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Not Tonight, Honey

What to say to yourself:

Remember your wedding day? When you said "I do," you said "I do" to sex too. "Even though you may not have promised to ‘love, honor, and have sex once a week,' when you made a commitment to your relationship, it was understood that sex would be part of the bargain," say Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It . And, yes, sometimes you have to be the instigator. When it comes to different levels of desire, "the ball is in the court of the person who wants it less," says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of the forthcoming Prime: Advice and Adventures from a Sexologist on Life and Love in the Sensuous Years .

What to say to him:

"Can you help me get in the mood?" Let him pour two glasses of wine; then try rubbing his shoulders. If you're really not up for sex, figure out another way to be physically generous—like scratching his back, gently tickling his arms, or doing something else you know will give him pleasure. This way, even if you wind up not doing the deed, your husband will feel better because you responded with physical tenderness, instead of a flat-out no.

"I want to, but I'm [yawn] sooo tired"

We've all experienced that "too worn out for fun" feeling. And couples can get to the point where sex doesn't seem like such fun anyway. "I can't tell you the number of people I treat who go around hugging and kissing their kids all the time, but only give their partner a quick peck when they see each other again in the evening," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist in New York City and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic . "The women say, ‘I'm so busy, I have nothing left at the end of the day—you're just one more person who needs something from me.' But these couples are starved for connection with each other."

Sex does take effort and energy. But most women would agree, when pressed, that sex creates energy too. (Think of it as working out. You may not be excited to get on the treadmill, but most of us enjoy that exercise glow once we're "in the zone.")

Making love also creates a connection that soothes women when they're exhausted. "Most women do feel closer to their partners afterward," says Dr. Holstein. "The big problem is that we always forget how good that close feeling can be." (That lapse of memory is so common that Dr. Holstein wrote a poem about it, below.)

What to say to yourself:

Think back to the last time you and your husband had great sex, or even plain old school-night sex, and remember how relaxed you felt in his arms afterward. That makes it easier to reverse the excuse and say, "I'm so tired, I need to have sex" instead of "I'm so tired, I can't have sex."

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