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Self Help Advice on When to Say "No" to Sex

Written by Dr. Marty Kleiin

There are as many bad reasons as good to have sex. Columnist Marty Klein, Ph.D., identifies the situations in which you're better off not in bed.

There are lots of great reasons to say yes to sex. But there are also times when it's best to say no.

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For starters, it's usually best to say no if you're not in the mood. I don't mean, "I'm not really in the mood, but we're feeling friendly, so if you do most of the work I'll get into it." Rather, I'm talking about times when you're not going to get in the mood. Perhaps you're not feeling well, or you're exhausted or cranky. Maybe you're nervous about something happening at work or with the kids.

It's important to say no when you're angry, and to talk instead. Unfortunately, some people use sex to ignore a problem that they can't resolve. In fact, some people use sex to avoid intimacy, the kind of intimacy that involves the difficult exploration and resolution of differences that exist in all relationships.

People in new relationships (or one-night stands) shouldn't necessarily say no to sex, but they should clarify what the sex means before getting into it. If one person thinks the sex is about recreation, while the other one thinks it's the beginning of a commitment, both will be disappointed. Sometimes one person wants to keep the sex confidential, while the other is so excited (or proud) that discretion is impossible. Again, without a conversation about it, both people will be frustrated.

While a lack of contraception doesn't require you to say no to sex, it does require you to say no to intercourse. That's the only grownup way to look at it. Don't delude yourself about using the "rhythm method", people who use rhythm are called parents. If you're not going to use birth control, at least admit it to yourself, rather than pretending you're using a technique that's only slightly more effective than wishing upon a star.

People have sex for lots of psychological reasons, wanting to prove they're normal, that they're a "real man" or "real woman," that they're still attractive. In fact, some people have sex for revenge or as a form of hostility. But you wouldn't do that, would you?

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Marty Klein, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage counselor and sex therapist in Palo Alto, Calif. He has written for national magazines and appeared on many TV shows, including Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael and Jenny Jones. You can read more about his books, tapes and appearances on his Web site, SexEd.org.

Photographer: Daniela Spyropoulou