

Research suggests that the following are all linked to greater mental health outcomes:

  • being sexually active
  • having frequent sex
  • being OK with the frequency of sex
  • perceived quality of sex

Research would then indicate that if you’re married and unsatisfied with sex, this could lead to problems with your mental health.

Intimacy involves how close and bonded you feel toward your spouse. If you don’t feel connected to your spouse, you may be experiencing a lack of intimacy. Lack of intimacy is why many couples divorce or decide to attend couples therapy.

Research indicates that intimacy is associated with quality of life in relationships. The researchers suggest that intimacy is a psychological need that can reduce depression, improve quality of life, and impact marital adjustment.

Intimacy helps build trust, helps increase feelings of connection, and improves mental health.

If sexual withholding is affecting your marriage, there are ways to reconnect with your partner.

If sexual withholding is occurring due to external factors or differences in desire, consider the following to reconnect with your partner:

1. See a sex therapist

Research indicates that many couples can experience desire discrepancy, which can cause conflicts in relationships and marriages.

Desire discrepancy is when one partner has a higher desire for sexual activity than the other. Sex therapy can help you find ways to reconnect and have a satisfying sex life.

2. Try a new activity together

Trying new activities together, whether within or out of the bedroom, can help increase feelings of connectedness and closeness. Find an enjoyable activity you can both agree on and give it a shot.

3. Practice healthy communication

One of the best methods for increasing intimacy is learning how to communicate in a healthy manner.

Research from 2016 indicates that improving communication, learning how to respond empathetically to your partner, working on problem-solving skills, and using self-disclosure are all communication skills that can lead to greater intimacy.

4. Find ways to create safety in your relationship

Safety is essential to a healthy relationship. To promote safety and trust, you must be willing to listen actively and respect the privacy of your relationship.

This also includes creating an environment free from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or violence.

Sexual withholding can occur for various reasons.

Sometimes sexual withholding occurs due to medical issues, stress, or other reasons your partner may not have control over. In these situations, you can find ways to spice up your sex life, seek treatment for medical conditions, or seek out the help of a sex therapist.

You can find a sex therapist near you at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.

If you’re in an unhealthy situation where your partner denies you pleasure, withholds sex, or coerces you to do things sexually that are uncomfortable to you, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 800-799-7233 for support, help, and resources.