Not tonight, honey!

By Drum Digital
24 September 2016

Is your partner really feeling unwell, or is he or she just not in the mood for intimacy?

By Vida Li Sik

The phrase “Not tonight, dear, I have a headache” has been used by most women and men to avoid physical intimacy with their partners at one time or another. If it happens once in a while, it’s easy to understand, but if it becomes a regular occurrence when you reach for your partner in bed, there might be cause for concern. So how can you tell if this is the real reason, or simply an excuse because your partner is too tired, stressed or just doesn’t want to make love?


We live through very challenging times and our risk of cumulative stress is at an all-time high. It’s quite common that couples might find their sex lives impacted by the pressures of life, says Brian Blem, a counselling psychologist based in Johannesburg.

“Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are on the increase, along with related symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, hypertension and irritable bowel syndrome. “That makes being in a supportive relationship critical so you can weather the storms together,” he says.

TIP: If you really have a headache you can take medication to provide short-term relief. If it happens often, have it checked out by a doctor and get appropriate treatment. When your partner is not available physically due to illness, you should still experience intimacy at a mental, emotional and spiritual level, Blem adds. “Be understanding and reach out to meet your partner’s current needs through love and care. You know it’s a passing phase and that sexual intimacy will return when the time’s right.

“Support could involve looking after the children for a few hours, cooking a meal, giving your partner permission to rest, arranging a spa day or making them a cup of tea,” he suggests.


Life is busy, and sadly, this can mean couples only really come together when they climb into bed at the end of the day. For men, having sex can be just the ticket to relieve stress and pressure, while some women might feel resentful if a man wants to be intimate without even checking how her day went. This then leads to . . . a “headache”. When a headache becomes an excuse for avoiding intimacy, it’s often a sign of dissatisfaction in the relationship, at either a physical, emotional or spiritual level, “Unaddressed or unresolved issues can lead to resentment. This makes a couple’s ability to communicate and resolve issues critical,” Blem says. “When communication breaks down, couples might start to actively avoid contact with each other.”

TIP: As sexual being with inescapable needs we want to experience sexual intimacy, “the icing on the cake” of being in a relationship. But, if we haven’t mixed all the right ingredients together, we painfully discover that there isn’t even a “cake” to begin with. Intimacy starts in the kitchen and ends in the bedroom – it’s what you do for each other and how you relate throughout the day that determines what happens at night. Tell your partner how you feel using “I” statements rather than accusations and make an effort to resolve whatever is bothering you. Once you’ve dealt with the problem, it might yet turn out to be a great night of intimacy for both of you.

Find Love!