Reader’s Request Fridays: Why Doesn’t My Partner Listen To My Sexual Requests?

February 27,2015

Welcome to Reader’s Request Fridays! This week’s question is actually two similar questions from male and female readers.

The first comes from Kelsey*, who writes, “I’ve repeatedly told my boyfriend I want him to be rough during sex. The thing is, I don’t want to have to explain to him what to do. It ruins it for me.”

The second comes from Jake*, who writes, “My boyfriend is pretty passive in bed. After we’ve finished having sex, I’ll try to subtly hint that I’d like him to be more assertive next time. He usually ignores my comments or just says something like, ‘mmkay.’ How can I get him to take my requests seriously?”

Why Doesn't My Partner Respond To My Sexual Requests? | Vanessa Marin Sex Therapy

This is a question that I get all the time, so I thought it would be interesting to address to versions of this topic!

Everyone has different wants in the bedroom. Communicating those desires effectively is an incredibly important part of being in a relationship.

It’s also really freaking hard for most of us to do! Sexual desires are so personal that acknowledging them can feel incredibly vulnerable.

So what do you do if you feel like you’ve taken that brave step of making your desires clear, but your partner doesn’t seem to be listening or responding? Here are seven possibilities for what may be going on.


You’re asking at the wrong time

Talking about sex is hard. Talking about sex in the bedroom – especially right after sex! – is even harder.

Jake’s strategy of making his request right after sex is probably not doing him any favors. It might feel too intense and overwhelming to his boyfriend. Or his boyfriend might be in a blissed-out post-orgasm lala land, incapable of really hearing or understanding what Jake’s asking for. I’d recommend opening up a conversation when the two of you are alone and relaxed.


You’re not actually asking

When it comes to asking your partner for what you want in bed, the operative word is “ask”. You don’t want to demand, cajole, or pressure your partner into doing things for you. You’ll probably get met with resistance if you’re too bossy. Ask questions like, “how does that sound to you?”


Your partner doesn’t get that this is important

You can go overboard in the other direction with your ask, by downplaying it, being too vague, or acting like it’s not important. You’ve got to be like Goldilocks and get it just right!

You may feel like you’re being clear about your request, but your partner might not hear it the same way. You may need to be way more direct than you ever have before.


Your partner doesn’t understand what you want

With both questions, it’s not clear if the readers have shared specific details about what they would like in bed. Jake only describes it as being more assertive. It’s hard to know exactly what that means. If your partner don’t know what you want, it’s hard for them to give it to you!

Try to describe what you want is as much detail as you can. Ensure that your partner understands by asking questions like, “does that make sense to you?” You can also play an adult game of “show not tell”, and try showing your partner what you’d like them to do to you.


There’s too much pressure

Some people don’t like the idea of giving details because they feel like having to explain what they want takes the fun out of it. I get it; it would be nice to have a partner who could magically intuit your needs and give you exactly what you wanted.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how sex works in the real world. Kelsey is putting a lot of pressure on her boyfriend by not wanting to fully describe what she wants. She’s asking him to read her mind and put himself in an extremely vulnerable place by taking a shot in the dark at what she wants.

Part of being an adult means being clear about what you want.


You’re not reciprocating

If your partner isn’t responding to your requests, it’s worth taking a moment to consider if you’re being the type of partner you want to have. Have you been neglecting or ignoring any of your partner’s requests? Are you being generous and giving?


Your partner doesn’t want to do it

It’s possible that your partner doesn’t feel comfortable with fulfilling your desires. There are no “rights” or “wrongs” when it comes to consenting adult sexual desires, but not everyone likes the same thing.

If you suspect that may be the case, ask your partner questions like, “is this something you’re interested in?” or “is this something you’re willing to do for me?”


*Names changed for privacy


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!