You are in a great mood and feeling confident about your body. You decide that you would like to initiate sex with your partner. However, when you reach for them and suggest you go to the bedroom, they recoil and say they aren’t in the mood. Regardless of whether they do so because they are genuinely tired or they don’t desire you for other reasons, this can be quite painful to face. You don’t want to take it personally, but feeling undesired by your partner can have an impact on your self-esteem, and can even be destructive to your relationship. While it’s normal for these moments to happen from time to time, if you feel constantly rejected by your partner, it’s important to address this before it becomes a major problem.
The Impact of Rejection
Maybe your partner avoids being intimate with you by claiming a headache. Maybe they outright rebuff your advances, or they go to bed before you or fall asleep on the couch. Perhaps they just seem reluctant to spend intimate time with you. Regardless of how it manifests, rejection hurts; in fact, the brain’s response to rejection is the same as its response to physical pain. Rejection for your partner is especially painful. This is the person who is supposed to know you the best, and love you for better or worse. This means that this type of rejection can feel tied to your overall desirability as a person, even if it has nothing to do with you. This can devastate your self-esteem and self-image. Over time, this can cause you to withdraw from your partner, and may cause you to feel resentment. This can have a hugely negative impact on your relationship. Fortunately, taking a proactive approach to communication around this issue can be very helpful in repairing both your self-worth and the health of your relationship.
Tips for Talking to Your Partner
It can be scary to talk to your partner about this issue. If you are already feeling rejected by your partner, you may be hesitant to put yourself in a position of vulnerability again. However, it isn’t going to get better if you don’t talk about it directly. Here are some tips for ensuring that you communicate effectively with your partner:
- Set aside a time to talk to your partner when you won’t be interrupted. Don’t try to spring the conversation on them while you are getting ready for work in the morning or getting ready to pick the kids up from school. Ask them to set aside some time to talk to you when you know you can have a complete conversation.
- Once you have sat down and you are both fully engaged, present the facts. Do your best to be nonjudgmental about it, as they may feel defensive. For example, you may say, “We have not had sex in X months” or “You used to hold my hand, but you don’t anymore.” Some people will be aware that they have been behaving this way, while others might not have noticed. Don’t assume you know what they will say, how they feel, or that they are fully cognizant of and indifferent to the pain they are causing.
- Tell them how this sexual rejection has impacted you, but own your feelings. Instead of saying, “You caused me to feel undesirable,” say, “I feel undesirable and it’s impacting my self-esteem.” Again, allow your partner space to respond without assuming you know how they will react. They may know how you have been feeling or they may not have a clue. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Clearly request a change. For example, you could ask your partner to honestly discuss solutions to this issue, or to make more of an effort to express physical affection. Make your desires and expectations obvious. If your partner gets defensive, ask them to explain their perspective and whether or not there is a solution they see.
- Be specific about what steps you both can take to change. In a partnership, both parties have to accommodate the other; it’s not one person’s “fault” over the other. Your partner may have reasons they are avoiding intimacy of which you are not aware. Hashing this out and figuring out what actions you can both take can make a big difference. Start small and make sure they are clear and specific.
- Agree to check in about this issue periodically. Ask your partner if you can check in with each other on this problem in a few weeks to see if you are both feeling better about it. If not, you can revisit the conversation and find different solutions.
Sometimes, an unbiased third party can make a big difference in ensuring these conversations are productive. If you think you could benefit from marriage counseling in Chicago, contact Symmetry Counseling today.